Pianotech

Topic: String leveling stuff

1.  String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 13:25

Re the missing bubble thread, I have tried every string leveling technique under the sun, and have and viewed the process with extreme skepticism. Not skepticism as to the utility of having the strings sit in a flat plane @ strike, but skepticism about the measuring accuracy of that plane. The repeatability of measurement with the tools I have used seems extremely subjective and liable to be misread, or at best unbelievably clumsy to use. The down side of misreading is that a misread string level is an absolute waste of time.

 As often happens in the shop, it is when I try to teach someone else one of these ridiculous processes, processes that I have put up with for far too long, that the ridiculousness becomes obviously and completely untenable.

So my son Dave works with me in the shop, and is quite good at these picky-ass skills. However when I put him on this task and watched him struggle ineffectively with the measurement and then the adjustment, watching his frustration, I just said, "No more"!

 It took a couple of hours and several tries to get this tool working…I had tried the concept a couple of years ago, but it didn't work, because close machining accuracy was required…ie there was too much slop in the plunger. I got the accuracy nailed this time

 ERsBnaFXSlCNthLhpEb8_string-level-1.jpg

mc3C4ozQR29q3uYImUXw_string-level-2.jpg
aDQ9t5YKTsypTVNiBrXG_string-level-3.jpg

So once I got this working, I tried it out, and literally flew though the process with repeatability that escaped me before. I put him on the task, as a newby, and he moved pretty well too…none of this paying your dues crapola…the process sucked. It is in fact relatively easy if you have an appropriate tool.

 Here is the interesting part for me. I had previously fingered the wrong part of the process as "the problem".

Many techs have complained, including myself, that adjusting the travel of the wire off the termination seemed to be the problem in this task…ie you read the out-of-level condition, adjust the bend, re-read level, adjust bend, ad nausem. The problem seemed to be that it was too hard to calibrate the exact force needed to adjust that bend to the precision needed. The result being that one was always going too far with the bend, then having to yank all the others further than they wanted to go.

But I was incorrect about the calibration of the bend being the problem. With a tool that stays seated on the string, and gives a consistent, repeatable reading of the string plane quickly, first, you don't have to figure out which string is high or low by tilting the reading tool or reading a bubble, etc. You just place the tool on the unison, allow the light plunger to drop of its own minimal weight, and lightly pluck the strings…actually not the strings, but the string in the singular. You don't even do the 3 string comparison, rather, if you hear the string vibrating, adjust it up. One at a time, since the tool remains on the string giving repeatable readings, gently incrementally increase tool pressure to the bend until that single string's vibration is stopped by the plunger.

When adjustments happen quickly in succession, ie very soon after the last try, the body retains a memory of the previous force used…the relative increase from try to try becomes much easier to incrementally calibrate. The difficulty of calibrating bend force is really a matter of being able to quickly read the change in string height, so you can incrementally increase adjustment force in a period of time that allows the body to remember the how much force was used last try.

So my take is it is not calibrating the force that is the difficulty in this task, but the difficulty is being able to read the out of plane condition very quickly with repeatable results.

 Any thoughts?

 



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Jim Ialeggio
grandpianosolutions.com
Shirley, MA
978 425-9026
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2.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 13:47
And... you're selling this tool for how much? Plans, dimensions, ?

Paul McCloud
San Diego




3.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 14:13
Charles Faulk has a tool identical in function (though not identical in shape. Works great!

Pwg

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Peter Grey
Stratham NH
603-686-2395
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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4.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 22:47
The repeatability issue using the Faulk tool is so bad for me that I have stopped using it. Perhaps I just got a bad unit. I find that if I turn the tool around 90 degrees I will get a different reading. If I move the tool half a millimetre to the left or to the right then I get different readings. Sometimes if I lift the bar up and then put it back down again I will get different readings. The Mother Goose tool is more awkward but I do find that I get more consistent results.

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Peter Stevenson RPT
P.S. Piano Service
Prince George BC
250-562-5358
ps@pspianoservice.com
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5.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 14:27

Very nice Jim!
Isn't that actually an invention you could patent?






6.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 16:07
I've never understood the need to have the strings level with the Earth, which would be the result of using a bubble gauge. And I question the result of both this device and the Faulk device because both rely on the strings on either side of the strings being already leveled and of equal height to each other. If the strings of the neighbor note, on either side, are higher/lower than the strings currently being leveled then the result will be a unison whose strings may be in perfect "level" but only with the device, which could have been sitting there at an angle.

