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#2256900 - 04/04/14 07:37 PM Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts
CalvinB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/14
Posts: 24
Loc: Massachusetts
Hi, my name is Calvin Burgett and I am a representative of Wessell, Nickel & Gross. It has come to our attention that there is a fair amount of misinformation and several misconceptions about our company and our products, as well as several individuals who choose to propagate it. Hopefully this thread will clear the air a bit and I will do my best to answer your questions.



Our origins
Wessell, Nickel & Gross is first and foremost an American company, and we design and manufacture all of our parts in-house. This is something that I wanted to clarify because there have been some outrageous claims and assertions that we are a Chinese company. This couldn’t be further from the truth.



Our materials
Critics of our composite materials are quick to point out the “plastic” actions of the 1950s, and claim that ours will fail in the same way. These particular actions were made from PVC, however that wasn’t their problem—it was plasticizers and stabilizers that they used. PVC without these additives is rigid and brittle and will tend to crumble with stress. Unfortunately, this technology was at its infancy then, and it wasn’t known that the plasticizers and stabilizers that they used would outgas (e.g. leave the PVC) so quickly, which is why these actions failed. Since then, however, materials scientists have addressed this problem and modern PVC is extremely common today and will last much longer.

The materials that Wessell, Nickel & Gross use in its actions are highly advanced composites that are sourced from American companies. These companies have put decades and spent hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars into researching and testing these advanced materials. The very same materials that we use can be found in thousands of different consumer and commercial grade products.

Additionally, when we designed our parts, we spoke to engineers from these companies about our proposed application of them and what their estimated longevity and durability would be. They informed us that the materials we selected were designed to be used in high-stress situations, and asked us what the ozone, sunshine, acid, and temperature conditions would be for their planned environments. We then explained that they would be used inside a piano, and without hesitation, they immediately informed us that they would last well over 100 years in such a benign environment.



Our composite bushings and center pins
We use a composite material for our bushings that is different from the material we use for our repetitions, flanges, etc. Unlike felt bushings, ours leave next to no room for error, and require an extremely accurate center pin. This is why we use stainless steel needle bearings for our center pins. Let me explain:

A traditional center pin is manufactured via a drawing process. The best accuracy for this method is +/- 0.0003in., and is simply too inaccurate for our bushings—if we were to use them we would get wildly different grams of resistance for each flange. Because of this need for accuracy, we use stainless steel needle bearings which are accurate to 0.0001. To put this into perspective, a blond human hair is 0.0015in. in diameter and a brunette hair is 0.0025in.



Testing our bushings
When we developed our composite bushings we needed to find a performance baseline for felt bushings so that we could set goals to meet or exceed their capability. To find this, we modified a set of action rails so that they’d accept parts from different companies. We installed 8 brand new flanges from different points on the piano from American Steinway, Kawai, Yamaha, Renner, Tokiwa, and our own composite ones on this rail. We then measured the grams of resistance of each flange, as well as the deflection. Deflection is a term we coined (as there isn’t a generally understood one that we’re aware of) that represents the side to side movement of a shank. We measured this by taking a dial indicator and applying 25g of force on the side of the middle of the shank, and doing the same thing for the other side of the shank.

The action was then inserted into a piano that had a PianoDisc system installed with our test program. Our test program was set to play half of the keys at 1 x a second and the other half at 4 x a second, at medium volume. Note: we realize that playing a note 4 x a second is unrealistic in the real world, as it is physically impossible for a human to keep up at that pace, however, we wanted to really brutalize the bushings and discover what their limits were. We then began the test and paused it at every 1 million blows to measure both the grams of resistance and deflection of every flange.

The results of our test are as follows:
At 10 million blows at 1 x a second all of the felt bushings from every single company (even the German-engineered ones) failed. They were at less than 1g of resistance and the deflection was so bad that it required re-pinning the bushings.

At 10 million blows at 4 x a second the felt bushings were literally falling out, and in many cases were flat-out gone. The grams of resistance was at 0, and the deflection was a quarter of an inch in either direction.

At 1 x a second at 10 million blows, our WNG composite bushings had no changes in their grams of resistance or deflection. At 4 x a second our bushings showed a ¾g change in its grams of resistance, but no changes it their deflection.

We at WNG believe that to fully test something you should run it until it dies, so since our bushings were still in perfect working condition that’s exactly what we did and we ran the test until 40 million blows.

At 40 million blows at 4 x a second, the composite bushings that were at 4g had gone down to 2g with no deflection changes, and the ones that were at 2g went down to 0g and now had the same amount of deflection as a brand-new felt bushing.

