Pianotech

Topic: Kimball grand action--what kind is it? 

1.  Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
I'm regulating one of these little beauties (heavy on the sarcasm). Is this a Schwander grand action?

Piano is from the 1970's, I think. I haven't checked the serial number yet, but 1977 is stamped on the action.

Click this link to see the images in the Library.

The action stack weighs almost nothing compared to a traditional stack. It has square steel capstans like an upright. The wippens attach to the rail directly underneath the hammer shanks. Repetition springs can be adjusted (fine adjustment only) with a small screw on top of the lever. The screw is hollowed out on the bottom to hold one end of the spring. The other end hooks into a loop that is attached to the jack. Many of the springs were way too strong, and I did not see any way to regulate them other than removing the wippen and weakening the spring. It definitely adds a layer of complexity. To strengthen the spring a lot, the entire spring had to come out. It's pretty easy to do, but hard to guess exactly how strong it needs to be, Which meant multiple attempts on some. I'm assuming the factory had some kind of gauge to measure the spring strength to avoid having to remove the wippens each time. ???

Regulation seems pretty straightforward, but jack to roller core is further back than typical. There is a good bit of action wear, so maybe this is because of that wear?

This job has been challenging. Interesting, to say the least. And I'll be very glad when this job is finished.


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John Formsma, RPT
New Albany MS
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2.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
John

I presume your talking about the Lapetit grand froM Kimball. If you It to work at all, you’re ahead of the game. Do what you can, but it will never regulate, much less play, any better than what you were able to accomplish.

I tried to work on one of these POS when they first came out, and even as a brand new instrument it was horrible. A salesman sold one to a Gospel Church and the literally tore it apart within one year.

This was nothing more than a piece of furniture that produced a sound.

Wim.

Sent from my iPhone




3.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
Wim... I like your description a piece of furniture that produced a sound. I have 4 of these little monsters- three in homes and one in a church. Two are definitely La Petite which is a good description- small in size, power, key length, whippens. If I remember right you have to unscrew a panel that sits over the tuning pin webbing . Probably sold with the claim it never needs tuning.

One was jammed into a spot in the living room between a column and a wall. Over the piano was an original oil by Peter Max. If they could afford the painting they could have bought a real piano.
Second one was in the owners kitchen- no lie. At least it could double as a table.
Third was the only thing in the dining room and the piano light was what would in real life be the dining room table light. Ask me how many times I hit my head.

Church piano was a gift to a church. The donor actually had it rebuilt and refinished. Looks nice but in order to hold the hymnals they had to put some bricks behind the music desk

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James Kelly
Pawleys Island SC
843-325-4357
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4.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
Ah, yes, the wonderful La Petite compact grand action. Very clever design, very poorly executed. The regulating screws were entirely inappropriate for their function. They used crappy foam rubber where decent leather and/or felt would have been much more appropriate. But the idea was great!

In a very short grand -- and the La Petite was nothing if not short -- proportions are important. Using a standard grand actions would have made the piano even uglier than ti already was. Hence the development of an entirely new action design. 

I've several of these actions over the years. The biggest problem is the screw going through the jack. The working end is entirely too small -- it digs into the foam rubber piece stuck in there as a cushion. I don't know what is available today, but back in the late 1970s and early 1980s regulating screws were available from Pratt-Read that worked quite well as a replacement. The working end -- the tip that actually rested on the cushion -- was about twice as large as the original. The foam whatever was removed and leather pieces were installed in their place. 

I don't remember the repetition springs being that much of a problem. I'd have to check, but i think the later versions had a screw in the repetition lever that the end of the spring set into. Without that screw, what you're doing now is probably the only way to adjust the thing. 

Plan on replacing all of the felts and cushions. The stuff Kimball used was atrocious. The trade-off is a little action noise in exchange for action stability and reliability.

Done well these actions worked reasonably well. As produced by Kimball they were crap.

ddf

--
Delwin D Fandrich
Fandrich Piano Company, Inc.
Piano Design and Manufacturing Consulting Services -- Worldwide
6939 Foothill Ct SW -- Olympia, WA 98512 -- USA
Phone 360.515.0119 -- Mobile 360.388.6525





5.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
Wim,

It's not like the other La Petite grands I have seen. Those were smaller than this one. Yeah, they're musical furniture. This one seems to be a little better than that. Now I'm curious about whether other Kimball grands might have this type of action.

Del,
This does not have any rubber in it. No leather anywhere either--just felt for rollers and some kind of felt looking stuff on backchecks. My first thought was that it was a clever design because it's a lot easier to access and remove the wippens. Poorly done by Kimball is correct.

I replaced the wippen cushions. They had very deep divots. Just doing that helped things a lot. It is regulating, although I'm not being super careful with the regulation.

