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I have a new M&H AA (manufactured in 2017) that arrived to my home this past fall. It was tuned right before it left the dealer for shipment to my home. I let it settle for a bit and had it tuned right before Christmas. It needed voicing, too, as the tone was pretty bright (especially for a Mason) in my home environment. So, the RPT came back in February for tuning and voicing. The tech commented that he had to work pretty hard to warm it up more. The result was quite nice, though, as it sounded much better to my ears in terms of tonal warmth. The tech told me he didn't know how long it would last and we would just have to see and then go from there. About two weeks later I noticed that the tone had begun to shift back toward brightness and it settled in a tonal spot that is certainly not as bright as it was but still out of the sweet spot the tech had it in. That is the state it has been in over the last 5 months. Earlier this week I had the tech come to tune and re-voice. It is once again in a pretty good spot (regarding tonal warmth). Who knows how long it will last, but the tech is of the opinion that it is just going to have to be constantly beaten back to where I want it, as the hammers are 'hard' and quite resistant to softening that will last long. I believe they are Abel type hammers that are manufactured for Wessell, Nickel, and Gross. The tech (who is quite experienced) says he has never encountered these particular hammers before. So, the plan is to just have him come subjugate the hammers at every tuning (as the tech thinks that is what is going to have to be done, as he doesn't think that the relatively quick 'rebounding' to a brighter tone will ease up much over time). He has also suggested that, at some point, I might just replace the hammers if I get tired of having to have them worked on so frequently to maintain the tone.

So, my question(s) to the group is: Is this something that is not uncommonly encountered (just really needing to switch relatively new hammers in order to achieve a desired tone that 'stays in place' longer)? Does anyone have any particular experience with this type of Abel-via-W,N,&G hammer? Do others find the replacing the hammers approach to be reasonable if the alternative is such frequent (every 6 months or so) re-voicing?

Last edited by adamjh; 07/15/21 09:59 AM.
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I acquired a Sauter 120 as a retirement gift to myself. It has Abel hammers and was excessively bright.
I found that poking holes in them with typical voicing needles didn’t get the result I was after so after failing to calm them down I finally treated them with a 70%alcohol water solution directly on the strike point and let it soak in about half way to the molding. It required two treatments. The result was great and it lasted for quite a long time. I didn’t treat the top octave and a half.
However I have purchased a new set of Isaac hammers and will install them this year.
Isaacs are the best in my experience.


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Check for posts by jsilva. He's a concert pianist and a piano technician. Long story about new hammers pre-hung by WNG for his M&B BB and what he did to voice them. He also (I believe), posted a link to how the piano sounds (which is great) after voicing.


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If needling isn't working and you're thinking of replacing hammers, you may want to check out this thread on alcohol/fabric softener voicing. Halfway down the page is a video of yours truly spraying the hammers on my piano. It's hard to hear the effect on the video, but it took the edge off after the first application. I did it again a couple months later and it mellowed things out further, and I like the resulting tone which has lasted. It's a long thread from beginning to end, but its full of information and test results, and you can read about the particular issues techs have solved with this method. Everyone who tried it and posted on that thread seemed happy with the results. It's easy to do, much faster than needling, and may save you an expensive hammer replacement.

Good luck!

Last edited by Emery Wang; 07/15/21 03:08 PM.

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That is the direction I would go if I were doing it.

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Originally Posted by Seeker
Check for posts by jsilva. He's a concert pianist and a piano technician. Long story about new hammers pre-hung by WNG for his M&B BB and what he did to voice them. He also (I believe), posted a link to how the piano sounds (which is great) after voicing.

I did get the WNG Select hammers along with their shanks, flanges, and knuckles. Seeker passed along to me Andre Oorebeek’s method of voicing and all I can say is that the results were excellent—ideal for the WNG (Abel) Selects. I wouldn’t have guessed my BB would have sounded like it does.

Your 2017 likely has the Selects also.

Voicing the WNG Select hammers takes time and carefulness. I did the voicing over the course of a couple of weeks. I took my time to see the results each time I voiced since I didn’t want to overdo it. I haven’t voiced my BB in 1.5 years and it sounds nearly the same as when I first did it (in some ways it sounds better, but it is slightly brighter).

What they really need (when new) is deep needling in the shoulders nearly up to the strike point. It’s tedious and hard work but totally worth it. Despite that the hammers had an almost glass-like tone when I first put them in, the tone became so warm and full that no mellowing by needling on the strike point was necessary (I’m guessing needling the strike point is what your technician did).

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Thanks all! It sounds like there might be some other options to try, here. I will say that the tech mentioned a steam kettle technique of some kind that he would try next time. I am also going to watch Emery's video. jsilva, do you have a before/after video, too? I will bring up all these approaches to the tech and see if he wants to venture into them (after he gives his steam kettle thing a try). I would much rather find a way to make these hammers work rather than replace them.