My take on this is that you have to first start with a hammer that is absolutely square with itself. The top striking surface of the hammer is at right angles to each side. Then the hammer and shank need to be traveled and burned so that the hammer is moving perfectly up and down without any twisting or movement. Only then can you level the strings and you should be leveling them to the individual hammer that is striking them, and nothing else. At that point it doesn't matter if the piano and/or the strings are level with the earth, or whether the gauge of your choice is telling you that the strings are level. If the hammer isn't striking all the strings in a unison at exactly the same time then either the hammer is not square with the strings, or the strings are not level with the surface of the hammer.

Assuming the hammer and it's alignment are already "perfect", the most reliable method I have learned is to use a thin length of felt, perhaps one of two millimeters thick and a couple centimeters wide, and roll it out across the tops of the jacks in a section so that they no longer escape when played. That results in the hammers going up high enough to block when played. Yes, the hammers should still clear the pinblock so that the action can be slid back in without problem. I then gently push down on the key until the hammer just barely blocks. I then pluck the individual strings, leveling up or down as required until none of the strings ring and any slight buzz, if any, is exactly the same for all strings when lightly blocked by the hammer and plucked. The result is that the strings and the hammer are now level with each other, which is really all that counts.

I fully expect to be corrected on this and look forward to learning something if my approach is wrong.

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Geoff Sykes, RPT
Los Angeles CA
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7.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 17:00
Edited by Peter Grey 04-16-2017 17:01
Geoff,

Your approach is not wrong, but very right. That will produce the intended results.

The Faulk unit basically levels relative to about 4 or 5 other unisons.  AFAIK it is not intended to make everything perfectly level...just PRETTY level so that, if you have shoe shined the 'squared ' hammers at strike point level, it will not take much work to mate them up to the 'leveled' unisons. I really like the way the thing works. Plus, he includes a nice little tool for bending the strings.

Jim arrived at virtually the exact same device...just a different design. Should work equally great. Yours works great too!

Pwg

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Peter Grey
Stratham NH
603-686-2395
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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8.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 17:36
I have felt pretty strongly for a long time now that way too much is made of string leveling. I do it once on a new set of strings or an instrument that never had it done to begin with. I don't go nuts using arcane tools either. I just work to get the strings in a pretty good version of a level plane across the compass. On a lot of instruments I work on the agraffes are not installed square to begin with. Trying to level the strings in an angled agraffe will not promote good tone or longevity of the wires. Beyond a single pass with the Robinson tool I never level strings in the capo sections as doing so is in my experience a near guaranty that the string subjected to deflection with a hook will eventually break at the capo.My approach has been to mate the hammers to the strings and not the other way around. The technique Mr. Sykes describes has served me well for quite a while now with the difference that after plucking the strings I take a little off of the contact surface of the hammer. On good hammers a 3mm strip of 1000 grit will do wonders in a single pass over the contact points to be reduced. On hammers of lower quality  or played in hammers that one is not going to reshape; a chainsaw file works quite nicely if one is careful. It's hard enough to get a piece of music wire to produce a good clean tone without bending it up and down at the front termination every time someone reshapes the hammers. Happiest of holidays to all whichever one (or none) you're celebrating.

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Karl Roeder
Pompano Beach FL
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9.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 18:25
Karl --

Many years ago, at a PTG convention, I purchased a tool from Joe Goss of Mother Goose Tools that did exactly what you describe. It was two half round pieces of PVC pipe, with a divider down the middle, glued together providing four separate channels for shaping hammers at the width of the string. Little pieces of sandpaper were neatly glued into each quarter and depending on how you placed the device on the hammer you could lightly sand either just the right or just the left groove, Just the middle groove. Both middle and left or right grooves or all three. It is very handy but for the life of me I can't find it at the moment or I would post a pic. I went to his site and he does not appear to be selling them anymore.

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Geoff Sykes, RPT
Los Angeles CA
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10.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 19:36
Item #322, "Hammer Fitting Block" from Mother Goose Tools, $25.00. Very useful. Jurgen Guring at Pianoforte Supply also offers something for hammer mating, only his is a flat, clear piece of plexiglass with a single strip of sand paper attached. Both are very useful tools for the oft-neglacted task of mating hammers to strings.