It is important to note that while the grams of resistance of our composite bushings decreased after 40 million blows, the composite bushing was still intact and completely usable. We simply inserted a 0.0001 oversized pin and the bushing performed as-new and was ready go to again.

To make sure that our findings were accurate and not a one-time occurrence, we conducted a second test in the same way, which yielded virtually identical results.



Humidity and our composite bushings
Felt hammer flange bushings are typically made in a humidity-controlled environment, in which the grams of resistance is usually between 2-4g. It is well known that when they are exposed to a drier or more humid environment, the resistance changes. In a more humid environment the felt bushings will expand, and the grams of resistance will increase. Conversely, in a drier environment, the bushings will contract and the grams of resistance will decrease. This expansion and contraction has led many technicians to feel that felt bushings are unstable.

To discover how our composite bushings would react to humidity, we fully tested them in environments ranging from 10-90% relative humidity and found no measurable change in grams of resistance, making our composite bushings a much more stable alternative to felt ones.



Our carbon fiber shanks
As many people know, carbon fiber is an incredibly strong material. However, some people may not realize that all carbon fiber is not made equal and that its strength can be adjusted and customized to fit specific needs.

Before we finalized the design and strength of our carbon fiber shanks, we examined and tested many other manufacturers’ shanks. This testing pool included ones made from hornbeam, hard rock maple, and Japanese maple. Some may be familiar with wood technology and understand that each tree, regardless of species, will vary in its density, and that this variance will translate into either stronger or weaker shanks. Knowing this, we measured the strength of each individual shank by putting a dial indicator underneath the middle of the shank and a weight on the end of the shank. After completing our tests on many, many different shanks, our results revealed that there is a tremendous variability in their strength. From these results, we designed our carbon fiber shanks to be exactly as strong as the strongest wooden shank from our testing pool. In other words, claims of our carbon fiber shanks being “too ridged” or “too strong” are false and ill-informed—we simply matched the strength of our carbon fiber shanks to best of the wooden ones.



Additional benefits of our carbon fiber shanks
Interestingly, several technicians have reported to us that their voicing time has been dramatically reduced since switching to our carbon fiber shanks—something that we have confirmed to be true at Mason & Hamlin. What this has actually revealed is that many technicians mistakenly blame “inconsistent hammers” for their voicing times, when it is actually the wooden shanks that are inconsistent and causing the problem.

This delves into wood technology again, but since wood is an organic material, it has stored up tension inside of it. Over time, this tension is released and causes the shank to twist and the hammer not to hit the strings properly. Our composite fiber shanks do not have this problem.



Are Wessell, Nickel & Gross parts right for your piano?
After conducting the tests mentioned above and fully understanding the benefits of composite materials over wood, we would absolutely recommend our composite action for your piano over any wooden action alternative. We recognize that a company’s endorsement of their own product only goes so far, so we would like to turn your attention to the universities that currently use our parts.

As many of you know, university environments are quite different from most home environments, since their pianos are strenuously played day after day. You might say that after a PianoDisc system, this is one of the best ways to test the performance of a piano and its action. As of this post, WNG Universities we have over 130 universities in the Unites States that have Wessell, Nickel & Gross parts installed on their actions, all within the span of 3 years. Of these 130, the Eastman School of Music is perhaps the most notable of our frequent customers, and has converted over 30 of their pianos to Wessell, Nickel & Gross actions.

To those who have doubts regarding WNG parts, we pose this question—“If Wessell, Nickel & Gross parts are inferior, why are the majority of our universities repeat buyers who consistently choose our parts over their wooden counterparts?” If you are still unconvinced of our composite parts’ performance, or believe that our testing methods are unsatisfactory or in any way fraudulent, we invite and encourage you to try them, conduct your own tests, and form your own opinions based on your first-hand experience with them.
_________________________
Representative for Wessell, Nickel & Gross

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#2256929 - 04/04/14 08:39 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Tim Sullivan Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 71
Loc: Muskoka, Ontario
Thanks for the post. I hope it does clear up the misconceptions about your product. I've used your parts on several different actions now, and highly recommend them. With your parts, hammer voicing is easy. Hammer-string mating is all that's usually required.