This job was somewhat plagued from the first. The first day at the church (47 miles away) I forgot to bring my action cart so I had to work with it using the keybed support that Pianotek sells. Then I only had a straight capstan tool with me, and it's impossible to regulate the capstans close to the brackets without removing the stack. So I did that. Drilled three holes in capstans (per Alan Eder's suggestion) and broke two bits. Gave that up and removed the stack again.  Found an angled capstan tool at home later that night, and used that yesterday. It works fine. Turning the capstans is tedious and time-consuming because there just isn't much room. The jacks are in the way. One broke, and it was a pain to glue it. Of course it split when I repinned it. In the end, it got CA and a too-loose pin through the birdseye. And swapped repetition levers with one on the end. The jacks don't like being regulated being lined up with the roller core as in other actions. I learned that only after regulating all the jacks and setting rep lever height. Half the jack skipped out on even soft blows. So I had to go back and redo it. Had to learn how the rep spring work, and it took a good bit of time to regulate spring strength.  (Don't you love how experience gives you the test first and the learning later???)

Many delays, some my fault and some the fault of the piano. Today I'm going back, and should finish. All I have to do is regulate back checks a little higher, set damper lift, check pedals, tune and voice. Totally looking forward to being finished, and almost wish I never had this experience. That money is still green, albeit much less per hour now. But it does play better already. Hopefully they will notice the difference and I get referrals.

One thing I have definitely learned is to look at an action before giving a quote. This was kind of an off-the-cuff quote at the first appointment I ever had at this church. I gave a ballpark figure after tuning it, and then they wanted the work done 6 months later. I'm not sure I even looked at the action at the first tuning appointment. It didn't play well, so I said to the music director that it needs reconditioning and regulation to go from 40% function to maybe 85%. Lesson learned, and experience for the next time.

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John Formsma, RPT
New Albany MS
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6.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
John, the rubber I recall was the cushion for the screw that adjusts the fore-aft position of the jack. It had a life expectancy of about 12 minutes. I replaced this with leather and replaced the screw with one having much more surface area. It worked, though it was a little noisy. Not as noisy as the original hitting wood after the rubber was gone, though.

ddf 

--
Delwin D Fandrich
Fandrich Piano Company, Inc.
Piano Design and Manufacturing Consulting Services -- Worldwide
6939 Foothill Ct SW -- Olympia, WA 98512 -- USA
Phone 360.515.0119 -- Mobile 360.388.6525





7.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 8 days ago
Thanks, Del.

Here are two pictures of the piano (not the action). If memory is correct, the La Petite grands look different as far as plate and bridges. However...the ones I've seen have been in bad shape and near death. I tried to get out of there pretty quickly and didn't ever take a close look.

Got the regulation finished on Saturday. I was pleased with how it turned out, as were the pianists at the church. The music director sent me this text on Sunday: "Both pianist very pleased with the way the piano plays and sounds. Thanks so much."

It really plays quite well considering what it is. It can now be controlled and the action feels even. Job done, and stuff learned. It was a good week. :)


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John Formsma, RPT
New Albany MS
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8.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 7 days ago
What else could one ask for? That text says it all. Yea, it would be awesome to work on good quality, well designed pianos, but honestly, our job is to make people happy with their pianos, regardless of what quality the piano is.

Success is measured by different standards, but in my book, success is receiving a comment like that. That, to me, is what it's all about.

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Benjamin Sanchez
Professional Piano Services
(805)315-8050
www.professional-piano-services.com
BenPianoPro@comcast.net
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9.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 7 days ago
For what it's worth -- I worked on a Korean-built piano (don't remember the brand) using a clone of this action. I don't know who built the action.

The disadvantages of this action are apparent to anyone who has worked on one. They can be made to work reasonably well but their original build quality and materials choices left a lot to be desired.

The advantage, of course, aesthetic. The action would fit in a cavity having a vertical clearance of about 100 mm. I don't remember the exact opening, but it was significantly less than, say, a short Steinway (approx. (155 mm) or the other major brands of the time which were upwards of 160 mm.

ddf

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[Delwin D] Fandrich] [RPT]
[Piano Design & Manufacturing Consultant]
[Fandrich Piano Co., Inc.]
[Olympia] [WA]
[360-515-0119]
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10.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
I made the mistake of replacing hammers, shanks, and flanges on one of these, and it was a real challenge.  The flanges had odd specs, so we shortened and drilled a set of blank universal flanges.  But then those short wippens sailed right past the drop screws without making contact; I had to modify all 88 wippens to make the action work at all.  As Willem said, it's a piece of furniture that happens to make a sound.

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Kent Burnside, RPT
Franklin TN
615.430.0653
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11.  RE: Kimball grand action--what kind is it?

Posted 10 days ago
Yikes! Glad I'm not that situation. I'm sure that took many extra hours!

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John Formsma, RPT
New Albany MS
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