Author Topic: Newbie Questions!  (Read 976 times)

Offline jamessh

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Newbie Questions!
« on: May 26, 2020, 03:19:19 AM »
Hello everyone - I've really enjoyed reading all the helpful information on this terrific board. I just purchased my first Wurlitzer, a 200A from 1976 (I had a Rhodes Mark 1 back in the day, which I loved, but I've always wanted to try a Wurly, and the smaller size fits the space I have). It's in overall great shape and plays ok - it was only used as a family piano for two generations of piano lessons (is that rare?). It's never been opened up in its life.

Besides decades of dust that needed to be cleaned out (and a couple small pieces of candy that somehow got in there!), the main issues are that it plays unevenly - some notes louder than others, and with some unevenness in the action - and, especially in the bass, there can be a hard knocking sound when a note is played with gusto (e.g, the low C in the opening of "You're My Best Friend" sounds like a percussion accompaniment!).

Based on what I've learned here, it sounds like the main thing to do, besides a general cleaning, is clean and lubricate the key pins and - here's the main point - adjust the let-off, a term I'd never heard before. I ordered the capstan wrench from the very helpful gentleman on this board - Steve, I think - and it should arrive in a couple days. I've searched for all the discussions of it, and while it's mentioned frequently as the one critical thing to do, I've not found a post that describes the procedure completely. I downloaded the manual, which is helpful, but if someone could direct me to a post I may have missed, or lay out the basic procedure, I'd be very grateful.

I did run across discussions of the amount of let-off; the 200A manual says 1/8," and makes no mention of varying it from the bass to the treble, as some here have suggested.  Right now there seems to be quite a bit more - as much as 1/4" in places. So I'm anxious to see what it will be like with that adjusted correctly (or as close as someone who's never done it before can get it).

One other issue is that some of the hammers drop right down after striking the reed, and some don't. Is that a big deal?

So to sum up: What's the best way to proceed with adjusting the let-off? Is there any consensus on the amount? And is it likely to help both the unevenness in tone and action as well as the slapping noise, or might there be something else contributing to that? And finally, does it matter if some of the hammers don't drop down fully? Really finally, I guess I could also ask if there's anything else I should do while I have it opened up.

Thank you in advance for any thoughts. James Hanson, Minneapolis


Offline OZDOC

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2020, 04:36:11 AM »
Hi James - welcome to the forum. Just letting you know that your request is being noticed and, hopefully, one of the piano tuners on the forum will kick in with useful information soon. David
Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music"

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Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2020, 07:18:52 AM »
Hi James, yes that is a Letoff issue. You bought the correct tool. The notes that are harder to play are letting off too early. The hammers should drop down after they hit the reeds, the amount isn't super critical, as long as they are far enough away so the reed can vibrate clearly. If the hammer tip is too close to the reed,or doesn't Letoff at all, that means it is letting off too late. Shoot for approx 1/8" across the board. If it's 1/4" or more, raise the Letoff capstans up,(away from keys- remember, they are upside down which is why I'm not saying clockwise or counterclockwise) if the hammers are blocking against the reeds or just letting off too close, turn those capstans down. Just a little at a time, (about 1/4 turn) no need to overcompensate. I prefer Letoff to be the farthest away from the reed that you can comfortably play, this helps reduce reed breakage, especially if you hit the keys hard. The trade off is that it makes the notes harder to play softly, (but easier than it is now)  Changing and tuning reeds is expensive and a pain in the butt.

Most old Wurlitzers that I encounter have hammers that are letting off too early.Remember, you will be turning the upper capstans, not the lower one. Both capstans are upside down in the 200 actions.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 06:26:12 AM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2020, 10:15:04 PM »
Thanks so much for the helpful replies. I got the capstan wrench, and it works great in terms of being able to raise and lower the screw. I've tried a few notes from different parts of the keyboard just to what happeens, and I'm finding that some - especially in the bass - don't get close to 1/8" before the capstan is so high that no contact is made (at least it seems that way). First, am I right that raising the screw is what is supposed to allow the hammer to get closer to the reed? (The manual is confusing on this - it says turn it counterclockwise to decrease the letoff, but I assume that's looking from above). If so I take it there's a point of diminishing returns - raising it no long changes the letoff? But on some keys it never got closer than about 1/4" before that happened. Is there another issue, or am I doing something wrong? (FYI, I am adjusting the upper capstan!) Thank you again.

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2020, 08:33:03 AM »
Don't be so bent on getting it to be exactly 1/8". 1/4" may be fine in the bass, you need to go by feel of the action. Are you pressing the key very slowly to see how close it gets before it drops?

Turning the screw down (closer to the keybed) causes the hammer to Letoff sooner.

Turning it higher causes it to Letoff later. MOST Wurlitzer actions that haven't been serviced in a long time, need the screw to be turned up towards the top.

This appears to be the case with yours.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2020, 07:05:26 AM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2020, 12:54:57 AM »
Ok, I think I'm getting the hang of it. But I'm still encountering two problems: Some notes let off even before they hit the capstan screw; adjusting it doesn't seem to do anything, and they're hanging around 3/4" or so, and, not surprisingly, they're much softer. Keys on either side of it will be just fine. Second, how the heck do you get to the screws that are on either side of the metal frame thing - the E and F above middle see. I can't enough of an angle in either direction to get the wrench around the screw; tried needle nose pliers without luck.

