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Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

  • 1.  Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hello all,

    As part of my move toward full service, I've been trying to adjust out lost motion on the uprights in my care. However, dealing with the hexagonal style capstans takes WAY too long! I've been having to only do the worst ones and leave the rest, while being able to do a whole set of the grand style capstans in the same amount of time!

    It's very frustrating. Is there something I'm missing with how to adjust these things? A different tool or technique? I don't exactly want to spend the rest of my career taking off the pull-out fallboard (mostly in consoles), removing the entire key, twisting the capstans with my fingers (because the capstan wrench won't work), and putting back the key, etc....

    Any ideas?

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 14 days ago
    what are you using for a tool ? do you have the tool with a bend in it ? I have dreams about making perfect tools but then I wake up.

     there are a number of new tools out there that i have seen including ratcheting open end wrenches . maybe one of these bad boys welded to a rod with both a magnet and led mounted will help you find your way. it can be as bad a job as bending damper spoons

    ------------------------------
    James Kelly
    Pawleys Island SC
    843-325-4357
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hi James (or do you go by Jim?),

    I use a double ended wrench from one of the supply houses - Schaff, I think.

    They sell wrenches with a bend in them? That might help a little....​

    I'm afraid I'm not quite following along with your idea. Is it something you've built?

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    James Kelly wrote:  "It can be as bad a job as bending damper spoons." referring to adjusting square capstans.

    I simply can't let that statement stand without a challenge! NO WAY!!! Adjusting square capstans can be a little bit slow and a little bit awkward, but bending spoons is totally, completely maddening!!!!!!!!

    ------------------------------
    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida
    terry@farrellpiano.com
    813-684-3505
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 14 days ago
    Schaff used to sell a capstan wrench which was designed (and possibly made by) Baldwin for their pianos. It is quite good! It had "Baldwin" stamped right on it. If any retirees are selling their tools, I could use an extra one, but first get one to Ben! Meanwhile buy several of Schaff's generic versions and file to fit.

    ------------------------------
    Patrick Draine
    Billerica MA
    978-663-9690
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 14 days ago
    Benjamin -
    First, I doubt that the capstans which you bemoan are hexagonal. I don't recall ever seeing an upright with hexagonal capstans, only older vintage grands.  (I say grands because I can't recall if I've seen them on anything other than Steinways.) They are likely square. A picture or three would help, as would catalog numbers (Schaff or other) for the wrenches you have or are otherwise talking about.   Unless you have them all, the one you really need is the one you still don't have.

    In general, you should be wary of comments like these:
    dealing with the hexagonal style capstans takes WAY too long! ... It's very frustrating. 

    This is, after all, piano work.

    ------------------------------
    David Skolnik [RPT]
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY
    914-231-7565
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hi David,

    No, you're right. They were square, not hexagonal. My mistake.

    Here's a picture of the wrench I have:


    By my comment of them taking way too long to adjust I meant taking too long to be included in the same appointment. If I have to remove each key because the wrench won't work, then that's too long to fit into the extra 5-15 minutes I plan for each appointment.

    It's just frustrating knowing that if they were the other type of capstan, I could do the entire set in 5 minutes. Now it takes 50 +, so I'm only able to do a few per appointment. I just want to be able to do a complete set of capstans as part of my basic appointment, not try to sell a capstan job in order to do this. 😞

    Patric,

    That's very interesting. Funny that it's Baldwin, as Baldwins are what prompted this question. I'll try and locate one. In the mean time, could you attach a picture of yours? Thanks.

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Benjamin -
    You should have more than one capstan wrench, If you're planning to to towards "full service", which brings us to that  part of your post.  Exactly what do you mean by "full service"?   You say:
    I just want to be able to do a complete set of capstans as part of my basic appointment
    Why?
    And you then say:
    ... not try to sell a capstan job in order to do this. 😞 (never noticed the effect of italics on imogee.  Cool.)
    If the job actually takes that long, why wouldn't you sell it (assuming it's needed).  Does "full service" mean free?

    And, if you actually can do a set of some sort of capstans in 5 minutes, what do you win?  Now, if you could do that and stlll charge what any other reasonable technician would, for the service, then you're doing well.  What does giving it away do for you?

    ------------------------------
    David Skolnik [RPT]
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY
    914-231-7565
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Edited by Benjamin Sanchez 13 days ago
    Hi David,

    Let me explain my vision for what I want to be doing soon. I want to move from "just tuning" calls to "full service" calls. This would mean (for me) charging a higher price, but planning my tuning call to be longer than I need to do a basic tuning. How much longer I haven't quite determined yet.

    During that extra time (let's say 30 minutes, for ease of example), I'd like to focus on servicing the other parts of the piano besides tuning - you know, the parts that most owners don't even know exist; meaning doing regulation, voicing, or a pitch raise, depending on the situation.

