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I recently had my Steinway D rebuilt and have been very happy with its sound and performance since. I have had some experience voicing NY Steinway hammers before, but never brand new ones. The new hammers on my D were put through the normal preliminary and finishing voicing protocol by my rebuilder as recommended by Steinway, although my rebuilder says he uses less lacquer than most for this protocol--and then only selectively. I've had the piano back from the rebuilder for almost 4 weeks now. With a few hours of playing-in the hammers, several quickly became strident and "pingy" sounding, and I superficially and selectively needled the hammer crowns with a single needle through-the-strings tool (chopstick), and this brought the tone right back to where I like it. After several more hours of playing, some of these same strings returned to sounding "pingy", and I repeated the same kind of minimal needling of the crowns with similar results. The problem is that I'm finding the hammers resume having that harsher, pingy tone after every several hours of playing. I do like the tone of well voiced NY Steinway hammers, but my reservation with them has always been the amount of maintenance they require. I've been told that new NY Steinway hammers require a year or two to stabilize in tone. So my first question to those more experienced with them than I is: Is what I've been told true--that they require a year or two before they stabilize? And my second question: Is there anything I can be doing beyond superficially needling the crowns of these hammers to have a more lasting effect before the harsher tone quickly returns? I realize that all needling is destructive to the felt fibers to varying degrees, and so it does concern me that if I have to keep needling the crowns every couple of days, won't I eventually turn them to mush? Thanks for any help!

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Ask your rebuilder what he applied to the surface. Then use that products slow evaporate solvent to wash the surface. A fast evaporate solvent tends to flash the product back to the surface.


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You could try this. Purchase some acetone solvent from a paint store. Purchase a small syringe pipette that is safe for use with aromatic solvents. Get some paper towels. Get some aromatic resistant gloves. Make a list of the offending hammers. Remove the action onto a stable support like a table with towels or foldable plastic saw horses. Raise the offending hammers clear up to vertical. Place a magazine on the back checks/whippens. Drop the offending hammers back down from vertical. Put on the gloves. Fill the syringe with acetone and wet the hammer crown with the acetone. Wait 10 minutes. Wet them again and place paper towel over the crowns and squeeze the towel against the hammer crowns with your fingers. Let dry for about four hours and then remove all the stuff from the action and test out how it sounds. You will need to open a window or door to clear the fumes. Don't sit over the thing inhaling them.

If this didn't help enough, repeat the above but when you go to rewet use enough acetone that it completely fills the hammer before you squeeze them. Always wet from the crown.


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What generally prevents me from taking care of problems like this is that the customer does not call me in to fix it often enough.

It takes a while for the problems with voicing to show up, so I expect them to happen. Over the course of a year or two, they get smaller and smaller, until they become unnoticeable, if they are taken care of. But as they get smaller, it becomes more important to do the work more and more carefully, and that means that the piano has to be tuned very well and the regulation touched up before voicing.

So regular service calls are a must!


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All needling is not destructive. You may want my article which I'll provide if you PM me with your email and general location. Arthroscopic voicing gets to the zone of effectiveness without passing through the zone of uselessness. It may only take a couple of pokes in the right place.

The suggestions on re-disolve that already have been mentioned are another valid approach as well.

Lacquer continues to cure for a long time. This is noticeable in refinishing after lacquer is sprayed. It can be rubbed out to a nice sheen and then later one can see dimples where the wood grain has telegraphed to the surface from further curing that has taken place.

In my experience, hard acrylic (not keytop material) dissolved in acetone is faster and more controllable and doesn't do the perpetual hardening thing that lacquer does.


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You should be working with your rebuilder. It's not unusual for your new hammers to need several voicing sessions before they become stable.


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Originally Posted by kpembrook
All needling is not destructive. You may want my article which I'll provide if you PM me with your email and general location. Arthroscopic voicing gets to the zone of effectiveness without passing through the zone of uselessness. It may only take a couple of pokes in the right place.

The suggestions on re-disolve that already have been mentioned are another valid approach as well.

Lacquer continues to cure for a long time. This is noticeable in refinishing after lacquer is sprayed. It can be rubbed out to a nice sheen and then later one can see dimples where the wood grain has telegraphed to the surface from further curing that has taken place.

In my experience, hard acrylic (not keytop material) dissolved in acetone is faster and more controllable and doesn't do the perpetual hardening thing that lacquer does.

