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First of all, hang your thumb on the board along the lower front of the keys. Pull down and out toward you, and strike the offending key. If that loosens the key, you must shim the offending board. Remove the four or five screws that hold it under the front edge. If it is a grand piano, you may have to read about dismantling in Chapter Five to take this board off. Put cardboard shims vertically between the board and the rough board right under the keys, and replace the trim board. That should take care of the problem.
If a key comes up very slowly after striking but will play again, your problem is probably humidity. If it is a damp day when it does it, and on a dry day it acts normal, you can be sure it is humidity.
Open the piano as instructed in Chapter Five until you can remove the keys. Take the offending key out and look for "Felt bad?" below for instructions.
Before shaving the felts in the keys, look at the back ends of the key levers. Are two key levers dragging on each other? If so, place the bit of a screw driver against the top and side of the center pin in the key. With a small hammer, or the heal of your hand, thump the pin so that it bends just a bit widening the offending gap. This will rock the key over, freeing it from the one next to it. Be sure you bend the pin in the key lever that will not get into the key lever on the other side and simply relocate the problem. You can file away the back end of the key, widening the gap, if there is no room to use the bending method.
Before going on, check the vertical pin which was under the front of the key. It is oval shaped. If it has twisted in its hole, that is probably the problem. You must turn the pin so that the oval is perfectly parallel to the hole it fits into in the bottom of the key lever. DO NOT scar the pin with pliers. Stick some masking tape on the inside of the pliers jaws, then grab and twist. Give it a tap down with a round object and a small hammer to set it so it won't turn again.
If the pins are rusted badly, you should buy new one from our Parts Catalog. Buffing them will probably now last since the plating is worn away and they will rust again.
Look at the under side of the key lever at the hole with felt in it (usually red felt). Also, note the hole on top in the middle of the key lever with red felt in it. The most common cause of sticking keys is that the felt pieces in the two holes in the key have swollen and are holding the key from lever moving freely. You can grind off some of the surface of these felt pieces with an emery board, or you can shave off a VERY THIN layer with a razor knife. I prefer the latter method. Before replacing the key lever, blow or pick any loose junk out of the hole.
Rarely, you may find a felt piece in a key lever hole folded over where a tuner has reassembled carelessly. You cannot easily get the felt to lay down again, so cut away the fold, with the razor knife, to free the hole. You can get it back into place by adding a bit of Elmer's glue and wedging two pieces of a disassembled clothes pin into the hole, and allow it to dry well.
If your key button felt is gone completely, you will want to replace it. Check Out our Felt Page in the Catalog.
Sometimes the center pins, a whole section of them, get rusty because some happy traveler spilled his coke into the piano before you bought it used. These rusty pins act as brakes to the keys. Remove all of the key levers in that area, and buff the center pins with Four-0 steel wool from "your friendly ACE hardware store". Vacuum the shavings out after you do this, and replace the keys. A shot of silicone on ONLY the pins before reassembling will help prevent future rusting.
This could end up being only temporary if you have plenty of humidity in your area. The plating is ruined on the pins, so they may well rust again. You can order the Key Center Pins in our Parts Catalog online.
If a piece of felt falls out of its hole, as in old uprights, shave or buff a sliver off of the working surface of it carefully, and glue it back. Use something (clothes pin trick above) to wedge it into place as it dries.
Put the key lever back into place. As you put it back, lift up on the bottom of the vertical stick which rests on the back end of the key lever so that you don't knock the felt piece off the bottom of the vertical stick.
First, read in Chapter Seven about Lost Motion in the action. If this is excessive, you should adjust your action first.
The following applies only to upright pianos. You hit a key, the hammer strikes the wire, but it fails to completely return to rest again. First, look for the obscure cause. There are wire springs almost two inches long down in the action. They are mounted on a wood rail behind the hammers, and they push against the butt of the hammer. They are supposed to end in a "V" in the hammer butt, but sometimes they pop out. You will need to find some kind of makeshift tool with which to hook the wire and pull it around and into the "V" again. This could well solve the hammer problem. If the spring broke off, read on down until you come to the bending of the bridle strap wire, and try that.
