Down Hammers in the Top Treble
You may want to leave the last
five hammers alone in the treble. If they are down to wood, or the felt is pushed
up and keeping a treble hammer from making a good sound, here is a repair. Trim
the felt on the hammer, top and bottom, quite thin. Cut a strip of thin
leather about an inch long, and baptize it in Elmer's glue. When the glue is almost
set up, glue it to the hammer as tight as possible with a wooden clothes pin for
a clamp. Leave to dry for two days.
Contrary to common sense, piano hammers
harden with age. You would think they would soften and turn to pillows. Not so.
If your hammers are loud, too bright, or just plain harsh-- they sound like twang
instead of music, it is because they have hardened. This should only happen on
very old pianos. It may also happen if water or Uncle Harry's coke spills into
the hammer area as he does his forte rendition of Chop Sticks for you.
It could be that you have an Everett, or one of several brands which are very
bright, and it bothers you. You may have an Everett in a small church or school
room setting, and it is overpowering the singing. DO NOT put a thick pad of material
on the back. That will muffle the sound making it sound like you are playing under
the bed or in a closet. Do as follows:
our voicing tool for best results.
If you do not want to buy
the voicing tool, you will need a heavy needle or a dentist's probe with the long
needle-like end. If you use a biggish needle (which you stole from your wife's
sewing kit), break it in half, and mount the broken end (with the point) butt
end into a one and a half inch piece of three quarters inch dowel, as
in the diagram. Grab the piece of needle tightly in a pair of needle
nosed pliers, and tap the pliers with a hammer to back the needle piece into the
You may also find a dental probe
or pick is a great "picker." But, the voicing tool
we sell will be safer and give better control.
Now, starting at
the break, or change over from bass to the treble (where the wires change from
angling to the upper left to the middle wires), grab the first hammer with your
non-dominant hand. With the voicing tool, or your homemade tool in the other hand,
push the point through the hammer SIDE as shown in the diagram
until you go about two thirds of the way through the hammer. The trick will be
to remain steady as you do this so as not to break a hammer head off. Change
hands, or positions, and do the same from the other side of the hammer.
like to use only two needles in the voicing tool so I go slower. This keeps me
from rushing too much and over softening.
Never push the tool
point through the front of the hammer. Some technicians run the needle in
right behind the front of the hammer, but the consensus recently is to go in at
about two o'clock and four o'clock on the round of the hammer felt. Stay about
a quarter inch back from the edge of the hammer. Experiment before you decide
how much each hammer needs. Just once on each side at 2 and 4 o'clock will do,
and then see how one hammer sounds. Keep track of how many times it takes to get
the sound you like. Once you like a hammer, do the two next to it, and see if
the sound is good. Then finish an octave and listen to it for a long time. Once
you like the octave, you will know how much the rest of the hammers will need.
Diminish the amount of needle pokes as you get higher in the scale, and also in
the lower bass. The bass usually is not offensive and needs less voicing. The
middle is usually the worst offense.
The upright piano hammers can
be done in the action. Just be very careful to support the hammer as you push
the needles through the hammer so you don't damage the hammer butt and flange
Grand hammers are not any different in principle, but
they are a real pain since you have to keep pulling the action and running it
back in to test your work. There is no way to make it easy. You just have to do
it right to be sure you like the results. See Chapter Five
for removing and installing the action on grands.
I suggest you
not go higher than the second from the last "C." It won't hurt to let them sound
forth a bit more since they are so quiet anyway, but suit yourself. That's what
my tailor said when I refused to pay.
Why would hammers get soft? The most common
reason is because some pin headed brats thought they would make the piano into
a honky tonk by shoving tacks in the fronts of the hammers. HA! So you were one
of the pin heads twenty years ago, and now you have inherited the piano. Serves
you right! :-)
Also, new hammers are sometimes too soft, and the
tuner replacing them may not have been confident enough to risk hardening them.
There are two ways to harden hammers. The first is to steam them
and iron them. If you can think of a way to steam and iron them, go ahead. That
is the best way I suppose, but it is pretty hard to get steam at the hammers safely.
The other way is to dose them with Hammer
Hardener which we sell in the Online Catalog.
Tone" Hammer Head Hardener- This product is used to harden hammers which
quiet. This is often true of new
hammers, and it will rescue hammers abused
brats who put tacks in the hammer face to get a honky tonk sound.
Apply only to the top and bottom of the hammer head felt,
not to the striking face.
Use a small brush, like a
solder brush or artist's brush, and try to give each hammer a moderate soak of
varnish along the top, letting it soak into the front of the hammer. DO NOT immerse
the whole hammer head with the hardener. Be modest the first time until you see
how it works. DO NOT play the piano until the Hammer Hardener has completely hardened.
This may take a couple of days. If it is not bright enough, do it again. Better
to take two or three applications than to turn the piano into a honky tonk.
Play the piano, and see if you like it. If you overdid it, simply go
to the softening section above, and bring it back to the point where you like
What you are doing in this section of the book is considered
an art. I don't think it is that tricky, but as I mentioned above, tuners
these days are fearful of the wrath of litigation freaks. So "voicing" is
often declined for some other excuse.