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Including Bridle Strap Replacement

Stalled in A

This problem is very rare in a grand piano. If a hammer hangs up and will not fall in a grand, it is most likely from the piano not being played for a long time and the flange bushings have swollen. You will need to pull the action, as in Chapter Five, and spray the hammer butt flanges with aerosol silicone. Also, you need to play the piano a lot to loosen it up. The only other reason a grand hammer hangs up instead of dropping is because something fell into the piano as the fall board, key cover, was half way closed. This can be avoided by not piling a lot of pens and junk on the piano desk.

Is a hammer resting against the wires in your upright? If it is not broken and will play if you pull it back manually, here is the solution.

There are two ways an upright hammer is helped to return to rest ready for the next key stroke:

First, there are bridle straps (see diagram), pieces of cloth ribbon, which are right in front of you as you look at the action of the opened upright or spinet (spinet straps are down in the hole, but seldom are broken). These straps use the weight of the lower action parts, the wippen and sticker, to jerk the hammer back to rest.

Second, There is a thin wire spring inside the action which pushes back against the front of the hammer butt at the bottom. Move some working hammers, and peek down in front of the hammers using a flash light. Check this out carefully in the diagram of the action.

If either of these two items is broken, the other will usually do the job. If both are not functioning, the hammer will rest on the wire and not return.

First, check to see if the faulty hammer's butt spring is out of the V-shaped slot it is supposed to sit in. If so, find a tool which you can use to push it gently back into place. On old uprights frequently, and all uprights sometimes, the hammer butt spring will break off completely. We have a repair for this problem in the Catalog called "Hammer return spring replacement."


Make Shift Repair of a single Bridle Strap:

We will go back to the bridle strap which is old and broken. You can leave the action in the piano for this repair. You must manufacture a bridle strap. Get a piece of narrow non-elastic ribbon from your wife's sewing kit, and dip about one half inch of the tip of it in wood glue. Put a small nail through it to make a hole in the glue end, and let it dry over night. Make some extras since more bridle straps will soon break. Consider ordering a set from me to replace all of them.

Now, you will probably see that the old strap comes through a hole in the back end of an extension at the bottom of the hammer butt. Cut your ribbon about two inches long, and secure it in the hole by any means you can figure with some round wedge material. Be very careful to support the back of the wood with one finger as you push your wedge into the hole so you don't break it.

Last, twist the glued end over the wire to match the other bridle straps in the neighborhood. If you have too much slack, slightly bend the wire back toward you-- if too little slack (you need some), push it away from you, or inward, supporting the whippen, in which the wire is mounted, with your other hand.

Do NOT use rubber bands to do this job. They rot and break. There are lots of things that will do for the repair, including plain cotton string. If the hammer seems stuck, push down on the butt end of the jack while you push the hammer against the strings. Once the jack is reset, your hammer should drop back into place just fine now.


Replace All the Bridle Straps:

The problem with the single repair above is that if one is that bad, all the bridle straps must be tired and ready to break. So, the smart thing to do is replace them all at once. A full set is not that expensive really. The first thing is to decide which kind of straps you need. There are two kinds-- The cork end type, and the metal clip-on type. The cork end type are preferred if they will work for you.

1. The cork end type. These ones have a round tapered cork at the end which you push into the hole under the back check catcher at the end of the stump coming out of the end of the hammer butt. This hole was used originally by the manufacturer to guide the original bridle strap on its way to be anchored by the short shank (stump) mounted in the back end of the hammer butt. Remove the bits of old bridle strap before proceeding. Check out the Diagram that is right for your piano and then return here. We sell an inserter, or you can make your own.

2. The clip on type. Your wippens don't have the hole, right? So, you order the metal clip type, and you put them on by clipping them over the short shank (to the stump) coming out of the back end of the hammer butt. They work just fine. I always give them a bit of a squeeze before attaching them to make sure they are tight.

So, order the straps on the Action Page. When you install the bridle straps, be sure to use the index finger of your free hand to support the back of the hole and the back check catcher or "stump.". If you don't, you may break that part off since you have to push the cork into the hole or the clip onto the little shank.

After you have the bridle straps installed, you may have to adjust them. They should have just a little slack in them. Don't make them tight, and don't let them have a lot of loop hanging down. To set them just about perfect, grab the wire with the thumb and index finger, and rock it back, bending the wire backward until the strap is taught. Let go, and the wire will return just a bit, and the slack should be just right. Again, you may need to release the jack which is caught under the hammer butt. Help it out while you push the hammer hard against the strings.