Actually as I wrote those words, regarding all voicing being destructive to felt fibers, I did think of your voicing article, Keith. Because I’ve previously read it and have found it to be useful in voicing non-NY Steinway hammers, but I wasn’t sure of its applicability to NY Steinway hammers. So I’ll give the voicing methods you describe a try with my current hammers under discussion and see if their effect is any more long lasting than that which I’ve already attempted. Thanks.

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Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
You should be working with your rebuilder. It's not unusual for your new hammers to need several voicing sessions before they become stable.

Agreed. It’s a problem of the distance separating me from the rebuilder.

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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
You could try this. Purchase some acetone solvent from a paint store. Purchase a small syringe pipette that is safe for use with aromatic solvents. Get some paper towels. Get some aromatic resistant gloves. Make a list of the offending hammers. Remove the action onto a stable support like a table with towels or foldable plastic saw horses. Raise the offending hammers clear up to vertical. Place a magazine on the back checks/whippens. Drop the offending hammers back down from vertical. Put on the gloves. Fill the syringe with acetone and wet the hammer crown with the acetone. Wait 10 minutes. Wet them again and place paper towel over the crowns and squeeze the towel against the hammer crowns with your fingers. Let dry for about four hours and then remove all the stuff from the action and test out how it sounds. You will need to open a window or door to clear the fumes. Don't sit over the thing inhaling them.

If this didn't help enough, repeat the above but when you go to rewet use enough acetone that it completely fills the hammer before you squeeze them. Always wet from the crown.

Thank you for taking the time out to explain this procedure, Ed. But personally having had no previous experience with reflowing lacquer, I prefer not to start with these newly installed hammers.

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Greetings,
Since aural phenomena are impossible to diagnosis without hearing, we are just throwing out possible causes, so I offer a third, alternative, perspective.....I think you got over-juiced. You now have rocks with some tufted felt over them. They can be kept nicely only with constant voicing. Continual shallow needling on the crown is often the way stage pianos are maintained, but they get new hammers more often, because of that. What you may be doing is trying to just keep something soft on the outer surface of your solidified hammer.

I don't grasp why it would take two years for a hammer to "stabilize". I don't see that. A too-soft Steinway hammer will never produce the full power of one with a firmer foundation, but it will continue to brighten, nearly forever, so there is no point of "stability". Properly hardened Steinway hammers will, in my experience, develop the brilliance desired after around 30-40 hours of play. By then, surface compaction will have done most of its effect and voicing at the tunings is usually sufficient for non-performance instruments. If the hammer was over-juiced to begin with, you will be fighting harshness forever

Also, a heavily lacquered hammer will get harder for several months, but the difference between month two and month three is so small that it would be hard to notice. This piano seems to ping after two hours of play, which suggests to me that the hammers are rocks and any shallow voicing will be very short lived. Of course, there are other things to be wary of, ie un-mated hammers and poor termination, both of which will begin pinging sounds when a hammer gets harder. If the spacing is off enough, hammer edges can cause weird noises on impact.

Two things I would suggest have already been suggested, soak the hammers in acetone to remove some of the hardening agent, and deeper, more effective needling. Otherwise, I would suggest a move to the Ronsen Weickert hammers, if your tech knows what they need in needle work.

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I find factory SS hammers to be nice relatively soft resilient hammers.
Lacquering them up tends to destroy that resilient springiness.
Although some shoulder lacquering may be necessary I like to use plastic key top dissolved in acetone directly on the strike point. It’s very controllable and reversible too.
Also, I prefer side needling.
To calm down pings that are associated with the strike point I like to use a small brass wire brush.
I like to reserve poking holes in the felt until less intrusive techniques fail to get desired result.


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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
Since aural phenomena are impossible to diagnosis without hearing, we are just throwing out possible causes, so I offer a third, alternative, perspective.....I think you got over-juiced. You now have rocks with some tufted felt over them. They can be kept nicely only with constant voicing. Continual shallow needling on the crown is often the way stage pianos are maintained, but they get new hammers more often, because of that. What you may be doing is trying to just keep something soft on the outer surface of your solidified hammer.

