Demonstration of "The Zapper"

Posted by: rysowers

Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 08:11 PM

I was taking some time this morning to even out the friction on my "new" 1912 Steinway O. Amazingly this action has pretty free action centers, but there were a few tight hammer flanges here and there. I took this opportunity to try out the "Zapper" that Del loaned me a while back (Thanks Del!).

Sorry about the poor quality. My 15-year-old daughter recorded this on her cell phone. However, this video will go down in history as my debut on Youtube!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YKcPOWVjcw
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 08:15 PM

Very nice Ryan. Thanks for the demo. Wonder how you make one of those things? Or, if they are for sale somewhere?
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 08:26 PM

That's amazing! I though surely it was snake oil when I first saw the vid. grin Obviously not, and with Del in the picture I ought to have known better. blush But I am curious, how exactly does it work?
Posted by: Erus

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 08:59 PM

Thanks for posting the video, Ryan.

I guess it's a voltage converter attached to a couple electrodes, with a breaker in the middle (it seems it has a knob, perhaps a potentiometer to control the applied voltage?).

It applies a low electric current to the center pin. By doing that, the pin slightly increases its temperature, and dilates (easing the bushing). After it cools down (rather fast), the pin is back to its normal size.

Looks like a simple, but quite effective device.

Ryan:

Do you have a multimeter? Are there any numbers in the device that could give us an idea about the applied current?

Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 09:02 PM

I believe it has a pretty good sized transformer that steps the current down so it doesn't "Zap" you!. The end you touch to the centerpin is a pair of tweezers that's been separated by a wood block. The circuit is closed by connecting to the centerpin which heats up due to resistance.

I had been reading some old Journals from the 70's and occasionally would come across a mention of the Zapper. I was down at Del's shop some time ago and asked if he'd ever seen a "Zapper". I was pleased when he replied "I've got one around here somewhere...". (I think Del has just about everything piano related "around here somewhere...".

I've read that the transformers in doorbells works pretty well. It would be fun to make a few of them for a chapter project. It's supposed to work well for freeing up other parts like stiff let-off button eye screws.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 09:08 PM

Originally Posted By: Erus
Thanks for posting the video Ryan.

I guess it's a voltage converter attached to a couple electrodes, with a breaker in the middle (it seems it has a knob, perhaps a potentiometer to control the applied voltage?).

It applies a low electric current to the center pin. By doing that, the pin slightly increases its temperature, and dilates (easing the bushing). After it cools down (rather fast), the pin is back to its normal size.



Ryan:

Do you have a multimeter? Are there any numbers in the device that could give us an idea about the applied current?



A multimeter? I know I have one of those around here somewhere...

Let me see what I can come up with.

I don't think the pin could expand to such a degree as to have an easing effect. I think it acts by scorching the felt a little bit. If you leave it on too long it will be too loose.

I have a spring loaded micrometer with a plastic anvil. I'll see if there is a measurable size increase in a centerpin when running the current through it.
Posted by: Erus

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 09:42 PM

I think you could be very right about scorching, that might affect the bushing more than the dilation.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 09:46 PM

Originally Posted By: rysowers
I believe it has a pretty good sized transformer that steps the current down so it doesn't "Zap" you!. The end you touch to the centerpin is a pair of tweezers that's been separated by a wood block. The circuit is closed by connecting to the centerpin which heats up due to resistance.

I had been reading some old Journals from the 70's and occasionally would come across a mention of the Zapper. I was down at Del's shop some time ago and asked if he'd ever seen a "Zapper". I was pleased when he replied "I've got one around here somewhere...". (I think Del has just about everything piano related "around here somewhere...".

I've read that the transformers in doorbells works pretty well. It would be fun to make a few of them for a chapter project. It's supposed to work well for freeing up other parts like stiff let-off button eye screws.


Thanks! That's an amazing piece of equipment. smile So it basically heats the centerpin (metal, I'm assuming) by electrical resistance. I wonder if the expansion if the metal as it heats up is what frees the bushing.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 10:10 PM

I just measured the pin while zapping it and found no measurable increase in size. It did get pretty hot though! Its actually a good thing the pin doesn't get significantly bigger or it would just enlarge the birds eye making it loose in the wrong place!
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 10:19 PM

Originally Posted By: rysowers
I just measured the pin while zapping it and found no measurable increase in size. It did get pretty hot though! Its actually a good thing the pin doesn't get significantly bigger or it would just enlarge the birds eye making it loose in the wrong place!


