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Hi All,

The stinkbug thread by twocats got me thinking.

There are some technicians who are happy to "train" some of their clients to be able to open up their piano and retrieve pencils, stinkbugs, etc.

Other technicians feel that this is just asking for trouble and will create more of a mess for them than it is worth.

I think both viewpoints have validity.

So, here is the question. How far into your piano have you ventured? Are you comfortable with disassembling it? Going inside to retrieve lost items? How about pulling the action?

I look forward to replies.

Techs. please give us your opinions on the subject as well.


Rich Galassini
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Rich, many years ago in the late 80's I realized that an unpleasant issue had developed with my early 1900's George Steck Aeolian grand; all the keys sounded somewhat different, from dull to quite dull to brighter and almost everything inbetween. After a peek inside it appeared that after the piano had been moved a number of times, that some accumulated debris had settled along the left side of the action, that, when activating the una corda pedal, allowed this debris to fall between the action and the case, where it then prevented the action from returning to its normal position. This unfortunately went unnoticed and caused the hammers to strike the strings off center, which in combination with the previous grooves in each hammer's felt, created a very uneven and random density which was responsible for the differences in each notes tone accross the entire keyboard.

frown

It was literally driving me nuts, so I called a local piano tech and asked him how he would proceed to correct such a situation, and he advised me on how he would do so. That's all I needed, LOL. As a fabricator all my life, being anal and particulary accurate about a great many things was the status quo, so I set about the challenge with nary a second thought.

I dove into it and removed the action, where I found as I had suspected, that there was a suprising amount of debris that had accumulated along the left side of the piano, which I carefully vacumed out. I then removed each hammer one at a time from the action, and used a Dremel with a small barrel sander to very carefully remove just that unevenness of "fuzz" that existed on each hammer to a point where there were no longer string marks visible. After all the hammers were completed I reinstalled the action and carefully checked each hammer to string alignment, applying a small piece of masking tape on each key with commentary indicating how far each specific hammer had to be moved left or right (or not at all), then I removed the action and began the process of realignment. Before all was said and done the action required a number of trips in and out of the case (which can be a heart pounding experience as you try very hard not to depress any keys while doing so, else you shear a hammer shank in half on the way out of the case) before all the hammers were centered properly under each string/set of strings.

My delving into the piano techicians world I'm sure would today cause a tech to cringe in horror, but the results of my actions left the piano no more the worse off, in fact it sounded like a new piano and left me happy as a lark with a nice sense of accomplishment to boot. Was it perfectly voiced? No, but it was darn close! I would on occassional also tweak any out of tune string(s) between tunings to prevent the fillings in my teeth from vibrating too much wink

Regards,
Andy


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Interesting question. I have no issue removing the action on my piano, often to show people how a piano works. Most people find this really interesting, and I do also. Some of them get a little freaked when I start pulling it out, but pulling the action from the piano isn't really a big deal, and as long as careful with the hammers when pulling and replacing it, you should be fine. Oh, and don't drop the action. That would be bad too.

I've done this to remove debris in the piano, and once to remove some junk that got between the keys and caused them to stick. Not a big deal. I think of it like wrenching on your own car. As long as you know your limits, you'll be just fine.

Originally Posted by DrewBone
I then removed each hammer one at a time from the action, and used a Dremel with a small barrel sander to very carefully remove just that unevenness of "fuzz" that existed on each hammer to a point where there were no longer string marks visible.

Love that. Personally, taking a Dremel tool to my hammers would be well past my limits, but I'm glad that worked out for you. smile


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Being somewhat of a tinkerer, mechanically minded and loving to work with my hands, I've gone pretty deep into my pianos. Deep enough to know they can be very delicate in certain places.

Fortunately, I've never done more harm than good, except when I over-voiced a hammer on a console upright once while using rubbing alcohol to soften the hard-as-rock hammers. It was a valuable lesson though; use the alcohol on the hammers sparingly. smile

Plus, the rubbing alcohol on the hammers may help keep the stink-bugs out. (just kidding... smile )

Rick


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I've had my piano open to the keybed and action out before. I had to learn how in about one minute after I spilled some coffee on the right side. the hardest part actually was getting the trapwork rods back into their respective places.

Kurt



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I think I know how to pull the action after seeing it done so many times, but I'd be worried that I'd scratch the piano's finish. I wouldn't remove the action completely from the piano as I'd probably drop it!

I'm a bit (okay, maybe not just a bit) OCD so if I know something's fallen into the piano, I really want to get it out.

Tangential story a la Rick wink A bee died in a crevice in view of the back window of my old Corolla and I could not manage to get it out. Drove me totally nuts, but there was nothing I could do! Years later, I looked back there and all the sun exposure had disintegrated it so that it was just a bit of dust! Of course, I wouldn't want to leave something to rot in my piano.


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I'm not much of a DIY'er, even with household repairs. So, opening the top of my upright to amplify it's sound somewhat is as far as I'll go.

It looks like I'm in the minority here.... smile


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Bert, I'm in your camp. I think if I had to, I could pull the action, I've seen it done enough times. But I prefer to pay an expert to do this stuff. Better safe than sorry.


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I have pulled the action to clean before. With the new Duo Art project, being an early model, it will have tubes through the keybed. Between that and the key slip with the player controls, I plan on learning how to pull the action, as I imagine not many technicians would know how this is done.


