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Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

  • 1.  Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-15-2017 23:05
    I am trying to eliminate an annoying groan/creaking sound when the damper/sustain pedal is pressed to the bottom . the piano is a Steinway and Son O circa 1915 that was rebuilt.I removed the Pitman and cleaned off some signs of grease applied some graphite from a stick of graphite and burnished into the wood. the sound diminished but only for a short time, The pitman is not exactly tight in the bushing that goes through the keybed and in fact the bushing cloth is very compacted and loaded with grease . It seems that I should remove the old bushing and fit a new bushing of high quality bushing cloth and get a better snugger fit. I recall seeing a repair that can be made using a dowel with pins on each end to secure to the trap work and the lift tray . The keybed is fairly thick and it seems like it will be a lot of work yet possibly the best repair. I also thought some of the groaning was coming from the pins located at the ends of the lift tray that go into a wooden block.I took off one of the blocks and cleaned the gunk off the pins and used some protek spray lube . The coil spring on the left end of the tray was absent and that end of the tray has
    a slight upward bow to it. putting a spring back in will make the pedal harder to play but will it also help reduce the groan/creak ? there is a need to have the pedal to play easier because two children play the piano and a heavy spring is hard to overcome. I am interested in hearing from others about doing a rebushing with the existing pitman or going with the thinner pitman, pins and larger keybed hole

    James Kelly
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 2.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 01:27
    Hi James

    I would sell them a pedal lyre rebuild, replacing all leathers and felts, Teflon bushings in the pedal box, etc, maybe polishing hardware, etc.

    But here’s the part you’re asking about:

    Tools: drill, drill bits, forstner bits, hole saw, dowel, saw, backrail cloth punched into circles and glue.

    Accessories: Furniture pad or blanket, and/or vacuum; safety glasses

    Disengage the damper pedal rod, and let down the damper arm (just let it hang).
    Use hole saw of your choosing to drill a bigger hole for the pitman pass-through in the keybed.

    Use the same size forstner bit as the backrail cloth circles you made and drill a hole in the bottom of the underlever tray and top of the damper arm to accept the new pitman. You will need to secure the tray somehow prior to drilling it.

    I made an adjustable pitman to rough in the correct pitman length. (You can also mock it up with a hammershank.) Then I mark the dowel to the length I need, cut it, and glue the backrail cloth circles to each end.

    Insert the new felted pitman in the slot you drilled into the tray. Re-engage all the damper pedal mechanisms and insert the bottom of the pitman in the new slot you drilled into the damper arm.

    Good luck!
    Let me know if you have any questions.

  • 3.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 01:46

    This is a pretty typical issue with this model. The pitman does not travel plumb through the hole, but rather in an arc that bears unevenly in it's travel. What I have seen that works best is to enlarge the hole so the pitman completely clears and thus eliminating contact,  and pinning or coving the ends and contacts so it doesn't become dislodged.

    Dave Conte
    North Richland Hills TX

  • 4.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 02:04
    I find one of the biggest pitfalls in these noise-related repairs is the tendency to leap to conclusions as to where the noise is coming from.  I'm impatient by nature and my first inclination is invariably the "greatest hits" approach: line up all the usual suspects in the descending order and treat them one by one till I've found the culprit.

    Imagine I've concluded that the lyre itself is groaning, so I start with that, but then after I've got it rock solid, the noise is still there, so I want to take it down and open up the pedal box.  But that doesn't work and once I've got it mounted again I start to think, well, maybe it's the trap work pins, so I'd better take the lyre down again.

    Once I've reached item three or four and the nose is still there thumbing its noise at me,  I begin to realize I'm wasting a lot of time zigzagging back and forth.  It's better to start at one end or other (preferably at the bottom) and work your way through the whole assembly systematically:  If it moves, lube it.  If it's not supposed to be moving, make sure it's an immoveable object.

    The disadvantage to this approach is the possibility that you'll fix the problem somewhere along the way and at the end, once everything is reassembled and problem is remedied,  you still won't know just what it was that was making the noise.  That's a small price to pay for the piece of mind of knowing that you touched on everything that could be misbehaving and something else won't be turning up tomorrow to compel another visit.

    If after I've done all this and it's still making a noise, it's only then I would contemplate changing the pitman.

    Cecil Snyder
    Torrance CA

  • 5.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 07:13
    Interesting responses but since the piano was a recent rebuild I do not see dropping the lyre opening the pedal box etc as the best plan. The groaning is coming from in the cavity and of course sound seems to amplify . I need to dig out the how to article done in the journal and evaluate if this is the best approach or remove the greased worn bushing and perhaps pad both end and secure the capstans with pins on both ends- in other words modify the surgery . I have seen the new production setup where the dowel is at an angle and there is no contact with the hole. Does anyone have advice about using the coil spring on the end of the tray ?