I see; So what are you loosening? I'm not terribly knowledgeable in this realm, but I am curious. smile

I guess it's like holding a strip of foil across the electrodes of a battery. Boy does that ever get hot! eek
Posted by: Thomson Lawrie

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 10:27 PM

I think the reason the Zapper was around in the 70's but disappeared is because it does loosen the centre pin in the birds eye as well as the bushings. I think that I recall seeing scorched wood from the use of this devise but it was a long time ago, as you said they disappeared. I don't think this is the same as the conspiracy theories about car companies sitting on patents for fuel efficient engine designs. I think this one died because of the downside of burning the wood components. When we repin we make sure the pin is tight in the wood and works freely in the felt bushing. The Zapper doesn't make that distinction.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 11:00 PM

Interesting point, Thomson. I'll have to do some more experiments and see what effect zapping has on the birdseye.
Posted by: Erus

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/28/09 11:24 PM

Yep, completely insignificant variation in size...

Note to self: don't talk about physics right after taking a nap sleep
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 01:15 AM

I tried some more zapping and after letting the part sit and cool down I cut the shank away from the flange leaving just the pin in the flange. The pin was still snug in the birdseye. I did this on 5 samples and they all stayed snug. I then zapped one for 20 seconds. It did get a little bit looser but was still tight enough that it wouldn't wander. My conclusion is that the Zapper doesn't really affect the tightness of the pin in the birdseye significantly.
Posted by: Gadzar

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 01:26 AM

I easy key bushing by ironing the bushings with a heated brass caul of a convenient size. What it does is to heat the felt (and the glue) and removes any humidity from the felt.

I think the zapper does not scorch the felt but dryes it, the same way the heated caul dryes the bushings.

When repairing shank flanges I always put a pin the same size it had and I ream and burnish the bushing felt until I have 4 to 6 cycles. Only if the center pin of that size is loose in the bird's eye I go one size up.

I think the zapper can avoid a lot of repinning work.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 11:57 AM

I wonder how it would work on my wife when she makes those 25 mile long lists of chores that she wants me to do? Hehehe.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 12:17 PM

What's interesting, Jerry is that you hold onto the tweezers while you do the zapping so the current is running through YOU as well as the centerpin. But I think it's like putting your finger across a 9-volt battery - you don't really feel it. Yet as Horwitzian observed, put tin foil across the battery and you'll get some heat!

I bet if you put the Zapper on your (or your wife's!) tongue...Now THAT would probably be quite effective! That's an experiment I'm not planning on trying!
Posted by: Gene Nelson

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 12:37 PM

Made my own and use it for certain applications. The time that it actually applies current to the center pin is about 2 to 3 seconds - rarely more. This is usually not enough to heat the wood in the birdseye enough to cause damage.
The downside in my opinion is that many times the flange bushing is tighter on one side more than the other - the zapper cannot make that distinction.
Just now assembling new flanges to new Tokiwa whips and the majority of the flange bushings are tighter on one side than the other. Glad they did not come assembled. Won't be zapping them.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 01:25 PM

Hey Ryan. I just noticed that all the "Related videos" attached to yours relate to fishing and not piano tech work. grin
Posted by: Dave Stahl

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 01:57 PM

It's an interesting idea. I could see where it would have its uses. Does verdigris come back after being zapped? Ryan, give us a 50,000 mile update later this year sleep

In most instances, reaming and repinning is a more effective fix (I think). As Gene points out, reaming the bushings to the correct size on both sides is important. And I can dip the pins in teflon powder before insertion.
Posted by: PianoRestorer

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 02:02 PM

I prefer to do the job by replacing each and every centre pin as needed, looked a bit inaccurate, takes much longer filing the swollen felts down.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 05:57 PM

I believe the Zapper is just one more tool to have in your "bag of tricks". I think it can be of real use in repinning actions. It may allow fine tuning of the flange friction. For instance when you repin the part but its just slightly too tight you can loosen it up a smidgen with a 1 or 2 second zap.

Repinning is not very effective for verdigris actions in my experience. The last one I did, in order for the parts to be free they had to be pinned so loose that there was noticeable degradation of tone. The verdigris seems to grab at the pin even though the pinning is not tight. The heat seems to release the grabbiness of the verdigris and allows the part to work without it being to loose. If the money is not available to replace the parts this may be the next best option.

Here are some pictures of Del's Zapper:




Posted by: Roy123

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 07:09 PM

The heat is somehow affecting the felt--much like ironing it, I suppose. The zapper would have to supply low voltage and a fair amount of current. It would not be dangerous to use both because the voltage is low, and because the transformer(s)in it isolate its output voltage from the line. I have used a heated center pin to size new bushings with good result, and the zapper looks like a more sophisticated way of doing the same thing.
Posted by: Gene Nelson

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 09:26 PM

Ryan, does yours have a buzzer or other sort of indicator? I have one in mine so that it buzzes when contact is made and current flows. Helps prevent burning the felt.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/29/09 10:04 PM

No buzzer on this one. However I can feel a small vibration when it is active. When my hair stands on end that's how I know its working!

