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Choosing a tech for action replacement #2680969
10/10/17 12:42 AM
10/10/17 12:42 AM
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RealPlayer Offline OP
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My technician has been telling me for a few years that my piano's action needs replacement (hammers, shanks, whippens). It's a rebuild from the 1980s, but back then, they didn't replace whippens, so these are the originals from the 1920s.

I heartily agree. But I am wondering whom I should choose to do the work. My tech is excellent, and he has offered to do the work. However, he replaces an action, on average, every couple of years, whereas there are experts locally who work for rebuilding shops and do this every day, day in and day out. Wouldn't it make sense to offer this work to someone like that?

I do respect my local guy, and he might do a great job, but if you were me, doesn't it make more sense to ask around and go with a pro who does this all the time? I'm in NYC, so there's no shortage of expertise here.

And I do worry about offending my regular tech. I don't want to lose him. Who knows, he may visit Piano World, and may read this, but I'll have to take that chance.

BTW, the piano gets a LOT of use. It's my workhorse.

Any opinions welcome.

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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2680972
10/10/17 01:02 AM
10/10/17 01:02 AM
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Miguel Rey Online content
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They do get offended. How long will it take him and at what cost? Usually a lot more time and cost by going with a one man operation vs larger shops. That could be your way out if you are in a hurry.




Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2680982
10/10/17 03:14 AM
10/10/17 03:14 AM
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sroreilly Offline
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replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens. I guess if he insisted on hanging the hammers and boring that is one thing, but you could just ask that he send the hammers out.


EDIT:: since your piano is quite old, it might be tricky to choose the right parts, or closest matching parts, so that could complicate things, but my point was mostly just that the actual labor required to install the new parts is very straight forward.

Last edited by sroreilly; 10/10/17 03:20 AM.
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: sroreilly] #2680994
10/10/17 06:16 AM
10/10/17 06:16 AM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by sroreilly
replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens.


Really?

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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681004
10/10/17 08:07 AM
10/10/17 08:07 AM
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I would say allow your guy to give a bid. and have him explain what he wants to do and why. Tell him that you will be getting more than one bid.

Then get another bid or two from the more experienced shops, along with the what and why of what they would do.

Then make your decision. If it is someone other than your guy, let him know that you have made a different choice and the reasons behind it. Tell him that you would very much like to have him continue as your tuner.

Either way, you are going to spend a fair chunk of change. It is proper for you to choose to act towards what you perceive to be your own best interest. And that can take place in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect.

As for just screwing the parts on the rails, I'll quote Ed: "Really?"

Will Truitt


fine grand piano custom rebuilding, piano technician and tuner
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681020
10/10/17 09:13 AM
10/10/17 09:13 AM
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GC13 Offline
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My tech is trying to wrap up my rebuild by this weekend. You definitely want to get a couple of quotes from various techs and play some of their rebuild work if possible. Day-to-day tuning and maintenance is one thing, but a complete rebuild is another world. You also want to research and discuss the parts and hammers you want to use; WNG, Renner, Abel, Ronsen, Isaac Cadenza, etc. to achieve your goals for the piano. That may be a determining factor. Some techs have their preferences and don't like to deviate. I had a couple of techs decline when I told them I was interested in rebuilding with WNG parts b/c of their lack of experience. They all pointed me to the tech I'm using, and I couldn't be happier.

Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681022
10/10/17 09:18 AM
10/10/17 09:18 AM
Joined: May 2006
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Georgia, USA
terminaldegree Offline
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Simple- ask your tech to put you in touch with a couple of their clients who have had similar work performed recently, and evaluate how these pianos feel.

That way, you'll know whether they really know how to do things at a high level, or whether they're a vendor that just screws in the parts and calls the job (essentially) done. crazy

I watched my mentor do this work on a D a couple years ago, and perhaps 10% of the time she spent perfecting the job was screwing in parts...maybe more like 5%. After that, a ton of tweaking, playing in, and tweaking!


Pianist, teacher, apprentice technician, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681026
10/10/17 09:32 AM
10/10/17 09:32 AM
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Karl Watson Offline
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You already know what I think. Although I follow your line of reasoning, which is good, the difference here is MM. He is NOT just any RPT. He is a remarkable and dedicated person, who ONLY works to the highest standards. He is at a time in his life when he actually does not need any extra work. I am sure that you will be well-pleased with the result.

Karl

Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681055
10/10/17 11:08 AM
10/10/17 11:08 AM
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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I vote with Ed and Will. If one thinks an action rebuild is just ordering parts and screwing them onto the rails and then turning the screws around a bit until the thing sort of works, you might as well buy a new Asian import piano. And if Karl knows the techs work and vouches for it, that is a great plus. Maybe the tech only does a couple of actions a year now because he doesn't wan't to work as much. But it is wise to get estimates from other qualified techs, but be sure you understand the expectations.


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: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: Ed Foote] #2681100
10/10/17 01:27 PM
10/10/17 01:27 PM
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sroreilly Offline
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by sroreilly
replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens.


Really?



