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Topic Options
#609708 - 11/03/04 09:11 AM Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I'm looking to get the M&H action regulated, new felts, new hammers, etc. Pretty much, I'm looking for a thorough job. The places--two in South Carolina and one in Georgea screwed it up. I have two estimates--one using Abel Select hammers--the other hasn't specified. The last idiot put Steinway hammers on it and it hasn't played right since. I'm in Mount Vernon, GA which is pretty much in the boondocks. I need a competent technician to do the renovation, voicing, etc., and at a fair price. If any in this area can be recommended, please let me know. So many are really incompetent. I know there are good ones out there. And since the estimates are rather high, to me, I would like some idea of what I should be paying for this work.

Also what is the difference between Renner Blue hammers, Abel hammers, and Abel Select hammers? Any information will be MOST HELPFUL!!! Thanks!!

1970 M&H BB with M&H action.

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#609709 - 11/03/04 09:40 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21925
Loc: Oakland
The reason the Steinway hammers didn't work is because they are drilled 1-7/8" and M & H uses 2". Don't hire anyone who can't tell you that.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#609710 - 11/03/04 11:09 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
The one I have an estimate from said that was the reason it wasn't satisfactory. I needed M&H hammers the right length. He seems to be thorough in his approach to it. Spent about 3 hours just checking it out and making notes.
I don't know any competent techs in this area except maybe him. He's conferring with Mark Burgett at M&H as well. I just don't want to be 'rooked' again.

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#609711 - 11/03/04 11:33 PM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
velopresto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/05/04
Posts: 605
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
My 1919 M and H was rebuilt about 4 years ago, and the hammer of choice was Ronsen. They sound great. I know Ronsen makes a hammer out of Wurzen felt that is highly recommended by many rebuilders and voicing specialists. Apparently, minimal voicing is needed on them. I have not had the pleasure of hearing or working with them.

Renner Blues are a bit hard, as are the Abels I've worked with(not sure if they were the "select"). Masons tend to like something a bit softer, IMHO, even though the new ones come with Renner Blues. I would check out the Ronsens. Renner also makes a hammer using the same felt, but they have to be ordered from Europe, I believe.

Hope this helps.

Dave Stahl
_________________________
Dave Stahl
Dave Stahl Piano Service
Santa Clara, CA
Serving most of the greater SF Bay Area
http://dstahlpiano.net

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#609712 - 11/04/04 03:06 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Thanks for your input, Dave. I haven't heard of the Ronsen hammers. I understand that M&H uses the Renner Blues in their current productions and the Abel hammers are somewhat similar and they do not, as I understand it, use lacquer to make them harder. The tech I'm negotiating with has recommended the Abel Select as they are specially made and of the highest quality. He said it would take 4 months to get them from Germany. I'll see if I can check out the Ronsen hammers before actually doing anything. This tech is so slow I might have it done in about 3 years! \:\) ) But I do appreciate your input.

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#609713 - 11/04/04 08:28 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Varcon,

If you want the piano to sound the way it did originally, forget most of these new hammers which are hot-pressed. The old type was cold-pressed. These are very different kinds of hammers in terms of tone and voicing technique. The closest thing to the old style of hammer these days is Ronsen and Steinway, but of course you already found out why Steinway isn't going to work- dimension.

I met a lady the other day with a fine old AA but she got the hammers replaced with Renners. It was a good job, but she has been crying ever since. She's been through 3 rounds of voicing but still can't take the sound. She wants her old piano tone back and is now planning to replace them again with Ronsens.

Back a couple decades (and more) ago most of the hammmers available to technicians were cold-pressed. I almost never heard tone complaints about these hammers once they were voiced to taste. Then there was a big marketing push for these new style hammers like Renner, Abel, etc. They have taken over the market and everyone will tell you they are great, because the marketers have done their job. And indeed they are *built* well, but build quality isn't tone.

Well, if you like the tone, then fine- they are great. Check out those new Mason & Hamlins and see what you think. Most of the finer new pianos these days have this type of hammer. But I have never heard as many complaints about hammer tone as I have heard in more recent years with these new style hammers being so prevalent. Maybe this is mostly a matter of people being upset by the change in tone when they get their hammers replaced, or maybe it's the tone itself, I really can't say. But I know that I prefer the cold-pressed tone for older American pianos and that is what I put in my personal pianos.

I attended several technician voicing classes with different teachers recently, so I could learn various approaches that might be taken these days. One prominent concert technician who taught one of these classes began his lecture with "You all know that Renner Hammers are the biggest scam in the piano business these days, right?" I knew I had found the right class, as this has been my observation, but I never heard anyone else say it before. They're quite expensive, take tons of work to prepare, and still seem to generate an unusually large number of complaints about the tone.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#609714 - 11/04/04 08:53 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
More information that is helpful!! Thanks, Rick Clark. I just now have heard of Ronsen hammers. My tech had recommended the Abel Select as the best available and a tech in MA agreed. Where does one find these Ronsen hammers and are they 'cold-pressed' as you mention?

