Rebuilding Whippens


Recently much has been said about the proper definition of a rebuilt piano. The older parts do not have to be replaced but must come up to the standards set by the manufacturer for the new part. I would like to concentrate on one part frequently replaced by rebuilders – the whippen. There are several reasons that I have not to replace parts but to rebuild them instead.
First, there is the convenience of not having to adapt parts possibly not made for the particular piano or that are not the same quality or size as the originals. Secondly, because of excessive action noise caused by teflon – I simply refuse to install Teflon bushed whippens into an old Steinway. Even if no definite clicks are present, there is still detectable noise in teflon whippens.
The ultimate product of a note played on a properly pinned, bushed and regulated piano is simply a bell-like tone escaping from the instrument with no evidence of mechanical means; and this can be more closely achieved with a cloth-bushed whippen.
Prior to regulation, a properly restored whippen saves on regulation and troubleshooting time, with no action noises to track down.
Lastly, the intrinsic value of the instrument, which may not be an antique now, but may be in 50 years has to be considered. Basically, antique collectors see the most value in a piece that has never been refinished or changed by a later craftsman. The highest prices paid for an antique of any sort are those for pieces in original condition. This has to be tempered of course by the function of an instrument. We want a piano to be playable with the least amount of change in the original design so that future generations will have examples of late 19th and early 20th Century instruments as close to the original as possible.
The first step is to space the hammers to the strings. This will insure that after removal whippens can be replaced accurately. Number all whippens upon removal. In many cases you will be replacing screws with a slightly larger one for a tight fit, but if you plan to save them keep them in order.
Usually an initial dusting off is required just forclose examination of the part. This can be done prior to removal with an air compressor of after removal with a soft paint brush by hand. I use three-sided action trays with a row of numbered screw holes in the back for easy transportation of parts around the shop. Remove all felt and cloth that you have determined has to be disposed of for reasons of wear, moth holes, etc. Clean the spring slot with a toothpick or other wooden scraping tool and regraphite with a No. 3 pencil. Examine the spring to determine if it is too severely bent or corroded to use. New springs are available from supply houses. Remove the centre pin first if one exists (some only have the cloth bushing) and ream the hole.
The new spring should be threaded on the bushing cloth as it passes through the hole in the wood. Usually the springs can be cleaned with either very fine steel wool or metal cleaner. Use of the metal cleaner (Noxon) avoids any possibility of scratching the surface of the spring that rides in the slot.
Frictionless contact between the spring and the slot is crucial. Many times the reason the spring does not make the hammer walk up properly is that …
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