Alan

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Alan Eder, RPT
Herb Alpert School of Music
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA
661.904.6483
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11.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 21:02
The business end is simple to build with off the shelf parts. A short length of 3/8" precision shafting for the plunger.  1" x 3/8" bronze bushing. A 1-1/2" x 3/4" x 3/4" piece of aluminum jig plate. After you get the plunger fit right and smooth without any side to side slop in the plunger, the important thing is, as the final step, to lap the business end of the plunger and the bottom surface of the aluminum  together so they are in a perfect plane.

If there were sufficient interest I would make up a run of them, and come up with some pricing...but my post was more about the discussion of string leveling in general. I am a string level skeptic. When leveling, I am tuning each unison right where it needs to be, leveling, re-tuning and correcting level as needed. After a couple iterations of level-tune-level-tune-level tune, the level seems to become stable. I  am not convinced that subsequent tunings don't change plane of the strings. Confirming level over time, is difficult, because dampers are in the way...strike point is often under or very close to the dampers, so the tools can't get in where they need to be.

I agree that mating hammers to strings is an essential part of tone regulating. Leveling strings  only gets you a straight plane @ contact, but then hammer strike must be mated as necessary as others have described.

Even so, to tell the truth, working with resilient hammers as I do, and controlled strike weights, I often question the utility of string leveling altogether...the board, terminations, filing hammers to appropriate length of contact at the strike point, traveling, squaring, and precise needling seem to be most important, with only very occasionally, nasty "zingers" saying "level me, please".

Aside from poorly mated zingers, I do experiment with the phasing issues which poorly mated or even slightly un-mated strike events may cause...ie does poor phasing cancel out part of the sustain that a good board would otherwise be happy to provide. I am paying attention to this aspect, but not prepared to go to the mat with any observations at this time.

re the tool, its just gratifying to beat a recalcitrant process at its own game.



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Jim Ialeggio
grandpianosolutions.com
Shirley, MA
978 425-9026
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12.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 21:26
The importance of hammer/string mating is self-evident. In the process usually referred to as "string leveling", the most important thing is get the strings on as much of a plane as possible. If that plane is level, then the mating with properly filed hammers largely takes care of itself. Strings on a plane and as close to level as possible also normally yield better damper function.

On an upright, improved damping may be the only benefit of any "string leveling" done. But on a grand, if the strings are not on a plane, what is mated in the normal position will not be as the una cord is engaged.

Alan

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Alan Eder, RPT
Herb Alpert School of Music
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA
661.904.6483
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13.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-17-2017 02:40
I use the square end of a six inch ruler. Use the narrow ones with one rounded end and one square end. The width spans just a bit more than a 3-string unison. Lean it against the left string snd rotate it clockwise while plucking the right string. When it touches the right string, which you can hear, hold it steady snd pluck all three strings. The one that's open is too low. Raise it. Goes fast and easy to use near the struts. You can tell how level the strings are relative to the earth by observing whether the ruler is standing straight or leaning to one side or the other when the end is in contact with all three strings. Whether you want to correct that is a separate question.

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David Love RPT
www.davidlovepianos.com
davidlovepianos@comcast.net
415 407 8320
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14.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-16-2017 20:25
Edited by Geoff Sykes 04-16-2017 20:27
I found my MGT tool. I also realize I didn't know what to look for when I went to the MGT site. Alan is correct. Here is the link to Joe's page for that tool.

http://www.mothergoosetools.com/other_tools/hammer_fit_block.shtml

His pics are much better than mine so I took mine down.


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Geoff Sykes, RPT
Los Angeles CA
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15.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-17-2017 07:12
That sanding block was devised by Chris Gregg. I have one of them made from wood. Get some PSA sand paper from Klingspor to make replacement strips or for your own sanding appliances.

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Regards,

Jon Page
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16.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 16:39
Chris Brown has an understring level that works similarly. That is to say, it is intended as a string height gauge, but it also works for leveling strings. I made a similar tool, which can be fairly easily copied. I also made one that works differently, leaning toward the strings using a counterweight. Photos of both attached. Also, my preferred top of strings level - much more handy to use than the Mother Goose, as it is where you can easily move and see it, and it gets right next to the struts. It does require a very light touch stabilizing the tool with thumb and finger while plucking (pictured).

There was somebody a few years back who patented an under string level that worked electronically (either all strings touched a contact or didn't. A light would go on for those that contacted, so you raised the strings corresponding to the lights until all were lit). Never seems to have gone into production, though.

