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Floppy Hammers

With the piano open, you have inspected the action. Perhaps you noticed a note, when you played the piano, which seemed erratic. Now, you find that a hammer is flopping from side to side. There are three possibilities:

A. The hammer butt is broken.

B. The hammer butt is simply loose.

C. The pin that holds the hammer in the hammer butt has moved sideways.

D. The hammer butt bushing is worn.

This job can be done with the action in the piano, IF it is an upright or console. Drop actions have to come out. Grand pianos have this problem, but the problem is almost always B. above. Here is the repair method for all four possibilities:

A. The hammer butt is broken.

This is the worst problem. You must take out the hammer and hammer butt. First detach the bridle strap by twisting it off of the wire loop to which it is attached. Next, using a flashlight (preferably in your friend's hand), locate and remove the screw under the hammer which holds the hammer butt to the "rail."

This will be a trick because the screw will most likely fall down into the action. If you can get hold of a screw driver that holds a screw by wedging itself into the slot in the screw, this will make the job much easier.

If you drop the screw into the action, sometimes the easiest way to remove it is by turning the action carefully upside down and shaking it. Sounds crazy, but it shortens the pain. Otherwise, a magnet or pickle grabber will do.

Once you have removed the hammer and the broken hammer butt, you can glue the hammer butt back together with Elmer's carpenter's glue. Clamp the hammer butt with a small crescent wrench or use a clothes pin for a clamp. Make sure the break is tight so that it will go back into the action flat. Now, this is an act of desperation, but it often will hold for a while.

If the pin holding the hammer in the butt slipped sideways, be sure to center it again before the thing dries. If the break seems very fragile, you can order a part from me to repair it. Either a new butt can be ordered or a metal reinforcement goodie. See the Parts Catalog.

Work the hammer with the attached butt back into place, and fiddle the screw around until it starts into the hole in the rail. Be sure to reattach the bridle strap. This is a job that is very fussy, but you can save a bundle by doing it yourself.

B. The hammer is simply loose and floppy.

Facing the front of the action, poke your screw driver through the action, your flash light showing the way, and tighten the screw holding the hammer butt. Don't over-do it. You could break the hammer butt.

If the hammer butt is brass, you will have to tighten the small plate that holds the hammer butt to the pin from the back of the actio. You will need to remove the action from the piano and set it in a safe way or ask a friend to hold it while you work. Be very conservative please as you tighten the brass plate. The brass is old and can break. In fact the brass hammer butt hinge may very well be broken. If so, order several from my Catalogue- Action Parts Section. If the brass plate must let the screw through the plate hole to threads in the hammer butt rail, drill out the threads in the new plate to allow this. Otherwise, most pianos need the threaded plates which I send. Be sure to tell us if you have an old Kimball.

C. The hammer butt pin has slipped sideways.

If the pin has left you room, put a thin screw driver blade or sturdy knife blade beside it and push it sideways back where it belongs. If the pin is solidly against the butt next to it, you will have to use a sharp pocket knife to work at it trying to grab it with the blade edge and move it back. Work the hammer around as you do this so the pin can find the hole center on the other side of the hammer butt. Don't hurry or get brutal. You could break the hammer butt.

If the pin damages the felt bushing, you may need to remove the hammer and butt assembly and install new Bushing Felt from the Catalog.  See D below on how to handle this challenge.

D. The hammer butt bushing is worn.

In all pianos, where metal meets wood, there is a felt bushing or washer. This eliminates the chance of clickity clacks all through the action. These bushings can get worn or damaged, and in the case of a hammer, the worn bushing will allow the hammer to flop side to side. The result will be a overly worn hammer since it has no hitting pattern. You should replace the hammer butt bushing felt.

We better tell you how to install bushing felt. The felt comes in strips about 3/8 inch wide. Remove the hammer from the action and push the old bushing out. Cut a point at one end, and poke it through the hole in the hammer butt. Grab the point, and pull it through the hole until it is rather snug. Now, with a razor blade, cut off the felt on either side of the butt hole. This will leave a neat little new bushing in the hammer butt pin hole.

The problem is, your old pin will trash the new bushing as you try to insert it. You need to buy new center pins from the online Parts Catalog. They are longer than needed, and they have a point so that you can push them through the new bushing without trashing it. After you do both bushings, insert the new center pin through the bushings with the hammer butt between the bushings so that the pin goes through the hole in the hammer butt. This will take some caution to still not trash the new bushing.

To order center pins, mic the old one, and when you call us tell us what size diameter it is in thousenths.




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