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#2181723 - 11/13/13 03:56 PM Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler)
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
I bought my Shigeru SK3 in Dec 2012 (<$34k, which seemed to be a good deal), and have since been expecting the famed technician visit. After six months I still didn't hear anything and so I contacted Kawai, and I was told that they are a bit behind schedule, but will certainly fulfill their promise of a technician visit within a year. Finally, in Oct Kawai America called me and scheduled this visit in mid Nov.

The technician Mr. Otake showed up on time. He actually speaks quite fluent English (I've heard stories of Kawai visiting technicians not speaking much English). He told me that he's been in the US for a month, and will travel for another two weeks before returning to Japan. He said Kawai sells about 50 SK's last year in North America, and mine was the first in my state. (My plate reads "limited edition, xx of 25", so 25 may be just for SK3.)

Mr. Otake's work was primarily regulating, voicing and a careful tuning. He took out the entire action mechanism and checked the height of the hammers. He seemed to sand the pelt on the tip of the hammer. For a few keys that had stronger resonance, he needled the pelt. He also used a hooked pin to adjust something below the strings when pressing down a key, much like how a dentist cleans teeth. The tuning is more thorough than my usual technician tuning, and he continued to regulate and voice the piano during tuning.

I have to admit that I'm not an advanced pianist, so I probably can't feel many subtle improvements, but what I could tell after the visit is that the action now is more sensitive at lower power. It is now easier to get even pianissimo, and the transition from pianissimo to piano more controllable. That, and of course the clarity/purity you get after a tuning session. What convinced me to get a Shigeru, the tonal variability that stood out in the showroom full of top-class pianos--how the sound is soft and sweet at pianissimo, then gradually opens up to being brilliant at fortissimo--is all more prominent after the session.

I'd like to ask a few questions along the way. In my house I have a programmable thermometer. Do I absolutely have to set the first-floor temperature to be unchanged throughout a year, or does a daily fluctuation of say 60-70 not matter that much for the piano? I know that the varying temperature means I probably need to tune the piano more often, but I'm mostly concerned with permanently damaging the piano. Second question, in summer my room humidity is usually 50%, but in winter with heating, it drops to 32%. My house has an Aprilaire full-house evaporative humidifier and in winter I pretty much have it running 24/7, but it doesn't seem to make a difference, probably because the unit is underpowered for my house. My HVAC guy says I probably need a steam humidifier, but that's a $4k+ investment. I also tried to use a portable humidifier next to the piano, but after several days the humidity reading just doesn't budge. So how do you guys manage humidity?

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#2181759 - 11/13/13 04:24 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3604
Nice!

I think the temperature fluctuations don't matter that much. But humidity fluctuations matter.

Be careful with humidifiers, some evaporate all the water including the minerals. The minerals then drop everywhere in your house, also on your piano, causing white stain on it.

Other humidifiers eats lot of power

I have a evaporating humidifier. Just for the room where the piano is in. It is just large enough, it usually can just keep up unless it freezes hard outside.

You could consider buying a few evaporating humidifiers
_________________________

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#2181775 - 11/13/13 04:35 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Icefox,

As Wouter mentioned, the temperature range you mentioned will have little effect on the tuning. So, go ahead and use the programmable thermostat to maximize the energy efficiency.

Like you, I have a full humidity control system in my home, but during the winter, the RH can fall below 40%. I have Piano Life Savers (Dampp-Chaser) on all of my pianos and that keeps the moisture content more stable throughout all seasons.

Enjoy your great piano!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2181804 - 11/13/13 05:03 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Minnesota Marty]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
Thanks Marty and and Wouter. Wow, I have never heard of Piano Life Savers but it sounds exactly like what I need! I am only a bit concerned that the system is installed IN the piano... do they have to take the piano apart to install it? What if it leaks water?

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#2181813 - 11/13/13 05:16 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Icefox,

The PLS system is a proven product and many manufacturers recommend them. Here's their link:

http://www.pianolifesaver.com/english/home.php

On a grand, they are installed under the piano, to the frame. They are virtually invisible unless you look under the piano. There is no chance of spilling any water into the piano.

Check out their website and you'll see how they work.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2181846 - 11/13/13 05:51 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 731
Loc: Leicester, UK
Hi Icefox,

I've been advised that 50% to 55% humidity with +-5% fluctuation is ideal. My understanding is 40% is a redline (don't dip underneath that). I have a PLS installed on my piano. It took about two weeks to really stabilize the humidiy in the room where I have the piano. Whatever realized later was I was probably drying out the whole house - and then then piano room remains stable.

Temperature, as everyone's been saying, isn't nearly as important as humidity. Might be best to ask your dealer what they recommend as the idea humidity range ... .. the numbers I'm quoting are from my dealer for my piano.

