Superman's Hammers

Here's the action. Those shanks have been 'in action' since the beginning. The hammers are generic Japanese. This was all we could get in the 80's.
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This piano was made in 1924, it seems, two years before Bechstein decided to adopt the standard system.
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Bechstein, although a favourite on the concert stage, and a serious competitor to the other maker of quality pianos still active in Germany, did pursue an evolutionary dead-end with its coupling system. The little pieco of wood with the two screws in has a connecting link at the back, which connects the key to the action. The idea was to reduce friction. It may perhaps reduce friction, but it means the action cannot be separated from the keys, and the 'two-screw' adjustment is unstable. You'll see in a later photo how uneven the hammer-line is. Besides, the screws are weight. Each gram on the back side of the key is 5 grams at the playing end.
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The uneven hammer-line.
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The shiny silver piece was added by me. That by itself is the equivalent to the piece of wood with the two strews, and is much easier to adjust to achieve an even hammer-line. On the Bechstein belonging to Lady Mary Fairfax, I changed the old system to the standard system, and removed the two-screw block entirely. I've kept it here. I just wanted to see how it would work. See http://a440.com.au/current/Bechstein/fairwater/ .
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The new piece is a direct descendent of the Bechstein original, but is made to go with the silver 'capstan'.
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There's a problem with the action as it is, in that the Japanese hammers aren't hitting the strings square-on. In some cases, only 2 of the 3 strings are being struck, so you have the una corda tone whether you want it or not. Worse, when the left strings strikes the very edge of the hammer, the sound is quite irregular.
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Because the hammers have been 'running' or veering instead of rising perpendicular to the strings, they have a slope at the striking point. The felt is denser lower down, so in these hammers, the left side is denser than the right. The piano sounds beautiful in the middle in spite of this, but the problem was quite obvious in the top two sections. I couldn't send the piano back like that. It hasn't been noticeable with the old strings - pianos develop a 'status quo'.
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Oh, by the way, the top two hammer hardly made a sound. You probably gave up using them. The Japanese hammers have the wrong profile - this is only noticeable night at the top. I got these two hammers off another  Bechstein which had denser hammers fitted in order to be heard in a school auditorium.
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The irregular spacing of the hammers, which stops the hammers hitting all 3 strings, is caused in part by the poor angling in the glueing of the hammers to the shanks, but is also a result of the shanks being fixed in position by the little pins in the notches in the flanges, closest to player in this photo. Another dead-end, discontinued.
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I took the hammers off and removed the offending pins.
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The correct profile of the hammer on the right gives a louder sound.
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I replace every second hammer and shank (more or less), to get the alignment consistent. You can see how the new
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As mentioned, these new parts were fitted on to the Bechstein that was to be part of the piano hire stock of The Piano Restoration Company. Fox Studios bought the piano to wreck in the movie Superman. Jim, the owner had the action sitting around for 4 or 5 years after that, before he gave it to me as a peace offering. I'm happy to pass the parts on, as they enhance the top two sections. It might entail more serious work to adapt the parts to the tenor and bass sections though, as the angle of the drilling was different. It's not hard to change the angles, all that is needed is time. The other piano was a concert-grand, with longer tenor and bass strings, set at different angles. As I said, the angles can be changed - it's a process that happens more often than you'd think.
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