how to rig a stuck piano key
October 18, 2012 10:31 AM   Subscribe

How can I jerry-rig my stuck piano key so it it returns fully?

I have a Wurlitzer spinnet from the 1950's, which a friend gave us in return for getting it out of her garage. We've had it tuned, but there's a D that's got a problem. It's not exactly stuck; what happens is that if it's pressed softly, it taps the string, but doesn't always rebound back into place. I'm not sure what pulls the hammers back on the other keys, but they all fall nicely back into place, even if you hold them up against the strings and let go. With this D key, if you hold the hammer up to the strings and let go, it just sits there.

Now, the piano tuner said he could fix it, but it would require replacing part of the assembly. My question is if anyone knows a way that I can rig it so it works, like by taping a penny to it (taping a penny to it does not work). I don't care how it looks or if it's really fixed, if I can actually get the key to sound every time.
posted by vraxoin to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In the assembly for the piano action, there should be a leaf spring that pushes the hammer back from the string. If you can access that part of the assembly, repairing the spring is possible. You could also try something silly like using an elastic band to pull the hammer back--it would just need to be adjusted to the right place on the neck of the hammer so the tension feels right.
posted by hanoixan at 10:48 AM on October 18, 2012

Disassembling a piano is actually not very difficult. Most repairs are very simple and the bits and pieces are available online.

There is a compendious resource here, which describes almost everything you would ever want to do in great detail, and can sell you the parts:

Basically, you remove the board that sits in front of your face, which is usually just clipped on and lifts right out.Now you can have a good look at everything. If you can't see what's wrong, you can remove the action (the whole system of hammers, dampers etc). It's usually just held on by three knurled knobs. You unscrew these and simply lift it out (you might need two people).

(Watch some videos on youtube before attempting this -- that's just an example, there are tons of them)

If you want you can clean the action with a vaccum cleaner set to 'blow'. It should be pretty clear what the problem is.

I totally dismantled, cleaned, repaired and adjusted a piano with no prior experience a few weeks ago, and it was way easier than I expected. It seems intimidating because of all the moving parts, but it really isn't that bad.

If you don't fancy this, any reputable piano tuner should be able to fix it for a fairly minimal cost.
posted by unSane at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

By the way, this section of the site I mentioned describes your problem and the solution in detail. He recommends not using elastic bands because they rot, but doing a temporary repair with ribbon or string.
posted by unSane at 11:27 AM on October 18, 2012

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