    The idea is that charging more for a longer appointment would allow me to service the piano more thoroughly than by just tuning it. In theory, I wouldn't be doing things for free because my price would be higher to cover the extra time necessary. The client would benefit because their piano not only sounds better but also plays better too. I benefit by my reputation increasing, by bringing in more per appointment, and having to work less to bring in the same amount; having less expenses involved (I.e. car cost, because of less appointments per day), etc.

    Plus, it would be one set price, not $XXX for a tuning, $XX more for the pitch raise, $XX for regulation touch up, etc. No more having to explain what these things are, then trying to sell them separately.... That's what I meant by not having to sell the job. Of course some things will have to be separate items, but not the touch up stuff, like: adjusting capstans.

    And yes, I actually can regulate lost motion out of grand style capstans in about 5 minutes. It’s the square capstans that are holding me up on time....

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    I have two versions of this tool, short and long. It takes time. Schedule for it.

    ------------------------------
    Regards,

    Jon Page
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    My preferred tool came from Pianotek. I haven't used the tool like yours since I bought it...maybe 12-15 years ago? I would include a picture but we're out of town for the holiday and my tools are at home. It looks like this: a straight wrench end (not angled), but the handle is angled upward at around 45°. This makes it possible to adjust capstans without having to remove keys or scuff knuckles on the keysticks. 


    --
    John Formsma, RPT
    New Albany, MS





  • 12.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 3 days ago
    Hello all,

    I just tried out the tool John Formsma and others of you described, and it works great! Thank you so much! So much less stress, and a more normal time for adjusting out the lost motion. It went right on those [square] capstans without any pain or trouble at all. Thanks again for the awesome referral!

    For those of you wondering, it took me 11 and a half minutes to do this set. I think this was in part because of getting used to the new tool. By the last octave and a half I was down to my normal speed. Hopefully the next time will be down to about 7 minutes, then about 5 after that.

    Thanks again!

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Benjamin wrote: "...I could do the entire set in 5 minutes."

    Ahem, seriously? 3.41 seconds per capstan?

    Bionic man, totally bionic!   ;-)

    ------------------------------
    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida
    terry@farrellpiano.com
    813-684-3505
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Years ago I bought a pair of pliers from Joe Goss (Mother Goose Tools) that are the fastest and most precise way of regulating those square style capstans that are are so common on vertical pianos. They particularly shine on the smaller pianos and compact actions where getting a grip on the square with the wrench style tools can be awkward. Unlike a capstan wrench, there is no fussing to align the tool to the square.; simply grab, grip and turn.

    Looking at Joe's current selection of tools, it appears that he no longer carries these pliers. So, I searched and came up with this tool that appears to be a match or close to the Valley brand tool I got from him:

        11" BENT NOSE PLIERS-15 DEGREE, CR-V, FOAM GRIPS   
    Item # PLBN15-11

        http://www.valleytools.net/app/stx.productdetail.asp?did=1701

    If there is a downside, I find them a bit heavy but that is a minor point considering how well they work for this task. That's my experience

    ------------------------------
    David Bauguess
    Grand Junction CO
    970-257-1750
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Before you turn capstans, check the hammer rest rail felts at the brackets.
    If it's a neighborhood problem, the fix may be found in blow distance, not individual capstans.
    If the action does not make it through aftertouch, check key height and dip.
    You may need to raise the balance rail a bit, easy to do on Baldwin verticals because of the secret screws below the balance rail.
    Most pianos were regulated to work when they were new. Find out what changed before you start moving things.

    ------------------------------
    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    Benjamin - Simply get a wrench that fits the capstan. Many are available from suppliers. I think I have one or two that I have taken a file to for a perfect fit. Yes, if I want to only adjust a few capstans and the fallboard key hold-down rail is in the way, it can be difficult. I do find that if a few capstans are so far off that I feel the need to adjust them, many more certainly could use some adjustment. I most often lean toward simply scheduling that work - either separately, that day if I have time, or for the next tuning appointment. And if it makes it a lot easier, sure, I will remove whatever is in the way. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. Oh, and yes, I have run into some that are so cumbersome that I do find it easier to remove the key and adjust with a proper fitting wrench. Seems unfair, but heck, it's a piano!

    ------------------------------
    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida
    terry@farrellpiano.com
    813-684-3505
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 13 days ago
    schaff has several angled capstan adjusters such as #3112 with a double bend; angled 84c with 3/16 opening; 84 d with 1/8 opening

    on page 55 the r-23 japanese tool works well

     you may have to file some of the openings but this assortment should have the solution.

     also pay attention to other things like the blow distance, wear on the hammer rest rail cloth and things ed sutton mentioned the capstans may not need any adjustment. there could be divots in the felt that the capstan contacts ​

    ------------------------------
    James Kelly
    Pawleys Island SC
    843-325-4357
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 11 days ago
    Hello all,

    Thanks for the suggestions! I'll defint put at least one of the wrenches you mentioned on my next order.

