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"sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

  • 1.  "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-05-2022 13:23
    I have a customer with a "Koehler & Campbell" grand piano built around 2005, I believe by Samick.  It has started to develop tight hammer flanges. I did four of them a few months ago, and now she has some more. We are having pretty dry weather here in Northern California. It was moved to the present house about a year ago, but the move was within this region, so no climate change, and it's a fairly new house, sitting in it's own room that is open to the rest of the house. Is this a chronic problem with these, so I should do something like repin them all, or would lubricating them suffice? I see no sign of "green stuff" showing, but maybe these are the plated pins? I didn't see any damage to the ones I did replace.
    Repining them all seem like a time-consuming project, how many hours would you estimate I should bill for it, if that is the solution?   I ask this because my usual clientele is uprights, consoles, and spinets, so while have experience with grands, I'm not "proficient" at them-which begs another question, would you be comfortable in doing this in the home?  There is plenty of space in the piano room that I could bring in a folding table to set the action on while doing all this.

  • 2.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-05-2022 14:00

    Samick pianos from that ear are notorious for sticking centers. The pins react with the felt bushings that causes corrosion. If you remove a pin, you can see slight discoloring at the ends of the pins where they interacted with the bushing cloth. All the parts of the action are affected, including the hammer and wippen flanges, jacks and eve the damper levers.  

    There really isn't a real long term solution to this problem short of new parts. But there seems to be a lot of success with just repining the parts. It's labor intensive. Allow at least two hours for each set. It will help if ream each bushing. Instead of doing all of them at once, it will help you and the customer to do one set of bushing at a time. 

    Good luck. 


  • 3.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-05-2022 18:12
    I have a piano in my care that answers to the same description as the one you are working on. As an experiment, I tried lubricating with ProTek, keeping very careful notes about which action centers have been lubricated and when. While there continue to be sluggish centers from time to time, none of them are ones that I had used Protek on. I realize that this is not best practice, but on this piano it seems to work, long term (several years and plenty of playing since the first centers got treated), and it sure is economical.


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

  • 4.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-05-2022 18:59
    This is a nightmare scenario because EVERY center pin and bushing is affected. There has been extensive discussion in the past on the issue and it is not verdigris. It is plating shedding on the center pins causing the center to seize in the wool bushings. I believe at one time it was a warranty issue but no longer. Part replacement is the best way to go. I do not see the economics in just repinning without rebushing. It is EXTREMELY labor intensive - do the math- the hammer flange has 2 bushing 1 center pin ; there is a whip flange, jack center, rep lever center, damper flange . Not only that but you need to pin to a certain gram spec. If its only a few you could do it in home but the job is better done in a shop on a bench. Although I have never done it Jurgen has a method for gang repinning using long lengths of center pin stock If you go through all of this exercise without going insane you will have to travel and align parts.

    I had a Samick Grand that had a dozen or so slow hammers. Fixed them in the house, Had a callback for more sticking hammers that I marked with a different chaulk. Had a second and third callback The more the piano was played the more hammers stuck. Use different chaulk so you can identify the latest problems . Then the lady has a cocktail party, hires a pianist and people are walking in and out the french doors letting all of the hot, humid, summer air in. Did I mention the property has a dock on the creek ? The more the guy plays, the more friction and the more "Seizures" the piano has. Customer calls me later and says I ruined her piano.....

    PROTEK, CLP,center juice may give some short term relief but the real source is still there.

    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 5.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-05-2022 22:27
    Haven't people been talking about Simple Green as a contaminated action center solution? Or did I imagine that.

    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI

  • 6.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-06-2022 01:48
    Fantastic for the Steinway verdigris. If this is a plating problem it may not work

    Sent from my iPad

  • 7.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-05-2022 22:58
    I'd say it's likely to have the pin plating problem. I've seen that in Samicks from that era. The hammers are the most critical (other than the jacks, of course, but you didn't mention any problem there). How about proposing two solutions and letting the customer decide?

    Solution 1: repinning the hammer flanges. This would be the cheapest and the "hopeful" repair. Most likely the problem will not return, based on what other techs have said here in the past.

    Solution 2: new hammers, shanks, and flanges. This would be the guaranteed repair, at least with regard to the hammer assemblies.

