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New stuff at the conference?

Posted By: RonTuner

New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 11:50 AM

I must have reached some kind of new threshold at the conference in Grand Rapids; I looked around at all the new tools and didn't feel like I needed to buy one.... Strange.

A couple of new things did catch my eye - There was more there, but these two were memorable for me:

From Scott Jones, the inventer of the pitch lock clips, the TouchRail for lightening heavy actions. Essentially a new custom rail to replace the key upstop rail. A small spring for each key can be used to individually adjust the touch. I bought an octave section to be used in for demonstration.
I hope to be trying this out soon!

From Steven James, the grand piano muffler. This one seems to work really well! Simple installation requires pulling the dampers out and installing onto the damper rail. On/off requires sliding three little levers, one for each section.

What did you see in Grand Rapids that caught your eye?

Ron Koval
Posted By: RPD

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 01:16 PM

This is my first visit to a PTG event, and we were only there on Saturday for the exhibit hall (all day though).

I think there were a couple things that stand out as new ideas, but the one that I've never seen anything like would be the Phoenix Agraffe System. The piano sounded huge!...and the carbon fiber soundboard was another innovation.

Apart from that, my personal highlights included great conversations w/Chuck Behm, Larry Fine, Randy Potter, and Alex Kapteyn of Central MI Pianos (his work is amazing);also Jurgen (Supply), Ron Alexander and Jerry Groot...add to that a personal concert by Romayne Wheeler in his booth, and it was all a bit of piano magic. And lets not forget the Walters piano folks!

The new tool (not new to the industry) that I brought home was the Renner grand string height guage. The lovely magnet that fixes it to the strings will allow me to finally stop trying to grow a third hand to hold the flashlight.

We got to meet many of you who post here, and it felt really good to be surrounded by so many technicians-all striving for excellence.

I'm probably still going to pop for the new tuning wrench that floats like a feather...next time a few hundred bucks shows up without a mission.

Just random thoughts...the Fazioli pianos didn't hurt either, and we also came away with tons of great literature, brochures, and other information specific to the piano industry.

Thanks all for making Jane, me and Joe feel welcome on Saturday.


Posted By: Bill Bremmer RPT

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 01:23 PM

Ron, I would be very interested in your opinion of how well the touch rail works. Is it a mere gimmick or is it a device that can really improve an unsolvable problem? I would hope that technicians do not start using them instead of needed regulation or other services they way some have used Jiffy key leads.

I can think of two pianos at the Frank Lloyd Wright estate that have impossibly heavy actions. One is a Gray Market Yamaha at a chapel. Musicians have complained but I have told them that the only solution would be quite expensive; to replace all of the action parts.

The other one, a 9 foot Bechstein in the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous and historic house is an even worse problem. It is a historic piano, over 100 years old. It was originally designed to be a double keyboard piano but the second manual was either never built or it was removed sometime before I ever saw it. I have taken care of it now for 24 years.

When I first came to it, it had the worst verdigris problem I had ever seen but I was able to get it to work and remain working all these years with a simple shrinking solution made of isopropyl alcohol and acetone.

The action design however, is fatally flawed. The keys are much longer than normal and have a huge 6 inch or so step in them to accommodate the other manual which is not there. When Del Fandrich was here a few years ago, he liked the piano and said he would like to build the second manual for it.

The foundation that pays the bills never has much money. However, if this device really works well, it could be the cheap fix they have wanted for so many years.

Please let us know your opinion!
Posted By: rysowers

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 03:30 PM

I was happy and interested to finally see the touch-rail system as well. To my mind, it appears to behave much like a wippen assist spring (for better or for worse) but is further up the chain of levers. I think if it is used wisely it could be a very affordable solution for some touch-weight problems.

I ordered 2 of the grand piano mufflers and the installation kit. It DID work very well and looks practical. (much more so than the QRS system). I'm going to put one on a 6' Kawai I am trying to sell, and one on my own Steinway. I love practice mutes and its one of the things I really missed when I upgraded to a grand. I used to practice more when I had the quiet option. It will give technicians who are trying to sell grands something that none of the stores currently have.

I also coughed up the $180 for the compound leverage hammer extractor that Jurgen is selling. Its been getting rave reviews. It works on uprights or grands. I'll post a video when I get a chance. It's not listed on the pianofortesupply.com website yet. Here a couple of pics:
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

Another hot new item is Dan Levitan's tuning wrench that is being sold through Pianotek. It's not in their catalog yet. It seems like the most basic and affordable of the new very stiff, lightweight tuning levers. I think it was around $125. There was a jig set up to measure tuner lever flex at the Fujan booth. With 100 inch/pounds of torque on the lever he could measure the amound of deflection in the handle of the lever. A normal Schaff extension lever had about .110 deflection. The Levitan lever had about .040 - more than the Fujan (I think it had about .020) but far less than a typical lever. I bought one for my wife who is learning to tune!