Tim
_________________________
I'm a piano tech and dealer in Central Ontario.
www.huntsvillepiano.ca

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#2256954 - 04/04/14 10:18 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1481
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
CalvinB
Thanks for the information. I am very pleased to have the W,N&G parts to use when I rebuild pianos. Good Luck to you all!
Ed
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2256968 - 04/04/14 11:11 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
phantomFive Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 636
Loc: California
That explains how WN&G overcame the problem Norbert described with composite parts. Specifically, he said that Renner tested composite parts and found that they wore out around the pins and the bushings wore out faster.

WN&G solved those problems by using extreme-precision on their pin construction, and by using composite bushings. Well done.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2256994 - 04/05/14 02:05 AM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13976
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
That explains how WN&G overcame the problem Norbert described with composite parts.


Mine was referring to a Renner study that apparently came to different results.

My input was more aimed against the claim of superiority by one over the other, most likely it's not a black and white issue.

In addition it's always good to have different approaches to technical questions as would be the case in any industry.

It's for the industry itself, i.e the various piano makers, to decide which particular action they prefer or choose for their own pianos.

Claims of "superiority of one action over the other" IMHO need to be examined perhaps in terms of how and also *why* certain decisions are being made by world's makers.

These are the guys that really matter.

IMHO

Norbert


Edited by Norbert (04/08/14 04:53 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2256996 - 04/05/14 02:20 AM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: Norbert]
phantomFive Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 636
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
That explains how WN&G overcame the problem Norbert described with composite parts.


Mine was referring to a Renner study that apparently came to different results.

My input was more aimed against the claim of superiority by one over the other, most likely it's not a black and white issue.

In addition it's always good to have different approaches to technical questions as would be the case in any industry.

It's for the industry itself, i.e the various piano makers, to decide which particular action they prefer or choose for their own pianos.

Claims of "superiority of one action over the other" IMHO need to be examined perhaps in terms of how decisions are being made by world's makers at present as well as in future.

Norbert

Yes, please don't take my post as an insinuation that you are wrong, or that Renner's data is inaccurate.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2257139 - 04/05/14 11:55 AM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: Norbert]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1481
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Norbert,
Again, I invite you to drive down to my Mukilteo shop and experience W,N&G actions for yourself. Until then I would characterize your posts regarding them as "unsubstantiated incoherent techno-blather".

Your un-published "Renner study" is just you shooting your mouth off. Renner could post here and answer questions directly if they had the cojones!
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2257143 - 04/05/14 12:06 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
prout Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 464
My tech just installed a full WN&G action with Abel premium selects on a S&S O. I played it. WOW! Such evenness in response and tone. I'm now thinking of changing out my M&H BB 2009 wood action. My tech did a complete regulation (in the shop and at my home) a year ago on it and it felt just like the WN&G, but now it is starting to lose its evenness due to 4 to 6 hours a day of playing (me and my wife).

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#2257144 - 04/05/14 12:09 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6179
Loc: Rochester MN
People have opinions and preferences. That's good and not worth bickering about.

It's just more lip-flapping, just like the proper Hz for 'A' or the one and only proper temperament. (We know there is only one, Bach said so.)

Everyone is absolutely correct and the others don't count. What's the difference between shooting one's mouth or shooting oneself in the foot?

I firmly believe that the moon is made up of green cheese.

Pianos are a figment of the imagination.

Does anyone really care?
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2257148 - 04/05/14 12:16 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13976
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
just you shooting your mouth off.


Interesting how other opinions and positions are delegated to this noble statement.
Not exactly creating confidence in one's own professionalism... shocked

Quote:
Renner could post here and answer questions directly if they had the cojones


Renner doesn't need to.

They're too busy keeping filling orders for Steinway, Fazioli, Bosendorfer, Sauter, Estonia, Grotrian, Bluethner, Schimmel, Charles Walter, Petrof, Steinberg, Steingraeber and increasingly some Chinese.

Talking about Chinese: wouldn't one expect these guys to start using an action that's made in their own country?

Several of them are trying hard to reach world class standard tired to fall behind the big boys.

Hailun, Pearl River, Parsons, Perzina: nobody?

How about Yamaha? Happy to play second fiddle to technological advances made by others?

Above these makers are obviously content offering their customers a second rate action and should be advised by someone like you they're falling behind times.

If I were you, would get my passpart ready and seize the opportunity!!

Norbert thumb


Edited by Norbert (04/05/14 01:39 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2257150 - 04/05/14 12:18 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1253
Loc: Michigan
Thanks for the official post. WN&G components are one aspect of the "hot-rodding" I do for new (or used) pianos that results in dramatically superior touch and tone compared to the same instrument brand-new-out-of-the-factory and fully-prepped.