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#2181859 - 11/13/13 06:06 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Mark Polishook]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
Hi Marty and Mark: I just called my technician and he actually installs PLS, so I've made my order. But I was curious why he didn't recommend this (I complained to him about my humidity concern before). He said he's not so sure how effective the system is because it only humidifies some air underneath the piano and no one knows how much is absorbed into the wood. He got a point, but if the cost is so low, I'd give it a try.

In my house, the entire first floor is an open area, and the piano is next to the high-ceiling entrance space. Therefore, I can't possibly have a stabling humidity in the "piano room" unless I steam up the whole house. The only way to do that is to invest in a $4k steam humidifier, so the $400 PLS is a must try before going there.

Edit: the Kawai technician said the ideal humidity is 40-50%, but he also said <40% or >60% will damage the piano. In this sense, the ideal is really 50%, and 40% and 60% are "redlines".


Edited by Icefox (11/13/13 06:10 PM)

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#2181873 - 11/13/13 06:29 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Icefox,

Generally 40-50% is considered the optimum range for people, pets, plants, and pianos. The PLS targets at 43% RH.

There are some additional things you can do to help your piano. Unless you are playing, it is best to keep it closed. This keeps the soundboard and some of the action parts more stable. In some situations, such as yours, the addition of an undercover is recommended. It helps avoid sudden shifts in the RH due to the transient swings due to moving air.

RH can swing and vary rapidly. Think of a shower or boiling pasta. That is really not the problem for the most part. What you want to do is keep the moisture content of the wood in the piano stable across the long term. It takes a relatively long time for a change in RH to affect the moisture content. That is when it becomes a concern. Going through the dryness of winter can have an affect in a long run.

What region of the country are you in? Some areas are approached differently when dealing with humidity control and pianos.

You have a very fine piano and it is good to know that you want to take the best care of it as possible.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2181883 - 11/13/13 06:39 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
BTW - Do you have a hygrometer to read and record the RH in your home? They only cost about $30 at any good hardware or home improvement store. That way it's easy to check readings around the piano and in the piano. It's a piano owner's best friend.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2181896 - 11/13/13 07:05 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
KurtZ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 966
Loc: The Heart of Screenland


Does everyone see the problem? 5 hygrometers, most costing quite a bit more than $30. I believe 2 were certified accurate to within 2 percent. In order, the readings in the same place at the same time are: 41, 44, 54, 59 and wholly molly 74 percent. Marty means well and his advice is basically sound but be wary of a hygrometer that you pick-up in a hardware or pet store (reptile keepers monitor humidity) "for about $30 dollars." Cigar aficionados are compulsive about humidity, I would look around their forums and websites before buying a hygrometer to see what they're recommending before making even a minor purchase having to do with the care of your exception instrument.

The image comes from burgess violins dot com. He is an award winning American violin maker. He writes quite a bit about humidity and the upkeep of fine instruments. He has some recommendations of his own as well about humidity control if you care to look it up.

Kurt
_________________________
I just wanted to be just "a" guy. That's enough of a life.

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#2181911 - 11/13/13 07:54 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Minnesota Marty]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
I'm in NC where winter is not too cold and summer can be hot and humid. Fortunately my house's first floor doesn't get too hot. My thermometer has humidity reading that's how I know I have 50% in summer and 32% in winter. I also have a portable humidity reader ironically the two readings are always off by 5%...

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#2181914 - 11/13/13 08:10 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Kurt,

I understand what you are saying and this argument goes on endlessly in the Tuner/Tech forum. However, the standard home owner/piano owner is only using it for casual reference and not scientific data. You can immediately throw out the readings from the ancient "wholly molly [sic]."

There is really no reason to spend hundreds on a certified hygrometer just for general readings. There are simple methods to check the accuracy in the home and find out a general range of deviation.

The usual piano owner doesn't often spend the bucks for a concert tuning, like the Kawai MPA, for their general practicing and home use either. There is such a thing as overkill.

I do try to be accurate, and considerate of the circumstances, with my replies.

Your answer will add information for Icefox, and that is excellent.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2181917 - 11/13/13 08:17 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: KurtZ]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
This pic makes me LOL:)

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#2182099 - 11/14/13 04:23 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 731
Loc: Leicester, UK
After trying a few digital hygrometers I found a wet bulb dry bulb thermometer is a pretty good answer to the question of "how do you the hygrometer is accurate?"

Here's a link with context
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/dry-wet-bulb-dew-point-air-d_682.html

WBDB thermoneters are very inexpensive.