I don't grasp why it would take two years for a hammer to "stabilize". I don't see that. A too-soft Steinway hammer will never produce the full power of one with a firmer foundation, but it will continue to brighten, nearly forever, so there is no point of "stability". Properly hardened Steinway hammers will, in my experience, develop the brilliance desired after around 30-40 hours of play. By then, surface compaction will have done most of its effect and voicing at the tunings is usually sufficient for non-performance instruments. If the hammer was over-juiced to begin with, you will be fighting harshness forever

Also, a heavily lacquered hammer will get harder for several months, but the difference between month two and month three is so small that it would be hard to notice. This piano seems to ping after two hours of play, which suggests to me that the hammers are rocks and any shallow voicing will be very short lived. Of course, there are other things to be wary of, ie un-mated hammers and poor termination, both of which will begin pinging sounds when a hammer gets harder. If the spacing is off enough, hammer edges can cause weird noises on impact.

Two things I would suggest have already been suggested, soak the hammers in acetone to remove some of the hardening agent, and deeper, more effective needling. Otherwise, I would suggest a move to the Ronsen Weickert hammers, if your tech knows what they need in needle work.


Thank you, Ed. For the record, these hammers really don’t feel to me like heavily lacquered ones. I can still feel some give to them when I squeeze them between my fingers. And concerning the Ronsen Weickerts, I in fact considered having the rebuilder use them so that I wouldn’t be doing just what I am now doing with my hammers. But my rebuilder only likes to use the Ronsens on smaller Steinways. Should I fail to get my current hammers where I want them to be, however, I may well switch to the Ronsens.

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Originally Posted by SMA55
Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
You should be working with your rebuilder. It's not unusual for your new hammers to need several voicing sessions before they become stable.

Agreed. It’s a problem of the distance separating me from the rebuilder.


Does this mean that you will be doing all of the maintenance on the piano yourself?


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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

To calm down pings that are associated with the strike point I like to use a small brass wire brush.
I like to reserve poking holes in the felt until less intrusive techniques fail to get desired result.

Do you find that using a brass wire brush on the strike point has any lasting effect on pinginess? I wouldn’t think you would, unless hardener was applied to the strike point merely as a surface glaze rather than with any significant penetration. But I’ll give it a try. Thanks for replying.

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Originally Posted by BDB
Originally Posted by SMA55
Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
You should be working with your rebuilder. It's not unusual for your new hammers to need several voicing sessions before they become stable.

Agreed. It’s a problem of the distance separating me from the rebuilder.


Does this mean that you will be doing all of the maintenance on the piano yourself?

Only for those things that I myself have any skill with. The rebuilder does plan to come down in a few months for a regulation. But as for “several voicing sessions”, that just won’t be possible. And if I knew of someone in town who had demonstrably excellent voicing skills with Steinway hammers, I would use them in a heartbeat. But I have yet to find such a person locally.

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Originally Posted by SMA55
Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

To calm down pings that are associated with the strike point I like to use a small brass wire brush.
I like to reserve poking holes in the felt until less intrusive techniques fail to get desired result.

Do you find that using a brass wire brush on the strike point has any lasting effect on pinginess? I wouldn’t think you would, unless hardener was applied to the strike point merely as a surface glaze rather than with any significant penetration. But I’ll give it a try. Thanks for replying.


For SS hammers that I have applied keytop to strike point and have used minimal lacquer on the shoulders, yes - it is more lasting.
However, I don’t rule out chopstick needling and it may be a first approach.
First I like to use mutes to try to find out if the ping is from one individual wire. If it is then as opposed to poking a hole with the needle I may just scratch the strike point slightly of the one string groove.
That may be all that is necessary.
Decisions/consideration must be made for una-chorda voicing too. A wire brush could impact that as well as a ping. The approach can be different from bass to treble too.


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Have any of you guys ever worked on a concert grand with hammers that had Zero lacquer in them?

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Originally Posted by Gene Nelson

Lacquering them up tends to destroy that resilient springiness.
.


This is not true. Over-lacquering does that. When new hammers are juiced correctly at the beginning, it's mostly small needle work to maintain. The problem is when they are juiced wrong at the beginning.
-chris


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Chris is correct.

Pwg


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You say that you "superficially" needled the hammers - which tells me you are not deep needling. Shallow needling is not long lasting. Try inserting deeper, at least 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch, depending on the hammer.

If you decide to wash lacquer out of the hammers, do all of them, or at least whole sections. Don't wash out individual hammers. That will create uneven voicing from one hammer to another.



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