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That "plastic" WNG action
#3018655 08/28/20 12:54 PM
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Not wanting to hijack the Yamaha v. Kawai thread that's turning into a plastic vs. wood action discussion, I'm hoping to get feedback on the WNG plastic (carbon fiber) actions that the new M&H's are coming out with. Do you notice any difference from the traditional wood actions, and if so, what? How about compared to Kawai's partial carbon fiber M3 action? Bonus if you've replaced the stock action on a piano with a complete WNG action. Something in me is itching to try that one day.


Daily driver: Kawai MP11SE
First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
Foster child: 1927 Kurtzmann upright
Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018661 08/28/20 01:08 PM
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M & H has been using the WNG composite action for many years. Back in the day when you could still find a new M & H for sale in the Chicago area (five years ago? maybe more?) I tried it out and found no noticeable difference in the feel and control.

Which I considered a good thing at the time, given that the composite action would (I assumed) be less prone to seasonal fluctuations.

Larry.

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018666 08/28/20 01:13 PM
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I think most agree that WNG or Kawai composite action is longer lasting, far less prone to the effects of humidity, and can be produced with more precision and uniformity. I don't think there is much agreement on how the action feels vs. a non composite action.

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018674 08/28/20 01:40 PM
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I own a 2003 M&H BB with a traditional wood action (not Renner) as well as a 2016 Kawai K500 with the carbon fiber M3 action. I like them both very much - although comparing the two pianos is like comparing apples to oranges given that one is a 7 foot semi concert grand and the other a 51" upright with an upright action. I do love the responsiveness of the M3 upright action and have absolutely no problem with the carbon fiber components.

My initial posts on PW many years ago focused on the heaviness of my 2003 M&H's wood action. This was eventually improved somewhat by regulation, but I do know that in 2004 M&H made some changes to their actions to lighten the feel. And, of course, when they introduced the WNG composite actions on their grands around 2009, the touch became even more responsive. Bruce Clark of M&H explained to me in an email that in 2004 they "made a decision to lower mass and thus inertia in all of their pianos. Without changing leverage in any fashion less mass causes the action to feel lighter to the pianist. The lightweight and permanently slippery Aluminum Capstans were but one part of the program. We also went to walnut in the hammer molding (like the old M&H and tapered the hammers top to bottom (somewhat more than the old M&H.)"

The 2006 M&H BB owned by PW's Pianoloverus most likely includes these improvements.

I've tried the newer M&H grands in the store and liked them very much - BUT not enough to trade up to one given the high cost. I've also toyed with the idea of replacing my current wood action with the new WNG action (for about $5K) but find it kind of hard to justify given that the current action is fine for just about 99% of everything I attempt to play. The bigger challenge with my BB is its sheer volume. ha

Last edited by Carey; 08/28/20 01:41 PM.

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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018703 08/28/20 03:16 PM
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I’ve tried the Brodmann with the composite action and the touch was rather good on the example at NAMM.

There. I put “Brodmann” and “rather good” in the same sentence. Hope y’all are happy now.

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018710 08/28/20 03:22 PM
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Didn't know this. Is Brodmann the Chinese made brand? Are they getting their actions from WNG, or do they have their own composite action?


Daily driver: Kawai MP11SE
First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
Foster child: 1927 Kurtzmann upright
Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018713 08/28/20 03:28 PM
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I don’t know who makes it but it’s to do with Steinberg and yeah they’re Chinese

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018726 08/28/20 04:01 PM
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I think pianos might be one of the few things where I've seen composites compared to wood, and where carbon fiber can be considered the underdog. The only other thing I can think of are skateboards.

I'm sure there must be a fair amount of mechanical engineering that goes into designing the action, but in all other hobbies I have where carbon fiber is involved, it's usually used to replace aluminum alloys for weight considerations and sometimes with a secondary flexibility benefit (like bike frames for examples).

Not being a mechanical engineer myself nor trained in material sciences, I do wonder how much of the material properties matter with regards to the action components. Certainly weight matters but does the stiffness and flexibility of the material matter for things like hammer shanks or hammer mouldings and what would that affect.

The WNG design is a much more radical change that Kawai's simple replacement of wooden parts, but it still kept wooden hammer mouldings rather than going with a one-piece carbon fiber hammer. Was that just due to manufacturing costs or does the wooden hammer core product a better quality tone that is currently unachievable with a carbon fiber core?

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018743 08/28/20 04:48 PM
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My guess is that WNG is not a hammer manufacturer and no hammer manufacturers are using carbon fiber for hammer mouldings. That is an interesting idea, however. I wonder if any synthetic material would work in a hammer, and if so, if it would be appreciably lighter than the wood already being used.


Daily driver: Kawai MP11SE
First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
Foster child: 1927 Kurtzmann upright
Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Joseph Fleetwood #3018787 08/28/20 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Joseph Fleetwood
I’ve tried the Brodmann with the composite action and the touch was rather good on the example at NAMM.

There. I put “Brodmann” and “rather good” in the same sentence. Hope y’all are happy now.
We've been waiting for a long long time........ smile

Y'all? grin


Mason and Hamlin BB - 91640
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Kawai CA-65 Digital
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo
Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018791 08/28/20 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
My guess is that WNG is not a hammer manufacturer ...
Good guess - in fact WNG is owned by M&H and for all I can tell the action parts are built in the M&H factory in Haverhill. Does anyone here know otherwise?


Mason and Hamlin BB - 91640
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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018809 08/28/20 07:16 PM
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Although I saw pianos being assembled firsthand in Haverhill when I toured the factory about 10 years ago, I believe they were receiving the WNG action parts produced by a facility they owned, overseas. I don’t recall seeing action making equipment in Massachusetts, though there was a lot of other cool stuff to see. It’s a fun tour.