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In my opinion everything you describe yells "the wrong hammer" for you and the piano. I recommend making the switch to a cold pressed hammer to get the warmth you want and in the end less hassle. On my recent MHAA rebuild i put Ronsen wurzen felt and they were great!!
Here is my famous (or should i say infamous video (without dampers)on a MHAA).
-chris


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A new set of Abel hammers is top of the line quality and you can be happy to own a piano with this superb material.

New hammers are usually prevoiced, which means that they are consistent in their tension distribution of the felt. This is perfect as a starting point for voicing. As to longevity of a voicing, from your description it sound like your technician prepares the hammer to be on point for your environment, but only does so by needling the surface of the hammers. This is very nice and advisable for concert grands that receive constant attention, i.e. meticulous preparation and voicing for concert and recording sessions. In a well used concert grand this can easily mean the hammers get careful needling more or less every couple of days in order to produce a consistent tone.

For a private household this isn't really the best solution, because it's not sustainable and the result is what you describe. A hammerhead in the condition and with the treatment as you have described won't hold the voicing and thus needs a different approach. It takes a courageous and knowledgeable piano technician to really go deep into the hammers and sustainably create a tension distribution that won't substantially change after a couple of days of playing.

This is deep needling on one shoulder of a new, pretty hard hammer:



This was done after about 1.5 hours of meticulous regulation, mating hammers to strings, making sure that all strings are fully connected to the bridge and the capo bar etc. This voicing has now lasted for more than 7 months and about 1-5 hours of everyday playing. There are now single notes that will need a little attention, but for my technician this will just be 30 min. of work, going through a list of those keys that I've identified.

I'd definitely not go the chemical treatment route, but that's just me.

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I notice in this video the majority of the needling is done from bottom to top, toward the crown. This will tend to build a brighter tone by pushing the harder felt toward the strike point. It is possible to do the reverse in the initial or bulk needling by needling from the crown down, away from the strike point. This will make the tone not as bright by pushing harder felt away from the crown.This is, at the initial stages, how I handle tonal differences in raw sets of hammers when evaluating them after they are hung.


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Chernobieff,

I think that Bach in the upper register sounds wonderful. Your input makes me lower the threshold for just completely replacing the hammers. Still, we'll give it a few more rounds with voicing to see if we can get anything to hold.


OE1FEU,

I don't know exactly what needling technique the RPT used on my hammers, but your information gives me a better foundation to discuss the matter further with him as we continue to try and get good voicing that has staying power.


Thanks, all, for you thoughts. I will let you know how things go and what does or does not end up working out.

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I have confirmed with folks at M&H that my piano has Abel 'select' hammers, which fits exactly with the description other folks have given for the voicing experience with these hammers.

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Originally Posted by adamjh
I have confirmed with folks at M&H that my piano has Abel 'select' hammers, which fits exactly with the description other folks have given for the voicing experience with these hammers.

As of a couple of years ago M&H began using the Naturals instead of the Selects at the factory. This was apparently because technicians and piano shops preferred the Naturals because they require less effort to voice.

I’ve used the Naturals on a Steinway D and M and they sound quite good.

However, to me the Selects sound better and I’m willing to put that work into my own piano. Ironically I had ordered the Naturals from WNG and received the Selects. I was bothered at first but I kept them and after voicing them I was incredibly glad for the error.

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I'm with Chris on this. Isaac or Ronsen hammers will correct the problem and over time will be cheaper because you won't be constantly needing to tame them. There are quicker and better techniques to tame these hammers than hammering with a needle. Issac uses custom ordered and designed Weikart felt, and you can believe Chris when he talks about the Wurzen felt hammers for this piano.

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Originally Posted by Steve Jackson
I'm with Chris on this. Isaac or Ronsen hammers will correct the problem and over time will be cheaper because you won't be constantly needing to tame them. There are quicker and better techniques to tame these hammers than hammering with a needle. Issac uses custom ordered and designed Weikart felt, and you can believe Chris when he talks about the Wurzen felt hammers for this piano.

I had been in contact with Ray about the Weickert hammers for my piano. Had he been willing to hang the hammers I almost certainly would have used them.

But I went with WNG partially because their pricing for hammer hanging was very good and also because it’s what comes on new M&H pianos. They ended up doing a superb job on the hanging. Though I wasn’t at all happy with the ‘glassy’ sound of the Select hammers at first, but after using Oorebeek’s voicing technique I would absolutely choose the Abel Selects again. They sound truly excellent and I don’t constantly need to tame them. It’s actually been 2.5 years since I voiced them (correction from above) and they’re only barely brighter than they were. Granted I did spend a couple of weeks voicing them…

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I think I will see what we can do with the current Abel selects I have (I am going to bring Oorebeek's method to the RPT and see if he wants to give that a go). The RPT has also recently acquired a model AA for one of his personal pianos and is going to put a WNG action in it and is going to try out some Ronsen hammers (I think he said Ronsen) in it. While we continue fiddling with my AA we'll see how his experiment with his AA turns out and go from there. I appreciate everyone's perspective on this. It really helps having this resource of knowledgeable and helpful people at my typing fingertips.


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