I found a video that shows the problem, though not sure if he's right about the cause. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuaXZXXsvrc

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2020, 07:02:45 AM »
The screws near middle E and F sometimes need a very long pair of needle nose pliers to get them to turn enough to grab with the wrench.
Also, it usually helps to lessen the angle of the wrench on other keys that have a similar issue. (IE the wrench sometimes hits the front of the reed bar that drops down)

Did you turn the lower capstans in the keys letting off before they hit the Letoff adjustment? Normally, you do not need to do this. In your case, you may need to.
In that end key shown in the video, try turning the lower capstan up a little (away from key) and see if it causes more lost motion in the tip of the jack. It looks like the jack is rubbing against the felt on the hammer butt before it is even pressed. This can cause it to push the hammer up too soon.

If adding lost motion does not help and also causes the front of the key to dip down a little, it could be another issue but try this first.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 06:28:01 AM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2020, 07:06:31 AM »
Also, be sure that no wires are interfering with key #1. This can cause weird problems with that key.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2020, 08:01:08 PM »
Thanks for the tips; I've been through all the keys now, and they're in three categories: Those that didn't need any adjusting; those that needed a little and were adjustable; and those that were pretty low (1/2" sometimes) and couldn't be adjusted (about a dozen of those). I tried adjusting the lower capstans on those, but they started to dip before there was any change, so there must be some other problem. Is there anything else to try without taking it further apart? If not, I guess I'll just live with it until I can get it in for regulation somewhere.

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2020, 07:04:33 AM »
On the keys that are not working properly:
1. Are they grouped together or are they random?
2. Is key dip the same as neighbors that work well?
3. Is key height (at rest) the same as the working neighbors?
4. Have you removed the keys and cleaned the keybed? (Number keys with a pencil first- the stamped numbers can be hard to read)
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2020, 02:31:50 PM »

In your original post you mentioned a hard knock sound. It could be the top of that damper hitting the upper hum shield, or if it is pressing down farther than other keys, it could be the front green felt punching is missing. I'm leaning towards the damper hitting.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2020, 05:27:45 PM »
1. They're random - from the first key up to 47.
2. Key dip is uniform throughout.
3. Key height was uniform until I adjusted the lower capstan a bit; where that helped with let-off, I left them - barely perceptible.
4. All keys have been out and the platform cleaned.

I will say there was little to no lost motion throughout; now there's more in some keys (the ones I adjusted to try to decrease let-off) than others. I imagine I should even that out, or will that mess up the keys where the let-off is where it should be?? I can live with the way things are now, except for one thing:

The Middle C has had a slapping sound that I thought would be related to let-off and/or lost motion; but no amount of adjustment fixed it. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the lower capstan screw - and in fact the whole top of the whip (if I've got my parts right) - is in fact slapping against what seems to be the hammer regulating rail (the wooden rail above the lower capstan screw). It actually has the same key dip as the other keys, but I can push down on the end with more force and cause the end of the key to push the capstan and whip up to the rail. (I'll try to attach a photo, which will show it happens even with the capstan screw not sticking out at all.) Where is that extra motion coming from? (No other key does that.)  I tried swapping out some felts and shims, but it made no difference - it's more that there's something acting as a fulcrum allowing the key to go higher. What's up with that?? Thank you!

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2020, 07:37:20 PM »
Try to shallow the dip on that key and see what that does....
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2020, 10:54:13 PM »
According to the manual, you would shallow the dip by removing any shims on the balance rail pin - is that right? The only thing on it is one felt ring - no shims; but if I take out, it no longer reaches as high, but obviously something is needed there. Would just a thinner piece of felt help?

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2020, 05:44:41 AM »
No, ADDING punchings (front pin, under green felt) shallows the dip. The punchings on the balance rail are for leveling keys mostly. (Key height) Dip will be affected by changing balance rail shims, but the keys should be all level. Those should only be added or subtracted for leveling. Mass leveling is by cardboard shims under the balance rail in the keybed. You usually don't need to touch those unless a previous owner messed with them. Altering the balance rail punchings is not the correct way to change the dip. Set height first, then dip. (You don't always need to change these, but that is the correct order in regulating steps)

Removing front punchings = deeper dip. Too much dip can cause this issue, and can cause hammers blocking against the reeds. You also may need to lower the Letoff capstan (turn towards the keyboard)
When turning the Letoff capstans, just turn a little at a time. It's very easy to turn too far then cause the opposite problem.

And yes, the part hitting is called either the whip or the whippen.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 06:37:16 AM by pianotuner steveo »
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2020, 05:50:24 AM »
Did someone add anything to the brown felt on the back of the key to make it thicker?
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2020, 11:18:18 AM »
Thanks for the clarification! I commandeered some shims (three!) from other keys (robbing Peter Tork to pay Paul McCartney!) and it helped a lot. It doesn't seem to have discernibly affected the other keys, but I suppose I should replace the shims at some point. And no, the brown felt is the same as the other keys. So I think I'm set for now - I've done as much as I feel comfortable doing with let-off and lost motion, and really appreciate the help doing that. I'm anxious to get it back together and start enjoying it! (Though I'm sure there will be other issues.) Thanks again.

Offline OZDOC

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2020, 08:03:33 PM »
In case no one else is noticing, great work Steveo. Above and beyond the call of duty.
Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music"

Learn about the book: http://www.classickeysbook.com/
Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/

Offline jamessh

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2020, 11:54:58 PM »
I second that! Thank you so much, Steveo, for the time and thought put into my issues. It was like a tutorial that I hope will benefit others, too.

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Newbie Questions!
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2020, 06:24:31 AM »
No problem guys!  James bought the tool from me. I don't have much work now because of the virus, so I have more time to be on here... it's hard to troubleshoot pianos and EPs on the internet and on the phone, but that picture James posted helped a lot.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...