I am at the point in my shop that I will not use wood action components. Wood, in my experience (50 years) is demonstrably inferior in actual use and I won't do inferior work. Just because I've been at this a long time doesn't mean I'm a stick-in-the-mud. I've been dealing with the deficiencies of wood for decades and am glad to leave it behind for a better product to work on that gives a better result for the customer. And, modern WN&G components are in the same price zone as wooden ones -- and much lower than some of the official factory "fancy brands".

Also, not mentioned was the WN&G capstans. While not a replacement for wood, it is a replacement for heavy, high-friction brass and offers a very high "bang for the buck" dollar and performance value.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2257189 - 04/05/14 01:27 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: prout]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20779
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: prout
My tech just installed a full WN&G action with Abel premium selects on a S&S O. I played it. WOW! Such evenness in response and tone. I'm now thinking of changing out my M&H BB 2009 wood action. My tech did a complete regulation (in the shop and at my home) a year ago on it and it felt just like the WN&G, but now it is starting to lose its evenness due to 4 to 6 hours a day of playing (me and my wife).


See how the Steinway is in a year. Piano regulation goes out due to the leather, felt, and metal parts, not due to wood.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2257199 - 04/05/14 01:55 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3262
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
Originally Posted By: CalvinB

Our carbon fiber shanks
From these results, we designed our carbon fiber shanks to be exactly as strong as the strongest wooden shank from our testing pool. In other words, claims of our carbon fiber shanks being “too ridged” or “too strong” are false and ill-informed—we simply matched the strength of our carbon fiber shanks to best of the wooden ones.


Hello Calvin,

I enjoyed reading your post. Very compelling stuff. Of course, we regularly use WNG parts and enjoy having another excellent option for our clients.
I did want to address this one area regarding your shanks. It is a false equivalency to say that you matched the best of the wooden shanks because it was the strongest wooden shank. A shank of whatever material may be too strong and not flex enough. The best shank is the one that sounds and feels best due to its weight and flexibility/stiffness.
It is interesting to me that you have the ability to make a more flexible shank should you choose to do so. I don't know if offering a more flexible shank would be a good business decision as I think there are probably not a lot of folks for whom that would be important, but I can tell you that I don't necessarily want a shank that is the equivalent stiffness of the stiffest wood shank.
Do you have any plans to offer any shanks in the future that are less stiff?
_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#2257222 - 04/05/14 02:51 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: BDB]
Ed Foote Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 993
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: prout
My tech did a complete regulation (in the shop and at my home) a year ago on it and it felt just like the WN&G, but now it is starting to lose its evenness due to 4 to 6 hours a day of playing (me and my wife).


See how the Steinway is in a year. Piano regulation goes out due to the leather, felt, and metal parts, not due to wood.


Greetings,
On this, I will utterly disagree. Regulation changes due to the instability of the wood is something that I deal with every day, and have for decades. Shanks twist, spacing changes as flanges swell, wood's chemical reaction corrodes rep springs, causing a long, constant changing, demand on the tension while pinning tension ebbs and flows with the seasons. All of these are directly attributable to the nature of wood, and every one of these factors is absent in the composite parts.

I, like other CAUTs that maintain college inventories, see durability as a performance component. If there are 54 wooden actions in a college music school, there will be a lot of minor tweaks and spacings, etc. I know. I have done this with the same pianos for 35 years. When I have young college pounders going at the pianos night and day for decades on end, I don't need no stinkin' test rig. I have a lab, in real time, right in front of me. I have used, and seen wear out, parts from every manufacturer out there. The best were Yamaha factory parts, though the Tokiwa and Abel parts were extremely consistent and durable. The rest were so inconsistent, or shoddily made, (why can't all the knuckles in a set of hammershanks be the same?), or consistently developed pinning tightness so as to be useless for our work..

The only voices I hear questioning the use of composites comes from those that have limited or no experience with them. There is the need to emotionally detach from one's history. There is a learning curve, there are more demands to be met if one is to fully utilize these parts' consistency,( when you have such tightly held tolerances in the action parts, carefully weighed SW and FW curves can not only be justified, but can produce magical action feels). It is hard to take that much time when I know the wooden parts will blur all the adjustments in a year. Regulation is no better than the pinning. (see above)
I looked at a WNG action I put in a practice room a year ago. The hammers are still exactly where I put them, nothing is traveling, nothing is rubbing or out of place. The spring set I left it with is still on target. There is no comparison. This is why I let customers decide if they want to optimize tradition or performance, but I do tell them that they can't do both.
Regards,


Edited by Ed Foote (04/05/14 02:58 PM)

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#2257240 - 04/05/14 03:35 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20779
Loc: Oakland
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2257248 - 04/05/14 04:06 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13976
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
First of all not all actions are created equal, Renner has always been regarded to in a class of its own.

