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#1473854 - 07/13/10 11:18 PM Effects of Polishing Capstans
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
Polishing and/or lubricating capstans can make an action feel lighter and can brighten the tone. Why is this so?

Is there really that much friction between the capstan and the whippen cushion?
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#1473877 - 07/14/10 12:15 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Peter Sumner- Piano Technician Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 852
Loc: San Francisco
depends just how much lateral movement there is as the capstan grazes across the rep bottom felt....and how much of a dimple there may be..and how much crud and verdigris there may be in that dimple.

When I pep new Steinways, 50 to 75 each year, I always lube the top of the capstan before I put back the stack....I do so because I can...and as far as I know there is no downside and that is how I was taught at the factory...if you want to flip the stack you can always pop some juice on the underfelt.
I use prolube...just a couple of drops.

Going after points of possible friction is a moot point in some quarters...but as I have the keys out and the stack off during the prepping process I take full advantage of that situation to lube the key bushings and ease the keys as well....it is recommended that some lube be put on the damper lift cushion on the back end of the keys...

Hope that sheds a little light!
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Peter Sumner
Concert Piano Technician



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#1473886 - 07/14/10 12:27 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
charleslang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2084
Originally Posted By: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician


When I pep new Steinways, 50 to 75 each year . . .


Exactly what does this 'pepping' procedure involve? I want my piano pepped, now! grin laugh
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Charles Lang

Baldwin Model R; Hardman 5'9" grand; Rieger-Kloss vertical

Jazz, pop and classical

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#1474062 - 07/14/10 09:40 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: charleslang]
Peter Sumner- Piano Technician Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 852
Loc: San Francisco
It's a technical term Charles.:-)
It's like prepping but hotter!

P
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Concert Piano Technician



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#1474189 - 07/14/10 01:18 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
I know a technician that was getting a piano ready for a concert and the pianist wanted more power from the piano at the last minute. The technician removed the fallboard and rubbed four times each the tops of the capstans with a treble stick mute, the one with a buckskin covering. The pianist played it and said, "perfect, what did you do?" Hard to believe.
I like to dip the tip of the mute in prolube and go over the capstan tops when I feel it is needed.
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#1474345 - 07/14/10 05:46 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
In the old days the capstans were also heavily burnished with a peice of smooth thick glass. Not so sure they do that now from the factory since its pretty time consuming, laborous work.
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#1474430 - 07/14/10 08:23 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5325
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: ByronEnsign
I know a technician that was getting a piano ready for a concert and the pianist wanted more power from the piano at the last minute. The technician removed the fallboard and rubbed four times each the tops of the capstans with a treble stick mute, the one with a buckskin covering. The pianist played it and said, "perfect, what did you do?" Hard to believe....

I find it hard to believe as well.

Depending on the length of the keys—and assuming the action geometry is reasonably well set up—the sliding motion between the capstan and the capstan block felt is about 0.1 mm to 0.2 mm (0.004” to 0.008”). I can’t see any kind of lubricating or polishing making that kind of difference.

I’m willing to be convinced but I’d sure like to see the results actually measured somehow.

ddf
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#1474483 - 07/14/10 09:59 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Erus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 386
Loc: Mexico
Originally Posted By: ByronEnsign
I know a technician that was getting a piano ready for a concert and the pianist wanted more power from the piano at the last minute. The technician removed the fallboard and rubbed four times each the tops of the capstans with a treble stick mute, the one with a buckskin covering. The pianist played it and said, "perfect, what did you do?" Hard to believe.


The placebo effect doing it's magic smile

Musicians love fairy tales, they don't need no fancy mechanical mumbo jumbo!!!

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#1474498 - 07/14/10 10:33 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Erus]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3320
Loc: Madison, WI USA
I agree. Unless there is excessive lateral movement which would be the problem to solve, the difference between a shiny capstan and a crusty one is hardly worth consideration. Polishing or lubricating the capstans would be treating the symptom, not the cause.

The placebo effect can be just as powerful, however. If it was seen that you did something, that may be all it takes in that circumstance. If however, you say that nothing is wrong and refuse to do anything at all, you have a client who no longer wants your services.