    I'd do the work in my shop, as I like to take short breaks every so often from the tedious work. As far as time allotment, I'd allow 4-6 hours shop time. I can repin a hammer rail in ~4 hours. You'll also want to check the key bushings and balance holes. I also usually clean and Prolube the capstans and key pins, size the bushings with VS ProFelt and cauls, and apply Teflon powder to the knuckles. You can also mention reshaping the hammer felts while you have it in your shop.

    John Formsma
    New Albany MS

    "Sneak up on optimal."
    --Ron Nossaman

  • 8.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-06-2022 00:40

    David, a few warnings ...

    Yes, best to do the work at home. You can just take the stack.

    Warning #1: the traveling on these is often done without gluing in the paper or card. You take off a hammer flange, and a piece of card flies off. If you can see which side it came from, glue it back on, or you might need to do all of the traveling again.

    Warning #2: if you do this job piecemeal, doing the bad ones, then others as they develop, be certain to write the date on any parts you repin. It is only human for the owner to assume that a sticking hammer is one of those you repinned, BUT SO FAR IN MY 42 YEARS' EXPERIENCE, IT NEVER IS. Repinning is the sovereign cure. They never seem to get worse again after the are repinned with non-plated center pins.

    Warning #3: if you do the whole set, you'll get the spacing with the strings a little bit closer if you do all the evens, put them back on, and do all the odds. Of course number all parts.

    Warning #4 (kind of obvious, though): All those screws into the aluminum rails: take your time and don't double thread them!! Removing with a power tool is one thing, but putting them back in and tightening them down with a power tool is begging for trouble.

    Some pianos have the problem with certain parts, and none with others. Other pianos (usually the most heavily used) need to have every single center repinned. I don't think replacing parts with originals from the same manufacturer is a good idea, since the replacement parts might well have the same trouble, just a few years down the pike. The hammer flanges are usually the worst and the first because of the wide range of motion and the physical stress they are under.

    It seems to be worse in humid climates.

    Use high magnification and a strong light, and you may well see scoring circling the center pins, down at the ends where they touch the cloth. Fragments of plating caught in the cloth, scraping against the center pin, is my theory.

    Another way to diagnose this problem, as opposed to other causes of sluggish flanges: the piano plays better when you first sit down to play it -- not so bad after all, maybe just the worst couple. Within a few minutes everything gets worse. This is due to the heat generated from friction in the affected parts, enlarging the center pin diameter. For other sluggishness, like verdigris, the parts would work better as they are played in, or be unchanged, not worse.

    I've found it best to explain the problem to the owner, and leave it up to him or her whether to get the whole set done, or just do them as they develop. Depending on the use of the piano, the new ones might develop slowly. Or you can do?? mix and match -- keep track of which you have repinned already, work out a price for doing the others if the owner wants to go ahead. Doing them all at once should be less per note, of course, since you don't have the visits. It's a good time for tactful education, and if you can physically show the scoring to the owner, your credibility will improve. The important thing to stress is that once a part is repinned, it won't go bad again. Done and dusted.

    This used to be called "Asian Flu." Nowadays it might be called Korean Flu. Unknown if the Indonesian products have this trouble. You'd think with the pain this must have caused Samick and Friends that they'd figure out what causes it and get it fixed.

    By the way, I found doing all the underlevers, both pins, to be the most annoying. All that regulation, and having to lean over to get them out and back in. But I only needed to do that on one piano, practiced many hours a day.

  • 9.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-06-2022 09:18
    Susan that was an excellent post and will certainly help others. It really is a game of whack a mole . What begins as a field repair of a few sticking hammers mutates into the ultimate rabbit hole. If you take this challenge on make sure you put something in writing initialed by the client listing the issues and options. It is a tough spot to be in but they need to be told the facts. The same goes for the creeping/expanding action bracket issues. My last customer for an expanding action bracket piano didn't feel she should have to pay for the new brackets or my labor. I handed her the fact sheet I had from YC when it was a warranty issue over 30 years ago

    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 10.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-07-2022 14:02
    Sorry, I'm viewing this discussion and sure would like to know if there has ever been a plating problem with Steinway pianos.  I don't mean verdegris.

    I have a Steinway "K" # 581887 that has started to have this issue.  Piano was bought used from a dealer about 5 years ago and never serviced.  I recently got a call to service it because the owner was having "stuck keys".  I repinned the offending flanges, but a few days later got a call back for the same issue. I asked her to be present when I opened the piano up because  I had marked, signed, dated and wrote on the keystick what I had done.  This proved to the owner that these were not the keys I had originally worked on. Again, just curious how widespread this issue might be on Steinway's.

