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          Piano Action Repair         





Click to return to Repair Piano Action Clipart  

Keys, whippens, hammers, shanks, and dampers comprise the action. As a key is depres-
sed, it engages both the damper’s lifter and the whippen. The damper lifts off the
string, allowing it to resonate, and the whippen starts pushing the hammer shank
toward the string. Just before the hammer strikes the string, the whippen disen-
gages and the hammer "free flies" (Let-off) into the string. After bouncing off
the string, it is suspended at the halfway point (Checking), where it is poised for
another strike. If you release the key and allow it to rise partway, the whippen
re-cocks and is ready for another strike. Since the hammer striking distance is
reduced, and the key travel is also reduced, it will strike much faster than before,
enabling the player to “Trill”. When the note is fully released, the damper drops
back on the string, effectively killing the sound.  

Sounds simple enough, yet to accomplish the task,
24 regulations have to be performed on each
note (24 X 88 notes = 2112 regulations). To
make matters worse, adjusting one thing af-
fects parts that were previously regulated.
The entire process has to be repeated and
repeated again. Eventually, each note will be
adjusted to a tolerance that is within the thick-
ness of a piece of paper.

Contrary to what the government tells you, ALL people are NOT created equal. That's why car seats are
adjustable! A child's hand is half the size of an adult's. Though there are limitations, an action can be
Piano Hammers showing wear "Tweaked" to favor one particular size and style of performer.
E.G. If the hammer line is set a little closer to the strings, the
distance the key has to travel can be reduced. If the keys feel
to light, the counter weight can be reduced, or another weight
Backcheck showing wearadded to the other side of the balance point.

Once regulated, the estimated 12,000 action components are relentlessly pounded. Each time the key bottoms out, it compresses the keybed felt a little bit. Every time the hammer slams into the string, it gets cut and distorted a little bit. With each seasonal change, the wooden components warp just a little bit. Over time, these “Little Bits” add up to “A Lot”. At some point The hammers need reshaping (Filing) and the entire action should to be re- regulated. With normal wear and tear, once a decade would be adequate maintenance. Eventually, the parts wear out and have to be replaced. That happens around the age of 50.


Usually the first thing that gets replaced are the key-
tops. Originally they were made of ivory, which did not bond to wood very well. Without the wood base for sup-
port, they cracked or popped off. Next came primitive plastics. These were manufactured with oil which dried out, leaving the keytop brittle and prone to chipping. The new plastic replacements are now thicker and, hope-fully, less likely to chip. These come in two varieties, a smooth cream color, and a simulated ivory grain.  A third option is to use bone. This has the feel of ivory but is more porous and attracts dirt. The result is an appear-ance of pepper sprinkled on the tops.

 Unquestionably, pianos are works of art. They are the first thing seen when a person enters a room. The key-board is the most attractive feature of that work of art. It lures people to sit and  plunk. Just like a fashion model with  missing teeth, ugly keys  detract from a piano’s beauty. Since pianos are seen more often than played, “Looking Good” can be more important than “Feeling Good”, and new keyboard might do the trick. For the utilitarian, a simple regulation might rekindle that “Lovin’ Feeling”. Those who want it all should consider the “Spa” treatment but expect to pay “Resort” prices

Key1.jpg Key2.jpg Key3.jpg Key4.jpg Key5.jpg

Key Recovering











Gallery Intro
Player Pianos
Mason-Hamlin Sale
Repair Cracked Lid
Harp Diagram
Steinway console Sale
Replace Hammers
Move Quote

Fractured Fairy Tale
Harp Diagram-2
Broken Leg Repair
Pet Damage

Fractured Fairytale-2
Harp Design
Hammond Spinet Sale
Repair Chipped Ivory
Soundboard Repair



Servicing the Kansas City, Gladstone, Overland Park
metropolitan area
moving • tuning • repairing • rebuilding • concert rentals

Jones Piano House

5742 N. Lenox Ave 
          Kansas City,  MO  64151


© 2012 - Stephan Cantu.  All rights reserved