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Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620009
10/23/08 12:10 AM
10/23/08 12:10 AM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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Lansing, MI
Since my dad passed suddenly, there are many things he didn't show me. I recently tuned a beautiful upright he did a full restoration on (inside and out)... new pins, new strings, new hammers, all new felts (of course), refinished the casing, etc. He used the original shafts and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how he saved the shafts.

Then I found the hammer head and butt extractor tool in the Schaff catalog. Although I haven't seen it in years, I know my dad had one (somewhere). I need to dig through his tools and find it. I thought it was in his normal tool case (the one I use now) but I can't find it.

I also read in Reblitz's book about splitting the old hammer with a pair of fairly heavy duty wire cutters.

So what is the preferred method? Is it even worth saving the shafts or just replacing them? And if so, what's the best method there?


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Jim Alfredson
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Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620010
10/23/08 12:43 AM
10/23/08 12:43 AM
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Oakland
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BDB Offline
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Grand hammer pliers do a good job. They just press straight through the top of the hammer, which can be knocked off afterwards at the glue line.

The hard job is removing old shanks from butts when they have broken near the bottom. Drilling them out risks drilling off line. The trick is to drill them with a small bit, about 1/8", somewhere near the center of the remnant of the shank. Then use an eyedropper to fill that hole with water. A little hand dishwashing detergent helps. It will soak through and loosen the glue, and the next larger drill will take the stub out, without damaging the hole.


Semipro Tech
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620011
10/23/08 07:45 AM
10/23/08 07:45 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,828
Grand Rapids Michigan
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Hi Jim,

If the hammer shanks themselves, are in good shape, no need really, to remove these on an upright when replacing hammers. If they are breaking then, what BDB said is a good idea.

The thing with using the tool you describe, is to be very careful as the tool tends to turn putting pressure on the base of the hammer butt. You can wind up with very loose wobbling hammers because you elongated the hole in the butt or the holes in the flange itself. Major support of the tool is necessary to prevent any turning of it. I guess, I'm thinking of the older fashioned one that where you screw the tool down and it becomes longer and longer until the hammer pops off. There are better tools available now that you just squeeze and it come straight off but, still, support is required.

Otherwise, remove them individually and take the hammer off that way instead. It entails a little more work but, that will work too.

I've split the hammer with wire cutters. It works fine and is fast but, as mentioned, if you're not careful, the hammer can twist on you or the cutters can slip on the angled hammers as you cut it off.

Also, once the hammer is off, take a pliers with knurling ridges on them. Open them up. Where there is left over glue, "GENTLY" place the pliers on that area, supporting the shank close the pliers again, gently, turning the pliers and that will remove all left over glue. Then, give it a slight squeeze with the knurling still in place. It will leave tiny ridges for the glue to slip into and will hold better.

Some techs take a very small needle and pop a very small hole into the top of hammer head so the glue can ooze out. The hammer will slip on quickly and easily. Keep a damp rag handy to catch any excess glue running out the top and down the shank so you won't have hammer shanks glued to the hammer rail. Wipe the top completely free of glue. smile Have fun!


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620012
10/23/08 09:11 AM
10/23/08 09:11 AM
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 2,016
Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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Murphys, Ca
Splitting the hammer off is the safest and fastest way. Hold the hammer to prevent twisting.

There is also a shank reducer that you may have. Some of them fit the combination handle. It is about 4 inches long, hollow center, sliced into four prongs and a nut that compresses the prongs together for smaller shanks. I grab the shank with my duck bill pliers so it won't twist and run the reducer over it lightly. Glue is removed quickly. You are ready to hang.


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
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Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620013
10/23/08 11:29 AM
10/23/08 11:29 AM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 27,015
Oakland
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BDB Offline
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Splitting the hammers is not as safe as the grand shank pliers. You can lose part of the shank if the grain is at an angle.

Sometime I would like to make a foot-operated press for removing hammer heads from shanks. That is the way to go. (Supply houses, are you listening?)


Semipro Tech
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620014
10/23/08 03:31 PM
10/23/08 03:31 PM
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 2,232
Old Hangtown California
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Gene Nelson Offline
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Old Hangtown California
A little heat from a heat gun helps, also break the glue collar with a knife and add some moisture before you use any of the above methods.
The piano supply houses sells a tool for doing the shank clean up Jerry suggests but his idea sounds less expensive.
If you want the supply house to bore your new hammer set for you - you should carefully remove at least the first and last hammer from each section for samples.


RPT
PTG Member
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620015
10/23/08 11:01 PM
10/23/08 11:01 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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Lansing, MI
Thanks to everyone for the replies. Keith, I did see that tool in my dad's collection and I was wondering what it was for... now I know. Another mystery solved!

Jerry, I've read about the trick of having a small hole in the top of the hammer for glue to ease out. That is a good idea.

I ask because a client just got a beautiful Knabe upright from an estate sale for $62 that is at least 100 years old. The action needs work (I already replaced all the bridle straps and half the catcher buckskins) but the client is wary, due to our lovely financial climate, of doing a full action restore. I noticed the hammer rail has at least 1/8" of extra felt pushing it closer to the strings, which is a sure sign that the action needs refurbishment (along with a lot of the felts being pretty bad). The hammers themselves are not completely terrible, but have been reshaped and don't have a lot of life left in them. I'd like to try to get this client to do a full action restoration / key bushing job. The piano is quite beautiful, the case is actually in very good condition and it has a nice, full sound.

