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Steinway wippen - no jack button

  • 1.  Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-26-2019 22:29
    Hello all,  I'm preparing to regulate a 1905 Steinway A, and have encountered a wippen configuration I haven't seen before.  There is no button on the jack, instead there is a piece of soft felt in the rear of the window that the jack rests against.  How do I regulate jack/knuckle alignment?  Would I have to adjust the thickness of this felt pad, possibly replacing with thicker or thinner?  That seems very time consuming.  Am I missing something?  Thanks!

    Laura Wright, RPT
    Ivory Keys Piano Service
    Durango CO

  • 2.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 06:27

    Yes, either add or subtract from the material against which the jacks are resting, or instal spoons, regulating buttons and screws, or replace the wippens with modern ones so equipped.


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

  • 3.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 11:07
    To a limited degree you can regulate this felt stop  by either needling it or using a soldering iron (dialed down with a rheostat) to iron it.  Assuming it was set right to begin with that usually means needling to compensate for the wear.  You could also try Protek or a wetting solution of alcohol with a dab of fabric softener to swell it up.  It's a shot in the dark, but since it's not labor intensive it's worth a try.  Unfortunately,  the answer to this problem I usually encounter on older pianos is a thin piece of felt bandaid-ed onto the old felt, which is not only inconsistent (due to uneven wear), but also noisy.   Don't do this.  Replace the whole piece with hammer butt felt squares.

    Cecil Snyder
    Torrance CA

  • 4.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 11:02
    Hi, Laura.

    This method was not meant to be adjusted, but
    obviously, it must be. My assumption is that the
    jacks are now too far back. You can add travelling
    paper to the back surface of the jacks as needed
    to move them forward. If they are too far forward,
    which I doubt, then you would use a hot knife to
    iron the felt down or carefully cut a small bit 
    away. If the felt is deteriorated, you might consider
    replacing it with some of the specific thickness.

    Any way you look at this, it will be a time consuming

    Best of luck.

    Dave Conte, RPT
    Dave Conte Piano Service


  • 5.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 16:00
    I believe you are correct. Perhaps you could save time and adjust this by cutting a slice partway through the felt and adding small squares of paper or card stock to achieve the desired jack position. I’m sure others will throw out ideas.

    Joe Wiencek

  • 6.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 17:45
    Edited by Jon Page 01-27-2019 17:45
    I would tend to bolster the felt from the rear rather that the front.
    Old technology, Offer them a repetition upgrade if the spring grub is crusty and/or there is veritgris present (even in the slightest amount).


    Jon Page

  • 7.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-27-2019 19:27
    Edited by David Love 01-29-2019 09:13
    You can't on the old wippens without shimming them and it's a pain in the ass and not particularly practical.  It's a problem if you changed the shanks with a new knuckle position and didn't change the wippens along with it.  If you did that I'd suggest installing a new set of wippens.

    (In the case of installing a 17 mm knuckle with this wippen you’ll have to remove some felt to get the jack to move distally. Definetely nit practical.)

    David Love RPT
    415 407 8320

  • 8.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-29-2019 06:49
    From a historical perspective this is another piece of evidence that the manufacturing design/intent of this (for optimum performance) was to last about 25-30 years (40 absolute max) at which point (from the manufacturers perspective) the instrument would either come back to the factory for refurbishment, or be replaced with a new one.  This would also correspond with the performance longevity of the belly system. (True, it will continue to exist and "operate", but not at its optimum level as degradation is impossible to prevent).

    Could they have installed buttons and spoons? Of course...they already had a button on the other end of the rep lever and they had uprights with spoons. But somebody made the decision to make it essentially non-adjustable. There was a reason.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 9.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-30-2019 07:41
    I've heard that the lack of extra weight halfway out the jack's lever arm lowered inertia and made them quicker, improving repetition (likely difficult to prove)  There might also be a difference in the sound (or feel) as the jack snaps back to rest.

    Mark Dierauf
    Concord NH

  • 10.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 01-30-2019 09:55

    I like that angle. Sounds plausible. They could also have reasoned that by making it non-adjustable, no one would be able to adjust it "wrong", therefore this would be superior in the long run. Sounds good too...though your explanation has a better ring of technicality to it.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 11.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 02-06-2019 16:25
    Correct -  less mass on the jack = less inertia, and faster response...
    But there are other interesting effects of the fairly thick and soft rest bolster:
    first off, you will never hear noisy jack return on these 100+year old actions. (Compare that to almost any modern piano)
    second: in a hard blow, the jack is presses into, and to a degree compresses the bolster, reducing the likelihood of "cheating".
    Someone with a mechanical engineer's mind such as John Rhodes could surely add substantive comments on this.

    Jurgen Goering

  • 12.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 02-08-2019 09:28
    I accept all of those things as fact. However, before implementation of the design, there had to be discussion about the fact that "at some point this 'thing' is going to need adjustment in order to work correctly". Then somebody had to make the decision as to whether to add adjustability or not.

    IOW there are usually upsides and downsides to any mechanical design. For instance Bechstein's rocker arm direct pinning of the key to the whippen. Arguably the best design from a performance standpoint...but what a nightmare anytime you need to remove the stack! Upside/downside.

    So, the fact that S...way ultimately changed to an adjustable jack argues that something changed in their thinking, OR decision-making changed to someone else who favored correct geometry over the other factors, OR competitors pointed to it as a short-sighted defect and so the pressure of the marketplace brought it about, or of course "something completely different".

    Who knows? All I know is that these decisions ALWAYS have a reason behind them.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 13.  RE: Steinway wippen - no jack button

    Posted 02-09-2019 13:40
    The upright jack position doesn’t have an adjustment apart from the rest felt, yet it’s not really considered much unless parts are replaced or the action is refurbished. The felt does compress, and this changes the alignment to the butt. I have never heard much from technicians fussing over this too much, though the compression would require changes to key travel to ensure let off and the jack clearing the butt (adequate after touch.)

    Joe Wiencek