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Bending the capstans on an upright action? #2853817
05/30/19 09:35 AM
05/30/19 09:35 AM
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 327
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U3piano Online content OP
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The first time i had a technician tune my U3, he fixed some small things, that was all good. But, he als said to me that it played quite heavy for a yamaha. He said he could do something about it, and i thought it would probably a good idea. He is a certified technician, wich i believe is quite professional, he even has his own piano brand i believe, anyway i can't believe it's a bad technician.. so i thought.. if you say so, ok let's do it.

But, im not sure im happy with the result. What he did is adjust (bend) the capstans. Well, I think that's what their called, im not sure so i added a picture with circles around the parts im talking about. Im not 100% sure wich way he bended them, but i believe it was towards the strings.

https://ibb.co/4gZmbmy

Now here's why im not sure im happy about it:

1. I think the feel is quite different now. Lighter? I guess so, i don't really know, probably it is. But it definitly feels different, and i don't know if i like it. I also have the feeling the keys are more shallow now... like there is less distance (or control?) somehow between depressed and the rest position. I don't know if that makes any sense? Now the next is very exaggerated but to explain: They seem to feel more like switches now, instead of levers. Maybe a feeling of beeing less in control. I think it's hard for me to say, because im just a hobby player any my only real experience is with my own piano, and that's just a few months of experience, but i do have the feeling that it was better before, even if it was a little heavier then.

2. It now sometimes happens that after playing a note, the jack does not completely return back in it's rest position under the hammer butt. The result is no sound the next time i play that note, because the jack doesn't push the hammer butt up. Now im not a technician, but i would say that's not supposed to happen.

3. Before this tuning, when i looked inside the piano, everything was perfectly in line. Now i see some hammers are vertically not perfectly alligned with eachoter in their resting position. It's not much, but... i would not think that's a good thing. Besides the hammers, everything else still looks perfectly alligned. Here's a picture of what the hammers look like:

https://ibb.co/MMp0szN

I can't find anything about "bending capstans" on the internet. Is this a usual technique to adjust an action? The technician will be here again, to fix broken return spring cords, so ill explain it all to him, but i wonder if anyone around here can make something of this. crazy




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Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2853872
05/30/19 12:09 PM
05/30/19 12:09 PM
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 194
Tampa, FL
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Bill McKaig,RPT Offline
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Ok. Here's what I think happened. He bent the capstans forward which would lighten up the action, but that removed the loss motion the action needs to function. If you have him adjust the height of the capstans to correct the loss motion, the action will feel normal again. Bending capstan wires is not common, but it can be used to change the geometry of an upright action.


Professional Piano Technician serving the Tampa bay area. website: mckaigpianoservice.com
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2853896
05/30/19 01:20 PM
05/30/19 01:20 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 125
New Westminster, Canada
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Mike088 Offline
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Hello U3piano,

You have a great piano, the U3 - one of my favourites. My opinion is that it is no problem to make these slight capstan adjustments to fine-tune the weight. I've seen this done before by several professional technicians - it may not be common, but it's done occasionally. To lighten the action you bend the capstan top back toward the player (I hope I have that right - I'm not in front of a U3 now). Very basic lever physics: If the top of the captan pushes up on the wippen at a point that is farther away from the wippen's fulcrum (the wippen flange pin), then the action will feel slightly lighter. This is very basic physics and in no way would this harm the piano. Pianos can be adjusted in more ways that you think and can always be put back if you don't like the result. I would try the piano for a few months like this (or at least a few days) and I am sure you would become used to it. The worse case situation, is you have too much friction in the action parts (tight centre pins on hammer and wippen flanges) but I doubt this especially with a U3, unless your U3 has not been kept in reasonable conditions in terms of the climate. You could lubricate the key pins (balance rail pins and front pins) by taking all the keys off, lubricating the pins and then easing each of the keys - checking each one carefully. Your technician would have to see if that is the problem which I doubt - but you never know.

The problem with your hammers not lining up is that after adjusting the capstan position, you have to do the lost motion/over motion adjustment to each capstan - takes a little time and focus. This is adjusting the precise height of the capstan so that the jack clears away out from under the butt and returns very gracefully when the key is pressed. I can see from your photo that you have "over motion" on some of your hammers. Not a problem - an easy project for a tech. You can't miss that step.