Dig. hygrometers are notoriously inaccurate - at least the consumer level ones that are commonly available - as others in this thread have noted. In fact I've also read that even better than a wet bulb dry bulb hygrometer is a "whirling" or "sling" hygrometer. Which is just a WBDB device that gets slung around in the air. It's often recommended that a few readings be taken one after another.

About ideal numbers for humidity: There are a lot of "ideal" numbers out there. It really depends on who's giving the information. Which is why going with the recommendation of the dealer is a good idea. Because end of day if humidity has caused an issue for the piano - especially a new piano - they'll probably be the resource who gets turned to for assistance. For obvious reasons dealers should know what's recommended for the instruments they sell. Or they should at least know how to get recommended figures from manufacturers.

I have a damp chaser on my piano but my understanding is it's there for the soundboard but nothing else (not the action). I've also been told that if humidity goes to the high side nothing irreparable happens to the piano. What does happen is anything that can absorb water will do so. So moving parts that depend on very strict clearances might be affected and the action might be less responsive than it would otherwise be in say an "optimal" humidity range. But I've also been told that once humidity is lowered the piano will "dry out" with no ill lasting effects.


If humidity goes on the low side - below 40% - that's a different matter. My understanding is that's a situation that the soundboard doesn't want to be in.

Something else I've found is that just as digital hygrometers are not all that accurate neither is the controller on a de-humidifier. So that's another piece in the chain that can add uncertainty. I've also been told if the control on the de-humidifier fails it's possible that the de-humidifier will continue on happily drying out everything around it regardless of actual humidity levels ... I see in the thread that most of the discussion is about humidifiers ... I live in the UK and lack of humidity isn't really a problem here.

Of course there's a practical limit to how far anyone wants to go with this stuff. My preference is to recognise a piano isn't an inexpensive item and I'm looking to keep it in peak condition. So I use the WBDB thermoneter for the best measurements and digital hygrometers for quick checks. I've also found that digital hygrometers can be consistently inconsistent in what they measure. Meaning today a dig. hygrometer is 5% higher than the WBDB thermometer and yesterday it was 3% lower. One of the dig hygrometers I have is for cigars - but it's no more or less accurate that the other one I have that's a clock/calendar kind of thing.

Anyway, this is all a re-telling of info mostly from my dealer that 've had a chance to test out on my own. Nothing here is meant to contradict anything else in this thread. End of day it's just how far do you want to go to maintain a piano. There's perfect and there's good. Sometimes perfect gets in the way of the good and vice versa.

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#2182303 - 11/14/13 01:16 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Mark Polishook]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
One special thing about Kawai is that its action is made of carbon fibre, so it isn't affected by humidity at all. I'm attaching a pic.

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#2182339 - 11/14/13 02:33 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Icefox,

What you say is kinda, sorta, true. The Kawai actions still use felt bushings and those can shrink or swell with humidity changes. However, the effect on the playability of the piano is rarely affected. They are a very stable action.

When I mentioned "action parts," I was referring to the hammers and shanks. Hammer felt is greatly affected by RH and can alter the tone of a piano quite quickly. The shanks can also be affected, just as the soundboard.

All in all, the more stable the RH of the piano's environment, the more stable will be the tuning and tone of the instrument.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2182349 - 11/14/13 02:56 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 731
Loc: Leicester, UK
I forget about that carbon fibre action in the Kawai. Very nice!

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#2182351 - 11/14/13 03:03 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Mark Polishook]
iLaw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 267
Loc: Chicago
Are the hammer shanks in that Shigeru Kawai action a synthetic material? The color in the photo suggests wood, but I can easily imagine that it is perhaps a plastic/fiber composite material colored to look wood-ish.

Larry.

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#2182353 - 11/14/13 03:06 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Larry,

The hammer shanks in both the Kawai and Shigeru are wood. The WN&G actions have composite shanks, but the hammer core is still wood. At least for now.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2182372 - 11/14/13 03:52 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3604
I'd recommend whole-room humidification.

It's better for the piano overall (everything same humidity, not only the bottom of the sound board) and also better for your own health (very dry is not good for your skin)
_________________________

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#2183034 - 11/15/13 07:19 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Mark Polishook]
SMHaley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 820
Loc: Seattle
Originally Posted By: Mark Polishook
I forget about that carbon fibre action in the Kawai. Very nice!


