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#206262 - 04/30/08 08:30 AM Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
KC pianocraft Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/29/08
Posts: 8
Loc: palm harbor fl
I have recently run into several pianos where the owners main complaint is their pianos were quite disappointing as far as the tone and power goes. I agreed that their pianos did sound rather awful (I tried to not hurt their feelings, but I did have to agree, and as a corollary, tell the truth). These two I mention just happen to be Steinway 'B' models. The first was rebuilt several years ago (a decent job)using Renner hammers; the second was rebuilt and sold (by a "Steinway" dealer) and had Steinway "factory" hammers, that appeared to have been (literally) dipped in lacquer as one would "dunk" his donut in his morning cup of coffee! Here is my communiqué' with Renner. As for the Steinway hammers on the "dealer rebuild"; well someone got carried away.

Comment: I have a client/friend who had Renner hammers installed on his Steinway 'B' when it was rebuilt. My main concern is that it appears quite obvious that the hammers have all been lacquered too much and/or in the "wrong places". Here is my evaluation as to why the instrument now has an explosive attack, little "dwell" and a rapid decay. (i.e. a thin "dead" sound, as there is no resilience). I believe the use of "wholesale" lacquering destroys the balance between "outer tension & inner compression" that should be present in piano hammers. I have seen too much of this kind of thinking that lacquer is the first "tool" to brighten a pianos tone. I would value your opinion and any of your suggestions as to how to correct this (short of replacing the set of hammers!) Apply acetone, steam? They are like rocks at this point.


Response: We are sorry to learn of the problems you have experienced from the apparent use of lacquer on Renner hammers. Your evaluation appears essentially correct which is why we do not use and do not recommend the use of any lacquer or chemicals on quality hammers like Renner. Lacquer was initially introduced in the 1960's as a remedy for poor quality, loosely layered, felt. It was also used as a way to try and brighten hammers that did not have the tension and resilience found in Renner hammers. The use of lacquer on properly felted hammers like Renner can cause the felt to seize up like a rock. The proper way to voice Renner hammers is shown on our website under the technician .pdf section. There is a booklet there called Voicing the Renner Hammer which can be downloaded. Most of the world's leading piano producers use Renner hammers and follow this basic approach to traditional voicing.

This can be a very subjective area and some hammer manufacturers do require or recommend the use of lacquer. In those cases, techs should follow the advice of that manufacturer. It sounds like you can hear the difference between the wide tonal spectrum possible with Renner hammers compared to lacquered hammers. There are, unfortunately, some techs that can't. I am personally not aware of any remedy that will reverse the effect of lacquering, although I've heard of various remedies put forward by some piano technicians who claim some amount of success. You might check with other technicians that have had this problem.

Lloyd Meyer
Renner USA
_________________________
KC

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#206263 - 04/30/08 02:38 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Having restored over 400 Steinway grands and have used Renner Premium Blues on 75% of them,I gotta say there has never been a situation whereas one would lacquer Renner hammers. Usually too dense if anything and need voicing back. Lately they seem less dense which is good as they seem to match the impedence of our newly restored Steinways with new sitka spruce soundboards etc. When the hammers are consistently like rocks over the entire keyboard,needling is impossible.
Take a thin dampened strip of cheesecloth or cotton or ? lay it across the strike point and steam it. I always considered it like thousands of little needles penetrating that upper level of felt. You should try filing them first. Hey it's best to hang a set of new hammers so what do you got to lose. In that I am not a tech,don't take my advice as gospel.I'm sure there are many veteran techs here that will agree or disagree. At times we'll be in the position of attempting to voice back 60-80 year old original rock hard hammers for some stupid idiotic reason. This steaming approach is somewhat dangerous so proceed with caution.A tech I know tried to steam back a newer Yamaha C7 and the hammers exploded Costly in that Yamaha only sells prehung hammers at a premium nowadays Good luck!
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
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#206264 - 04/30/08 02:49 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4981
Loc: boston north
pianobroker....

RE: "In that I am not a tech,don't take my advice as gospel."


you are 'not' a tech?