It's what the company lives by and the companies choosing it giving testimony of this.

http://www.pianos.de/en/members/index.php?id=30

It's interesting to learn that Renner also associates their actions with "sound quality" or the 'transmission of sound' involving all wooden parts.

Anybody remembering the story of Ovation guitars?

Let it be known I have no personal stake in this but object when 90% of the industry is being accused of having made an inferior choice for their customers with traditional actions.

It's simply not true - nor could it.

An interesting case can be made for Steingraeber, a maker who actually pioneered carbon soundboards.

Carbon soundboards were specifically designed to reduce the need for overly frequent tunings as this material doesn't stretch and are not subject to environmental influences same as those made of wood.

So, this is not a maker can could be accused of being behind the A-ball and would be a prime candidate to adopt carbon actions for his pianos with similar qualities.

To manufacture a piano with greatly reduced need for tuning and regulation would certainly be ideal and give the make a huge edge on world market

Anybody ever asked Udo why he has not [yet] taken advantage of this and chose this readily available option for his make?

Would certainly have a great edge the hotly contested premium market?

Norbert


Edited by Norbert (04/05/14 04:47 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2257254 - 04/05/14 04:18 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
michaelha Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 556
Thanks for the detailed info CalvinB.

I have a question, my Kawai's MIII action is firmer/heavier than the Yamaha's, Steinways, Boston's...that I've played. I've only played a M&H with a W,N&G action once and for a very brief test and can't really recall what I thought about the action. Are the firmer actions found in Kawai's due to the carbon fiber material or some other design? And are W,N&G's firm like Kawai or lighter?

I actually do prefer the firmer action maybe 75% of the time, but there are times when I do wish I had a lighter, Yamaha-like action.
_________________________
Casio CDP-100
2012 Kawai RX-5 BLAK

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#2257259 - 04/05/14 04:37 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: michaelha]
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3262
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
Originally Posted By: michaelha
Thanks for the detailed info CalvinB.

I have a question, my Kawai's MIII action is firmer/heavier than the Yamaha's, Steinways, Boston's...that I've played. I've only played a M&H with a W,N&G action once and for a very brief test and can't really recall what I thought about the action. Are the firmer actions found in Kawai's due to the carbon fiber material or some other design? And are W,N&G's firm like Kawai or lighter?

I actually do prefer the firmer action maybe 75% of the time, but there are times when I do wish I had a lighter, Yamaha-like action.


What you are describing as firmness/heaviness is a function of the actions design, how it is set up,its condition, the execution of the design, and the amount of mass and its placement in the action. The piano's sound and how responsive the sound is also affects your perception of how easy or difficult a piano is to play. One can achieve a heavy or light action with parts made of natural materials or synthetic materials.
_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#2257264 - 04/05/14 04:40 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
CalvinB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/14
Posts: 24
Loc: Massachusetts
@Norbert
I apologize in advance if this post sounds aggressive or comes off as too forceful, but there are many on this forum who repeat hearsay and don't use fact to back up their arguments. This something that is detrimental and counterproductive to the overall discussion, and I find is best combated by facts and pointing out logical inconsistencies, so here we go…

I assume that you're talking about the Renner study you referred to here:

Originally Posted By: Norbert
The discussion about this subject is not new but what people forget nor is actual research about it.

As with any research, different results or "conclusions" can sometimes be obtained. On the other hand, research results are often by-passed in favour of economic or corporate considerations. This is the 'real world' we live in.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that this subject represents one of those situations.

People don't seem to know that Renner, world's arguably most advanced, respected action maker, has conducted extensive research about this matter in the past.

I once was privy to talk to Renner and on location watch the extensive research that has been done in this regard. To believe that a high end German company like this would not quickly become industry leader in advanced technological application and using it mercilessly to their advantage, is not only naive but missing the point.

Renner invested considerable resources in this research and specifically decided not to proceed. They used the most advanced 'time-lapse' stress test imaginable monitoring and recording closely as things developed "over time"

Without getting into too much detail, their concern was not the stability of composite parts as is erroneously assumed, but the long bonding of high quality wool felting and synthetic composites in tight areas like centre pins.

