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Replacing hammers in a grand #2045965
03/10/13 01:33 PM
03/10/13 01:33 PM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
Ryan Hassell Offline OP
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Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
I have a customer who would like for me to give them a price on replacing the hammers in their grand piano. While I feel pretty comfortable at most repairs and have even reshaped hammers and done voicing on many pianos, I have never done and entire hammer replacement. I understand that once hammers become worn out and need replacing, the knuckles too probably need to be replaced as well. I recently became aware of the Brooks LTD Company. The pre-hung hammers are the option I'm looking at. Keeping that in mind, is this a pretty straight forward process? I know I will need to travel the hammers and adjust the hammer line after installing as well as aligning back checks. What other things to I need to consider? Are the pre-hung hammers worth the extra cost? They seem like they would save me a LOT of time.

Thanks for your help and advice!


Ryan G. Hassell
Hassell's Piano Tuning
Farmington, MO
www.hassellspianotuning.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hassells-Piano-Tuning/163155880804
ryanhassell@hotmail.com
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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2045986
03/10/13 02:15 PM
03/10/13 02:15 PM
Joined: Apr 2012
Posts: 61
ks
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They will save you time if you are not used to doing it. Just send in samples from each end of the sections. I have used Brooks hammers in the past and was pleased. They usually send out a little info on voicing their hammers also.


Stewart Moore
Piano Technician North Central and North East Kansas

www.pianotune2.webs.com
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2045999
03/10/13 02:31 PM
03/10/13 02:31 PM
Joined: Jan 2009
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Personally, I don't think pre-hung hammers are worth it unless you are really averse to the idea of doing it yourself... but, the more work you do, the more money you make. With the Spurlock hammer hanging jig, it's not that hard. You can order hammers ready to install (boring, tapering, tail arcing, and coving, and in some cases, weight control), without hanging, and then it's just a matter of gluing them on shanks, which is not rocket science; this is a nice option for techs who want to extend the services they offer, but don't want (or are unable) to invest in the tools necessary (hammer boring jig, drill press, belt sander, tail arcing jig, table saw) for hammer prep.

Regardless of whether you install the hammers with the old shanks (and new knuckles) or new shanks, you will need to:

1. Make sure the hammers you are installing are not too heavy.
2. Make sure center pin friction is 3g +/- 1g.
3. Make sure key bushings are properly sized.
4. Polish and lube key pins and capstans.
5. FULL regulation. No ifs, ands, or buts. This includes, but not limited to: key frame bedding, key leveling, let-off, drop, checking, rep spring tension, hammer blow). This will also include traveling and twisting shanks, and spacing hammers.
6. String leveling.

Anything less than above is not a good job, IMO. Ideally, you would also weigh-off the keyboard, but that will significantly add to the cost.

Finally, a word about hammer selection. I strongly advise testing sample hammers in the piano because hammers vary widely in tone. I use Ronsen hammers pretty much exclusively... almost everything else is too harsh sounding, including the Abel "Natural Felt".

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: beethoven986] #2046033
03/10/13 03:24 PM
03/10/13 03:24 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 534
Oregon Coast
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TunerJeff Offline
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I agree that you must make sure that the job includes the regulation and service that must accompany the job. Don't bid just the hammer hanging! Bid the total job. String seating, leveling, are required for the best result, too. You've got to deal with action issues that often accompany a worn-out set of hammers, or you'll regret it after the hammers are on....but the action still plays like junk! Clean, lube, regulate, string leveling, and then the hammers can give you the best result.

The Brooks are great people to work with and have earned their reputation by giving exactly what they promise. If you are not set-up for drilling, shaping, and want to trust a pre-hung set of hammers, I'd say Brooks is an excellent choice.

Yamaha offers hammer sets for their uprights and grands. The grands are complete; Hammer/shank/flange and have been consistant and easy to install. Minimal traveling and voicing required. The replacement set I put into a G5 last year had an excellent sound. Much 'rounder' and softer than the originals in tone. I note that they do not have the extra hardening in the shoulders that was common back then. Nice hammers.

The Yamaha uprights are more interesting; they offer the hammer and shank pre-glued, and then the hammerbutt unglued. You replace every other hammerbutt, slide the shank into place (...I use hide-glue) and then rotate for string alignment before the glue finishes setting up. This minimizes the trouble of hammer alignment in a big way...leaving every other hammer in...and the job was quite quick and efficient. Interesting!