Finally, if you would like to go into deep detail, and other techs might have a comment on this last point, which is that in Mario Igrec's amazing book "Pianos Inside Out" on page 277 he suggests that normal downweight of the keys in the middle of the piano is usually 45-53 grams (with damper pedal depressed) but this might only apply to grand pianos which this chapter covers. I personally use this average for grand pianos to determine friction but never have had to analyse an upright piano to this level of detail - but it might apply too to uprights and probably does. You would have to purchase small calibration gram weights from a scale shop to do this test to check out your U3 downweight. In the treble area, key downweights should be a little lighter (43-51g) and in the bass they should be a little heavier (47-55g).

Hope I havn't added too much data to cause any confusion - just make sure to ask your tech to do the lost motion/overmotion adjustment and then your hammers will look nice and straight as they were when the piano was new and the piano touch should feel normal once again.

Mike

Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2853931
05/30/19 03:15 PM
05/30/19 03:15 PM
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 327
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U3piano Online content OP
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Mike, thank you for this very detailed answer.

(It's a 1985 U3 actually)

So if i understand correctly, once the capstan height is properly adjusted, the action should feel lighter but other than that, the same as before the bending of the capstans? So the capstan bending itself shouldn't really make the action feel any different, just lighter?

Good idea about checking the downweight, and buying small calibration weights. I will look into that, because i love my piano, and like to know if it is in the best possible condition!

About the possibility of excessive friction, i also doubt it, as i do believe the piano is in a good condition, but indeed you never know. All hammer butt flanges will be replaced soon, because my piano has some broken hammer return spring cords. So, new flanges can only be a possible improvement, i would think.

If it's easy enough i could look into lubricating the key pins myself. Do you think this is an easy task for someone who is reasonably handy, very interested in piano's and the way they work, but doesn't have experience working on them at all, except for installing an aftermarket muffler rail? If it's easy enough i could maybe do the capstan height adjustment also, but if it's a task were experience is needed, i will not take the risk of doing anything myself.

Since English is not my native language, I don't know if i understand "and then easing of the keys" correctly. What does it mean exactly? Is there something more you can do after lubricating the pins?

Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854018
05/30/19 08:16 PM
05/30/19 08:16 PM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 505
Maine, USA
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Rick_Parks Offline
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There are many other ways to make the action feel lighter than taking this extreme route.


Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854021
05/30/19 08:21 PM
05/30/19 08:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 505
Maine, USA
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Rick_Parks Offline
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I would think, as a tech, to first lube, ease keys, introduce a little loss motion at the hammer rail with felt shims, and delay the damper lift slightly--- rather than go and bend all the capstans on the piano!

Bending the capstans is more than likely to cause the felt to wear faster, as it is now rubbing at an angle rather than on the smooth surface.

Last edited by Rick_Parks; 05/30/19 08:25 PM.

Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854025
05/30/19 08:43 PM
05/30/19 08:43 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 27,748
Oakland
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BDB Offline
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Yamaha does sell a capstan bending tool. However, I would use it more for alignment rather than making changes to the touch, which is dependent on other things besides masses and geometry.


Semipro Tech
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: BDB] #2854030
05/30/19 08:51 PM
05/30/19 08:51 PM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 505
Maine, USA
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Rick_Parks Offline
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Originally Posted by BDB
Yamaha does sell a capstan bending tool. However, I would use it more for alignment rather than making changes to the touch, which is dependent on other things besides masses and geometry.

Exactly!


Parks and Sons Piano Service
www.parksandsonspiano.com
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854055
05/30/19 10:53 PM
05/30/19 10:53 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 125
New Westminster, Canada
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Mike088 Offline
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Hello U3piano,

I hope I didn't provide too much information to add any possible confusion smile So now I think I will help clarify. Rick is certainly right about the order of operation. First of all, 1985 is a fairly old piano so there could be some issues. I would first remove all the keys and vacuum the keyed being careful not to vacuum up any felts! Lift the fronts of the keys off first and then gently wiggle the back off the balance pin careful not to disrupt the wippen too much - they are tough - but still be careful. It might help to lift the wippen with your finger while removing each key to help clear the capstan. You will need Protek piano lubricant and apply it to the pins (front pin and back pin) with a pipe cleaner - its a cleaner and a lubricant. I do not know how you will obtain that because you need to be a piano technician to register at Schaff piano to purchase this specialized lubricant or they will not sell it to you. Therefore I think it would be best if you ask your piano tech to do this. Maybe you can lift all the keys off for him to help save him the time?

Then after this the tech needs to check each key that it operates smoothly - glides back and forth nicely - if you lift up the key a little it should drop back down on its own. If it still does not operate smoothly after lubrication, it needs to be "key eased". I would only recommend an experienced tech to do the key easing because you could easily make the balance hole too wide if not done right - (there are ways to reverse this if not done correctly). These are all easy steps to take and should be taken first.