Well I did qualify my statement that if the piano is obscure and doesn't have well matching parts things get tricky, but, for instance, if the action rail fit a renner flange perfectly, that's not a particularly difficult job to just replace a fully assembled part. Yeah sure, there's all the capstand letoff etc adjustments, but do you really need "an action specialist" for that? I would imagine most any piano tech works with these adjustments on a daily basis.

Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: sroreilly] #2681124
10/10/17 03:11 PM
10/10/17 03:11 PM
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BenjaminR Offline
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Originally Posted by sroreilly
Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Originally Posted by sroreilly
replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens.


Really?



Well I did qualify my statement that if the piano is obscure and doesn't have well matching parts things get tricky, but, for instance, if the action rail fit a renner flange perfectly, that's not a particularly difficult job to just replace a fully assembled part. Yeah sure, there's all the capstand letoff etc adjustments, but do you really need "an action specialist" for that? I would imagine most any piano tech works with these adjustments on a daily basis.


I think you would be surprised at the amount of labor and expertise that is required not only to complete the work but to complete the work correctly.


Benjamin Rogers
Media Director
Chupp's Piano Service, Inc. - Piano Restorations, Kawai Dealer
www.ChuppsPianos.com
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: sroreilly] #2681159
10/10/17 04:55 PM
10/10/17 04:55 PM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by sroreilly
replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens.


[/quote]


Well I did qualify my statement that if the piano is obscure and doesn't have well matching parts things get tricky, but, for instance, if the action rail fit a renner flange perfectly, that's not a particularly difficult job to just replace a fully assembled part. Yeah sure, there's all the capstand letoff etc adjustments, but do you really need "an action specialist" for that? I would imagine most any piano tech works with these adjustments on a daily basis. [/quote]

Greetings,
I think the quickest route to satori is for the poster to play a piano with a complete action replacement from the lowest bidder he can find and compare it to the action he finds in the most expensive specialist. If there is no difference detected, there is no need to spend more. There is no exact threshold, but rather a continuum, and the response and durability in an action will vary widely. Sensitivity, control, and evenness cost money, so the question is "How much do you want to spend?".

Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681167
10/10/17 05:40 PM
10/10/17 05:40 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 3,538
Atlanta, GA
PianoWorksATL Offline
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I would strongly suggest you consider replacing the back action. If the reps were not replaced, then the back action is certainly original, too. It's one area where you can get additional significant improvement when rebuilding the action, especially on pianos 7'+.

While you are considering what best to do with your action, I'll risk complicating your decision with the following. Have you considered installing a new keyset? We recently restored a Mason & Hamlin CC and went all out including a new custom keyset. The results were outstanding...enough that when I showed another longtime customer of ours the end result, he immediately commissioned us to duplicate the work on another CC that we have of similar vintage. It was a big $ difference to go from good keys to new keys, but it gives us the best possible result, starting from scratch. He is also a professional musician and expects to put ~5 hrs/day.


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: sroreilly] #2681176
10/10/17 06:17 PM
10/10/17 06:17 PM
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Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
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Keith D Kerman Offline
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Originally Posted by sroreilly
replacing hammers, shanks, and whippens is actually quite easy. The hammers and shanks can be bored and hung by the companies like renner and WNG and the wippens are literally just screwed in. The most your tech guy would have to do is maybe use travel paper to align the whippens. I guess if he insisted on hanging the hammers and boring that is one thing, but you could just ask that he send the hammers out.


This is absolutely true. Unless you want a good result.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681181
10/10/17 06:29 PM
10/10/17 06:29 PM
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Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
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Keith D Kerman Offline
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Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
I would strongly suggest you consider replacing the back action. If the reps were not replaced, then the back action is certainly original, too. It's one area where you can get additional significant improvement when rebuilding the action, especially on pianos 7'+.

While you are considering what best to do with your action, I'll risk complicating your decision with the following. Have you considered installing a new keyset? We recently restored a Mason & Hamlin CC and went all out including a new custom keyset. The results were outstanding...enough that when I showed another longtime customer of ours the end result, he immediately commissioned us to duplicate the work on another CC that we have of similar vintage. It was a big $ difference to go from good keys to new keys, but it gives us the best possible result, starting from scratch. He is also a professional musician and expects to put ~5 hrs/day.


I agree with Sam here and I will further complicate things. The playing area of Mason & Hamlin keys from the era of your piano are considerably shorter than a modern key. A pro pianist like yourself should have full size new keys. Also, the sharps on Masons from your era are extremely fat which is wonderful to play on, but makes playing in between the sharps much more difficult and awkward. The dimensions of modern sharps are superior.
Finally, new keysets have a steep learning curve. Even more so if you change the size of the keys to a modern standard.
This is a big deal and requires a very high degree of expertise and experience if you want to get this done right. Make sure and sample similar work before you commit. There are guys doing this work in rebuild shops incorrectly over and over again. As I have said many times in the past, we do as much re-rebuilding as we do rebuilding and poor action work is much more likely to be wrong than belly work.
I just asked my head technician what he thought the ratio of bad action work is to bad belly work and he said somewhere between 5 and 10 to 1.


Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales - vintage and used Steinway, Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Baldwin
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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2681282
10/11/17 10:32 AM
10/11/17 10:32 AM
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Maybe the OP likes the current shape and size of the keys? Maybe the ivory is still excellent?

If one is going to install a new backaction in a Steinway, are you going to duplicate the stupid original geometry of the factory? (I am assuming it is a Steinway, not sure from reading the thread), More questions for the OP to consider.


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: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2681289
10/11/17 11:05 AM
10/11/17 11:05 AM
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Karl Watson Offline
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Ed:

I should let Joe explain, but it's a Mason concert grand from the late 20s, built to the scale that is a bit like the S&S D. I always think of those pianos as the ONE stick CCs, vs. the two needed for the big scale CC. It's been re-built once, so perhaps he should tell us more about that rebuild. As I've not played it, I don't know if it retains its original key tops. However, it's sure to have an ORIGINAL WN&G action.

I often state that I consider myself a Steinway man, absolutely. However, there are always exceptions and although I appreciate and very much enjoy many pianos of quite disparate tone and touch, nothing ever quite speaks to me as does a fine, VINTAGE Mason. I hope it won't shock anyone here, but I've NEVER liked those old WN&G actions. In my experience, they're always way too slow.

The piano under consideration needs a new action, I'm sure. Joe is one of America's top Avant Garde pianists and has an enviable reputation and authority in that repertoire.

Karl

Last edited by Karl Watson; 10/11/17 11:43 AM.
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681558
10/12/17 02:13 PM
10/12/17 02:13 PM
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RealPlayer Offline OP
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HI, and thanks to everyone for the replies. My tech (who is also Karl W's tech) did mention a couple of months ago that he was finishing up an action for another client, and will let me know so that I can go over and try it out. I also have a contact or two on piano row, and have had some private discussions with rebuilders here on PW. I've been impressed by the feel of the rebuilt pianos I've played at Faust/Harrison.

My Mason is a CC2, 9', not 9'4". It was rebuilt by Camilleri in NYC in 1985, and they put in new board, block, pins, strings, dampers (felts?), bridges, hammers/shanks, sprayed the plate, and did a few other things. They did not replace wippens or refinish the case. I had some action work/regulation done before I received the piano (around 2001), and also I had the case refinished.

I will look into the back action issue...this operates the dampers/sostenuto right? Is it considered a separate issue and expense from the front action? I'd sure better get educated on the right questions to ask. About the condition of the keyset too.

Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: Keith D Kerman] #2681584
10/12/17 04:49 PM
10/12/17 04:49 PM
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musicpassion Offline
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[quote][/quote]
Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
I just asked my head technician what he thought the ratio of bad action work is to bad belly work and he said somewhere between 5 and 10 to 1.
Sounds about right. Even from shops that do good work, the touch is the one aspect that often seems behind compared to a new piano.

Last edited by musicpassion; 10/12/17 04:56 PM.

Pianist and Piano Teacher
Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: RealPlayer] #2681585
10/12/17 04:55 PM
10/12/17 04:55 PM
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Posts: 10,960
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Wait a minute, Joe lives on Staten Island and Karl lives on Staten Island... I think they have met. ;-)

Of course I am arriving late to this party. A lot has already been said, but I am embarrassed to say that, although I have been invited more than once, I have yet to play Joe's piano in his home. Even though I have visited NYC many times to see family and have driven right past Staten Island to do it. I have had the pleasure of providing Joe a piano a couple times when he has concertized in Philadelphia, though.

Joe, I really cannot make any recommendations without seeing your piano, but the technician you choose can mean as much (or more) than the work you choose to do. Play examples before you jump in. MM has a good reputation. I am happy to throw some other names out if you wish, and there might be a place in Philadelphia that is well known for this work as well. (At least that is what I have heard) ;-)

Anyway, if you have questions or need help sorting things out I am there for you, Brother. There is a nice cache of folks here to rely on as well.

Cheers,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
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Re: Choosing a tech for action replacement [Re: musicpassion] #2681806
10/13/17 11:33 AM
10/13/17 11:33 AM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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I have been working for years to get piano technicians and factories to approach tone regulation of pianos by integrating the dynamic response of the action via matching the inertia of the hammer to both the frequency range of the struck strings and the leverage of the action. The key is to minimize the use of front weights on the keys and shape the hammers to reduce the weight down to the point that the minimum key speed needed to ensure complete escapement will be fast enough that one can play fast and light and SOFTLY, at the same time. Also the speed of key return should be quick enough that the key will "lift" your relaxed finger. Fortunately both these goals coalesce well with reducing hammer mass.

Steinway started down this road with the Accelerated Action work, but they never took it to the logical end and they have drifted away from the proper use of the precepts Joseph Hoffman, (the great pianist and by university training an engineer), urged them to apply.

This does entail much more work that just buying a set of hammers glued to shanks and screwing them on the rail. And then spending the bulk of what time is allotted to "Tone Regulation" to needling over bright hammers.

The benefit to piano ownership of this approach is an action that is much more stable and durable by several times over the "stock" standards now practiced.


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

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