Big Bang Theory of Vertical Regulation III

The last areas we will cover in our discussion of fast and efficient upright regulation are the dampers and trapwork.

I will be first to admit that if given the choice I would never look at the dampers and their regulation on a vertical, yet…(I even put off writing this article.)

It has been my experience that many regulating problems originate in the damper pedal timing.  So start by adjusting the damper pedal so that you have only ½ inch of lost motion before the dampers are picked up. While you are down there, make sure the soft pedal is also regulated properly, the pedal should pick up the hammer rail immediately without the rail resting on the dowel.

Gently depress the pedal to find the first moving dampers and mark these with chalk (provided they are not too early).  Shim the pedal fully down and bend the damper head wires to bring all of the dampers into alignment with these samples.  Care must be taken that the damper blocks remain parallel to the string plane; otherwise you will get some interesting harmonics. Remove the shim and check your work.

I once worked on a piano in which the pervious tuner had gone to great lengths to set the spoon timing with no thought to the damper pedal timing, so after fixing the damper pedal timing I found myself with quite a mess on my hands.  The only way I could efficiently deal with this situation was to properly set the pedal timing, remove the action and pre-bend all of the spoons to a position I anticipated being close to the necessary timing.

You can do this on a bench or the customer’s floor.  First measure the blow then remove the action. Shim the damper lift rail so that the dampers approximate the string plane; use the hammer blow measurement to do this. Shim the hammer rest rail to about ½ to 1/3 blow, push up on the wippen heel and bend the spoon in or out so that the hammer and damper move at the same time.  This will give you a relatively accurate damper timing without spending a large amount of psychic energy and time looking for lost spoons.

This concludes the segment on upright regulation.  Please keep in mind there are many aspects of fine upright regulation which do not fit into the Big Bang Theory.  Some of these would include traveling hammer butts, traveling damper flanges, leveling strings, center pin friction, and the interaction between various regulating steps, just to name a few.  The idea is to make the biggest improvement in the performance of the instrument with the least amount of time and effort expended.  Because if the instrument plays well lessons may continue another year, the piano will get tuned a couple more times, more music will be made and the world will be a better place because you turned a couple capstans at the end of your last appointment.