Good luck, sir!
And have fun!


Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com
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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046070
03/10/13 04:18 PM
03/10/13 04:18 PM
Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 1,918
Michigan
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Michigan
Originally Posted by Ryan Hassell
I have a customer who would like for me to give them a price on replacing the hammers in their grand piano. While I feel pretty comfortable at most repairs and have even reshaped hammers and done voicing on many pianos, I have never done and entire hammer replacement. I understand that once hammers become worn out and need replacing, the knuckles too probably need to be replaced as well. I recently became aware of the Brooks LTD Company. The pre-hung hammers are the option I'm looking at. Keeping that in mind, is this a pretty straight forward process? I know I will need to travel the hammers and adjust the hammer line after installing as well as aligning back checks. What other things to I need to consider? Are the pre-hung hammers worth the extra cost? They seem like they would save me a LOT of time.

Thanks for your help and advice!



We hang hammers on shanks/flanges. We specialize in the WN&G parts because of their superiority, but will do any S&F you want. Either you provide or we do.

And, there is a huge difference between standard production hammers and premium hammers.

PM if you want more info.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
Editor Emeritus, Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046080
03/10/13 04:41 PM
03/10/13 04:41 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 9,230
France
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Olek Offline
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Sure pre glued on modern pianos is a good choice (if the strike line is straight)

I have seen that the Japanese techs have hammers yet glued on new butts, for verticals, but those seem to be sold from OEM parts providers, not Yamaha.

On some German first best brands, buying the heads yet glued on sorted shanks (for verticals) is not even as expensive as buyng the parts separately (but one have to be sure the model is still produced with similar scale and hammer angles)

Sure if you are not at ease with hammer prep and gluing , using that kind of service can be a good idea, but I would berify that the shanks are sorted (by weight or tone, I suppose the result is similar) shank sorting (then hammer/shank assembly tone evening) does not seem to be a standard procedure in USA, while it gives an excellent advantage to the voicer, with an evening of part of the impact tone)

Using "one hammer on 2" to install new hammers is a common practice, but as the new hammers are generally a little different (thickness, mostly but also angles can vary a little) it is not as easy as it seem to obtain the perfect lining (the perfect respect of strike line).

I find it more efficient to glue (from both sides of each section) on very precise models , and with a visual control of the travel on every new head glued- have a look at the last youtube video from Klaviermacher.

That visual process is the key to a neat hammer gluing ; also, despite a good shank traveling, you will have a little more with the hammer glued and the notes that need it are noticed when you glue.

With the visual control of the move, you can leave the hammer with a little slant so you need less shank burning when you will paper the flange.

Something that cannot be reproduced 100% is the optimal strike in the treble , (sometime the original boring/gluing was not optimal, also)
Just for that reason it is worth the trouble to learn and glue a few sets.

Having a good space with square walls and raising the stack's back so you can look at the tails easily, helps to make that "dance" of hammer gluing.

But a specialized shop will have more choices among hammers for weight and hardness, so they can provide a good job too.

Pianos, on the paper, are supposed to have a straight strike line, but there are enough placement mistakes to be obliged to make compromise there, hence the strange strike lines we can find sometime with compromising all directions to avoid too short shanks or too tall hammers... (I scratched my head for years about why and why wink
The modern instruments with vacuumed plates are really easier to repair in that aspect.


On a reasonable high grade grand you can count on 5 days work for a top notch job. (an experimented tech can do an "adequate enough" job in 3 days, but there will be much to do yet (keyboard re weighting)

Also new shanks need to be tested on pinning, generally speaking the centers are firm and a little too much, needling some moistening for final adjustment in my case . if not they get free when the parts are played but I like them to be not too much firm.
they loose about 1-2g after the parts are exerced (Renner flanges)

Last edited by Olek; 03/10/13 04:53 PM.

