Capstanless Emerson? Nope, he's got Felt-stans
Tue, 04 Jun 1996 15:23:36 -0400

Dear Larry & List,

     Over the years, piano builders have used many a bizarre system to
transmit the keystroke from the key to the whippen. Everybody's got a better

I've seen;
Capstan screws of various and sundry design, flat-head screws on the back of
the key, rocker capstans, and assorted stickers, extensions, or abstracts.
The wonders never cease. My least favorite is the dowel that slides into a
tight-fitting hole in the back of the key...with the adjustment screw beneath
that. Always a pain to get good results here, but after 5 or 6 keys you do
get a feel for the amount needed. (sigh)

     I suspect there MUST be a way to adjust lost motion in that thing.
Emersons are usually a decent enough instrument, IMHO. Look for an adjustment
screw UNDER the 'feltstan' at the back of the key! I've seen this done before
( a birdcage), with a buckskin piece over the screw to provide a bearing
point for the whippen. Let's hope it's that simple.

     Raising the center (or balance) rail won't get you much except a
slightly different angle on the whippen. You'd do better to increase the
height of the REAR of the key by replacing the backrail cloth...which will
directly raise your "feltstans" towards the  whippens. (This will lead to
total key leveling and dip adjustment, too. As long as you're there...the
hammer rail should be re-positioned slightly closer to the strings...I bet.)

After the gross adjustment;  Slit the felt near it's base and insert paper or
thin cardboard shims for fine adjustment (balance-rail shims, likely...);
Insert from the front, so you can adjust more easily in the piano. If the
lost-motion is still truly excessive, use new felt first!

<<Take a moment and lean on the new felt with a  block of wood ...pretend you
are Father Time inflicting 5 years of constant compression beneath the
whippen to it. Let it recover for a few (short) minutes before using in the
piano. This will help you get a more stable regulation from new felt. I also
lean firmly on the keys after installing new felts, rocking them back & forth
several times for same effect. Have seen others use a dowel to tap the keys
at the balance rail for stability in regulation. It works.>>
<<From the possible to the absurd...>>

1. Install Capstans; Too easy, right? Capstans are available from supply
houses, and a drill press will give you a good vertical angle. If space is
limited...glue felt to whippen and use wood screws for precise adjustment
( may be run-out-of-town-on-a-rail by other technicians ...pretend you
FOUND it that way...). Capstans would be best, but I suspect that you might
need to shorten them to avoid drilling too far in your (no doubt) fragile
keys (the Emerson is a fairly small piano in my experience, too). The owner
may not allow such cavalier treatment of a priceless heirloom, but I'm
throwing out options here! OK?

2. Lower the Whippen (or Action) Rail; You may get some gross adjustment by
actually lowering the entire action. Using the bolts that usually are driven
into the keybed. Your Emerson may not have a metal action brackets or
adjustable bolts... and lowering the action will certainly net you a world of
woes in damper regulation & shifted strike-point. Tough cookies.

3. Glue buckskin to whippen; Use too thick a piece... and sand or file to get
it accurate.
Yah, it would be a bunch of work...anybody got a sillier idea?

4. Remove all jacks; Replace 'em with a longer one! Or cut them in half,
stick in a headless screw, re-assemble the jack and ...voila'! Instant
jack-stretcher! (Your idea, not mine...)

     I do believe that you'll find an adjustment screw under the felt (...I
hope!). If not, you should get good results with the shims & felt approach.
Everything else is subject to much review, abuse, and strong dis-agreement
from others more sage than I.


Jeffrey T. Hickey  RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Service
TunerJeff @
<<Practicing Thespian & Flaming Heterosexual>>

Take a real good look at those "felstans", is there a screw under there!?
Could you put one IN, mebbe??
Take a real good look at the keys too, & UNDER the backrail felt...who knows?
(Stranger things have happened...I've seen keys with screws for height & dip
adjustment ...and I've seen keyframes in consoles with adjustment screws for
the same, handy that was; It allowed gross adjustment of the height of both
the balance and front rails. There were 5 or 6 "glide screws" run through
each rail with a "Hold-down screw" next to each. You loosen the retaining
screw, set the height of the rail, and re-tighten the retaining screw. Neat.
Definately one for Del's "Designer's Handbook"... )

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