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25. Piano Hammer- Broken Shank

We sell hammer shanks AND repair sleeves for all sizes of pianos.
We also sell hammer shanks and flanges for Grand Pianos

Repair with a Brass Sleeve:

We sell brass sleeves and split sleeves for repairing broken hammers. Order them from our Online Catalog.

Order new hammer shanks on the same page. Be sure to tell us on the phone if you have a spinet or a full sized upright.

To make the repair with the sleeves, remove the hammer butt and broken piece. Disconnect the bridle strap and remove the screw in the hammer butt. I hope you have one of those screw drivers that grabs the screw in the slot. If you drop the screw inside the action, fish it out with a pickle grabber or a magnet.

If the shank is broken in the middle, you can use the brass or split sleeves. Trim the ends of the breaks a little bit so that they will fit together without elongating the shank once it is repaired, but do not shorten the overall length of the shank by whittling too much. Make sure the ends mess well before making the glued repair step. Slide the sleeve down over the end of the shank with some Elmer's carpenter's glue in it. Push the other shank broken end down into the sleeve until the broken ends meet and mess well. Lay it down to dry well before installing it in the action.

If you use the brass sleeves, which seem to do a better job, you may find that the sleeve is slightly small than the shank. In this case, scrape the ends of the break with a sharp knife until the ends are slightly smaller and will receive the sleeve snugly.

If the break is near the hammer butt or the hammer head, you must replace the shank.

For this job you will need a new hammer shank from my Catalogue, or from your piano tuner. In the tool department you will need a drill bit, which you can purchase from me. You may also have the size in your tool kit. DO NOT bring a high speed electric drill around anywhere near this job.

Here is the procedure:

1. Cut off the shank with a knife so that the shank end is flush with the body of the hammer butt, and do the same with the hammer head. Use some pointed tool to make a dimple in the shank bit in the butt and hammer head precisely in the center of the embedded piece or shank. Find a drill exactly the size of the shank piece you removed, and carefully drill out the shank piece. The hole in the hammer butt should be no more than three eighths of an inch deep. You can buy a hand held drill for this purpose at our Tool Parts Page in the Online Catalog. If you have a battery operated electric drill that does not have much power and can run real slow, you can use that. Otherwise, just hold the drill in your fingers, and suffer a little.

If the hammer was set at an angle on the shank, you must again drill the shank piece out at the same angle. In drilling the hole in the hammer head, try not to go all the way through the hammer head. We sell a jig for drilling out the hammers and butts in the Online Catalog. If you will be doing many of these tasks, you should invest in the jig.

2. Remove a good hammer from the piano. This one will be your pattern. Be careful as you push the jacks to one side to get at the screws. Don't push the jacks too far. Cut a shank, which you ordered from us, so that it will fit into the holes in the butt and hammer head and be the right length. This can be determined by laying the good hammer down and arranging the pieces of the hammer, butt, and shank being repaired next to it. Cut the shank accordingly. Is your repaired one too long?  If so, take the hammer off, and carve off a bit of the shank.  

Here is a graphic showing how to do the above task.

Next, fit the shank into the hammer butt hole without glue. Is it true or straight up and down with the hammer butt? If not, use the drill to ream out the hole so that the shank can be made to come straight out of the hole. After doing this, the shank will be quite loose, but it's not the end of the world.

With Elmer's glue, insert the shank into the hammer butt and hammer head, and immediately adjust the thing so that it will lay flat and look just like the good sample hammer. Lay the repaired on on its side on a flat surface so that it is the same as the sample, and let it completely dry for eight hours before installing it.

Put the hammers back into the action. If the repaired hammer is twisted of bent looking, you will need to bend it as in Chapter Six, sub-topic, H. Straighten a crooked hammer. You may also have to adjust the capstan on the back end of the key lever to bring the hammer to rest on the backrest properly

A grand piano can be repaired with a sleeve, but I always use the split sleeve since the brass one will not fit well. Almost all grand shanks are six sided, so the split sleeve seems to hold better. Still, you need to glue it all together.

You can order new Grand Piano Shanks and flanges from our Online Catalog.

Desperate Panic Repair:

Suppose you do not have a brass sleeve, and this is an emergency, such as the cantata is tonight. You can still make the repair.

Lay the hammer pieces on a flat surface with the ends of the break meshed together WITHOUT glue. Make sure the shank is straight in all directions by supporting the middle where the break is. When you are sure of your arrangements, glue the ends of the break together with the wood glue. Lay the assembly back down straight, and let the hammer dry for at least four hours.

Next, carefully pick up the hammer, and wind cotton thread around the break area, covering the whole break with several passes of thread. Dampen the thread with the wood glue, and smear on a layer over the whole repair when you are done. I have seen this kind of repair still holding that had to be 50 years old. Aren't you a genius?

The best thread for this task would be the kind used to wind fishing rods. This is found at almost any sports and fishing shop. Tell the owner that you are winding a rod that is only six inches long. He will think you are going ice fishing for minnows :-)

On to task 26