Rick is absolutely correct in saying the other issue could be the damper timing. You could check this yourself. Open the lid and watch the damper lift up while you press a key. The damper should lift approximately when the key is half-way down. If it lifts too early the touch will feel heavy. If it lifts too late the touch will feel lighter. You see, the damper adds a lot of weight to the feel of the keyboard - its a major factor. This is difficult to correct on an upright piano. I would hope that is not a problem with your piano and I doubt your piano has a problem with this but of course I am not there to see. Adjusting the damper spoons to adjust the damper timing is a difficult job that only a piano tech can do. I hope you will not need to do that. I also doubt that is your problem but you never know - tech will have to check this.

The capstan bending technique, as we see here in this post, seems to be a bit controversial. I didn't mean for the capstan to be bend by much - only has to be bent 1mm or less to be effective - thats hardly much. That should not be a problem. Capstans are rounded at the top and so the angle won't be a factor.

Perhaps your hammer flanges could be tight (tight centre pins) causing too much friction thereby causing a heavy feeling action. That could be the problem. That could be a big time-consuming problem. Your tech will have solutions for that.

In any case I think you need to trust your tech to sort out this heavy touch weight problem - or just leave it. If it was my piano I would first lubricate all key pins, then check key easing, then check the damper timing (should be at halfway).

Then go purchase some weights to measure your downright or you could play someone else's U3 to compare the touch to yours.

Then remove a hammer with flange to check for tight centre pins (a tech will have to do this), possibly but less likely tight wippen flanges, and then finally bend the capstan forward by only 1mm or so if you really feel the action is still too heavy. Then adjust the capstan height (also called lost motion/overmotion adjusting). You could do this yourself - but ask your tech first. The risk is that if you leave too much of a gap and then practice for 20 hours or so, the jack will pound the butt out of shape over time. Always safest to ask your piano tech.

Sometimes if you think too much about all this you end up worrying about too many details and it is better to just spend the time practicing the piano smile

Hope all this helps!

PS I think I wrote too much smile

Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854149
05/31/19 08:37 AM
05/31/19 08:37 AM
Joined: Dec 2018
Posts: 327
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U3piano Online content OP
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Very, very useful information to me!

Thanks for helping everyone, especially mike! you didn't write too much at all, i want to know as much as possible, so i like the detailed explanation. smile

Like i said all hammer flanges will be replaced because of broken hammer return spring cords, so if there should be a problem in these, i guess that will be solved.

In the meantime i will look into buying the weights to check the downweight and lubricating the key pins. I did some googling and it seems there are some places around that just sell the protek.

But indeed i will spend most time on playing. cool

Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854421
05/31/19 09:59 PM
05/31/19 09:59 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 4,862
USA
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Bob Offline
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The action is not in good operating condition if spring cords are broken. Any repairs and friction issues should have been addressed before capstan wire bending was done. In older pianos jack and damper springs can get weak and cause issues.

A heavy feel to the action is not always bad. There has to be enough key weight to make the piano controllable. A light action can be harder to control. Voicing is a factor here as well. Pianos are interesting, as many factors go into the touch and sound - and the basic adjustments provide a foundation for the rest.




Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2854453
06/01/19 01:27 AM
06/01/19 01:27 AM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 3,232
Olympia, WA
rysowers Offline
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Olympia, WA
I'm with Bob - The first order of business is get the spring loops replaced. In fact I'm doing this job in my shop as we speak. Also, I recommend not replacing the flanges - it just creates alignment headaches. It's not that hard to just replace the little silk cords. If the hammer butts have the but plates/screws it makes it even easier because you don't even have to remove the flanges from the rail, and the alignment problems almost entirely vanish.

Yamaha pianos are very well engineered pianos. Before changing the original design specs, get all the basics covered first.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: U3piano] #2861346
06/21/19 04:50 PM
06/21/19 04:50 PM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 477
UK
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Goof Offline
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Shurley if if one bends a capstan then any screwing up or down for further adjustment has to be a complete 360 degrees otherwise it will not line up under it's wippen ?

Re: Bending the capstans on an upright action? [Re: Goof] #2862418
06/24/19 06:17 PM
06/24/19 06:17 PM
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Posts: 1,651
Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Chris Leslie Offline
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Canberra, ACT, Australia
Originally Posted by Goof
Shurley if if one bends a capstan then any screwing up or down for further adjustment has to be a complete 360 degrees otherwise it will not line up under it's wippen ?

The captains screw up or down at the top of the wire so the alignment is not affected. You might be assuming that the bent wire is screwing up or down in the keystick which is not the case for Yamaha.


Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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