    James Kelly
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 6.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 11:06
    Concerning the coil spring at the end of the tray:
    This will tend to twist the tray.
    Steinway later moved it to the middle, above the pitman.
    If the system is working satisfactorily without the spring, best to leave it out.
    I have had customers with foot and leg injuries ask me to ease the Steinway pedal, which can be very stiff.

    Ed Sutton
    (980) 254-7413

  • 7.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 12:28
    Several years ago a pianist complained of difficulty with the strength of the sustain pedal on a Steinway M. Most RPT’s suggested not to remove spring.
    I removed it anyway and she’s been happy several years. It’s your call.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 8.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 14:07
    Might it be possible to make a weaker coil spring from piano wire?

    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon

  • 9.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 14:41
    The need of the tray spring is relative to the varying geometry of Steinway damper systems.
    Sometimes they are not needed.
    The spring on the trapwork lever and the weight of the damper system may be sufficient.
    I don't know of another piano that has a heavier pedal than Steinway.

    Ed Sutton
    (980) 254-7413

  • 10.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 07:20
    Place your foot on the pedal box and press. That might be the moaning noise of an insecure fascination <g> or the prop stick rubbing in their slots. The pitman, although loose, might be rubbing on the wood since it is bounds between two ends and pressed into the side of the hole.

    The pitman slides along the lever and the tray due to the arcs of the tray and lever.  It could be the bottom board is slightly loose sliding on a screw or two.

    Lift the tray with your fingers and depress the pedal, that will eliminate one factor.


    Jon Page

  • 11.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 08:45

    I recently had a similar (not exactly the same but close) problem on a 1897 Steinway A I am rebuilding. I finally traced it to the pedal rod guide rail bushing. Of course I had rebushed it, yet due to the slight angle that the sustain rod takes through that thing, and the pressure on one side of the hole...it squeaked very similar to what you described. Drove me nuts trying to find it...yet that was it.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 12.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 11:03
    I make a replacement pitman for those Steinways with the bushed hole in the keybed. This replacement is a small diameter brass pitman with predrilled holes at each end and 2 end-pins. The small diameter negates the need to remove or re-bush the keybed hole. Contact me privately if interested.
    Roger Gable

    Virus-free. www.avast.com

  • 13.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-16-2017 23:07
    It's almost always the pitman.  It wants to travel in an arc (lever thing) but it goes straight through the key bed.  You can open the hole and install a new pitman that is pinned on the ends.  Drill a small receiving hole (1/8') in the bottom of the damper tray and on top of the trap lever.  I carry a long drill bit in my case for this.  Cut a piece of dowel and fit it with #9 bridge pins and use a #9 bridge pin drill.  Secure the pins with a drop of CA, put a small felt punching (balance rail or hitch pin type) over the pin, lubricate the pin with some mutton tallow (yes you can buy it in a small tin).  Don't let the pins protrude more than about 1/4" from the punching or the pins can start to creak.  If it's the old, wide, wooden pitman you don't even need to drill out the hole through the keybed any larger.  Just use a 1/2" or 3/8" dowel and take care to center the receiving holes for the pins so that the pitman travels free and clear of the sides of the existing hole--some care there.  If it's the brass pitman then you will have to drill it out some. Use a large forstner bit.  Remove the action first.

    I make this modification all the time. Takes about 15 minutes, 16 if you have to drill out the key bed.  Carry extra dowels in the car which I cut to length (use the old pitman as a guide).  You don't need to remove the leather from the top of the trap lever for an onsite repair.

    The other offender can be the leaf spring on the trap lever. Often I just  remove those, sometimes the coil spring too.  Steinway pedals are often too stiff and that spring doesn't do that much if there's already a spring on the damper tray.  If you don't want to remove it then lubricate the leaf spring, lever contact with a paste made from mixing mutton tallow with powdered teflon (works great).

    Also, you can have creaks from the lyre support sticks rubbing wood on wood in either the lyre box or the receiving end on the bottom of the piano.  Test by pushing back on the lyre gently with your foot and seeing if that produces the creak.  If so you can lubricate that contact point with soap, tallow, wax,  prolube,  spit (just kdding--don't use spit).

    Or the pedals themselves can squeak if the pivot pins/bushings are worn or unlubricated.

    Or the lyre might be coming apart, check the glue joints.

    If you still can't solve it refer it to your least favorite local  technician.

    David Love RPT
    415 407 8320

  • 14.  RE: Groaning /creaking damper pedal Steinway O

    Posted 11-17-2017 07:00
    If you do opt to open up the hole through the keybed, a twist/spiral drill bit (albeit a bit pricey) has the added advantages of being self-centering and able to provide an indexing mark on the bottom of the tray for locating the hole to receive the pin in the modified pitman set-up.

    Good point about not necessarily needing both the trap lever leaf-spring and the the coiled spring on the tray, particularly if pedal resistance is an issue.


    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA