Pianotech

  • 1.  1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago

    Hello,

    I've been asked to give an estimate on replacing the whippens on an 1870s Kirkman semi-concert grand. I would also need to upgrade the old rocker capstans to modern ones if possible. It's also possible that I'll replace hammers, shanks and flanges followed by a regulation, of course. I haven't seen the piano yet, but I'm trying to plan ahead. Has anyone worked with this type of English piano before? Is there anything in particular I should be aware of? Photos below.

     Thank you!



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    Tim Foster RPT
    New Oxford PA
    (470) 231-6074
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  • 2.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
      |   view attached

    If you can find a modern wippen with similar geometry, especially at the jack toe, be prepared to modify the heel height and location. Check the half-stoke "magic line" and make capstan riser blocks so about 1/2 inch of capstan is showing. I reworked a Steinway that someone else modernized without these mods, and friction was horrible because they didn't move down the heels to a reasonable spot. Now it works well. "After" photo attached.



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    Greg Graham, RPT
    Brodheadsville, PA
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  • 3.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago

    Thank you for the great info! Can you help me understand what you mean by "the half-stoke 'magic line'"? Up to this point, I've not needed to make major adjustments to whippens.

     Thanks again!



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    Tim Foster RPT
    New Oxford PA
    (470) 231-6074
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  • 4.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago

    The "Magic Line" is from the wippen flange center to the bottom of the key balance rail hole. Ideally, the capstan contacts the wip heel on this line at mid key travel to minimize rubbing. I put a 0.200" stack of punchings on the front pin and a weight on the key. A thread is tied to the balance pin and run beside the key to a spare wippen flange with center pin. 

    In the photos attached, the capstan contact is WAY too far above the line. I needed to cut off the heels and glue in a block, then replace the key capstan blocks with shorter ones. The trick is that I also needed to move the capstan fore and aft to get a correct action ratio, so had to experiment with heel length several times.


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    Greg Graham, RPT
    Brodheadsville, PA
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  • 5.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago
      |   view attached

    Another option is to set aside the entire top stack for historic preservation (if it is original) and order an entirely new stack from WNG.  It is very satisfying to install a new action and have everything feel like a new piano.  WNG offers several wip heel heights, unattached, to make what we are talking about much easier.  Photo attached is finding the magic line on a Kranich and Bach with somewhat normal string height while fitting a custom-made WNG stack. I have made a display box for an old action in just such a situation, which the customer mounted on the wall of his music room.  

    Don't forget the damper action. It probably needs to be replaced too. 



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    Greg Graham, RPT
    Brodheadsville, PA
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  • 6.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago

    Tokiwa has available new 'Universal' whippens. The whippens have a slot on the bottom to adjust front and back position of the heel. 

    Several choices of heel height come with the set.  Works great!



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    Michael Hagen RPT
    Rohnert Park CA
    (707) 664-9857
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  • 7.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11 days ago

    Thank you all for the great info!



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    Tim Foster RPT
    New Oxford PA
    (470) 231-6074
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  • 8.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10 days ago
    Just to add my two Cents.

    The linked sticker action is the original Erard-Herz design.  it probably has a bit of a more connected feel; at least it's linked, and our modern version of it is not.

    More importantly, for modifications, the linked actions usually sit quite a bit higher so the heel needs to be quite a bit longer. It does make it a little more difficult to get the magic line and still have the heel position you want. You'll have to go with a pretty light hammer, too.

    I often find that wippens with stickers are in quite good shape.  It's possible to build a skill set for regulating the rockers and getting a good hammer line, and it might be worth giving it a shot just to see how it works out, especially since Kirckman it's a rather special make, not nearly as common as Broadwood or Collard And Collard, but with a reputation as a very high-quality instrument with long historical ancestry. 

    Regards,

    Bill

    Bill Shull, RPT, M.Mus.
    www.shullpiano.com
    www.periodpiano.org
    909 796-4226

    Sent from my iPhone





  • 9.  RE: 1870s Kirkman action update

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 10 days ago

    Nice to hear from you Bill.  Few have as much experience as you with early pianos.   And few of us have the chance to work on them as well.   I worked on a Bechstein grand with a rocker action and the original hammers which I replaced hammers on.  I measured the strike weights and they showed, with accounting for loss of weight by wear, that the originals were close to a strike weight reference scale #3.  I've learned that such exceedingly light weight hammers have to be much softer than modern type hammers and I talked with Ray Negron at Ronsen.  He said he had Wurzen felt that was too soft and he couldn't use it.   I asked him to make me a set as light as possible.  Then I was able to taper the hammers down to Scale #3.  These produced an exceedingly beautiful tone in the piano and the action felt fine.   A question for Tim:  Can you determine if the hammers pictured are original?  Some sample strike weights across the keyboard would be useful for your estimate.



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    David Stanwood
    stanwoodpiano.com
    stanwood@tiac.net
    508-693-1583
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