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Repairing a Broken Hammer Shank

There are really two kinds of breaks:

A. A break where the shank breaks off flush or near to the hammer head or hammer butt.

B. A break in the middle of the hammer shank.

These two breaks are very different in the repair that has to be done, so take a good look before you dive into it.

A. The hammer broke off flush with the hammer head or the top of the butt.

This is the harder repair. You are going to have to replace the hammer shank, or at least half of it-- the half at the end of the break.

First, remove the hammer butt from the action. I am assuming you found the hammer head. Whether the break is at the hammer head or the butt, cut the break off neat and flush at the butt or hammer wooden molding. Now, find a drill bit that is the exact size of the new shank which you bought from us from the Parts Catalog. Be sure to notice that there are two sizes of shanks-- One for old full size uprights, and one for spinets and consoles.

Next, you will have to drill out about a half inch hole where the broken piece of hammer shank is embedded. If you are drilling the butt, do not over do it please-- about one half inch deep please. If you are drilling the hammer head, try not to go all the way through the thing.

It is very important that you drill a straight hole. If you tilt forward or backward, or if you go right or left, you will have real problems later. You might want to put the butt or hammer head in the vise, and drill with a speed control small electric drill. If so, go slowly and on slow speed. Check your work as you go to stay plumb with the hardware.

Now, run the hammer shank into the hole. Make sure it goes in all the way. If not, hand work the hole with the drill bit until it is just big enough.

Get the hammer or the butt, as the case may be, which has a good portion of shank left in it, and cut it off just above the break, leaving at least and inch of the shank still in the wood. Next, remove a good hammer from the action from right next to the one you are repairing. This will be your measuring standard.

Go ahead and glue the new hammer shank into the hole you drilled. Use Elmer's carpenter's glue. Be sure the shank bottoms into the hole. Now, lay the parts out on a table or bench as in the diagram below. You want the repaired hammer to be the same exact length as the good one.

Once you have cut the shank, using a brass sleeve from our Parts Catalog, put the repair together WITHOUT GLUE, and check it against the good one. If it is to long, which is common, shorten one shank piece carefully. Once you are satisfied with your work, put some Elmer's Carpenter's glue into thee brass sleeve, and assemble the repaired hammer. Did you get the hammer pointed the same direction as the good one. It tends to twang pretty bad when you try to hit the wire with the back side of the hammer :-)

Lay the repaired hammer down on a flat surface to dry. DO NOT put it in right away. You might get the hammer head out of parallel. Later, put both the repaired and the good hammers back into the piano. You may have to make some slight adjustment at the capstan down on the back end of the key lever to either get lost motion out of the note or to get the hammer to lay back on the hammer rest bar. Experiment.

B. A break in the middle of the hammer shank.

Read the repair above. I said read it dummy, ya hear me now? But, do not take out a good hammer. Just remove the broken one. Using the brass sleeve, join the two broken ends. Make sure the wood is cleaned up at the break. Remove slivers and chips, but DO NOT carve away too much at the broken ends. Be sure wood glue is included in the break area. This repaired hammer is actually stronger than the day it was installed.

So, now that the repaired hammer is back, it is crooked, right? Don't panic, it's time to...


H. Straighten a crooked hammer