It sometimes works that way in medicine although as a last resort. The same should be the case in piano technology.
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Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
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#1474505 - 07/14/10 10:58 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
Interesting Del, Bill, and Erus. The answer from Delwin is what I was looking for. 0.1 to 0.2 mm is not enough to make much of a difference. I believe that the person who told the story, a Kawai technician that we all know, was illustrating an example of the artist and the placebo effect, since he was grinning when he told the story.
However, sometimes I do notice a difference in the feel after they are lubricated, but it is subtle.
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#1474518 - 07/14/10 11:28 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Gene Nelson Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 1533
Loc: Old Hangtown California
Byron,
If you have gram weights, take careful measurements of key up and downweight before and after polishing and tell us what you find.
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#1474522 - 07/14/10 11:38 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Gene Nelson]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
Thanks Gene, I am considering doing that, but I think the effect (if there is one) might occur during a blow rather than during a gentle vertical motion.
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#1474528 - 07/14/10 11:57 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
I like to polish everything. Capstans, balance and front rail pins, drop screws etc. Especially the key tops. I like to lubricate the wippen cushion cloth, let off buttons, knuckles etc., with powdered soap stone.

I use the soap stone as a paste mixing it with alcohol until it becomes pasty. (Pastie?) The alcohol helps it to penetrate a little bit more, I think, and it dries quickly. Plus, after the alcohol dries in the bowl, I have all of the powered soap stone left over yet. I think when I do the entire action like this, cleaning everything first, that it does give a cleaner, easier feel and a better touch. Of course it also eliminates the creaking and sticking feeling that it might otherwise give with a softer blow on older or more neglected pianos.

My 2 ¢ worth FWIW. smile
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Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

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#1474544 - 07/15/10 12:15 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21904
Loc: Oakland
I occasionally use a buffing wheel. However, I think that if there is much of a difference, it comes from dealing with the action cloth, not the capstans. After all, playing the piano polishes the capstans.
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#1474564 - 07/15/10 01:06 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: BDB]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
A thought that came to mind is of a wet bar of soap vs a dry bar of soap. What happens when a capstan pushes into the whippen cushion? It makes a small dimple and the whippen pushes off but stays in contact. What happens when you squeeze a wet, slick bar of soap? Shoots across the room. A dry bar of soap? Not much.

But, even if some of the weight of the whippen did move away from the the key with more force because of lubrication, there are so many other things going on with regards to friction within the action that should matter more.
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#1474692 - 07/15/10 08:01 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Hi BDB,

Yes, I agree but only to a point that it will polish them but at the same time, as years pass, it also lets off this brassy green substance from the capstans onto the cushions too which I like to burnish and eliminate. I usually use Nevr Dull when polishing the capstans. It does make them more slippery and cleans some crud off at the same time.

Right Byron. There are many other factor's that come into play in an action besides just one or two areas. If we clean and work in all of these areas, I believe a difference will be had over all. I won't do tests to prove it but, I can feel the difference when I'm done.
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Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1474717 - 07/15/10 09:14 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
If memory serves, the pathnis around 0,2-0,4 mm Depending of the size of the grand (Pfeiffer 'the piano key and whippen).
The friction , to me, is exacerbated at full speed, and one of its most important result is what happens to the whippen center, I mean, how is the force coming from the key compress the whippen bushing and in what direction.
In that sence, a little more rubbing capstan could well compress the spread a little,, hence influence the action ratio at last above a certain strenght.

Placebo is also an option, but, for instance, rubbing a little hardly the letoff buttons, with a hard plectra, a hammer shank, will change the letoff sensation, make it a little bit larger, smoother,
for whatever reason you may find ! (any idea ?)

I am not as availeable than I wish, so no posting for some time. I hope that will be better in some time.
Best regards
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#1474769 - 07/15/10 10:50 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Olek]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5325
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Kamin
If memory serves, the pathnis around 0,2-0,4 mm Depending of the size of the grand (Pfeiffer 'the piano key and whippen).
The friction , to me, is exacerbated at full speed, and one of its most important result is what happens to the whippen center, I mean, how is the force coming from the key compress the whippen bushing and in what direction.

My memory didn’t serve—so I pulled up the drawings, cycled the key and wippen through their arcs and measured. It would take a very poorly set up action for the sliding movement to exceed 0.2 mm. Even in a small grand action (i.e., short keys).

I agree with those who polish and lube—I also buff capstans and shoot a coat of dry Teflon powder into the capstan block felt. I’m not sure it does much good but it makes me feel better and it doesn’t hurt.

ddf
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Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1475197 - 07/15/10 10:28 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Del]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3894
I lube capstans when replacing the stack, but I get a better result by lubing knuckles and key pins with teflon. Lubing those areas is always part of my concert prep.
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#1480331 - 07/24/10 02:29 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Bob]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Del, as I have a little time to read and think (not too much !) those days, I verified the data given in Pfeiffer s book.

