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Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
#2953845 03/03/20 08:56 AM
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I have a question regarding keyboard alignment and replacement of the key pins felts. My keys have very slight height variances and quite big side to side movement, but the latter will be done by a professional. However, I wanted to replace the felts under keyboard by myself, and thus questions arises. Piano is 90-yers old upright.

1. Does it make sense to replace all of the felts or it is better is such old instrument to only use the small paper rings to adjust the height?

2. Afterwards the keys should be even, or regardless of it, even after replacing, due to wood properties, setting key height with paper rings is unavoidable?

2. If I will have the keys perfectly even, than I start regulation. May it happen, that during regulation I will find out, that I will need to change the key height again in some cases, or all of the regulation should be done on action only and key position shouldn’t be touched?

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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2953887 03/03/20 11:19 AM
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1. Replace the felt punchings.

2. You will have to level the keys with paper punchings.

3. Key height is usually dictated by the case. The keys need to fit under the key stop rail, and above the keystrip. You may need to adjust the punchings so that the key dip gives the proper aftertouch. If you start with a uniform punching or two, say, 0.010", then if you have too little dip, removing those and replacing it with another will be relatively quick.

Remember to take out the lost motion by adjusting the capstans first! Otherwise the heights will change.


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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
BDB #2953896 03/03/20 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
1. Replace the felt punchings.

2. You will have to level the keys with paper punchings.

3. Key height is usually dictated by the case. The keys need to fit under the key stop rail, and above the keystrip. You may need to adjust the punchings so that the key dip gives the proper aftertouch. If you start with a uniform punching or two, say, 0.010", then if you have too little dip, removing those and replacing it with another will be relatively quick.

Remember to take out the lost motion by adjusting the capstans first! Otherwise the heights will change.


Thanks a lot, especially for the last advice, because I wanted firy level the keys and than adjust the capastans!

Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
BDB #2953944 03/03/20 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB

.......
Remember to take out the lost motion by adjusting the capstans first! Otherwise the heights will change.

Really?


Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
Chris Leslie #2953971 03/03/20 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
Originally Posted by BDB

.......
Remember to take out the lost motion by adjusting the capstans first! Otherwise the heights will change.

Really?


Should it be done differently?

Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2953987 03/03/20 06:11 PM
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Yes, you have to take out the lost motion first, or the keys may not be pushed down in back by the amount of lost motion.


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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2953998 03/03/20 07:24 PM
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As long as the whippens are weighing on the capstans then lost motion adjustment will not make any difference to key height.


Chris Leslie
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http://www.chrisleslie.com.au
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
Chris Leslie #2953999 03/03/20 07:34 PM
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Sounds like you have never leveled upright keyboards. The weight of the wippen without that of the hammer is not enough to counteract the weight of the key.


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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954005 03/03/20 08:09 PM
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I know what you mean but only if the keys are heavily forward weighted. At least in my area, such forward weighting in uprights are not usual. Most old German uprights for example will be fairly neutral or back weighted. Maybe old American uprights are different.


Chris Leslie
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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
Chris Leslie #2954049 03/04/20 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
I know what you mean but only if the keys are heavily forward weighted. At least in my area, such forward weighting in uprights are not usual. Most old German uprights for example will be fairly neutral or back weighted. Maybe old American uprights are different.


I have German piano and balance is quite even.

Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954055 03/04/20 02:48 AM
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You need to take out the lost motion anyway, so do it first and be sure. You may need to do a little touch-up afterwards, but it is easier to touch up the capstans than the leveling.


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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954229 03/04/20 03:19 PM
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BDB is 100% correct! Do it as he said.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
Chris Leslie #2954273 03/04/20 05:40 PM
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I'm going to agree with Mr. Leslie.
Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
I know what you mean but only if the keys are heavily forward weighted. At least in my area, such forward weighting in uprights are not usual. Most old German uprights for example will be fairly neutral or back weighted. Maybe old American uprights are different.


You have to determine the key balance characteristics of the particular piano you are working on. A quick check is to step on the quiet pedal and then play the keys and slowly release. If the keys don't reliable go back to their rest position or seem "floaty" you're going to have some trouble. There's nothing like spending a couple of hours finely adjusting key height to have it ruined when you set the lost motion.

Likewise, if the keys DO reliably go back to rest with the hammers lifted, it would be counter-productive to remove all the lost motion before leveling keys, because the weight of the hammers (which is inconsistent) and the strength of the hammer springs (which is also inconsistent) will have small effects on the levelness of the keyboard.