Of course, I have not done a hammer replacement job before. I have two pianos here at home I could practice on; a Chickering upright that I don't really care about (but could make a nice starter piano for someone) and a 1920's Grinnell Bros. upright that is in my living room that I really like. It has a nice tone, but the hammers have some serious indentations on them.

Reading Reblitz and some other things online, it looks like I will need to make myself a jig or two. Any comments?


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Jim Alfredson
Musician / Tuner
www.organissimo.org
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620016
10/23/08 11:54 PM
10/23/08 11:54 PM
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 2,016
Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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The exact opposite happened to me on the last set of hammers. The shanks were splitting with the puller. This is an upright he is talking bout. Does grand shank pliers work on uprights too?


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620017
10/24/08 01:11 AM
10/24/08 01:11 AM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 27,015
Oakland
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BDB Offline
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Yes. They pop a little hole in the hammer.

The screw type grand hammer removers are no good, since you are constantly screwing and unscrewing them. Plus they tend to wander, which causes problems.


Semipro Tech
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620018
10/24/08 07:20 AM
10/24/08 07:20 AM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,610
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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Strong, Maine
B3, ... I used to use expensive jigs for hammer hanging. Lately I've gone to just using a board, (or a grooved board for grands) to hold the tails, and doing the strike-point alignment using an inexpensive laser level.

I was always bumping the jigs with my hands (klutz factor, I suppose). The laser is very forgiving of hand movements.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620019
10/24/08 09:51 AM
10/24/08 09:51 AM
Joined: May 2004
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Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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Murphys, Ca
BDB, you must be using a puller that I haven't seen yet. I have used the brand new one out that costs $160. It drives the shank out with a dowel/pin and is a one squeeze move. That's the one that ruined the shanks. If the shanks are too soft, you leave a deep indent in the end of the shank.

The screw type ones that were given to me, both stripped cause the casting was made out of aluminum. How stupid can they be....


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620020
10/24/08 12:31 PM
10/24/08 12:31 PM
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Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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Lansing, MI
I'm getting more confused by this thread. smile

But seriously, I'm assuming they used an animal-based glue back then. Does it respond to heat and water?


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Jim Alfredson
Musician / Tuner
www.organissimo.org
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620021
10/24/08 09:16 PM
10/24/08 09:16 PM
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 2,016
Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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Murphys, Ca
Most all glues are thermoplastic.


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620022
10/25/08 02:23 PM
10/25/08 02:23 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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Lansing, MI
Hmm... I didn't have much luck with a heat gun when I was trying to remove some hammers to replace a couple broken shanks (thanks to the horrible action cradle mentioned in another thread).


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Jim Alfredson
Musician / Tuner
www.organissimo.org
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620023
10/25/08 02:42 PM
10/25/08 02:42 PM
Joined: May 2004
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Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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Murphys, Ca
Try this on some old hammers, b3. Saw the shank off flush. Drill a pilot hole in the center for a dry wall screw. Make sure it is deep enough to go all the way through the end of the shank. Soak the hole and shank with water. Give it a minute or two.

Nip the point off the dry wall screw. and screw into the shank. Take a cirarette light and heat the screw until the steam boils off and the center of the shank is dry. Pull the old shank out using a puller. Just grabbing it with pliers might work. I've never tried it.


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620024
10/25/08 07:21 PM
10/25/08 07:21 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Quote
Originally posted by Keith Roberts:
Most all glues are thermoplastic.
Hide glue, which was used on most old pianos, is not thermoplastic. If you don't beleive that, check the definition of thermoplastic.

Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620025
10/25/08 08:00 PM
10/25/08 08:00 PM
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Murphys, Ca
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Keith Roberts Offline
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Murphys, Ca
Boy, I'm getting called on everything

smokin


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620026
10/26/08 02:01 AM
10/26/08 02:01 AM
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Oakland
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As I said, add a drop of dishwashing detergent (surfactant) to the water. That is all that is needed.


Semipro Tech
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620027
10/26/08 07:09 AM
10/26/08 07:09 AM
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Strong, Maine
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Strong, Maine
"Boy, I'm getting called on everything"

Keith, like Anne Oakley said, "It's a hard knock life!" (or Annie somebody ... who may, or may not have been, an orphan)


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: Preferred method for removing upright hammer from shank #620028
10/30/08 01:34 AM
10/30/08 01:34 AM
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Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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Lansing, MI
So the client is interested in replacing the hammers, but probably not until next year.

I will attempt to replace the hammers on my Grinnell Bros. upright in the meantime.

Off topic, but related to the client's Knabe: The serial dated it to about 1898. When I started tuning, I realized it was a half-step flat, so thoroughly that it must've been tuned that way on purpose. The only explanation I can think of to why someone might do that is that they were afraid the piano couldn't handle A440, and rather than tune it to A435, which would be useless for accompaniment, they decided to just lower it a half-step.

I tuned it to A440 (took 3 rough tuning passes to get it stable), and it seemed fine. It was holding fine and sounded good when I left.

Bad idea?


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Jim Alfredson
Musician / Tuner
www.organissimo.org

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