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Hi everyone. I recently bought a 1904 Mason & Hamlin upright. I am in the middle (almost literally) of rebushing and easing the keys.
I have not removed the action yet. l have just purchased Pianos inside out by Mario Igrec, l also have Reblitz's older book. I know Mr. Igrec's book is very expensive, but l have never seen the amount of quality info in one place about a piano's design and repair that is in it , and it is superbly written..everyone who owns a piano should get it! I am learning a lot and with being a modeler and a detail orientated cataloger l am comfortable with doing a certain amount of work myself. But
I am going very slow and am saving up money for tuning /tech person and realize that many things : eg voicing and hammer reinstallation , should be left to an expert.
Opening up the instrument has made me a better player/ musician and it just continues to amaze me how such very small changes can make such a huge difference in sound and performance in this amazing instrument of
8000 plus parts ......
l understand that many people are not mechanically inclined and others have no desire to do anything. But just like with cars, it helps to to know what our instrument does.
I also respect some techs view that many people should not get anywhere near a piano's insides (including unfortunately some other so-called tecs)

Thanks for asking, Rich. I always look forward to your posts ....

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I am extremely unmechanical. I once tried removing the fallboard on my Mason BB and ended up causing some minor scratches. I also ONCE asked my tech to let me feel what tuning a key felt like.

I called my tech a few years ago to perform a complex pencilectomy.

OTOH I developed a terrific dusting technique that I think minimizes to almost zero the scratching poor dusting technique can cause.

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I'm just a player, but I tune and regulate mine.

Ian


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Originally Posted by Beemer
I'm just a player, but I tune and regulate mine.

Ian

Beemer, you should be ashamed of yourself... this is heresy on Piano World. (Just kidding... welcome to the club smile )

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I tune and maintain my Chickering.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

I called my tech a few years ago to perform a complex pencilectomy.


I've done several pencilectomies, pulling the action partially out. I do know not to tip it and break the hammers sliding the action in and out. I had a very animated teacher who manged to throw pencils (and even a metronome--but those don't end up in the action) into his studio piano--that must have rubbed off on me. 😀

And I've had to vacuum Christmas glitter that accumulates in the bottom of boxes of ornaments out of the action after a spill. Moral: close the piano completely when piling boxes of ornaments on the lid during tree decorating!

Once I noticed the pins through my lid hinges about to work completely out when the lid was up (they're made removable to take the lid off), and I had to lower the lid carefully and tap them back into place.



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I've pulled the action a few times for cleaning, and to hand file the hammers. I'll do regulation as needed, and even have the tools for re-pinning, though it's been over 40 years since I've had to do any.



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I adjusted the letoff on a misbehaving note with a pair of needle-nose pliers, and not the special letoff adjuster-twister-turner tool the technician had.

I'll take the fallboard and the keyslip off, but after seeing up close and personal how easy it is to break a hammer I'm leaving the rest for the technician.

I once left the fallboard off for weeks. I mentioned this to my technician and he admitted that he never puts the fallboard back on his piano unless company's coming.

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I am the most unmechanical human that ever walked the face of the earth. I just learned yesterday how to change the light bulb in my garage door opener. I will fish out a pencil that falls right next to the music rack but that is absolutely IT. I lost a paper clip down under the strings and it stayed there until the technician came. I learned not to put a paper clip on the music. I am so afraid I will some how do some damage to my piano, so I don't expect I will be doing much more to it in the near future.

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I contacted a tuner in our area, the owner of our local music store, when we took our upright piano out of moth balls(off the dollies) and asked about automating the piano, since, at the time, I never thought that I would ever be able to play the piano. He said, "NO, no, no! You try to run a 125 year old piano at the intensity of professional pianists, and parts will go flying every which way!".

So, I took him at his word, and took that as a challenge, and started to take the piano apart to find all those weak glue joints and other weaknesses, putting stress on all the wood parts to see if they would break. Yep, a fair number did. Still left to be done is to glue up some cracked, lifting bridge caps in a small area, and try the super glue treatment on the pins. One is only holding because I put the extra tuning hammer (don't ask why the extra tuning hammer) on the pin with a weight on the end of the handle to keep the pin from unwinding. And there is another one or 2 that seem to give up after a few days of use. I expect the pin problem is due to the super low humidity climate. But after 15 years drying out in this climate, I doubt that the piano will suffer any further problems caused by he dryness.

I bought a DP to use while the AP was being worked on, but the sound of the DP finally got to me, and I am back on the AP, so work has stopped.

Since there is not much point in getting the piano tuned professionally if pins are not holding, I have settled for tuning the piano myself with a guitar tuner, and a guitar pick at the strings. I can't tune the low base or the high treble with that gizmo, but I don't play those notes anyway.

I'm happy to say that after 2.5 years working at 'reading' music at the piano, I am making enough progress that my husband has started complementing my playing repeatedly. Ha! Not one word of complement the first 2 years. smile

Anyone know where to find a piano tilter in central/northern AZ for something other than the new price of $1000? How about a set of drawing for making one in wood?


Cynthia

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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
So, here is the question. How far into your piano have you ventured? Are you comfortable with disassembling it? Going inside to retrieve lost items? How about pulling the action?

Consider me heretic as well. laugh If one is very careful, meticulous and patient, I believe it's possible to do lots of things. I tune/regulate my piano too and did quite a bit of work so it responds more the way I like, including hammer mass removal, dampers lifting later, etc. I find it fun and quite interesting, even though it takes me much longer than a pro tech.

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