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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046268
03/10/13 10:38 PM
03/10/13 10:38 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 4,904
Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Ryan,
It is good you want to expand your professional skill set to learn how to rebuild a piano action.
The foundation of this skill is to understand how tone is produced by a hammer. And how the action is configured to produce a controllable feel for the pianist. These two elements are inseparable.
Also you need to know what the tonal/touch problems the customer expects you to solve are by rebuilding the action.
How do you know the present hammers are worn out?
My definition of worn out hammers is when they can no longer be voiced by needling/shaping/water-softening techniques to produce an adequate dynamic range with a stable level of tone color. In other words if they get overly bright by playing in just a few weeks-they are not stable and thus are worn out no matter what they look like.
On your first job the amount of time you are investing in the job should be the least of your concerns.
I think doing your first action rebuild without an experienced Tech to guide you is exposing you and your customer to many risks.
The basis for a technicians expertise to evaluate the quality of any piano-is to be a first class tone-regulator.
Good Luck!


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046276
03/10/13 11:03 PM
03/10/13 11:03 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 26,692
Oakland
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While it is true that hammers are worn out when you cannot voice them satisfactorily, there are plenty of pianos that have hammers that are worn out according to another criterion: You see wood at the tip of the topmost hammers instead of felt.

The hard part of gluing the hammers is getting everything to align properly. It is difficult to get them glued at the proper length and angles, both side to side and front to back.


Semipro Tech
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046433
03/11/13 10:12 AM
03/11/13 10:12 AM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 4,904
Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Wood at the striking point cannot be tone regulated-that meets my requirement. The knowledge to calculate proper strike point across the treble compass and the skill to accurately mount the hammers, require practice thus my advice to get help from mentor Tech.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046440
03/11/13 10:27 AM
03/11/13 10:27 AM
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Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Originally Posted by Ryan Hassell
... I have never done and entire hammer replacement....
First timer? It's a no-brainer: pre-hung hammers! That is enough of a challenge for the first time. It also defers big expenses such as hammer boring jig and hammer hanging jig, shaping jigs.

I would not recommend boring, shaping and hanging grand hammers before you are very comfortable hanging upright hammers. This would probably not be before successfully replacing five sets or so.

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046447
03/11/13 10:38 AM
03/11/13 10:38 AM
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Old Hangtown California
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Whatever you decide - do it yourself or pre-hung - do not assume that the existing hammer set was installed correct.


RPT
PTG Member
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046458
03/11/13 11:25 AM
03/11/13 11:25 AM
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Oakland
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The reason I say to start with looking for wood on the top hammers is because that does not depend on someone's voicing skills.

There are a number of processes that you might want to leave to the suppliers even after you have experience. I did not start boring hammers until I devised a process that was quick enough that it made economic sense. I can bore a set now in under half an hour, which is almost fast enough that my hourly rate is less than the boring charge.


Semipro Tech
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046514
03/11/13 02:00 PM
03/11/13 02:00 PM
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I can in 15 minutes so I am faster ! But anyone that cannot bore a set in less than 20 minutes should think seriously about finding a new job :l)


Last edited by Olek; 03/11/13 06:50 PM.

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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Olek] #2046521
03/11/13 02:07 PM
03/11/13 02:07 PM
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Bastrop, Texas
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Originally Posted by Olek
I can in 15 minutes so I am faster ! But anyone that cannot bore a set in less than 20 minutes should think seriously about finding a new job :l)


Chacun à son goût!


Stay tuned.

Tom Seay, Recovering Piano Technician
Bastrop, Texas
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Gene Nelson] #2046584
03/11/13 04:35 PM
03/11/13 04:35 PM
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Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson
Whatever you decide - do it yourself or pre-hung - do not assume that the existing hammer set was installed correct.
Excellent comment. A lot of background knowledge and experience regarding hammer size, hammer weight, touch weight, and action geometry is needed in order to replace grand hammers in such a way that results in an improvement in both touch and tone. When in doubt, it is better to call on a mentor than to subject an instrument and a client to the inevitably ensuing compromised outcome.

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046594
03/11/13 04:47 PM
03/11/13 04:47 PM
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France
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Olek Offline
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It is always interesting to discover where the strike line is, how is the action setup.

(and not immediately pretend to factory mistakes when something looks different from the usual theories)


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046616
03/11/13 05:28 PM
03/11/13 05:28 PM
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Posts: 4,263
Vancouver B. C. Canada
Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Originally Posted by Olek
I can in 15 minutes so I am faster ! But anyone that cannot bore a set in less than 20 minutes should think seriously about finding a new job :l)


Must be a really long drill bit.... Do you stack them thirty high and drill all at once? wink


Dan Silverwood
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046788
03/12/13 12:37 AM
03/12/13 12:37 AM
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This is my hammer boring jig.