Actually a composite of ABS Styran and carbon fiber... really a composite. WNG, yes full carbon fiber. A little less forgiving than wood but with certain benefits.
_________________________
AA Music Arts 2001, BM 2005
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#2183313 - 11/16/13 11:22 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
victor kam Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 421
Loc: Malaysia
Is the area just above the knuckle attachment on the shank merely painted black to blend with the black wippen?
_________________________
vk
NY Steinway D 423118 (restoration)
Yamaha CS (8ft 3in)#1198650, Steinway hammers on Tokiwa shanks and Isaac Profundo S bass strings.
Yamaha UX 2499771; Casio PX-3 keyboard

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#2188807 - 11/26/13 05:24 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: victor kam]
Icefox Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/12
Posts: 26
No, it's a thin piece of the same carbon fibre material glued onto the side. I also wondered what it was. It looks like some kind of reinforcement or protection.

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#2188950 - 11/26/13 10:15 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Mark Polishook]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2107
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Originally Posted By: Mark Polishook

In fact I've also read that even better than a wet bulb dry bulb hygrometer is a "whirling" or "sling" hygrometer. Which is just a WBDB device that gets slung around in the air. It's often recommended that a few readings be taken one after another.


Many many years ago. I worked in an explosives plant. Humidity control was extremely important. They had us use one of these to check humidity. I remember slinging it around. Taking more than one reading. I think even these are accurate to only +/- 5% .
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2188979 - 11/26/13 11:45 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
phacke Offline

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 577
Loc: CO, USA
The hammer shanks are the the part that the techs are having to spend their time on to optimize the position of with heat. The wood hammer shank is what snaps when you move the action while holding down a key. I would have thought the hammer shank was the part that needed the stability of the alternate material to wood, if any. Of course the wool is sensitive to humidity too. It seems to me here Kawai is replacing the parts that wood handles well and not replacing the part that needs something more solid and stable. What am I missing?


Edited by phacke (11/27/13 01:46 AM)
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2190326 - 11/29/13 11:39 PM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: phacke]
phacke Offline

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 577
Loc: CO, USA
Well, then. I suppose I am not missing anything!

Originally Posted By: phacke
The hammer shanks are the the part that the techs are having to spend their time on to optimize the position of with heat. The wood hammer shank is what snaps when you move the action while holding down a key. I would have thought the hammer shank was the part that needed the stability of the alternate material to wood, if any. Of course the wool is sensitive to humidity too. It seems to me here Kawai is replacing the parts that wood handles well and not replacing the part that needs something more solid and stable. What am I missing?
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2190335 - 11/30/13 12:27 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1299
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
Probably amateurs should not be removing grand piano actions and risk breakage of hammer shanks. Kawai's research has shown that wood with its flexibility is the best material for the shank. When the hammer strikes the string there is a rebound effect that is facilitated by the resilience of wood. That of course affects the quality of sound and the length of the sustain of the string(s) struck.
Kawai claims that their synthetic action parts are almost impervious to humidity and are stonger than wood. We could argue of course, well, what about the wooden hammer shanks which will still distort and bend under the effects of humidity swings?

Robert.

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#2190356 - 11/30/13 01:23 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Robert 45]
phacke Offline

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 577
Loc: CO, USA
Thanks for your comments Robert. I would like to point out that the only person I know who broke a shank is a semi-pro, though my sample size of data is rather small-admittedly.

>what about the wooden hammer shanks which will still distort and bend under the effects of humidity swings?

That's the gist of what I am saying. The humidity/ durability issues around the repetitions & wippens' bulk materials seem small in comparison to the material at the interfaces, shanks, hammers, soundboard, and the like. It is not clear that this move by Kawai is addressing any major issue on the Pareto of durability or parts maintenance issues. It seems people replace the non- hammer/shank action parts out of good quality pianos most because the materials at the interfaces wear out, not because of the wood.

Sure, with high humidity wood tightens the felts around the center pins making things sluggish, but at that point, I would be much more worried about more permanent damage to the other natural materials that remain (interfaces, shanks, hammer wool, soundboard, and the like).

I don't really know for sure, just trying to understand.

Best regards-
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2190376 - 11/30/13 02:45 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: Icefox]
AJF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/06
Posts: 1654
Loc: Toronto
I'm not a tech, but i wonder if part of the reason that Kawai chose composite material for the parts of the action that they did is to have a stable "base" for the shanks to sit on which would at least keep the hammers well aligned and keep the striking point on the strings more consistent. If you look at the picture posted by Icefox and imagine that the composite parts where wood, there would be a lot more potential for overall misalignment of the action if humidity related warping occurred.
_________________________

Pianist, Composer
Disclaimer: Shigeru Kawai Artist

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#2190506 - 11/30/13 11:15 AM Re: Shigeru Kawai technician visit (spoiler) [Re: AJF]
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1299
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
Yes, I completely agree and I think that the Millenium III action is a splendid example of bold innovation which has produced a responsive, sensitive piano action with the additional qualities of strength, stability and durability.

Robert.

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Rachmaninov Sonatas - 1 vs 2?
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