Organics seemingly only liking 'organics'

Renners extensive research clearly showed exessive and very noticable wear over time far in excess of using traditional materials. This, after spending much time and $$ on the matter, was their very own "conclusion"

Renner would certainly be able to get the finest composites available and use them to build a "superior" action. At least thta's what the company's manufacturing goal has always been all about.

The reason they have chose otherwise, speaks volumes.

This is not to discorage people to buy pianos equipped with composite actions.

However, the discussion of alleged "superiority" by these new actions should be seen in a more moderate light.

Could the pianos of tier one and two including leader Steinway, really afford to lag much behind in the fruits of supposedly advanced technology of today?

They didn't when pianos started to use cast iron plates in last century..

Norbert smile



It's interesting that in this quote you use this study to declare the supremacy of Renner and wood actions in general, and then in subsequent posts you claim that neither composite nor wood actions are superior, and that it's all subjective. This superiority subject has been something that I’ve seen repeatedly in the past and before I begin I would like to state that I have a fundamental disagreement with the assertion that no piano action, or materials used in an action, is superior to the next. The entire point behind Wessell, Nickel & Gross is that we believe that there is a superior way to build a piano action, superior materials to build an action out of, and that our piano actions will deliver superior performance to any piano (historical rebuilds notwithstanding). As I have already shown in the previous post, this belief is not unfounded, since we have the tests and the data to back up our claims, and we welcome anyone to try an identical test to ours and to share their results.

But back to the task at hand. First off, you claim that the subject of this Renner study “was not the stability of composite parts as is erroneously assumed, but the long bonding of high quality wool felting and synthetic composites in tight areas like centre pins”.

So the point of this study was not about the performance of a composite action or even the performance of a composite bushing, but rather to see how well a composite bushing stays bonded to wood? How can you then use this study as a justification for why Renner doesn’t use composite parts, so therefore all composite parts are inferior? Furthermore, as I explained in my previous post, not all “composite material” is created equal. Just as there are many different types of wood with vastly different qualities and characteristics, so too are there different types of composite material (you wouldn’t use balsa wood instead of hornbeam in a Renner shank, would you?). That doesn’t even address the bonding agent that Renner used—did they use super glue? Contact cement? Epoxy? The point of this is that by not revealing the details and specifics of their testing methods and materials used, how can we trust the results of this study—even if it was only for how well a particular composite material stayed glued to wood?




Norbert, I have seen that in previous discussions, your trump card—so to speak—is the question that if composite actions are so great, why haven’t notable companies such as, “Steinway, Fazioli, Bosendorfer, Sauter, Estonia, Grotrian, Bluethner, Schimmel, Charles Walter, Petrof, Steinberg, Steingraeber and increasingly some Chinese” switched over to composite parts, and instead stick with Renner. This is a good question, and one that will catch many people off guard if they don’t stop to think about it for a second.

The decision for a company to switch from Renner to a composite action, say for example, a Wessell, Nickel & Gross action, is first and foremost a business decision, and that while a performance comparison between the two actions is important, it is far from the only factor in this decision.

Let me preface this section with the fact that due to NDAs I can’t talk about specifics, but we have been in talks with many of the companies on this list. In these talks most the companies were extremely impressed with our actions, but their number one fear for switching to WNG is marketplace acceptance. For instance, there have been companies in the past who have tried an alternative to Renner and were severely burned for it. The Renner name is very powerful and if a company were to add the option of our actions to their pianos, would Renner refuse to sell to them and shut them out completely? Another thing to consider is if it would make financial sense—if a company were to switch and there was a backlash, could they weather the financial burden? Due to the rough shape of the economy throughout the world, many manufacturers have scaled back their operations and are unwilling to take the risk at this time. Another reason is that several of these companies don’t even want to consider us until we offer a full line of actions (grand and verticals (full-sized and compressed))—something that will be able to do sometime this year.

Finally, some of the afore mentioned companies are ecstatic about the performance of our parts, but have refuse to even consider us until we become a “household name”. This is the reason for our push into universities, piano technician schools, and PTG conventions worldwide—there is a class in the Netherlands literally being taught today by Bruce Clark. Besides the Netherlands, there are schools in the US, Canada, Russia, Germany, and China, all teaching the next generation of piano technicians how to use our action parts.

So to sum it up, many manufactures have expressed to us that they’d like switch to our parts, but it’s complicated.
_________________________
Representative for Wessell, Nickel & Gross

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#2257278 - 04/05/14 04:57 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: Norbert]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20779
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Norbert
To manufacture a piano with greatly reduced need for tuning and regulation would certainly be ideal and give the make a huge edge on world market...

