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Broken repetition spring

  • 1.  Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 16:52
    Trying to adjust repetition springs on a 100-year-old B today, I had one break. Is it practical to replace just the spring, or does the labor exceed the cost of a new part?

    The piano is otherwise in great shape: restrung, new hammers/shanks/flanges, but with original repetitions and back action.


    Cy Shuster, RPT
    Albuquerque, NM

  • 2.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 17:09
    Would seem to depend upon the labor cost & price of spring vs. cost of new rep, if you have one. Would you really throw out an otherwise good (and matching) part to avoid replacing a spring?

    David Skolnik
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY

  • 3.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 18:16
    Time wise it might be easier and cheaper to replace the whole wippen.  But be sure the new one matches up with old one in every respect.

    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789

  • 4.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 18:21



    I'd replace the spring for sure, unless something else in the wippen is saying it's time for a new set!


    Don Mannino

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  • 5.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 18:25
    Absolutely as Don says!  Be sure to match the diameter of the repetition wire to the nearest 0.001 inch; that's important for proper operation.  Rob the appropriate wire from a new wippen if necessary.

    John Rhodes
    Vancouver WA

  • 6.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-13-2018 23:38
    Thanks for all the feedback.

    It's nice that when hammers are worn, usually the knuckles and flanges are shot, too, so it makes sense to replace them all.

    In this case, the rest of the repetition (whippen) is fine: the felt, both action centers, and the balancier leather. Plus it's traveled and so on.

    Can you even buy just a rep spring, or do you make your own? I'll bet a lot of them will break (I stopped adjusting after this one, in the second octave). Many are bent almost into a semicircle, and still don't provide enough force.


    Cy Shuster, RPT
    Albuquerque, NM

  • 7.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 00:18
    Ah, the plot thickens!  Yes, you can get repetition springs, though I'm not with catalogs right now, so I can't say which of the suppliers does NOT carry them.  The potential problem there is that you can't just go and order a repetition spring.  Even a whole set probably doesn't manage to fulfill the minimums that most have, so, unless you can get a couple from a local friend, you could end up spending more to get that one spring than the cost of the replacement wip you have lying around, although you could just canibalize that spring, as someone already suggested.    But  you managed to present conflicting scenarios:

    You first said:
    ... the rest of the repetition (whippen) is fine:..

    followed by:
     I'll bet a lot of them will break (I stopped adjusting after this one, in the second octave). Many are bent almost into a semicircle, and still don't provide enough force.

    It sounds like these may not, in fact, be quite so fine.  As original parts, the spring slots may be quite gunked up (technical term), and your assessment of the likely fate of the numerous over-bent springs is probably accurate, which means that:
    - you're going to get really good at replacing springs
    - you should propose to restore the set: replace all springs, clean and relube spring slot, OR
    - replace all reps to match the other new parts.  It's just money

    It really depends upon whose choice it is - you or the customer.

    It's somewhat remarkable that these parts don't appear to be affected by vertigris

    David Skolnik
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY

  • 8.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 10:58
    Thanks, Debbie, I didn't know you could buy just the springs. I found butterfly springs at Schaff in two sizes (bass and treble, different wire diameters -- thanks, John), as well as the spring cord (oh, fun).

    I went through similar tradeoffs with broken hammer flange spring cords on a Yamaha upright last year.

    Plan A: Replace cords on existing flanges
        Pro: avoid re-traveling shanks, cheaper cost of parts
        Con: lots of labor, with downtime while glue dries; flange bushings not replaced

    Plan B: Install new flanges
        Pro: work complete in one pass, less labor. Side benefit of new center pins and bushings, which were also worn. No traveling needed.
        Con: higher cost of parts, but not excessive, considering the benefits.

    I went with Plan B. The side benefit of solid flanges was the tipping point. Imagine the additional labor of rebushing all of them.

    OK, back to the Steinway B, rebuilt in otherwise excellent condition, in the home of a high-level player who performs.I believe in the "Rule of Six": if more than that break, they all will. Assume all rep springs are bad.

    Plan A: Replace springs on existing wippens
        Pro: cost of replacement springs: about $30. Low labor cost; low risk of side effects.
        Con:  if there are spring cords that need to be replaced, or spring slots that need to be cleaned and lubricated, labor goes way up

    Plan B: Replace existing wippens
        Pro: work is completed in one pass, in the home. Side benefit of two new action centers and spring cords (if applicable).
        Con: cost of replacement wips: about $1,000. High probability of labor in traveling and affecting every other regulation step.

    I was leaning toward Plan A until Debbie mentioned those spring cords, which adds a lot more work. Still, it seems exorbitant to spend a grand on a whole new set when only the springs are bad, especially when there will be a lot of labor involved in getting it right. They're angled capstans, so Steinway parts aren't available. Renner parts have the advantage of the tension adjustment screw, and the elimination of the spring slot.

    On the other hand, a complete restoration should have replaced these along with the back action, which is what the second-best model Steinway deserves. The investment would pay off in the long run. At some point, the piano itself becomes my customer. That would be the best thing for the piano, regardless of who owns it at the moment.

    Plan C could be swapping in some old parts on the ones that break for now. Given the high cost of wippens, I might go with the "Rule of Twelve" or more...


    Cy Shuster, RPT
    Albuquerque, NM

  • 9.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 06:52
    Hi Cy -
    You can buy butterfly rep springs, & the spring cord to hold them in the post.
    See the recent Dec 2017 journal - there's an article about replacing schwander springs on upright butts, but it's the same idea.
    I'd buy a bunch, and if 6 break, probably do the whole set.

