Sticky Keys and Slippery Pins on a Gulbransen ex-Player Piano in Greenpoint

A view from the window into the industrial park in which this recording studio is located... 20141125_111651

A proud old beauty - according to my client L., this converted player piano used to belong to blues pianist Pinetop Perkins...the oldest grammy winner ever (97) - he shipped it from Austin, TX to Greenpoint for his recording studio, and is determined to get it back into playing condition.


Today the objective was to tune the piano and troubleshoot a number of sticking keys.  I popped the lid to get busy, and took a moment to appreciate the "Ten-Year Warranty"....take a moment now to click on that image and read these promises closely...


My favorite parts...

1. If you can't find anyone local to do satisfactory work on your piano we'll do it free of charge!  All you have to do - is ship the piano to and from our factory in Chicago - and you pay the transportation costs.  I would love to know how many people took them up on that offer...

2. I also enjoy the fact that the National Piano Manufacturer's Association decided not to guarantee any finishes against "checking" - just couldn't be done.  Every single one of these old pianos I've seen is "checked" so that was a good call.

3. And last but not least - if you didn't buy this piano for the exact price we say you should have, this warranty is void.

Hilarious warranty enjoyed, I dug into the task at hand.  I could tell immediately that the key slip was chaffing against the keys, causing them to stick when depressed.  I popped open the "false" key slip covering the player controls to see the true key slip - in the picture below, it is between the toggle switches and the keys.  But to remove the cheek blocks I had to do a bit more than normal...


Among other case parts I had to remove, these front columns had to come off to get down to the bare keys - that's a new one.


The hard part was getting everything out of the way, then reinstalling it after this simple but absolutely necessary fix...card stock shims affixed to the front of the key frame to keep the key slip from shifting closer to the keys with fluctuations in humidity and binding on them.


I reinstalled everything after confirming free key movement, pitch raised the piano, did a full CyanoAcrylic treatment on the borderline-loose pins, then fine tuned - to find that the CA glue had in fact helped the pins.

I then enjoyed these vintage labels while contemplating part II of Pinetop's Piano Restoration - lifting the balance rail to provide adequate key dip and get rid of these awful double-striking hammers - more on that in the next two weeks...