Norbert


I am not certain that is the case. There is a level of practice that we technicians need to make it worthwhile to stay in the business. If that is reduced, the price may go so high that nobody will have their pianos tuned or regulated, and there will be nobody left to do repairs. That has happened already with the digital market, which is why so many of them are poorly tuned and have uneven response, and made them essentially disposable items. It is a delicate balance.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2257279 - 04/05/14 04:58 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13976
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Quote:
declare the supremacy of Renner and wood actions in general


Calvin: this is not my intention and I apologize if I came across this way.

In fact it's the other way around: the Carbon action is constantly being touted here as "superior" which may - or may *not* be the case.

Not sure if it'll bring Carnegie Hall to a standstill...

By same token others have intensively studied this subject as well and are totally entitled having come to a conclusion of their own. It's a free world.

In the final analysis it is, as you say, very much an "industry decision" and I wish you very well with the action's success.

Of course, piano technicians will have much less to do in future including domestic manufacture of just about anything piano.

Why not hire me as salesman for you when visiting several European piano companies this summer? Speaking perfect German!

Am semi-retired and could use the extra income...

Norbert wink


Edited by Norbert (04/05/14 05:07 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2257285 - 04/05/14 05:07 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Jay Roland Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/13
Posts: 97
Loc: Vancouver, BC.
Welcome Calvin!

Glad to have you on the Forums.

Jay
_________________________
National Piano Sales Manager for Roland Canada.
Susceptible to Random musings sometimes.
www.roland.ca
t: RCMPianoGuy

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#2257291 - 04/05/14 05:19 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: Jay Roland]
CalvinB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/14
Posts: 24
Loc: Massachusetts
@Keith
Thank you very much for using our parts and your question which essentially brings up the topic of "is whipping beneficial or detrimental for piano shanks". I would like to politely disagree with your position that a flexible shank (and therefore one that will whip) is ideal. We have tested weak wooden shanks that flex vs strong ones with minimal flex, and the ones that don't flex consistently produce louder and clearer notes. This is because of 2 reasons. The first is that when the shank bends, it loses energy, rather than generating more and hitting the strings harder (which is the common belief). The second reason is that when a shank bends, it not only bends back and forth, but side to side as well, which causes the hammer not to properly hit the strike point. This can be seen in our high-speed video. We also have additional information on this topic and composite materials vs wood in general on our website.


So to more succinctly answer your question, we don't believe that it is a "false equivalency" to design our shanks to be as strong the strongest wooden shank, because we did sound tests to go along with our strength and high-speed imaging tests, and the stronger shanks consistently sounded the best. Because of this, we do not have any plans to offer weaker shanks.
_________________________
Representative for Wessell, Nickel & Gross

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#2257292 - 04/05/14 05:22 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
CalvinB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/14
Posts: 24
Loc: Massachusetts
@michaelha
I would answer your question, but Keith did it perfectly already :P
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#2257296 - 04/05/14 05:35 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6179
Loc: Rochester MN
The problem is the term "Plastic Action." Yes, I know it's a misnomer, but it is the 'super weapon' in the hands of the competitor. You can talk and explain everything however much you want, but when the "cheap" bomb is dropped, it's over. Poof!

Here at PW, we have a very interested group of piano fixated people. We want to know the names of the sheep who were left shivering for our hammers. Instead of sugarplums dancing in our heads, we swoon over the torque stability of tuning pins. We are Abel to discuss Renner 'til inharmonicity is running out of our ears.

BUT - the average piano buyer doesn't really care about the action, or who built it, as long as it works well. Most buyers assume that "all of that key and hammer stuff" was made by the same company as the name they see on the fallboard. There is probably a vague notion that all of those parts are wood. That's a hard notion to fight against.

Again, we are a rare group, and trying to reach the 'average' piano buyer is the problem for the manufacturers.

What is the percentage of buyers of new pianos who are members of PW or have ever heard of Larry Fine? How well informed are they, really?

It has been going on for years and it is going to take some time to change that 'general assumption' which floats around the piano buyer's market. I only takes one salesman to mention "cheap plastic parts" and it digs a very deep hole from which to climb. We all understand the phrase "arguing 'till yer blue in the face." That's the challenge.