Karl Reeder mentioned the Robinson "StrateMate" tool. I got one, and found it to be useless for actually getting strings close to being level, not to mention that the likelihood was the bends would be over done, meaning efforts to refine the level would be frustrating to impossible. There's too much chatter in the tool, for starters.

Some complain about agraffes not being square. I think that more to the point is that the fronts of the bridge notches are not level, often to enormous (relatively) degrees, and inconsistently so. Run a level along the string behind the dampers and you'll see what you are contending with, when you want to make that spot of hammer contact be level.

Bottom line, though, is that string leveling is an efficiency thing. Do it once (shouldn't take much more than 30 minutes with a bit of practice - at least that is what it takes me). You'll save at least a couple hours every time you mate hammers. The trick to efficient work is to refine your sensitivity at pulling up wire. Much like honing in on a unison, except you do your absolute utmost never to go past. Bring them all to level, stop. Once you start over bending wire, the time factor goes way up, as it is harder to make a small adjustment when you have to yank almost enough to break the wire. I broke a couple strings when I first started leveling strings (I had used the StrateMate), and that taught me something.

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Fred Sturm
University of New Mexico
fssturm@unm.edu
http://fredsturm.net
http://www.artoftuning.com
"We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda
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17.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 17:09
  |   view attached

When it comes to string bending sensitivity, I find this lever tool is much better than a string hook. At least for me.






18.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-19-2017 10:02

Thank you Fred for the best photo array on this topic (or most others for that matter) ever to appear on this list. Easily accessible (well posted) and clearly displayed.

Chris Solliday RPT






19.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 21:19
After last nights PTG meeting I may have to rethink this a bit. The presentation was on voicing, and string leveling came into the conversation for a brief moment, 'cause, you know, strings are important here. Leveling strings on a plane, as Alan mentioned, was the point. Level the strings with, say, a bubble gauge and make sure all the unison's are level to that bubble level plane. THEN, assuming again that all the hammers are already "perfect", go back and use something like the Mother Goose tool to fine tune the hammers to the now known to be absolutely lever strings. Sort of makes sense. I'm enjoying this conversation.

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Geoff Sykes, RPT
Los Angeles CA
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20.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 21:32
That's my take Geoff...the leveling of the string plane is only one of the preliminary steps that mate the hammers to the strings.

Re the Mother Goose tool, it seems to assume the sides of the hammers aren't tapered and/or does not allow you to adjust the angle of the hammers strike point. Am I wrong about that?  I use the shop-made version of Jurgen's clear plexi tools because of their ability to accommodate whatever the final conditions may be...but always looking for a better way to do things.

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Jim Ialeggio
grandpianosolutions.com
Shirley, MA
978 425-9026
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21.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 21:42

I didn't have much success with either of those tools. I prefer just making thin sandpaper strips along with carbon paper marks for fine tuning the mating.






22.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 22:39
Yes, refined use of carbon paper can be surprisingly helpful in the mating dance between hammer and strings.

Alan

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Alan Eder, RPT
Herb Alpert School of Music
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA
661.904.6483
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23.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 22:57
Car-bun pay-pur... ??? Is this some new fangled technical device I haven't yet heard of?

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Geoff Sykes, RPT
Los Angeles CA
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24.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 23:01

I sure like that understring level idea mentioned above. I have altered my 2 string height gauges by replacing those heavy springs with lighter springs so that the gauge just touches. I can easily give that a try tomorrow, see what happens.






25.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-18-2017 23:05
I never found the Mother Goose mating tools helpful. In the first place, the sandpaper is too coarse. But more to the point, if your strings are in a plane, you don't need to do a bunch of single groove filing. I do most of my mating filing using a sandpaper strip the width of the whole hammer (the same ones I use for filing the hammers). It's just a matter of bearing one way or the other, to slant the crown of the hammer a bit.

If you are doing single string sculpting, that level will disappear with the shift pedal, making your una corda voicing sound unmated.

Although some people get pretty crazy about absolute level (shimming under casters and whatnot), the real point, at least for me, is to make things more efficient. If you do fine travel, fine squaring of hammers, sand your crowns straight, and level the strings, mating is already going to be quite good. In fact, often enough I omit it, because it isn't enough bang for the buck.