Moreover, it is an artificial situation. When an upright is properly regulated it is usually considered correct to have a *slight* amount of lost motion (some actions require more than others). The classic check is to pull back on the rest rail and see if all the hammers follow. In other words, the hammers won't be touching the wippens and so should have no effect on the keys.

If the keys are front heavy relative to the weight of the wippens, the best solution is to add some weight to the back of the keys. I've used "Jiffy leads" in some cases, but if it's in the shop I prefer to drill and swedge. I've been doing this more lately and it really makes these pianos feel nice. However this may not be practical for many situations.

If adding weights is not an option, I rough in the lost motion, then rough in the key level. Since key leveling affects the lost motion (and vice versa) there is quite a bit of back-and-forth between leveling and lost-motion. I like to do one final check on the key level at the very end of the regulation. Hopefully by that time there is just a few keys to touch-up.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954280 03/04/20 06:01 PM
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On the topic of replacing felts, I NEVER replace them unless they are moth eaten. I MUCH prefer original felt punchings, especially for the balance rail. They are a little harder to pull off and on the balance pins compared to fresh felts, but that is the only disadvantage I can think of, and it's not worth the loss of stability.

One trick that has saved me a lot of time in fine leveling is to first remove the keys and mark the punchings at the 6 o'clock position so that you can keep from rotating them while adding or subtracting paper punchings. Because you will rotate them. If they are marked you really notice how easy it is to do so.

The original worn-in felts are not uniform, and are more compressed on one side than the other. Any rotation can create instability and make guessing which paper shim to use more unpredictable. If you keep them in their original orientation you will have a beautifully stable leveling job. Of course you always want to firmly seat the keys each time you remove and replace one by pushing down on the back of the key with one hand while pushing the front of the key with the other, or some similar method.

I've also had good luck with a wood block that just fits over the key button and has a hole just big enough for the balance pin. You can quickly go down the line and give each key a couple of taps with a hammer.

Lastly - don't even attempt to level keys if they aren't nicely squared. The slightest amount of squaring has a surprising effect on the key level. I like using a good light and some reading glasses when I'm doing this. This is also another one of those back-and-forth procedures: square - level - square - level etc. In the end, your fingers are the final judge.

Key leveling is an art, and like unison tuning the better you get at it the more sensitive you get, so it always remains elusive and challenging! A smooth, refined keyboard is a beautiful thing to behold! smile


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954335 03/04/20 11:12 PM
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Some good advice from Ryan, BDB, and P. W. Gray, (Peter).

Rebushing keys will often bring them closer back to square and level. Makes the action feel so much better and even. Then backweight if key return is slow. Sometimes I drill holes, (like I was going to install weights), in the fronts of the white keys because there is so much more wood on the front of the naturals compared to the black keys. This helps even things out and improves key return.


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Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954399 03/05/20 08:45 AM
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Very much agreed.

It's a little like mowing a lawn that has not been cared for in several years. You must first clean up the big stuff and in the process you find things you didn't know about so you clear that out too, then you give It an initial cut (rough of course), then you clean that up and inspect to see if there is more stuff you didn't see before (clean that up), now go and give it a closer cut (probably clean that up too), then let it rest for a while. Then come back and cut it nice. It's not a once and done thing. Neither with action regulation and reconditioning.

Have fun.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954450 03/05/20 12:09 PM
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Excellent point from Ed McMorrow (Hi Ed!)

The "dog leg" in the key and the angle at which the pianists' fingers attack the keys cause more wear on one side of the balance keybushings than the other. This means the keybushings on the treble side will tend to lean towards the right with wear and time, and towards the left in the bass. Even a slight lean will cause the key level to drop slightly.

This is one of the reasons I've been experimenting with leather key bushings on the balance rail. I still like the feel of felt in the front.

Sometimes you can really improve the key level just by squaring the keys. The downside is if the keys get rebushed later, you'll have to re-square them.

Sometimes it is surprising if you rebush a set of keys on an old piano that has not been touched since it left the factory, the key level can be restored to an amazing degree!

Something just sprang into my mind with this discussion. I remember Sally Phillips (she was working as the tech rep for Bechstein at the time) saying that she always tries to preserve the original felt punchings if possible on old pianos. If I remember correctly, she would put them in a nylon stocking and put them through the wash and then iron them. I've never tried it, but it shows the trouble she was willing to go through to maintain the original felts.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
Re: Upright key alignment & keys felts replacement
impossiblejj #2954539 03/05/20 05:06 PM
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Thank you guys very much for last few responses, extremely informative and eye-opening. For now I am changing damper felts, will see the effects smile


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