(Side thought - It's an interesting concept to build poor pianos so that tuner/techs will continue to make a good income.)
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2257301 - 04/05/14 05:42 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
phantomFive Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 636
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: CalvinB
@Keith
Thank you very much for using our parts and your question which essentially brings up the topic of "is whipping beneficial or detrimental for piano shanks". I would like to politely disagree with your position that a flexible shank (and therefore one that will whip) is ideal. We have tested weak wooden shanks that flex vs strong ones with minimal flex, and the ones that don't flex consistently produce louder and clearer notes.

'Louder' and 'clearer' are both preferences. Some piano makers (and buyers, of course) prefer a softer sound with more color.

Originally Posted By: CalvinB
and the stronger shanks consistently sounded the best.

'Sounding the best' is something that will never be agreed upon. Surely you can see that some people might prefer a different sound than you do, and those people might prefer shanks with more flex (I believe Kawai fits into this category; and Kawai is not afraid of carbon fiber).
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2257316 - 04/05/14 06:34 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13976
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
While it is ridiculous to call carbon action "cheap plastic" it's equally inappropriate to lump all wooden actions into one single category.

There can be no doubt that Renner, supplying virtually all of world's finest pianos, is going to great length & expense securing highest possible quality and stability for their famous customers. Like piano making itself, woods are chosen very carefully and kill dried to highest consistency.

http://www.louisrenner.com/Odenheim-story.asp

There's no doubt money is being made in the rebuilding industry,be it that this part is used or another.
It's certainly nice for rebuilders to have several options available to themselves.

On the other hand, it's just not feasible to assume that world's premium makers of pianos would have it any other way but going with what they deem "best" for their own purpose.

http://www.louisrenner.com/history-of-the-action.asp

What's important to remember is that different methods can accomplish equally good result for different people.

My one observation and belief is that considering the state of perfection by the major players of the industry, these things are extremely hard to measure in the real world.

Mutual respect is better than claims of superiority and hegemony of one over the other.

Norbert smile


Edited by Norbert (04/05/14 07:51 PM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#2257325 - 04/05/14 06:46 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
michaelha Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 556
Originally Posted By: CalvinB

... but we have been in talks with many of the companies on this list. In these talks most the companies were extremely impressed with our actions, but their number one fear for switching to WNG is marketplace acceptance.


This has always been my suspicion and was my initial response to the other composite action thread.

Even here among fairly resourceful piano buyers/owners there's still some doubt about whether composite actions are even on par with wooden actions. Think how entry-level buyers or old-fashioned buyers would react, especially if they've been hearing for decades about how terrible Kawai's plastic actions are, how they used it to save a few bucks, etc...

During my search last year two Yamaha sales people and at least two other piano dealers used the "cheap plastic parts" tactic against Kawai, claiming Kawai does it to save costs. And even here on PW we still have that in a slightly different form. So point is, even today there's still quite a bit of negative marketing against composites.

Maybe W,N&G needs a celebrity endorser if they don't have one already. WRT universities, do the students even know what action is under the hood?
_________________________
Casio CDP-100
2012 Kawai RX-5 BLAK

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#2257355 - 04/05/14 08:32 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
gynnis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/14
Posts: 27
Loc: Florida, Connecticut
Like every technology, composite parts take a while to be tweaked for performance and lifetime. The engineers always start from what they know, and try to make the minimum changes to get the desired result. When plastic valves were first introduced (about 50 years ago), they attempted to use molds for brass valves, and all the plastic ones failed because the thickness in critical areas of the valve needed to be larger for plastic ones. No one has this problem anymore. Composites may also be the best choice in high moisture environments like the tropics. I've always had horrendous problems with actions binding when in southeast Asia. Maybe this is why the Asian piano makers have been pioneers in composite parts.
_________________________
Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord

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#2257394 - 04/05/14 10:09 PM Re: Wessell, Nickel & Gross Action Parts [Re: CalvinB]
R_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/09
Posts: 427
Calvin, about whipping.

It has long been my ASSUMPTION that wooden shanks do in fact whip - in fact I find it hard to believe that they don't.
I assume that they are graded/sorted to match each other within a set.
I have also assumed that carbon shank material, diameter and wall thickness has been selected for the same amount of whip as an idealized wooden shank.

I do KNOW that graphite golf shafts "whip" and this is a very desirable attribute when it releases.
The reason that they don't whip as much to the side as back/forward is that the head is aligned when it is glued on.

Finally to my question:
Do you (does WNG) keep the plane of max shaft stiffness ACROSS the direction of hammer travel to minimize side to side whip ?

DISCLAIMER: Not a piano technician, not even a half decent golfer either laugh

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