The other side to leveling strings with a level (as opposed to using the hammers as a template) is you have something more objective to use as a basis - a straight line on metal to metal is more reliable than felt to metal. I do check hammer crowns against a straightedge, but felt is fuzzy, and a straight line is a bit subject to interpretation. The tiniest discrepancy shows up when plucking a string against a metal leveling device.

------------------------------
Fred Sturm
University of New Mexico
fssturm@unm.edu
http://fredsturm.net
http://www.artoftuning.com
"We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda
------------------------------



26.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-20-2017 05:44
Remarkably difficult discussion to wrangle.  We've been tracking the idea of 'level' (including orientation, relation to hammer, degree of precision), tools and techniques of measuring,  tools and techniques of altering.  I read through comments again and would try to add two things, even if it might just be some manner of re-stating:
- While consistent string plane and 'horizontality' (sorry Jim, and thanks) of unisons to keybed seem to be the idealized concept, the reality can be more often anomalous. Whether Fred is right, about inconsistencies originating more at the bridge notching than at the agraffe, or my own (and Karl's) experience of, at times, significant agraffe issues (or, possibly, previous leveling efforts that were overdone), there are times where the level can't be brought into compliance with that ideal, and we're left with trying to manipulate the hammer.

In an earlier attempt to draft these thoughts, I also included a reference to the idea of controlling the orientation of the natural curve of the wire, during stringing, which had been floated by Bradley Snook, and which Jim had at least experimented with.  I mention this because we seem to have conflated the procedure of straightening out the stiffness-induced bend of the wire, coming off of agraffe or V bar, with the later-stage voicing process of string leveling at the strike point.  It would be worth revisiting discussion of what we accomplish, tonally, by that straightening, but it seems likely that, if significant 'voicing'-leveling is done at the front termination, the result could be quite temporary, in the face of subsequent pitch raising (not so much with lowering).

For this reason, it might make sense, for the 'voicing leveling', to use a tool like Charles Faulk's String Leveling Tool http://www.faulkpiano.com/string_leveling_tool/ which can put that displacement farther away from the termination, thus making it more stabile.  While I don't know if there is consensus about the tonal effects (or lack thereof) of kinks in the sounding length, I know RonN was quite comfortable in the belief that there were none.

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David Skolnik
Hastings-on-Hudson NY
914-231-7565
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27.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-20-2017 09:32
<'horizontality'...of unisons to keybed seem to be the idealized concept, the reality can be more often anomalous

Completely agree with this. Trying to impose an conceptual ideal on a system with so many variables, and inaccuracies, created on purpose or as collateral damage, is not productive. For this reason, the tooI I came up with defines the word "level"  to mean a unison is "in plane" with itself, and, since the tool is indexing off notes on either side of the unison, relatively "in plane" with its neighbors...that's all.  The purpose...to allow the one to mate, to the greatest degree possible, the hammer to the string so each string is struck at the same millisecond, and to allow shift to function without losing that 3 string timed strike.

The word "level" should not even be used here, though it is the language we use. As is always the case, the language betrays the thinking behind the language. In this case the thinking, ie , that there is a singular "level" in a string plane is not supported by any as-built piano structure. I don't usually use absolutes like I've used in the previous sentence, but I feel very strongly that the physical barriers to cross- compass perfection of a singular level is simply not physically possible, and foolish to try and pretend exists. So perhaps the first step in this discussion would be to ditch the word "level". However, that ain't probably gonna happen...but we are, in my opinion, talking simply about placing unisons "in plane" with themselves first, and making that plane similar to the plane of their neighbors.

<but it seems likely that, if significant 'voicing'-leveling is done at the front termination, the result could be quite temporary, in the face of subsequent pitch raising

This makes a lot of sense to me. It is why I tune-level-tune-level repeatedly when setting level (ughh...  I mean setting plane). In following this dance on an initial leveling, the "in plane" condition only settles down after a number of iterations of the level-tune drill. Charles Faulk's tool, bending the wire further back from the termination might make a lot of sense for this reason.

Re Bradley's procedure...wires are installed, when stringing so the residual curve of the wire orients consistently on all notes. I now string in this manner as this simply makes mechanical sense...don't shoot yourself in the foot, and then complain that its hard to walk.  I have an article on this stringing procedure and residual string curves coming up soon in the journal...not sure which issue it will be in.