[Linked Image]

Because the hammers lie on their side, there is no need to clamp them. I simply hold them with my fingers. So I can do a lot of hammers a minute.

The special table rotates at the centerline of the hammer, so I can change the tilt angle without changing any other measurement. I get half-degree accuracy without any trouble.

C-clamps hold the stop for the length, and for the angle front to back. So it is really fast to bore a set.


Semipro Tech
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046791
03/12/13 01:00 AM
03/12/13 01:00 AM
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Posts: 1,394
Qubec, Canada
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Hey BDB, your shop is a mess.

smile


Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2046793
03/12/13 01:04 AM
03/12/13 01:04 AM
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Oakland
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Yes, it is. I have been trying for several years to get more space for working, but it takes a long time and a lot of money.


Semipro Tech
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Silverwood Pianos] #2046893
03/12/13 09:07 AM
03/12/13 09:07 AM
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France
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Originally Posted by Silverwood Pianos

Originally Posted by Olek
I can in 15 minutes so I am faster ! But anyone that cannot bore a set in less than 20 minutes should think seriously about finding a new job :l)


Must be a really long drill bit.... Do you stack them thirty high and drill all at once? wink


How did you discover that ? I also pre needle at the same time so in 25 minutes I have my set ready (then a little Chinese guy come by night and glue the hammers)



Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2047137
03/12/13 04:48 PM
03/12/13 04:48 PM
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I always dry fit the hammers to the shanks first, and then travel them before glueing. It's so much easier to see than travelling the shanks. You can even use Fred Sturm's method of turning the action upside down which is more accurate.
I never have to do any casting at all.
I also countersink the holes too so the glue is pulled in, rather than being scraped off by a sharp edge.

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2047180
03/12/13 05:27 PM
03/12/13 05:27 PM
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AH musicbased the helicoidal conical reamer is adjusting that for you, but only if you use Renner shanks (they are also conical)

Then you have that little motion availeable. many hammers on best brands will show you a bow on one side, just related to the bow in string's plane, for instance. If hammer size is not following the strings shape, the strike line is not straight or the rake angle have to be tweaked some.
A few mm can be heard when the strike is near a node, less if you are at some distance of it.
On some of the best brands, the tweaks in hammer line looks unreal, but when you raise the hammers to the strings you discover they all have the same orientation to the string plane (from front to bridge) and the tweaks take another meaning.

Boring with the tweaks in mind is all but easy so must of the job is left to the reaming method and the guide samples.

But I noticed that the angle the hammer makes against the strings is changing the percussion energy, on some brands the tweaks are amazing even on small pianos, then when you raise the original hammers to the strings you discover they have all the same 90°

Traveling shanks is done 2 or 3 times without the heads, when the hole is reamed and dry fit done, it is not easy to see more traveling, as the holes are a tad large, (due to the necessity to have some free play when placing the hammer on the shank) but the hammers will not align really.

Gluing on cylindrical shank with a tighter fit does not allow the tweaks that rake angle may need from one sample to the next (and that allow to keep the same hammer orientation at strike level while you have 1-2-3 mm difference in strings height from one side of the section to the other)

Same old instruction does the trick, center the screws/flange, shanks lining with even spaces, traveled, lined again, then there will be always some travelling left and it will show up during gluing when you compare the move of the glued hammer with the 2 precedent ones.

This is also the only way to deal with the compromising done on smaller pianos with shanks not square to the rail.

I have used jigs for hammer gluing and did not like the result (one of the bad point was that the back of the hammers where lining and not the front, plus some wedging effect sometime and the hammer move in the end. A lip under the tails could be interesting but the free hand method allows more variations.

also gluing one hammer between 2 old ones never satisfied me in the end.

But I like hammer gluing "dance" it is really something physical in space,

the samples are tested 3-4 times for lining, and hammer impact direction (and tone of course for the treble, but we are disadvantaged in comparison to the factory tech that knows very well the model he works, its capacities, on and the tone he is after)

About that hammer "verticality" (which is more the 90° relation to the string slant in my opinion, even if it is certainly modified a lot depending of the force of the stroke) smaller pianos are more exigent in that aspect, also the strike ratio is moving as to allow more partials where the piano lacks of, and more fullness (nearer a full node point) where the strings lenght are more reduced.

