My Strategy

I only weigh off well-regulated actions. The objectives of weighoff are balance and consistency and erratic or inappropriate elements in regulation, including those of friction, inertia, and geometry, will interfere with balance and consistency whatever the weighoff.

Most full regulations I have performed were the first for that piano since it was new, suggesting that many (or most) pianos never receive this benefit. Complexity and costliness can make even experienced technicians wary of selling regulations. Too many unknowns, too many variations on unanticipated problems, and too high a price tag. Touch-ups work adequately well in most situations when not compared to the proper job.

But pianos falling well short of potential disappoint, frustrate, and annoy long before they fail. And our work life can be greatly enhanced by the change of pace and greater customer satisfaction deeper regulations offer.

I do this work largely out of the piano. Drop, backchecks, spring tensioning, jack and rep lever positioning, and friction are adjustments that cannot be made in the piano. And keys, keyframe, and topstack all benefit greatly from being regulated out in good light at an ergonomic height with 360 degree access and no customer hovering. I have a method of setup (see protocols) that makes bench bedding and strike accurately match what it is in the piano. And tool refinements that make prepping and regulating global procedures (rather than sectional). And an order of operations that makes the overall process linear, steps leading to next steps while not undoing previous steps.

In the piano, I bed the keyframe (validating all aspects with the action fully assembled) and take Keystep samples of bedding and weighted kissing samples of strike to recreate on the bench. Once the bedding is in place, my strike samples become accurate and I set Regulating Rack template heights, recording them with the String Height Gauge and marking the hammer spacing along the templates' strike edges. The template rail will then take the entire profile of strike down to hammerline, up to letoff, or back to strike in a matter of seconds.

If needed, I rough in key level, letoff, drop, backchecking, and springs – this does not take long. I then fully regulate three contiguous notes (two naturals with a sharp in between) to consider what’s there. Invariably, details emerge. Among other things, I check downweight and upweight and with this information decide what can be kept, what must be changed, and what my specs will be.

Next I prep parts, including filing hammers, pinning shanks and rep levers, and making parts vertical. Then square, space, and level keys, rough in hammerline, let off, and drop (as needed), dip to specs set in sampling, backchecks, springs, rep lever heights (winking), jack positions, hammerline, letoff, drop, and finally aftertouch by refining dip. All on the bench. Now weighoff. Then a quick touch-up and back to the piano for string-to-hammer fit, dampers, pedals, tuning, and voicing. 

There are many steps. But I go out to the bench just once, the regulating there goes really fast, and back in the piano the work fits. String leveling and mating proceed in one operation. Dampers regulate well to the well-leveled strings. And the action is balanced and extremely consistent – essentially pre-voiced. But it is the weighing off that assures results that will exceed expectation, the key to best perceived value and happy customers.

Next month: Weighing Off the Grand Action – Part 3  “Method and Style”

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