I have experimented with installing wires in this fashion and not doing any string lifting/leveling at all...hammer mating yes, but no work with the strings. In this experiment, very little hammer mating was required...some, but not much. The piano has not suffered from skipping the leveling step...but...keep in mind, it has Bacon/Ronsen hammers, ie resilient hammers are much much less picky about leveling than hard hammers. Also, it has weight controlled hammers...lower strike weight also widens the leveling tolerance. It did take a little longer than usual to stabilize the new stringing.

I have been leveling since this experiment, because of the increase in stabilizing time.  In the process, i am more interested in straightening out the cantenary curve over the termination than anything else...the leveling is really more a collateral correction after doing this initial termination massage.

By the way, I have decided to make a couple of the leveling tools I showed in the thread's initial post, to see if others like the tool as much as myself and my son liked it...Gen II...PM me if interested.






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Jim Ialeggio
grandpianosolutions.com
Shirley, MA
978 425-9026
------------------------------



28.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-20-2017 22:07
David,
The creation of a positive bend at the terminations is, I think, a good thing tonally. When replacing broken strings, I have often listened to an individual newly installed string, before and after making positive bends at the termination, and the additional clarity of tone, as well as better definition of pitch, is very noticeable. I presume that the bend gives the termination a bit more of a definite placement. The reality is that piano wire doesn't terminate at a point (it actually seems to terminate somewhere beyond the bridge pin, agraffe, or capo in practice, but that termination is variable, as we find when reading pitch to the tenth of a cent in real time). But the bend makes it behave more as if it terminates at one spot, compared to the ill-defined curve approaching and leaving the termination point, if you don't make the bend.

Hence the fad of simply going to a grand piano and pushing up on the strings from beneath (action removed), as promoted by many in the 80s and 90s (if memory serves - I'm thinking Susan Graham was one of those who advocated for that): it did give more clarity and definition of tone. That's where the reasoning for the Strate-Mate came from. OTOH, doing this may often make it impossible to get the strings level, should one go back and wish to do that. I know because I have been there and done that. I was the one who pushed up on the strings (either by hand with a tool, or with a Strate-Mate). I was the one who later found it impossible to level the strings.

My own practice now - for many, many years - when I restring a piano is to start with the left string and give it a moderate positive bend, pulling up enough to make a bend, but far below the force that would make a "maximum" bend. I then pull the right string to make the string level read level, and pull the middle string to meet the bottom of the level. I almost never find a unison where this is not possible. I do that with the level at the hammer contact point, nowhere else.

When leveling strings on a piano I am coming to for the first time (from the factory, from somebody else's work), I do often find some unisons that can't be made level to the level (bubble centered). Not a big deal, mating can still happen, but that means some hammers that will have to be customized/slanted.

When I first started leveling strings, I did it at the front termination, or behind the dampers where that was more convenient. Having done that and then tried to mate hammers, together with checking of one sort or another over the years, has taught me that pianos are quite inconsistent when we bore down to the refinement we are seeking in mating hammers. We are talking of differences less than 0.5 mm. Unison to unison with agraffes, there is often that much difference from one to the next, as you will find when playing George Crumb, and laying the glass rod across a section of strings, or doing similar effects. Many unisons will not be affected by the thing laid on them at all, will simply ring free. Which stands to reason, as it depends how the threads happen to be oriented, both in the plate and on the agraffe stem, and then on how much the agraffe is tightened down to orient it correctly. There is bound to be a variance of string height from unison to unison.

Bottom line, it is better to have an efficient process to get quite good, repeatable results in a reasonable period of time, rather than to over examine. There are lots of ways to get strings of a unison in a plane with one another, approximately level and parallel to the keybed (well, assuming the keybed is a flat surface - let's say parallel to the hammer flange rail). Developing the chops to accomplish this efficiently is far more important than counting the angels on the heads of the various pins involved in the close theoretical examination of the question from all available angles. (Not to mention the weighty issue of whether to customize the hammer blow to each of those different string heights, and on and on). Actually, pianos can sound quite good when you decide where "good enough" is and stop there. <G>

As for the tonal effects of kinks in the speaking length, I agree with Ron: I never heard any, even where I have seen fairly enormous kinks (made to avoid damper lift wires, sometimes), not to mention knots in the speaking length. Doesn't make sense, but if you can't hear a difference . . .

Concerning the level of strings changing over time, as pitch drops and rises and the strings are tuned, I have not found this to be significant. Going back over pianos whose strings I leveled several years ago, I do not find that issues have arisen. When I find an occasional unison out of level, I find that I can't level it now - meaning almost certainly that I tried and failed the last time and called a slanted unison good enough. I do not find "chatter" (random up and down strings).

