BLUEBOOK OF PIANOS
PIANO CONSTRUCTION AND SCALE DESIGN
THE QUALITY OF THE HAMMER:
This is another area where you can visibly see quality. Are the hammers nicely spaced? Are they all in line? Ask the salesperson about the hammer weight. Good pianos in a console size use about a ten to twelve pound hammer. Piano hammers are made of fine wool felt which is formed around a hard-maple hammer molding. First-grade piano hammers are made of two layers of felt; the outer layer is white, the inner usually purple, green or magenta.
The layers of felt are applied separately. The forming and gluing of the felt to the hammer is done with tremendous pressure applied by hammer presses. Many tons of pressure are applied from several angles, forming the shape of the hammers.
The result is one long piano hammer which is then cut into individual heads. Holes are bored at the proper angles on the underside of each head, into which the hammer shanks are later glued. Each set of hammers is then individually and painstakingly fitted to the piano. Some hammers are stapled, others have a cotter key-like wire through the hammer to insure stability in the hammer. Many imported pianos have hammer weights of up top twenty pounds on grand pianos.
One of the least understood and most controversial subjects in the world of pianos is hammer weight. The prospective buyer is told that one piano has twelve-pound hammers, while another has only nine or ten-pound hammers. A glance into the piano tells us that surely those hammers, even all eighty-eight of them, do not weigh from nine to twelve pounds. The figure refers to the size of the felt sheets used in the making of the hammers. The felt in an individual hammer averages 109/l000ths of an ounce, depending on the weight of the sheet of felt from which it was made; and the difference between nine and twelve-pound hammers average 36/l000ths of an ounce per hammer. The important thing to remember about hammers like all other parts of the piano, is that not only the quality of the materials, but how those materials are utilized in the building of the instrument determine the overall quality of the product. In the case of hammers, the proper shape and hardness are the key factors affecting proper tone regulation. That's why it is often said that while a good hammer can't make a poor piano sound good, a bad hammer can spoil the best piano.
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