    I came across an old upright yesterday that had let off buttons in place of capstans! That made adjustment longer than usual - about 17 minutes. Mostly because my let off tool kept getting stuck on them. What's even stranger was the fact that the let off button style capstans contacted what looked like grand knuckles attached to the keys.


    I wish I had taken a picture, but forgot. Maybe next time I service that piano....

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 11 days ago
    That must have put your whole day's schedule in the toilet.
    On the other hand, nothing broke (as in, you didn't break anything) in the process.  Older pianos can have a real comic sense when it comes to doing things  quickly.  Which raises the question: If something breaks in the course of your normal tuning, do you fix it there? and charge for it?  Does your policy on broken strings distinguish between AOG and distractedly being on the wrong pin?  More to your example, you were scrambling to complete what YOU consider a regular part of your Full Service approach.  Did the client ask, or were they informed that you would be doing this work?  Are they ever?  If something HAD broken during this process, would it then be YOUR responsibility to include the repair as complementary?

    Pictures are always appreciated, but even a name (not yours, the piano) would help the discussion.  If it's out there, someone has seen it. Meanwhile, do you have notes as to what extra things you would do, the next time you service this piano?

    ------------------------------
    David Skolnik [RPT]
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY
    914-231-7565
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Adjusting Hexagonal Capstans

    Posted 11 days ago
    -Long Post-

    Haha, David. No, it didn't put me behind at all. I'm still in the experimental stages of the full service idea. What I'm doing now is to offer different chunks of time, the first level being what a basic tuning appointment takes, with only things like removing the pencils, complementary dusting, etc. 1.5 hours.

    That appointment the client had requested a 4.5 hour appointment (on their own, they self scheduled it with no personal contact from me). So, I had time to address a lot of things, each one of which I cleared with the client first. She complained that the keys felt empty; one look revealed about 3/8" of lost motion. Restoring that gap solved the problem, restored a lot of things to where they should have been, and no, I didn't charge extra, because I had time left in the appointment (remember, she paid for 4.5 hours of my time).

    Broken items depend on the situation. If I break a string though negligence, then I'll replace it for free. I only did this once; after that I learned my lesson, paid better attention, and haven't done it again.

    Before pitch raising, I'll explain to the client that I'll be putting several tons of tension back on the piano, and that the increased tension might cause strings to break. And if there's rust involved.... I take every precaution I can to prevent it, but sometimes it happens. Am I responsible for strings that beak in those situations? No. It's something that would have happened to anyone.

    As far as charging for it, IF I have time left in their appointment (remember, they're paying for my time), and I have the necessary materials with me, then I'll include the labor with the appointment and only charge for materials. Otherwise they pay for both parts of the job.

    From what I understand of it, Full Service doesn't mean doing things for free. (It's Full Service, not Free Service, after all.) It means charging for time instead of per job. From my understanding this means setting the basic price high enough to include as much extra time as you want to offer. Then fill in that extra time doing things that will make the piano play or sound better (touch up regulation or voicing), as well as a tuning.

    I did forget to mention the name of the piano, didn't I? It was an Everett Old Upright from 1895. It needs a lot of work, but that appointment allowed me to bring it back to usable condition. And yes, we talked about putting money into this one vs. into a new(er) piano before the appointment, and the owners just love this one and wanted "to get it back on it's feet."

    Notes on what it needs? Sure. But what I'll do next time depends on how long an appointment they want. If they want a 2.5 hour appointment, I'll probably tune it and shape the hammers. If they want another long appointment, I might do those things and then replace bridle straps too. If they want only my basic service call, then I'll only tune it and do things like removing the pencils that'll fall in.

    Again, it's not about giving away one's time. It's about selling time chunks vs. selling it per job. The idea is one isn't supposed to lose money; one's supposed to actually make more money because of bringing in the same amount per day but having less expenses per day due to having to drive to less appointments.

    I.e., if your basic tuning call is $150, and you tune 4 a day, then you make $600 / day. But if you charge $200 for a full service call, and only do 3 a day, then you still make $600 a day and with less operating costs.  [DISCLAIMER: I don't claim that this is what you should charge or am trying to price set. I picked these numbers for this example because they're easy to work with.]

    It seems promising to me, but I started the other thread to get real life feedback from others who went down this route.

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez
    Professional Piano Services
    (805)315-8050
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    BenPianoPro@comcast.net
    ------------------------------