I will say that when restringing, I pull about 25¢ sharp, make the back bends (aliquot and bridge pins); then pull 25¢ sharp again before making the front bends. Typically this leaves the piano slightly sharp, and it will go flat shortly. So the termination bend is pretty close to where it will be when the piano is at pitch a year from now and more. This procedure seems to provide a pretty reliable end result. At least I haven't yet found a reason to change it.

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Fred Sturm
University of New Mexico
fssturm@unm.edu
http://fredsturm.net
http://www.artoftuning.com
"We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda
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29.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-21-2017 10:30
Fred -
Your response successfully ranges from practical to esoteric.  Thanks for both.  I'll be re-reading it for a while.  Yesterday, I spent some time going over string level (sorry Alan, I'll try) on a Steinway B (not recently strung) with dampers removed, comfortably using the unfairly maligned Mother Goose bubble level (Bubble sold separately).  That last aspect makes such a difference (access to strike point) that it seems like it would make sense, as part of rebuilding process, to hold off on any fine damper regulation until after string leveling (so taking them out and reinstalling would not be all that onerous).   I did take a moment to check string level at the bridge and, while there was definitely greater discrepancy than I imagined, it didn't seem to translate to significant anomalies at the strike point, the way that obvious differences coming off the agraffe did.

I'm not sure that thread variations of agraffes would be a factor, but I suppose it could be worthwhile to be more thorough in assessing string-plane variations and mis-installed agraffes before tear-down, as well as adequately-obsessive new agraffe sorting and dressing, before installation.

Waiting for new supply of goose-bubbles to experiment with.

Thanks




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David Skolnik
Hastings-on-Hudson NY
914-231-7565
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30.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-21-2017 09:31
Jim,

Earlier in this thread, you pointed out that the pervasive use of the the term "string leveling" is yet another misnomer commonly used in our profession. It is not as extreme, perhaps, as "hammer rest rail" (or "rest cushion"), as applied to a grand, but similarly misleading all the same.

Continued usage of known misnomers, the verbalization of brand names (Xerox, Google, etc.) and efforts to change from one designation to another have long fascinated me. My top ten list includes:

"Suicide bomber" At one time, the Jewish press tried to recast this as "homicide bomber", putting the spotlight on the deaths of others rather than that of the bomber. Ever heard of a "homicide bomber"?

"Commercial fisherman" My brother is one of these, and has long campaigned to change it to "professional fisherman", emphasizing the professionalism of what he does over the commercialism of it. Like the aforementioned example, bet you never heard that one either.

"Electronic Tuning Aid" Championed by no less that Steve Brady, RPT, in his fine book "Under the Lid." I agree with Steve, and have endeavored to help this more accurate designation (at least, in terms of how he and I use them) find its way into common usage. But despite his best efforts, buttressed by those of myself and others, ETA has not (yet, anyway) seemed to have gained serious traction.

Which leads us to saying/writing "string leveling", when what we really mean making the strings of tri-chord unisons on a plane ("planar") with each other, first and foremost, and in the process, actually "leveling" the unison as much as is practically possible. I was mulling this over with an associate when I came up with the logical if somewhat cumbersome solution of "string planarization". (Would you expect any thing less from the guy who came up with "hierarchicalization" to describe the order in which we arrange front and balance rail paper punchings, as in "consolidation and hierarchicalization"?) My apprentice, for whom English is not her first language, immediately suggested a more nimble, if not literally accurate response to the riddle: "Planing the strings". Now, this term may conjure images of a super hard planing blade peeling slivers of steel from along the length of the string, but hopefully it would not mislead a newcomer to attempt as much.

And so I submit for your consideration the better, if still imperfect designation, "Planing the strings".

Alan

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Alan Eder, RPT
Herb Alpert School of Music
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, CA
661.904.6483
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31.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-22-2017 02:23
Alan - 

I use an ETD - not an ETA - which means something else: Estimated Time of Arrival. But mine, being an ETD means it's time to Depart? No? Electronic Tuning Device? Possibly.   
Michael   UK





32.  RE: String leveling stuff

Posted 04-22-2017 02:27
Alan

Another thing you brought up for consideration: Planing the strings. Well, Luthiers 'shoot' the fingerboards of fiddles - so . .. . why not?

Michael    UK





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