We always have benefit from new hammers and shanks, (assuming we dont need to add 15 gm of lead on each key) but ther are a few points that help to optimize the result, and I believe that on the original sketch only the strike is a line (it is also easy to make mistakes on non voiced hammers so the guide hammers in the treble are better pre voiced at last a little, it avoid confusions.

Last edited by Olek; 03/12/13 05:28 PM.

Professional of the profession.
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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2047289
03/12/13 08:55 PM
03/12/13 08:55 PM
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Incidentally, since I had the ShopSmith, it was obvious how to make the boring jig. Although I think a ShopSmith is a worthwhile acquisition for anyone in this business, it should be clear that with considerably more work, it would be possible to make a horizontal boring machine for hammers from a drill press. You would need to mount the head appropriately, and modify the table and how it is mounted, but it would not be terribly difficult.


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Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2055746
03/28/13 02:11 PM
03/28/13 02:11 PM
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whats a rough estimate just to change out hammers with quality ones on a grand? assuming the shanks,knuckles, etc are good..

also, what hammer recommendations for a Baldwin L? ive done a bit of research, but theres 3 or 4 good ones out there.. so unsure on what to go with.. ie: renner, abel, ronsen, Isaac, etc..

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Gatsbee13] #2055810
03/28/13 04:57 PM
03/28/13 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Gatsbee13
whats a rough estimate just to change out hammers with quality ones on a grand? assuming the shanks,knuckles, etc are good..


Unfortunately, hammer replacement isn't just "hammer replacement". You will also have to regulate the action, which may or may not involve reconditioning the action parts first. And, depending on the piano (and hammer choice), you may have to re-balance the keyboard. FWIW, I'm doing a hammer replacement job on a 1986 Baldwin SF-10 this summer and it is definitely getting new knuckles.

Originally Posted by Gatsbee13
also, what hammer recommendations for a Baldwin L? ive done a bit of research, but theres 3 or 4 good ones out there.. so unsure on what to go with.. ie: renner, abel, ronsen, Isaac, etc..


It depends on the piano, your tastes, and the acoustical environment. A good technician will sit with the customer and test samples in the piano. Personally, I think Renner and Abel take too much work to sound decent. 16 lb Ronsen "Weickert" would probably be my default choice.

Figure $910 (retail) for ready to install hammers. The total job, depending on the piano, would probably be in the $3,000 range (this assumes cost of materials and action reconditioning/regulating).

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2055822
03/28/13 05:34 PM
03/28/13 05:34 PM
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that sounds about right..just got a quote from a local rebuilder. 3k for new shanks, knuckles, and hammers, and servicing..i was hoping to get away with just hammer replacement as my tech told me that the action is good, except whoever serviced the hammers in the past didn't do a good job (he said the person got to the "heart" of the hammer).. anyways, my tech is going to try to do some filing and regulation.. its just that the piano sounded a little dull and muddy..


I hope hes able to bring the hammers back to life..

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Gatsbee13] #2055838
03/28/13 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Gatsbee13
that sounds about right..just got a quote from a local rebuilder. 3k for new shanks, knuckles, and hammers, and servicing..i was hoping to get away with just hammer replacement as my tech told me that the action is good, except whoever serviced the hammers in the past didn't do a good job (he said the person got to the "heart" of the hammer).. anyways, my tech is going to try to do some filing and regulation.. its just that the piano sounded a little dull and muddy..


I hope hes able to bring the hammers back to life..


How old is your piano?

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Ryan Hassell] #2055847
03/28/13 06:10 PM
03/28/13 06:10 PM
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30 years old.. not abused, barely played on..

Re: Replacing hammers in a grand [Re: Gatsbee13] #2055967
03/28/13 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Gatsbee13
30 years old.. not abused, barely played on..


I would say that you probably won't benefit much from replacing the shanks unless you get WNG parts. If I were building an estimate for this piano, I would include:

1. Knuckle replacement
2. Check shank/flange centers and re-pin as needed
3. Steam/iron wippen heel felt and let-off button felt
4. friction treatment of key pins, capstans, key bed, and knuckles, etc.
5. New Ronsen hammers
6. New back checks (possibly)
7. New front and balance rail punchings
8. New key bushings
9. Complete regulation (including dampers)
10. Touch-weight analysis and correction
11. String leveling

And I would charge >$3,000.

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