    Also I imagine it's possible that a previous tech lubed offending action centers with something that may have caused the problem?

    [Wesley] [Gill[Designation]
    Apollo PA

  • 11.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-07-2022 15:18
    While it's possible, I doubt this problem is the center pin platings. More likely, poor quality control in the bushing process, and follow up of friction in assembly and final prep. The fit between birdseye and flange may also be a factor. Best solution: remove all hammer flanges to test and correct the friction by reaming and repinning.

    Patrick Draine
    Billerica MA

  • 12.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-07-2022 18:09
    The job can be done in the home in 3 hours. Dale Erwin's methods. Rule 1: use the tool in the hand as many times as possible. If you do each part changing 5 different tools, it takes forever. 
    Ask for a regular chair to sit on. Put the piano bench to one side and cover with moving pads. Set the action on the bench. 
    Your work bench is the keybed. Like Susan said, remove every other shank/flange and watch out for loose travel papers. lay each flange in order across the keybed until you are out of room. 
    Remove the pin in all the flanges. use the correct Mannino reamer in each flange. press in all the new pins. Check swings and use lighter to burnish if needed. cut off all the pins. Install the flanges. Do the next set of flanges. 
    basically about 2 minutes a flange.
    Check the hammer travel. 
    I did one in 2 1/2 hours

  • 13.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-06-2022 09:41

    There is another possible issue, as I discovered on a customer's Sammick: wide birds eyes. In this particular grand, many of the repetition levers were sluggish. After taking them apart, I could see the fit was too tight; repinning alone would not have solved the issue. I had to sand the birds eyes. We don't have high humidity in southern Oregon-if anything it's pretty dry.

    Alcohol and water will not work to size the bushings or free up things, and neither will Protek (I've been back several times.) On another recently purchased Sammick, the dealer brought the action back to the shop and tried…the problem came back. With the friction/heat issue in mind, I questioned the customer: does it play well at first and get worse as you play it? The answer was yes.

    On the other hand, I also have a customer with a Kohler and Campbell Sammick. On that one, all the flanges are loose, with many pins walking out.

    Scott Cole, RPT
    Talent, OR

  • 14.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-06-2022 09:55
    Scott... could you post the age, serial number and model of all these pianos ? I take it you had to sand down the sides of the birdseyes to get a loose fit in the saddle it sits in
    I have seen this before and scraped with xacto blades. There is probably a whole bunch of these pianos waiting to leap out of the woods. As for pins walking out sounds like poor pinning and a need to repin and rebush Are these pianos new or used ? If new maybe it is a warranty issue that needs to be pushed.

    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 15.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-07-2022 09:32
    Here you go:
    Samick SIG-50 #GJL0164: sticking plus swollen rep lever birdseyes
    Sammick #IGLCG 00153: sticking
    Kohler & Campbell Grand #IRG60400: loose pins, walking out
    Not sure on the years—after puzzling through the serial numbers on these things I’ve given up.

  • 16.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-06-2022 16:22
    Round-up the usual suspects.


    Jon Page

  • 17.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Posted 05-07-2022 10:56
    I have a customer of many years with a Samick SG-150C grand made in 1998 with the same problem. At first I used ProTek CLP, which is the first thing I try, but that ended up being only a short term solution. I've since replaced pins as they show up and that fixes the problem permanently. I've probably done a dozen at this point. I mark the repaired ones to keep track of them. I usually replace 2-3 at each visit. I've explained the problem to her and I think she understands what's going on. Anyway, that's what I've done.

    "That Tuning Guy"
    Scott Kerns
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    PianoMeter, TuneLab & OnlyPure user

  • 18.  RE: "sticking keys" developing on 2005 grand

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-11-2022 18:25
    A follow up; The customer chose to have me repin the currently sticking keys and will call me back after more are sticking. I found that the only centers that are presently sluggish are the hammers, so I checked for any with ANY sign of sluggishness and repinned 10. She feels the "as needed" approach fits her budget better. We shall see how it goes! I did mark all the ones I did to keep track of what is happening.
    Thanks for all the advice!

    David Dewey
    Oroville CA