I gotta run for now, I'll post a picture later!

Posted By: RonTuner

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 03:33 PM

Bill, that's my hope - I see a Steinway D at the local college that has been quoted the needed action work - as well as a lot of more expensive work. This might do the job while they budget for the full overhaul it needs... If I get a chance to do an install, I'll let you know the responses I get.

Ron Koval
Posted By: Rod Verhnjak

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/22/09 04:01 PM


The hammer puller works great. I love it. Not so much for uprights though. The plunger part gets stuck in the hole it creates on the top side of the hammer. If the hammer shank was installed high up in the hammer it works a bit better.
Posted By: rysowers

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/23/09 01:32 AM

Jurgen was also selling some new high-tech sandpaper. It was actually not paper, but some sort of abrasive coated film - very high quality. I think it is what André Oorebeek recommends.

The new Steingraeber Phoenix with carbon fiber soundboard was a big hit! With the new roller style agraffs it apparently has no downbearing. The tuning stability is supposed to be excellent. No price tag on it though. I'm wondering how much? Has to be one of the most awesome pianos I have ever played.

Posted By: Kent Swafford

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/23/09 02:29 AM

Scott Jones' touch rail might provide some improvement if used appropriately.

The rail did not appear to be available as a kit for the tech to customize to a given action, but, rather, the tech must send measurements to Scott to have him make a custom rail for the specific action.

Keep in mind that a piano with a high action ratio, heavy hammers, and heavily leaded keys will still play dynamically heavy after the touch rail is added, even if the static touch weight has decreased.

Therefore, I would hope the touch rail would be used in combination with other techniques, such as reducing the weight of the hammers and/or removing key leads. If you removed key leads, you could set the springs for a large downweight reduction without so much fear of reducing upweight too much, and the action would be improved dynamically because of the reduced inertia in the keys. (In other words, you would be swapping springs for leads in order to get the proper downweight, which would likely improve things when the pianist digs into the action.)

There really is no simple fix to most touch problems. The touch rail needs to be only one thing among many in your bag of tricks, not your only trick. (I suppose I would have to admit that just adding the touch rail _would_ be better than just adding jiffy leads, but _no one_ does that anymore, right? 8^)
Posted By: RPD

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/23/09 03:19 AM

I knew it...I had planned to load up on Jurgen's high tech paper...now I'll need to follow the internet path to the good stuff lol!

To my post above, I must add that spending an hour or so with Ben McKlveen RPT at the close of the Saturday session of the Exhibit hall was a total blast! And, inspiring too! Still downhill skiing at 87!

Methinks we've all found the fountain of youth, and its a piano tuning lever!

Posted By: RPD

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/23/09 03:22 AM

Originally Posted by rysowers

The new Steingraeber Phoenix with carbon fiber soundboard was a big hit! With the new roller style agraffs it apparently has no downbearing. The tuning stability is supposed to be excellent. No price tag on it though. I'm wondering how much? Has to be one of the most awesome pianos I have ever played.

Ditto on that! We were floored by the wall of sound...it travelled up my arm into my shoulders when I played the bass notes...something that I've ever only had happen with full size concert grands! Unbelievable!

Posted By: Bill Bremmer RPT

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/23/09 12:43 PM

Kent, thanks for your comments. I was specifically wondering about how upweight may be affected.
Posted By: Elizabeth Snow

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/25/09 03:48 AM

Steingraeber is always amazing, and they've not thrown in the towel on innovations and improvements, which is refreshing!
As a pianist, the pianos I played were more responsive than any other make I know, with a colorful depth of sound and incredible sustain, especially in the killer octave. A top of the line product. I wish we had more in the States.

Jurgen's always got great new little gadgets. I was lucky enough to put the first claim in on his drop screw tool with the male version drop-screwdriver on one end, and the female version on the other.

The Reyburns came up with the grand version of the Impact Hammer, and it works quite well. Not to mention it is completely gorgeous. Nate's workmanship is always very careful and precise.

Another interesting piece of equipment is the Regulation Station made by The Piano Rebuilders of Boston. It allows you to regulate the action without having the piano (good for action rebuilders) and also regulate very precisely during the "bench" stage without setting up letoff racks and what not. It gives you references for string height, and hammer alignment so that you can produce an accurately regulated piano action before you put it in the piano.

Oh! Also Chuck Boehm (sp?) came up with a really great workbench that is collapsible and has perfect storage and space utilization (see his articles in the Journal, "Small shop, big results.") He's selling the blueprints to it through Pianotek.