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#609715 - 11/04/04 12:26 PM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21925
Loc: Oakland
Ronsen hammers

Incidentally, if I wanted the best a M & H could be, I would rescale it. I've done it with several, and the results have been good.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#609716 - 11/04/04 10:45 PM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
ChickGrand Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 3251
Loc: Midwest U.S.
Having just put a set of Ronsen Wurzenfelt hammers on my old Chickering concert grand, I highly recommend them. The prior set of hammers even while virtually new were quite hard and required frequent voicing down. I put the Ronsen WF's on and have not yet voiced a single one, nor do I feel I even need to. The consistency of the wool seems ever so slightly softer, putting them in that just right zone. I have found soft and medium level playing much, much more satisfying. The tone of the piano is more round, or less sharp. It previously sounded like a powerful Steinway D (which I quite like), but now sounds quite like I expect a vintage Chickering to sound--like that nice old beast in the Smithsonian. The old hard hammers brought out the higher harmonics too much giving the piano a rather cold sound. The new Ronsens have given it just the right balance of fundamental and upper harmonics and a much more easily variable sound. I can get a good round fundamental with moderate touch and when I lay into them, the upper harmonics just sing, without overpowering the fundamental the way the harder hammers sometimes did. I no longer have to even think about or work at playing softly or moderately. Control is much better. It takes a shade more force to generate thunder, but when it thunders, it's cleaner. The weights of the hammers I received from Ronsen were beautifully evenly balanced so my touchweight was not affected by the change. The tails were perfectly tailed and coved. If I'd known what a difference these hammers would have made, I wouldn't have waited until I needed them. Give Ray Negron a call at Ronsen. I think he can fix you up and make you quite happy.

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#609717 - 11/05/04 12:06 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Varcon,

BDB gave you the website. As to the 'cold pressed' thing, the way they phrase it is that they use "as little heat as possible". I don't know if that's exactly the same as 'cold pressed' in the old days, but there was a fair amount of inconsistency in hammer resilience in the old days too. But they certainly turn out like a good cold-pressed hammer and not like a hot pressed hammer at all.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#609718 - 11/05/04 04:09 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Larry Buck Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2362
Loc: Lowell MA
The Abel Selects are wonderful hammers. It would be good to note, Pianotek cautions users that these are heavier hammers and may result in heavier touchweight in certian actions. I would ask your tech about this and discuss the options for reducing hammer/shank and flange mass if the situation arises. It is my personal preferance not to add lead to keys as the resulting increase in inertia does not feel good to me.
_________________________
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."
Isaac Newton

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
http://www.facebook.com/EJBuckPerformances

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#609719 - 11/05/04 07:26 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Masonite Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/29/04
Posts: 14
Loc: New York
I still think it's amazing that no piano organization or technician has done a bake-off among the major contenders. The same piano, the same room, swapping keybeds. Possibly voicing them to try to match some other consensus excellent piano. It would still be totally subjective, and bring out the worst in a flurry of email flames, but there it would be. It would also be interesting to do a pair of sets of each type, to try to answer consistency questions. If the test piano had one of those player piano mechanisms (I know, I know, not p.c. to call them that), then there could be a standard repertoire to test them against.

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#609720 - 11/05/04 09:07 AM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I didn't realize there was as much difference of opinion regarding hammers as there is. It's interesting to see the comments but then the confusion follows as without an opportunity to hear them, one can't make an informed decision. I think Masonite has the right idea--same instrument, different hammers, same repertoire. Sit back and listen and then the conclusion would be evident according to individual tastes. The responses can provide an excellent education on hammers!! \:\) Thanks for your responses.

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#609721 - 11/09/04 12:15 PM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
classicalgirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 171
Loc: Illinois
Wow! Great discussion.

One of the pianos we are thinking of buying is a 6' 1920's Knabe grand that is being rebuilt. The rebuilder mentioned Ronsen and Isaac hammers, neither of which I are familiar to me. I did a search on the forums and found this thread.

Chickgrand or "just Rick", thank you for your excellent description of the sound you now hear in your piano. It sounds much like what we (I and my daughters) like. Of all the pianos we have played so far, we liked a 6'3" Estonia and a new AA Mason & Hamlin (well beyond our price range, but the dealer let my older daughter play it anyway) the best in terms of sound. How would you compare your Chickering with its Ronsen hammers to the Estonia?

Does anyone here have any knowledge/experience with Isaac hammers?

classicalgirl
P.S. I vote to have this thread archived.
_________________________
Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Plato

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#609722 - 11/09/04 06:13 PM Re: Renovation of M&H action costs
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I had a great phone conversation with Larry Buck who is quite knowledgeable about all the aspects of the piano--rebuilding, hammers, geometry, etc. I was happy to hear the the proposals of the tech I've consulted met with his approval, i.e., he concurred with the proposed steps he wants to take and that the price quoted was about right as well. I have since the original post found a site that deals with the history of the hammer from it's beginning with Cristofori to the present. Apparently all of the wool comes from particular breeds of sheep grown in Australia and in certain areas (New Zealand and Tasmania too). For those interested in reading this fascinating article, Hail the Humble Hammer, go to the following link:
http://www.musicteachermag.com/archives/humblehammer.htm and enjoy! I certainly appreciate all the comments by the people who have shared their knowledge and experience. Thanks!

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