    Debbie Cyr
    Registered Piano Technician
    508-202-2862 cell/text

  • 10.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 10:41
    Schaff sells butterfly springs for Steinway, set of 68 for bass/tenor, of 20 for the top. Probably your 100 year old instrument had three sizes, but I imagine you can make new ones work.

    Wire does fatigue, and I have found old rep springs that simply couldn't be made strong enough. Yours have been over bent, presumably, which would tend to lead to more breaking. 

    I'd replace them all, insist that has to be done to have a functioning instrument. It wouldn't be all that time consuming, and far less expensive than new wippens (and the new wippens have a slightly different geometry). 

    Number the wipps, remove them (use an electric screwdriver) and keep them in order (put the screws back in the holes, one turn to retain them). 

    Pop out the existing cord on all of them or at least a large group at a time (more efficient, as you use the same tools and get the hang of it - you might use a punch, or perhaps you would need a drill bit). 

    Then get some cord and start installing - align the coil, thread the cord through, pull flush, cut. 

    And re-install and regulate. The only difference in labor compared to replacing all wipps is the removing and replacing of the springs, which really shouldn't take more than a minute or so per wipp. So you are saving them $850 or so (if you simply sold them at your cost).
    Fred Sturm
    "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." Brecht

  • 11.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 11:05

    I suppose someone has to take the contrary opinion, so I'll step up for the fun of it. What new hammers and flanges were installed? Are these modern factory parts, i.e. 17mm shanks with current production hammers?  Either way, the geometry and weight of these new parts may not exactly match the originals anyway.  Clearly there has already been a significant investment in the instrument and one of the remaining weak links has begun to fail. Undoubtedly there is also some unwanted noise caused by these old wippens as well.  It is the owners call of course, but I would present the opportunity take the piano one big step further toward a complete restoration for the long term- if otherwise it seems to be a nice piano worth the effort and appreciated by the players.  Down road, when they are ready, a back action might be in order next- but I would make sure that information is known now so there are no surprises.  If the back action has horizontally glued flanges there will be more surprises at some point.

    best to you,


    Dennis Johnson, R.P.T.
    St. Olaf College
    Music Dept.
    Northfield, MN 55337
    (507) 786-3587

  • 12.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 12:19
    I missed the part where it already has new shanks and hammers. Given that, I'd replace the wipps. As Dennis said, assuming the new shanks are new geometry (17 mm knuckles), the new wippens are a better match than the old ones.

    Replacing the cord is not a big deal. It has threads within a sheath. You pull on the sheath, and it will stretch away from the core threads. Put a bit of glue on the sheath you have pulled free, making a threader. Removing the old cord isn't hard.(it isn't glued in, generally, so it should push out. If it is glued, use a drill bit). Installing the new cord is as simple as threading, pulling the sharp end through until the other end is flush, cut. 

    If you prefer, you could use bushing cloth and a center pin. That takes more work, but isn't hard to do. Sharpen the end of a strip of key bushing cloth (I think the diameter would be about right - if it isn't, you'll have to cut or tear strips from bulk). Pull through, cut flush, insert center pin, cut. Do it assembly line fashion.
    Fred Sturm
    "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination." - Einstein

  • 13.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-14-2018 14:50
    ...and while we're at it, if you do end up opting for whippen replacement, was there an issue trying to regulate with enough aftertouch?  Presuming the shanks may have been replaced with current production parts, and the wippens were not, then it's most likely no one bothered to adapt key ratio to accommodate the new parts either.  Either make things work as they are, or include a key ratio analysis with whippen replacement.  In this situation that usually means moving the capstans back about 2mm.  If they are angled, and especially if they are the older hex-type, I like to plug and redril with a reduced angle to match the arch better. This also works to your advantage in keeping the new capstan centered on the cushion, at it's new location.   One thing leads to another.......


    Dennis Johnson

  • 14.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-15-2018 10:43
    Thanks, Fred and Dennis.

    So when putting in the new spring cord, it's not necessary to glue it in place? Weird.

    There is enough aftertouch, but definitely a B should have all new action parts that match: h/s/f, wips, and back action, with vertical key capstans. I'll replace all the springs for now, and do some action geometry analysis.


    Cy Shuster, RPT
    Albuquerque, NM
    505-265-4234 (work)
    505-226-1811 (cell)

  • 15.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-15-2018 11:00
    It's a friction fit. It isn't going to work its way out.

  • 16.  RE: Broken repetition spring

    Posted 03-15-2018 11:49
    If you end up replacing all the springs, it would be a good idea to address the spring groove. They tend to become dented, and may have crud in them (lots of folks filled them with graphite grease in the 60s and perhaps before, and it gets hard and nasty). Give it a scrape and a bit of lube. I made a couple scrapers out of very cheap small screwdrivers: filed to match the groove’s profile, then beveled to make it sharp. I bent one so I can actually scrape from the top with action parts in place, and another goes along the side of the wippen from the bottom. Lube with a small dab of Protek MLP, or VJ, apply with a pipe cleaner. It doesn’t take long.

    The dent can make adjusting spring strength near impossible, as it creates a kind of stop for the spring. The hammer will rise, but not all the way. If you strengthen so it rises all the way, it will be too strong. I have found that on a Steinway B as young as 15 years old (heavy use, teaching studio). It was very puzzling for quite a while, until I thought back to much older instruments that had that symptom.
    Fred Sturm
    "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." -Gustav Mahler