The most common reason for sluggish hammers is because of humidity. You can hang a maximum 30 watt bulb in the bottom of the piano for a couple of days, and the hammer may settle down at once. If not, here is a solution. It is a bit makeshift, and you should tell the tuner about it so he can do a complete "fix" on it when he comes next time to tune.
With the piano opened to expose the action and keys (see Chapter Five), and with the Diagram of the spinet of upright up and ready, find the wire holding the bridle strap. You are going to bend this wire outward a bit to cause the bridle strap to jerk the hammer back. Here is what you MUST do to get it right.
First, with a small screw driver, push down on the lower butt end of the jack causing it to flip back toward you, and hold it that way through the next step.
Second, lift up on the wippen so that all the bridle strap is totally slack and the jack lifted up, holding it through the next step.
Third, drop the screwdriver :-) , and put your index finger under the wippen, and with your thumb, pull the bridle strap wire back, bending it somewhat. Let go. Does the wire hang back about a quarter inch more than before? If it is more than that or if it didn't bend at all, try again til you get it right. You want just a little slack in the bridle strap.
This will let the bridle strap jerk the hammer back to rest position. If the hammer is back but not really resting on the hammer rest rail, the wire is bent too far back. Push it forward a bit.
A sluggish hammer in a grand piano is caused by altogether different reasons. The key lever could well be the culprit, for the grand action wants to respond right by nature a lot better than an upright. So, check under the keys for junk. This will require removing the action as in Chapter Five.
First though, look down through the wires to see of some piece of junk fell into the piano. You may have a time removing it, but at least you know the cause is simple. Also, after taking the key cover off, as in Chapter Five, look back into the action to see if a pencil fell into the action and is lodged back in there. This could be 100% of your problem.
Once the action is out of the grand piano and sitting on a table, test it. Do this by holding a piece of wood above the keys about the height of the strings, and hit the keys. Try to see how the keys that offend behave different than the ones working right. See if there is any junk in the center holes in the key levers. Watch the jacks. Do they all act the same. One may have a broken spring. Look into the wippen of the offending key. Is a spring broken, or is the silk cord broken. Any of these would explain your problem. At this point, if something is broken, you would do better to simply try to buy the new wippen from us. Repair is very hard to do. Go to our online Parts Catalog and check Grand Action Parts.
If you cannot see the problem, and if you have generally good mechanical skills, remove the action rail by removing the screws which hold it to the key bed in the metal frames, usually four to five. Lay it in a very safe place, and remove the offending keys and shave the felts in the front and center key bushing holes. Check for rusting pins which slow the movement of the key lever. The reason for this is that a sluggins key lever will cause a hammer to not move back quickly to rest and mess up the wippen action.
I heard about a tuner who poured alcohol on the keys to dry the felts. That is makeshift at best, and if it is not pure denatured alcohol, the water content will swell the felts worse. Bad method! Freeing up key lever felts has to be done by altering the felt more permanently.
If you don't want to do the more permanent cure above, you can still loosen the key for a while without opening the piano at all. Push the two keys down on either side of the offending key with one hand, two fingers. Now, grab the front end of the sticking key with the other hand, two fingers. Push it rather hard from side to side, mashing the felt inside the holes in the key. Slightly depress the key lever as you push side to side.
If this works, it can be repeated from then on until the next time your tuner comes to tune. BUT, write down the identity of the offending key, because it is almost certain that it will not stick when your tuner arrives! You should invest in the labor for the tuner to open the piano and loosen the felt in the keys.
Is the key still sticking? If so, the problem is up in the action. First, try a light squirt of aerosol silicone, using the tube in the nozzle (NEVER oil) into the middle of the action parts in the area of the slow hammer, making sure none gets on the tuning pins. If that fails, try gently twisting the offending wippen (see diagram). Be very gentle, and slightly wiggle it in all directions. If these measures fail, you really ought to call your tuner to loosen the action.
After you get the sticking keys working, play the piano in the area where the keys stick. Move your piano lesson up or down a couple of octaves some of the time. Playing a piano helps, more than anything else, to keep it loose.