You are right indeed, I confused with the comma placement :
level of sliding path (grand) is, depending of the sharps/ white keys placement (magic line)
0,139 mm for white and 0,2 for sharps (optimized for white keys)
0,195 for white and 0,1442 for sharps when optimized for sharps.

On a vertical, slide path is larger with 0,3 to 0,4 mm so indeed it maybe considered minimal

That said ;
The cushion take more or less the concave shape of the capstan.

The friction is high just at the Beginning of the stroke , enough to be considered as a mean to tighten the pinning (pull the whippen toward the player) the initial position of the whippen is then considered important as supposed it can vary the precision of the fit of the whippen center because of the direction of the force at the beginning of the stroke.
Due to the upward pressure coming from the hammer , the one coming from the key, the deformation of the cloth under impact the level of friction there can be higher than one imagine, and in any case it does not work as smooth as a Ball bearing.
I had not thought of that by myself, those ideas come from a well know brand that use a particular whippen position in order to smooth the circular motion of the whippen..

Pfeiffer state that under good placement and profile conditions, the wear of the heel, cloth may be minimal , but he seem to say that things can get bad easily, if cloth is not quality enough, or too soft, if capstan profile is not smooth, if magic line is not respected enough.

A full study with all the moves and work decomposed, the 2 books, one on the hammer, the other on the key/whippen (the last mostly for direct blow action ), are nice to read, I have no animated cad sketch to play with, but the paper works well enough when the demonstration is good.

Btw do you know the level of efficiency of the grand action ? surprising it hardly get above 14% . while the vertical action is more than 20%

above a certain force of play, the action simply saturates, no work is gained at the hammer level.

But all those losses are what allow the pianist to control tone, and a linked action (linked hammer, but it apply also partly to the linked key/whippen) have even a poorer result in term of energy transmission.

Best regards

Isaac


Edited by Kamin (07/24/10 03:43 AM)
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#1480348 - 07/24/10 03:46 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Olek]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
May be with an artistic placement of the whippen at rest, the friction from the start will be enough to fight the tendency of the capstan to push the whippen from the player, which go in reverse direction of the circular motion of the whippen.

difficult to really imagine what is goin on
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It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#1483057 - 07/28/10 09:19 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]
athomik Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/07
Posts: 299
Loc: England
Originally Posted By: Bill Bremmer RPT
The placebo effect can be just as powerful, however. If it was seen that you did something, that may be all it takes in that circumstance. If however, you say that nothing is wrong and refuse to do anything at all, you have a client who no longer wants your services.


I have certainly come across this on the kind of pianos I deal with.
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#1483106 - 07/28/10 10:47 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Olek]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5325
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: Kamin
The friction is high just at the Beginning of the stroke , enough to be considered as a mean to tighten the pinning (pull the whippen toward the player) the initial position of the whippen is then considered important as supposed it can vary the precision of the fit of the whippen center because of the direction of the force at the beginning of the stroke.

Due to the upward pressure coming from the hammer , the one coming from the key, the deformation of the cloth under impact the level of friction there can be higher than one imagine, and in any case it does not work as smooth as a Ball bearing.
I had not thought of that by myself, those ideas come from a well know brand that use a particular whippen position in order to smooth the circular motion of the whippen..

Friction is “high” compared to what? The sliding motion is almost non-existent. It really doesn’t matter much what the friction is. (Unless, of course, the geometry of the action is not correct. And then the action is going to need more than polished capstans!)



Quote:
Pfeiffer state that under good placement and profile conditions, the wear of the heel, cloth may be minimal , but he seem to say that things can get bad easily, if cloth is not quality enough, or too soft, if capstan profile is not smooth, if magic line is not respected enough.

A full study with all the moves and work decomposed, the 2 books, one on the hammer, the other on the key/whippen (the last mostly for direct blow action ), are nice to read, I have no animated cad sketch to play with, but the paper works well enough when the demonstration is good.

Yes, I own – and have read – Pfeiffer’s books. Felt hardness is always a compromise; too hard and the action gets noisy, too soft and too much energy is lost. And it wears out rapidly. Mostly because it packs down, gets hard and noisy fast.



Quote:
Btw do you know the level of efficiency of the grand action ? surprising it hardly get above 14% . while the vertical action is more than 20%

above a certain force of play, the action simply saturates, no work is gained at the hammer level.