I thought you restored pianos?

I must be missing something here.

?????
_________________________
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#206265 - 04/30/08 03:54 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Past Perfect Piano is my business. I mainly sell remanufactured Steinways which we remanufacture in house.I have a full restoration team refinishers,main rebuilder,bellyman and techs for final prep. We remanufacture over 10 Steinways at a time far from a garage operation. Believe me I know this biz better than most!
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voo0zumHGgE

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#206266 - 04/30/08 04:45 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4981
Loc: boston north
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobroker:
Past Perfect Piano is my business. I mainly sell remanufactured Steinways which we remanufacture in house.I have a full restoration team refinishers,main rebuilder,bellyman and techs for final prep. We remanufacture over 10 Steinways at a time far from a garage operation. Believe me I know this biz better than most! [/b]
Whoa, calm down!

I am not questioning your business...just for the first time I did not understand your quote that you were not a tech. I had always thought so from your past contributions. I wondered if there was something that I was missing when I read your last quote - as in a restorer was not a tech or some other odd thing that I misunderstood.

Maybe I now understand...You are the owner/buyer/seller and hire specialized techs to do the restoration work. Am I saying that correctly?

And thanks for your contributions!
_________________________
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#206267 - 04/30/08 05:08 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
moisture + heat on lacquered hammers can lend to strange hammer shape indeed , but the cheese cloth + iron is a soft method.

I had experiment on a lacquered set and the moisture goes preferentially on the un lacquered parts, the hammers look like potatoes after that !
(I used a kettle )

A Felt manufacturer engineer told me that moisture was the enemy of felt, generally speaking, so it can be a convenient method to have a fast effect without needling but the felt , particularly if treated repetitively like that, finally loose its voice and get very neutral. I guess the fiber unlock with the process, too much.

Bad needling as well can hurt hammers, particularly if needling is done with needles on the same line it tend to cut the layers.

Some Renner hammers where juiced at the factory when after voicing they did not provide enough tone, but the technicians hate to do so.
A hammer brand actually uses some nitrocellulose lacquer for may be the last octave or so (above the end of the underfelt) because the felt used is often not dense enough in the treble zone (it is made dense with pressure, but the fiber is not interlocked enough, or something, it is too neutral there).

I also find lacquered hammers on many Est Germany of Tchekia vertical pianos from the 70s, like if they could not accept that the tone may take some time to build correctly.

Korean pianos have often a drop of lacquer above the crown, it bring a very acid tone that get very harsh in time.

Some pianos where sold with a "tropical climate guarantee " from the best brands in the 70s 80's. Often I've find that the hammers after voicing have been treated with some kind of juice, not very aggressive. they seem to never wear (but shaping them is a pain)

The lacquer in a (classic) hammer provide a lot of power, but the tone can't be manipulated as much, and the power is present till the pianissimo level. You can then forget to change the tone along with the dynamic of the play, as it will not happen (the tone remain the same at all levels).

A help for a soundboard that does not give as much as you expect in some regions, if that recall something to some ... !
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#206268 - 04/30/08 06:36 PM Re: Inappropriate lacquering of hammers
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
 Quote:
I read your last quote - as in a restorer was not a tech or some other odd thing that I misunderstood.

Maybe I now understand...You are the owner/buyer/seller and hire specialized techs to do the restoration work. Am I saying that correctly?
A tech is not necessarily one that has the ability to rebuild though there are many talented piano techs that are very qualified to do full restoration at every stage. Many techs don't do pinblocks, soundboards,bridge notching,refinishing etc. though there are many that have that capability at a high level.Just like there are tuners that are not techs and rebuilders and stringers that don't tune.Of course it helps if one can.I have the same exclusive team of talented individuals for over ten years which full restoration is done in house.
I hope that helps clear the misconception that a tuner/tech is not necessarily a rebuilder and vice versa.Even the PTG is attempting to make that distinction in the seperate qualifications. \:\)
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
Hailun dlr.818-255-3145
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voo0zumHGgE

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