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#2234398 - 02/19/14 04:40 PM They don't know what they are doing!
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1348
Loc: Tennessee
I have just finished setting up three Steinway actions in three weeks. All of them had been rebuilt, and had genuine replacement parts in them, and the results were appalling. They all three shared most of the following.

A B, which was sold because it never played very well was found to have pinning that was freezing at the whippens, floppy loose on half the hammershanks, tight on many of the rest. Somehow, the jacks were also too tight to repeat, and most of those pins were bent, as were many of the hammerflange pins.

Who ever put this action together had no idea of what they were doing, since all the springs were smashed flat and the hammers were still jumping, (they didn't know to flex the coil to first get the tension near final). Many of the factory glued hammers were leaning to the right, and all the shanks were off to the left of the whippenflanges. Except the 20% that were traveling all over the map. They never checked the sole thickness of the keys, and the top of this piano had 6 mm of wood in the hole.

What really belies the amateurish work was the fact that the hammers were untouched from their factory blank state. No sexy pointed nose here, they were round balls of felt. I didn't even waste time getting a SW, this thing was heavy from the outset and most of it was attributable to these raw hammers. This condition was on two out of the three.

Steinway hammers are sold oversize, with the expectation that tone and touch be controlled by their reduction. If you can't file them to shape, don't use them!

So, what the customer was trying to play was an action built of the elements above, with regulation designed to kill. The heavy springs were taken care of by setting drop at 5/16", let-off somewhere between ghosting the string and 1/4", jacks were all beyond the knuckle core, blow was near 1 3/4", and there was so much aftertouch that I still don't know where the bottom of the key dip is. With all that going on, it was easy to overlook the floating balance rail and pedals that were only remotely in control of their duties.

It is jobs like this that allow me to tell the customer that the work I propose will not make a subtle difference, it will make a night and day difference, and if they don't agree when I am finished, they don't owe me a cent. Haven't had it happen, yet.

Someone out there, in their ignorance or carelessness, is making life easier for me.

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#2234467 - 02/19/14 06:25 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
You're welcome Ed, I'll keep sending them down your way! laugh

[edit: I mean, I'll make sure that Jensen guy keeps on sending them down...]

Edited by Supply (02/19/14 06:32 PM)
Edit Reason: correction
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply

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#2234480 - 02/19/14 07:09 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
Beginning Tech

#2234483 - 02/19/14 07:28 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
Dale Fox Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 1095
Loc: Nor California Sacramento area
Ed, sounds like the majority of the work I see. As I tell the owners, "We can fix it. It's just basic piano work. No special piano magic involved!" Sounds like you needed to blow off a little steam?
Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician

#2234524 - 02/19/14 09:20 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3661
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Same over here. It amazes me what some get away with and at the same time they bad mouth the ones doing good work and charging for it.

One thing with the slowdown in economies and desire for pianos, the honest and knowledgeable will survive the others will fade away.

Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

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#2234529 - 02/19/14 09:35 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Supply]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2314
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Supply
You're welcome Ed, I'll keep sending them down your way! laugh

[edit: I mean, I'll make sure that Jensen guy keeps on sending them down...]

I 'spose I deserve that. I dish out the digs enough that a little coming my way is just deserts.

(Whispered - It wasn't me, Ed. 'Honest!) wink
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service

#2234780 - 02/20/14 10:10 AM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
jmw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/10
Posts: 81
Loc: Girard, KS,
I have read and participated here for several years trying to learn, as I am a full time teacher and music director. I got into piano work because I find it fascinating and challenging. I've been working for others, for money, because there is virtually NO ONE doing piano work within 50 mile radius. So, when I read posts like this, I sort of feel like they are directed at me (although I know the world doesn't revolve around me wink. I just want to express that there ARE part-time, amateur folks doing piano work that would NEVER do anything like what Ed is describing. I always tell people that I'm an amateur, if I don't know how to fix something, and if I make a mistake, I'll find someone to make it right.

I guess what I'm saying is, I know enough to know what I don't know, you know?

Music teacher and beginning Tuner

#2234900 - 02/20/14 02:15 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
Jash Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/03/13
Posts: 11
Oh man! I spent the first three weeks of my apprenticeship doing centre pins. Boss said if I can't do proper centres, don't bother coming back.

As for the rest...

It bothers me a great deal working in a craft that people think is 'easy' and can be done with a hobby knife and bottle of glue.

It's part art, part science. There's absolutes, then there are variables that can go in either direction to suit a pianos particular characteristics.

It bothers me, when coming upon a 'rebuilt' piano that there is so much wrong with it. Worse yet is when people tell you what they paid for repairs and it's been overcharged by 4-5 times a fair price.

Eg. In the beautiful, mountain top city of Toowoomba, in Queenslands South East, a customer had been charged $900 for an action 'rebuild', and all I could see that was done were the tapes. That was it. Everything else was original and needed to be sorted.

I ended up doing a partial rebuild (just was what necessary to get it playing properly) and it cost them about a grand (including a tuning) and they've been happy since.

On another occasion I saw a rebuild that cost the customer $14k, and I had to re-pin the pin block from having the original pins reused for the new string. And this was in a 9ft Collard and Collard.

The scaling was so bad it's just not funny, and I had to spend a whole day attempting to rectify the regulation (which was incredibly difficult due to the poor workmanship of the repair), but at least the casework was done properly (by another rebuilder I might add).

Sheesh... You could get a hernia just thinking about all the dodgy work that gets done.

#2235129 - 02/20/14 08:38 PM Re: They don't know what they are doing! [Re: Ed Foote]
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 167
Loc: South Jersey
To add something of a positive note, let me say that the presence of forums such as this is a big help to those of us that are trying to do things correctly. As a young technician who is still learning, I would echo JMW's sentiment that I would never charge for work that I didn't have the knowledge and experience to do correctly. In a different era however, someone like myself would have had much less opportunity to consult experts from around the world on these types of topics and hone new skills.

So, thanks!

Edited by BenP (02/20/14 08:40 PM)
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey


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