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#2007117 - 12/31/12 04:06 PM Removing the action on a Wurtlizer Baby Grand ...
TaylorofCT Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/31/12
Posts: 9
Loc: Connecticut
My first post ... I recently inherited a 1930s Wurlitzer Baby Grand and after having it tuned, problems are apparent:
• The action is heavy ... which I think might be typical of this lower priced piano, but wonder if a good regulation will make it more responsive to a lighter touch ... and whether it's worth the expense. ??
• Two double-damper base felts have hardened causing a "sizzle" after let up. I've sanded the back section of the felts, which were quite hard, to no avail so they need to be replaced. This seems like an easy repair that I should be able to do. I've removed the fallboard and key blocks. There are stops for the una corda pedal at both ends of the keyboard on the keyframe. (I have not seen these in videos of the removal of other piano actions.) I assume these must be removed before attempting to slide out the action in order to unscrew the wires of the offending dampers. Also, I'm not sure how the pedal rods attach in the back and if these need to be removed first, or the action has to be lifted and slid in a special way. I've googled the Internet and found very little on old Wurlitzer Grands. Is there a repair manual for this piano? Reblitz's Piano Service Manual is too general.
• Though recently tuned, some notes have what I would call a "nasally" overtone quality. This probably requires voicing. (I believe my parents reconditioned the piano back in the 1980s which included a new set of hammers, but I'm not sure.) I've watched several videos on regulation and voicing, and think this is something I could do myself, though I understand there are lots of warnings and I could easily screw up the sound. (The tech who tuned my piano doesn't seem to be interested in doing more. He apparently prides himself on rebuilding Steinways, and mine might be beneath him.)
Thanks in advance.
Taylor of CT
"Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled." ~ George Bernard Shaw

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#2007126 - 12/31/12 04:26 PM Re: Removing the action on a Wurtlizer Baby Grand ... [Re: TaylorofCT]
Olek Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7223
Loc: France
there is not much you could do yourself without much risks for the instrument, brush the hammers with a hard brush so to have a smoother tone, and replace the damper if you get the good part (there are different sizes).

For the rest you may find a tech.

Usually the 2 blocks have to be taken out (unscrewed from the under) before the action can be pulled out. Sometime the plank above the key cover have to be taken out (some screws inside the cavity) because the hammers does not pass under it.

Possibly the soundboard is really shop hence no much interest for that small piano, but generally speaking small soundboards accept more easily the years than larger ones.

Work on very small grands is terribly difficult, when compared to better sized ones. (not all work but part of it, reduced size apply to all dimensions so the regulation get more sensitive, and is difficult to make precisely (keys are not very long, strings are crossing with a huge angle hence hammer travel is far from vertical, stability is less easy to obtain on small grands)

PS there is only one stop for the UC motion, on the other side the action is located in the cavity by a wooden block covered with a cloth (generally)

Edited by Kamin (12/31/12 04:32 PM)
Isaac OLEG - http://picasaweb.google.fr/PianoOleg pro

#2007256 - 12/31/12 09:54 PM Re: Removing the action on a Wurtlizer Baby Grand ... [Re: TaylorofCT]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3834
I doubt the piano is "beneath him".....When a tech isn't interested in fixing a piano, it's likely that the piano in question is worn out to the extent it's difficult to justify putting much money into it, from a financial standpoint, given today's market.

This piano is 80 years old, and of average build quality when new. It's very likely, your piano has many more issues than you are identifying - issues that are easy for a good tech to spot. A piano of this vintage likely needs complete rebuilding at a cost of many thousands of dollars. It's your decision if sentimental value justifies the cost for you.

In the mean time - if you want to do some fixing and voicing yourself, this is a good instrument to practice on. Or, pay someone to spend 3-4 hours on the piano, fixing the worst issues. Sometimes that does wonders for an old instrument.

#2007395 - 01/01/13 09:46 AM Re: Removing the action on a Wurtlizer Baby Grand ... [Re: TaylorofCT]
Olek Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7223
Loc: France
After making a rebuild or taking money to repair a piano , a tech with minimal pride should arrange so the piano is satisfying the customer.

Or not take the repair in the first place. (or was is "just for the money" ?)

Using the name "Steinway" in that context is a sort of bad manner, often covering poorly experiment tech that wish to value himself better than he is...

But we dont know the whole story, possibly he proposed to repair the action at the same time and that this part was too expensive..

What I see more commonly those days, are pianos that pass in a shop that is basically unable to provide real rebuild work and that send it done to Poland. Then they are not capable of making the rest of the job, or at a very low level.
They get some money without doing nothing, and Poland rebuilds can be with some result or none, all depends ....
Isaac OLEG - http://picasaweb.google.fr/PianoOleg pro

#2007467 - 01/01/13 01:16 PM Re: Removing the action on a Wurtlizer Baby Grand ... [Re: Olek]
TaylorofCT Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/31/12
Posts: 9
Loc: Connecticut
Kamen & Bob,

Thank you both for the advice.

Re. the tech who tuned the piano ... He tuned while I was away at work and I should have called him within a few days after for an overall appraisal of its condition. Instead I waited over two months and left a message two weeks ago on his answering machine asking about regulation, voicing and whether it was worth the expense. I have yet to hear back ... hence my sarcasm.

I erred by saying "beneath him..." and misdirected the aim of my inquiry ... which is to learn more about the Wurtlitzer and if I can solve some of its obvious problems, like how to remove the action to fix the two damper felts. A seemingly easy fix and the damper felts are only $0.80 each at Vanda King's ... though there's a $30 minimum and $14.20 shipping (Ha!).

Anyway, I think Bob is right and though the Wurlitzer will never regain its optimal sound, a general 3-4 hours of regulation by a certified tech should do wonders ... and at the same time I can see how the action is removed.

Again ... thanks and Happy New Year!
"Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled." ~ George Bernard Shaw


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