Also, David Stanwood came up with an action modification that can change the action ratio of a piano by one (ie from 5:1 to 6:1) in a matter of seconds. Very, very interesting. Played quite well (he's got installed into a Mason A.)

There's my two cents. Great Convention!
Posted By: RoyP

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/27/09 02:22 AM

It sounds like we were there at the same time. I'm sorry to have missed you as well as some others. I did run into both Ryan and Jurgen. Jurgen at his booth. Ryan was playing the Ravenscroft piano, which was quite impressive. I'm currently working at the Interlochen Arts Camp now, and couldn't take off the week for classes. That's why I haven't been able to go to the national convention in several years. But this time it was within driving distance to go down for a day. So, we went to visit the exhibit hall on Thursday, saw maybe half of it, and we went back on Saturday. We saw so many people we knew and had a great time. The hotel and downtown area were nice too.

Ben McKleeven is in our PTG Chapter, and a legend around Cincinnati. I am thinking that I probably first met him 20 years ago...not long after I got into the business. He would have been 67, and would have been in the business for maybe 40 years already. He's about 40 years older than I am. I look at that, and it seems impossible. Well, I hope that I'm in as good of shape as he is in another 40 years. He's still out tuning pianos regularly.

Since I didn't have to pay for the convention, I had some leeway for buying tools. The vendors have to be glad that they let our group in. We all spent some money. I picked up a set of the Fluegalbauer voicing tools. They gave me a deal and threw in one of everything. Really nice stuff. There isn't much that I need at this point, but I've been doing alot of voicing, so it will be useful.
Posted By: vin mrykalo

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/27/09 03:11 PM

Chuck Behm's workbench blueprint is available through Schaff.

Originally Posted by Elizabeth Snow

Oh! Also Chuck Boehm (sp?) came up with a really great workbench that is collapsible and has perfect storage and space utilization (see his articles in the Journal, "Small shop, big results.") He's selling the blueprints to it through Pianotek.

Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/27/09 05:19 PM

I thought it was just plain great to meet many of you folks there. Jurgen was flagging me down trying to get my attention to meet you RPD. I saw him flailing his arms just in time before I walked past.

I did manage to get a hold some of Jurgen's (Andre's) sand paper that he sold but was on vacation all of last week so I haven't had a chance to try it just yet. I plan on giving it a fly this week and next with 3 actions that I am taking in.

There were so many wonderful classes to choose from but, personally, I was most impressed by Andre's technique for voicing. The tremendous difference that he made in voicing up a set of new hammers was awesome. I got his book and also read it last week while on vacation. So much for vacation time. It is a book that should really be read a couple 3 times to take it all in though.

I was impressed at the over all exhibit and the variety of items available for us as technicians so it is hard to say which one of the many things most impressed me but many of them did.

Did any of you notice that Alex Kapteyn replaced two pressure bars on an old Grinell upright that he had setting there with agraffes? He left the treble pressure bar in tact and asked me if I noticed anything different on the piano at which time I pointed to the agraffes. YEP, he said, that's it. The sound was pretty darned good! What a lot of work he must have put into that one.

Posted By: rysowers

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/27/09 10:22 PM

That WAS an impressive upright! He redesigned the soundboard as well with a radial rib pattern instead of straight like the original.

It really gave me a sense that some older uprights can be spectacular if the right work is done on them.
Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/27/09 11:14 PM

Oh, did he really? He didn't mention that to me. Cool, very very cool. I tuned Alex's piano many years ago. That's what got him interested in tuning. He asked a bajillion questions each time I came over to tune. He thanked me when I talked to him for getting him started in it. When I see that kind of workmanship coming out of people like him, it makes helping others that much more worth it to me.

Posted By: Jeff A. Smith, RPT

Re: New stuff at the conference? - 07/29/09 01:37 AM

Maybe I was temporarily at a tool saturation point as well, since I spent less than $30.00 in the exhibit hall this year and didn't feel I was missing out on anything.

I, too, picked up some of Jurgen's Andre-favored sanding material, although I did it more for the little plexiglass single string-hammer mating tool -- included in the packet -- that allows you to see through it and know exactly where the string marks are. I haven't tried the larger sanding strips yet, but the plexiglass thing is great. Although I decided to take the all-day grand assessment and touch-design class Bob Marinelli and Anne Garee gave instead of Andre's voicing class (agonizing decision), I've had Andre's book and DVD for awhile -- great stuff. He sat in on a Steinway class for a time and offered a few interesting questions and observations (I think it was him, anyway).

The other things I bought were a couple of let-off tools Kent Webb was using in the Steinway classes. They've been around for a long time, though, so no revolutionary new ideas there.

Fantastic convention, and I really enjoyed staying at the Amway. The food was good and reasonably priced, for one thing.

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