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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018811 08/28/20 07:18 PM
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One of the things I really like about my M&H AA is the level of resistance, responsiveness, and consistency I experience when I play. I believe the WNG action is at least partly responsible for these qualities.


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Learning Mozart's Fantasie K.V. 397


Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018815 08/28/20 07:41 PM
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Thanks DDobs. So I take it you have a Mason with the WNG action. Would you describe it as light or heavy, compared with other grand actions you've tried? Anything about it seem different that you attribute to the carbon fiber parts?


Daily driver: Kawai MP11SE
First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
Foster child: 1927 Kurtzmann upright
Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018839 08/28/20 09:00 PM
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Greetings,
In my work at a university, (38 years), I watched my early work wear out in the practice rooms for two decades before the advent of the composite action parts from WNG. I know how long wooden parts last. Their shortcoming is two fold, in that the consistency and stability is poor in comparison to carbon fiber and glass reinforced nylon. There is no way to find 88 wooden shanks as consistent as 88 carbon fiber shanks. The second, and more serious shortcoming is the bushing. The cloth busing in a wooden surround is so much less durable and consistent than the composite equivalent that there is no comparison. With use, the cloth bushing changes. Usually getting looser with wear, though many Renner actions I built exhibited increasing tightness, often requiring disassembly of the action and total repinning.

The WNG bushings don't do any of that. After 5 or six semesters, they were essentially exactly like they were when I installed them. they do not seem to be affected by use. The cloth bushed parts were usually worn out after 10 years, and even then, had to be re-pinned to go that far. The stable hammerflange pinning allowed the voicing to remain as I put it, (no wandering around on a yearly basis). This aspect is critical in a university setting because it means that the touch remains the same and there is no need for increased maintenance budget to re-regulate them. Combined with the lack of spacing requirements( always a factor with wooden flanges that move around with age and humidity), the consistent friction allowed the piano to stay regulated, other than using the capstan and let-off buttons to accommodate the compression of the felt and leather.

Nobody noticed any difference other than the greater consistency of the WNG actions. If Cristofori had had carbon fiber, I don't think he would would have even considered using wood for an action.
Regards,

Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018846 08/28/20 09:17 PM
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Ed

Appreciate the informative post - Thanks!


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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3018864 08/28/20 10:45 PM
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I second Ed Footes experience. I can report the same results.

I do have some points to add though.

The most obvious feel difference with the W,N&G action is how much more even the soft playing can be when the action is assembled with precision and attention to keeping inertia problems far away.

Also the force gradient feel across the dynamic range is more even than any wood parts I have ever used.

And the solid checking with soft playing is much easier. (Most actions will not check the hammer on a soft blow. This means you feel the hammer bounce and this makes controlling soft dynamics impossible.)

Every real innovation in musical instruments is material driven. A new material comes along and it allows engineering the piano in a better way for all.

The pace of incorporating new materials in the piano industry for performance and longevity results is horribly slow! There are a plethora of newly engineered features piano rebuilders are using that are state of the art.


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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
terminaldegree #3018887 08/29/20 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
Although I saw pianos being assembled firsthand in Haverhill when I toured the factory about 10 years ago, I believe they were receiving the WNG action parts produced by a facility they owned, overseas. I don’t recall seeing action making equipment in Massachusetts, though there was a lot of other cool stuff to see. It’s a fun tour.
Overseas as in Asia? Perhaps..... but as long as the product is top notch, who cares? I'd love to tour the Haverhill factory sometime.


Mason and Hamlin BB - 91640
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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3019048 08/29/20 01:16 PM
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Emery - I would say it initially felt quite light. However, that is one reason I liked it, as my old Kawaii upright felt heavy. Now the lightness just feels right to me. The keys also seem to rebound in a quick but natural way. Overall, echoing Ed, "even" is the word I would use to describe the playing. I also concur that it's easy to play quietly even though the instrument is powerful. For what it's worth, my tuner and tech, who works for professional organizations, thinks it's great. I have it voiced and tuned every three months. I suppose that will add greatly to the cost of the instrument (along with lessons!), but it's worth it to me.

Last edited by DDobs; 08/29/20 01:18 PM.

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Re: That "plastic" WNG action
Emery Wang #3019056 08/29/20 01:25 PM
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For what it's worth, I find a light touch preferable to a heavy touch. There is more dynamic range in a light touch, there is more feeling of being in contact with the key and the key travel, and there is a greater degree of subtlety available. I have found it easier to adapt from a light touch to a heavy touch than the other way around, and actually, the weight of the hammer heads play a significant role in this, as does the action material and lubrication/regulation.

Whether or not the carbon fibre parts provide a better touch than wood, I don't know, but the fact that they are more consistent is very important. The fact you can, as a pianist or student, go from one piano to the other and not have to constantly change your approach because there can be WILD variations in touch in music school practice rooms, is a godsend. Honesty this is a large part of the reason I like working on a Clavinova - it's a light touch and it's consistent throughout the range, and for the act of learning notes it's perfect.

That might seem a little off topic but I think when we're talking about consistency we're all singing from the same hymn sheet. There are still restorers who make a very good job of restoring original whippens on 100 year old instruments at the customer's request, and we find in the UK that the wood at that age won't go though many more changes, or the changes will be much slower than newer wood, and so sometimes these old rebuilt actions can actually feel much more consistent as well - ALTHOUGH usually a new action is better if it comes from a good maker like Tokiwa or Renner.

I don't know many or any rebuilders in the UK that are using WNG parts except for Hurstwood Farm, so maybe others will start offering it. Honestly I'm surprised that every piano maker isn't offering it as an option.

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