Yes, I know about action efficiency and saturation. I studied the phenomenon back in the 1970s and later, during the 1980s, I found that researchers at Baldwin had also investigated this. Ultimately I wrote a couple of articles about it in the Piano Technicians Journal sometime during the 1990s.

I was thinking about all this over the weekend as I replaced a set of capstans in a small (imported) grand. The originals were very small and very round; in just a very few years they had punched a hole right through the capstan block felt and nicely indented the wood in the block.

I wonder, sometimes, how the folks making the decisions that resulted in these parts being installed in production pianos manage to keep their jobs. Both the “engineer” who approved them and the purchasing manager (who probably demanded them) really should have known better. And if they don’t they shouldn’t be in those positions.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1483142 - 07/28/10 11:53 AM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Del]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21904
Loc: Oakland
Quote:
I wonder, sometimes, how the folks making the decisions that resulted in these parts being installed in production pianos manage to keep their jobs. Both the “engineer” who approved them and the purchasing manager (who probably demanded them) really should have known better. And if they don’t they shouldn’t be in those positions.


As long as it lasts until they retire. However, I wonder about the supplier who made the capstans.
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#1483146 - 07/28/10 12:09 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: BDB]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5325
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: BDB
Quote:
I wonder, sometimes, how the folks making the decisions that resulted in these parts being installed in production pianos manage to keep their jobs. Both the “engineer” who approved them and the purchasing manager (who probably demanded them) really should have known better. And if they don’t they shouldn’t be in those positions.


As long as it lasts until they retire. However, I wonder about the supplier who made the capstans.

Oh, I don't think the concern lasts that long. The thing gets shipped and enough people buy them who don't really play them all that much so the warrantee costs are not all that high. The company saves a few pennies on cheaper parts and who gets caught?

And the vendor probably knows nothing at all about pianos. They are just making widgets to drawings and specifications furnished by the piano maker (or key maker).

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1483149 - 07/28/10 12:17 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Del]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4977
Loc: Bradford County, PA
There’s a saying, “Screw up to move up.”

Part of the reason is that once a person (hopefully) learns from their errors they are considered to be an expert. Another part of the reason is a lousy underling can make a bad boss look good by giving the boss someone to yell at and a problem to fix. But a good underling can make a bad boss look even worse by showing him up. I’ve seen it many times….
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Part-Time Tuner
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#1483230 - 07/28/10 02:18 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: UnrightTooner]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Del, I know that the sliding move is very small, what I say is that have been explained to me by one major builder, I will post you privately.

The cloth in fact take the shape of the capstan (cloth is smooth, not capstan) during the compression, there is a grip between the 2 parts. say that manufacturer. how much I hardy can imagine. I guess they envisage :
direction of force
Center of gravity of the whippen mass
Inertia

Things that are way mire difficult to evaluate than the common idea of a relatively rigid action with a few puivot points and sliding paths.

That is why I dont understand why those aspects are not mo investigated.

Ps on the Asian brand you talk of, the profile of the capstan was bad. On another one the capstans symply where not polished nor surface treated, they eat the cloth the same, in less than one year.
I dont understand why one would expect a low end asian builder to understand what he does when he symply copies an existing design.

producing a manufactured thing as a piano is certainly not magical, information is less availeable than for more usual things, so comprehension can be limited.
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#1483232 - 07/28/10 02:26 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Olek]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Del can you tell me in wich issues the articles where ? I can have a look at my collection. I recall reading about the key flex.
I like to investigate to understand what makes the roller leave the jack so soon. is it the key/ cloth compression/reaction ? is it located within the whippen ?
Certainly the reason why an optimal bedding is very important, an why the tone get so poor when bedding is screwed.
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#1483301 - 07/28/10 04:13 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Del]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 524
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Del
[quote=ByronEnsign]Depending on the length of the keys—and assuming the action geometry is reasonably well set up—the sliding motion between the capstan and the capstan block felt is about 0.1 mm to 0.2 mm (0.004” to 0.008”). I can’t see any kind of lubricating or polishing making that kind of difference.
ddf


Even during a very rapid repetition?
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#1483312 - 07/28/10 04:23 PM Re: Effects of Polishing Capstans [Re: Jbyron]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Action saturation ! I was certainly not stating you did not knew about that, it is due to the way I write.

What was the conclusions ?

is a highe saturation level good for the control on touch ? Pfeiffer discovered that the linked action was the poorer in term of efficiency, and thatbthe freeness between the parts is necessary.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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