Actually, the buzzer or an LED would be useful. Good tip!
Posted by: UnrightTooner

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/30/09 07:42 AM

Rather than a simple transformer a ďConstant Current SourceĒ ( http://www.ietlabs.com/IET/VI-700.html ) would be better. The device puts out whatever voltage is required (up to a point) so that the amount of current (which is what produces the heat, not the voltage) is constant regardless of the resistance between the probes and the pin. Then the amount of heat that is applied can be regulated by how long the circuit has been made rather than how much smoke is produced. I havenít looked, but I am sure these come up on E-Bay, or a circuit with an adjustable timer could be constructed without too much trouble. A Ham radio buff could probably do it easily. I know I could.

The heat may not affect the felt as much as it affects whatever gunk is making things sluggish. A larger amount of heat for a short time (zapping) is probably better than low heat for a longer time. But then Iíve never tried it, just my thoughts on it.
Posted by: Josef

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/30/09 05:43 PM

SWEET!!!!!! I know now that I'm not the only one to have one of these.... I have one that I made my self based on one that a retired tech in my town has. Mine is not as pretty as the one in the pics. It looks like some thing from Frankstein's Lab- a huge switch with a large transformer and a small bulb that goes out to indicate contact of the probes.

I found that from time to time that Verdigres builds up on pins and Zappering helps a lot. If its normal swollen felt then I'll repin or chemically treat. If I see green crud on the pins then I zap.
Posted by: Del

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/30/09 07:52 PM

Originally Posted By: rysowers
What's interesting, Jerry is that you hold onto the tweezers while you do the zapping so the current is running through YOU as well as the centerpin. But I think it's like putting your finger across a 9-volt battery - you don't really feel it. Yet as Horwitzian observed, put tin foil across the battery and you'll get some heat!


When you find that multimeter you might try measuring your body's electrical resistance and then compare that with the electrical resistance of a center pin.

ddf
Posted by: Del

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/30/09 07:54 PM

Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
Rather than a simple transformer a “Constant Current Source” ( http://www.ietlabs.com/IET/VI-700.html ) would be better.


Before this thing becomes so technologically advanced it can't be put together without a built-in microcomputer chip and a couple of servos, let me remind folks that these things are supposed to be simple.

Mine was built using a 6.3 vac filament transformer. Back in the day they were readily available just about anywhere really cheap. Now that vacuum tubes are no longer in common use it might be necessary to ask somebody at Radio Shack. Personally, I'd not go any higher than this in voltage. Remember these things are a short-circuit sort of device and using a lower voltage tends to hold the current down some. I put a simple push switch in so I could better time the application of current. An argument could be made that this is not strictly necessary but it also keeps the thing from shorting out when you lay the probe across the end of your screwdriver. The probe is made from an old set of tweezers broken apart and separated by a wood block of some sort. It ain't fancy. And it certainly ain't complicated!

You don't really need any kind of indicator that current is flowing. You can kind of feel and hear the thing in operation.

They are not, nor were they ever intended to be, a cure-all device. Nor are they the magical fix for the Dreaded Verdigris. They do one thing, and that only: they heat the center pin and dry out flange felt. In the process they tend to shrink and "iron" the felt some. Used correctly the effect is frequently long term.

Like most tools it takes some getting used to. Yes, it is possible to burn the wood in the flange fork. But, using a 6.3 vas transformer, it does take some doing. I do remember encountering a few actions in which using the zapper did loosen the pin in the fork but these pins were already on the loose side and--though this is a guess on my part--I suspected the wood was a bit on the soft side. Not every action builder used hard maple, you know.

I stopped using it, not because it didn't work, but because I rarely, these days, work on actions with original action centers. If I come across an action with a bunch of sluggish action centers that needed a quick and cheap fix I'll probably start hollering at Ryan to get the thing back.

ddf
Posted by: UnrightTooner

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 03/31/09 10:16 AM

OK, back to reality. I just realized there is an off the shelf tool that produces heat with the shorted secondary of a transformer: a pistol grip soldering gun. It probably has about the right wattage for the job. Iíll play around with one and let you all know in a day or three.
Posted by: UnrightTooner

Re: Demonstration of "The Zapper" - 04/01/09 08:39 AM

All:

I think a pistol type solder gun can be easily adapted into a center pin zapper. The cheap one that I have is a 65 watt model. It puts out around 130 Amps at ¬Ĺ volt. I made probes out of some copper wire, but brazing rod would be better, and zapped some old flanges. At full power it took seven mississippis to produce smoke. When plugged into my light dimmer outlet, which I use for regulating the heat on the shank bender and on the hammer iron, and turned down for ¬ľ volt output it took 40 mississippis to produce smoke.

Of course a solder gun could be dismantled and all kinds of probes and bell and whistles could be added. For instance, the temperature of the pin will be proportional to the change of current while it is being heated. Resistance increases along with temperature. An ammeter installed on the 120v side could be used to regulate the temperature.

I wish I had had a zapper on a certain spinet that had sluggish whippen flanges. I can imagine that using a solder gun with brazing rod probes of the right length and wedge shape could have worked well with the action in place.