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Topic Options
#1393613 - 03/11/10 11:55 AM Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright
ewaite Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/09
Posts: 46
Loc: Dayton, Ohio
Hi All,

I want to replace the hammers on my Otto Grau Piano. I am looking for input on what kind of hammers you would recommend? and best place to purchase them. I don't want to spend a million dollars but I also don't want cheap junk (I am having real issues with cheap junk).

"Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!"

Ed Waite
1909 ? Otto Grau Piano
1909 Apollo Melville Clark

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#1393715 - 03/11/10 02:06 PM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: ewaite]
piano_tech chris Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 72
Loc: South Central PA
how are the strings on the piano? sometimes there is not point in changing hammers if the strings are in poor condition.
Christopher P. Smith
Piano Technician/Tuner

#1393973 - 03/11/10 07:53 PM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: piano_tech chris]
showard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 141
Loc: Hortonville, Wisconsin
Not only the strings, but also the condition of the other action parts should be considered before replacing the hammers. If the action parts are all original, it is a good probability that the hammer butts, wippens, and other action components will need to be either refurbished or replaced.

But as far as choosing a good hammer, personal preference has a lot to do with choosing the right one. I have recently put a set of Renner hammers on a Mason & Hamlin Model 50 upright. These hammers had a very pleasant tone. Nothing spectacular though in my opinion. I have also used Abel Encore hammers on a Chickering Grand and have recently put a set of the Abel Encores on a Steinway upright. These hammers I have found to be excellent in their sound. Lots of power and a lively sound. Some may find them to be a bit too lively, but I like the wide range of tonal color and dynamic expression that I'm able to get from these hammers.

I realize that there will be others who have had positive experiences with other hammers, but this is what I've found.
Steve Howard
Piano Technician
Owner of Howard Piano Industries

#1394024 - 03/11/10 08:55 PM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: showard]
ewaite Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/09
Posts: 46
Loc: Dayton, Ohio
I am planning on completely restoring the action. I am trying to get a list together of the things I need to order to do this and I wanted to get hammers and damper also. I am also having trouble finding places that I can buy hammers.

I have found a site where I can get "NewOctave Global" hammers can't find Abel Encore or Renner Pricing information.

Any help would be appreciated.
"Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!"

Ed Waite
1909 ? Otto Grau Piano
1909 Apollo Melville Clark

#1394099 - 03/11/10 11:11 PM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: ewaite]
KawaiDon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/02
Posts: 1261
Loc: Orange County, CA

You are writing on a technicians forum, but it sounds like you are wanting to do this job yourself. There is a little contradiction in this, if you think about it.

Piano hammers are not considered to be a user-replaceable item. They are something which a good technician would order to fit your piano, and install for you, along with the other items needed to make the job worthwhile.

It might be possible for you to pull this kind of major job off yourself, but it would be a very rare occurrence. Please keep that in mind when continuing this project. The best hammers in the world will sound awful if not installed correctly and voiced for the piano.
Don Mannino, MPA
Kawai America

#1394117 - 03/12/10 12:00 AM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: KawaiDon]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22973
Loc: Oakland
Perhaps we should look at this realistically from a couple of angles. First of all, the piano is worthless, so messing up this job is not going to be a disaster. On the other hand, though, the question of what hammers to use is not what Ed should be concerning himself with at this point.

The big question is what do you want from doing this job? Do you want to come out with this being a really nice piano, or do you just want to learn how to do it? If it is the former, perhaps you should consider practicing on another worthless piano first. If it is the latter, the hammers do not matter much.

What you should be considering is how much are you going to be doing? Will you be restringing, or just doing the action. If you are not going to restring, then again, the hammers do not make much difference.

What other work are you going to do on the action? What parts and/or materials will you replace? If I restore an upright action, I replace a lot of felt and leather, all of the springs, and/or maybe hammer butts, damper levers, and so on.

Have you done any of this other work yet? Perhaps you should consider starting with that, to see what you are up against, and whether it is in your temperament to do this sort of work at all. I often tell people that the most important requirement for piano work is the ability to sit down and do something 88 times over again.

What do you know about working on pianos already? After all, even in factories, an action man does not start out hanging hammers. What books have you read? What other things have you done?

You need to straighten out these things before you worry about hammers.
Semipro Tech

#1394171 - 03/12/10 02:29 AM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: BDB]
charleslang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2084
He's got pictures on his web site of him replacing butt felts and maybe other parts on the action and he's got some book on how to do these things, lying on the table.

The most expensive hammers out there are about 500 dollars, and the cheapest I've found are those New Octave Global hammers, which doesn't mean they're not good hammers.

If I were doing what you're doing I would treat it as a learning piano, with the goal of getting something decent out of it. But that would include changing the strings and of course the action work it looks like you've already started on. Changing the strings is not super expensive. Do you know that the pin block is good? That's where it starts to be beyond anything I can do on my own.

I am kind of scared of getting a hammer that is too soft, so if I were you I would get a hot pressed hammer like Abel or Renner or those New Octave Globals. You can buy Renners directly from Renner USA. Abel Encores can be bought from a fellow named Wally Brooks in Connecticut, from what I understand.

I have one cold-pressed hammer (Ronsen Weickert) on my piano now, just as a test, and the rest are Abel Encores. The Ronsen makes a gorgeous sound, but I play a lot of jazz and I like the 'bite' of the brighter Abels. They were too bright when new without voicing. I found voicing to be both easier and harder than one might expect. The harder part was learning how to stick the needle into the hammer without stressing the shank, because these hammers are hard and the needle does not go in easily. The easier part was that all the hammers basically needed the exact same treatment, which was about twenty deep jabs of a single needle all down each of the shoulders (twenty on each side), going right up to the striking point but not into the striking point area.

But that's not your first concern, right now. The other thing to be sure about is the striking point. I'm sure your book explains this. There is also a helpful video on youtube that shows how to locate the sweet striking point on a grand piano. I'm sure you could figure out something similar for an upright.

I hope you don't mind some constructive criticism, purely as feedback. There are some rebuilders here who create absolutely amazing finishes on old uprights, and I saw your pictures of the refinishing and I'm sure that it could be made to look much better. I'm sorry I don't know how they do it exactly - there was a recent thread about creating a kind of database of before and after pictures, and they were stunnning. I'm sure the rebuilders of those pianos would be happy to give you some tips. Please don't take it the wrong way. Your refinished piano looks better than before, but it just struck me that these other pianos are kind of breathtaking and if it's worth it to you, you might be interested in seeing them.
Charles Lang

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

Jazz, pop and classical

#2159881 - 09/30/13 12:47 AM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: ewaite]
Kyle_G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/12
Posts: 138
Loc: IL
On an old upright the new octave global hammers will be more than enough.

I applaud what you are doing. You have gone many steps further than I have in piano work.

-Keep up the good work!

Kyle G.
Currently enlisted in the USN

#2160648 - 10/01/13 11:06 PM Re: Replacing Hammers on 100 year old upright [Re: ewaite]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
I would go with a set of Abel hammers
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...


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