How to Replace Vertical Piano Damper Felts (Piano Tuning and Repair)
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Over many years the damper felts will need to be replaced on a piano. The felt gets hard and isn't as effective at damping the strings. In the video above, we show the basic process of replacing vertical piano damper felts.
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Thanks for joining us today for another video from Howard Piano Industries. Today we're going to be showing you how to replace damper felts on an upright piano action. It's fairly straightforward. This is a fairly easy task to do. This is a very old action. Definitely like 120 years old I think. So the damper felts are really crusty and disformed and they're not hanging on real good. They're just really in bad shape so they don't have real good damping power anymore and the sound bleeds through. The damper's just not working very good. So we're gonna replace the felts on this.
Working on the Piano Action
So what we've got here this is a damper lever. Now, this is the action shown from the back, or the part that is usually up against the piano. So here you're facing the dampers usually this is the part of the dampers that would be up against the strings normally. Here we've got the Hammers. So obviously we've got the Hammers move toward us when we're looking at the action from this way. So this would be as if they were striking the strings. So that's the angle that we're looking at the action from here. So you've been looking at the back end of the of the damper levers. These are the damper levers.
Down here we've got the bottom of the wippen where the spoon pushes on the back of the damper lever to make it in to actuate it when the key is played. You can do this a couple different ways. You can replace the damper felts with the action in the piano. There's one advantage to that is that the you don't have too much trouble with getting it aligned right because you know that when you get to get the damper on and you push it up against the string that you know that it's in the right position on the damper head. If you're careful I find there's a disadvantage to doing it that way too because you don't have a lot of room to work. Then you almost have to take the heads off of the damper wires and then try to get them lined up and everything. So I just find it easier to take the action out of the piano and replace the damper felts with the action out.
Removing the Damper Lever
So, I'm going to go ahead and remove the damper lever from the action on the backside of the damper lever. There's a flange with a screw, and if you've got a long blade screwdriver (this is just a flange action flange screwdriver), we're gonna go in and unscrew that flange from the rail. Take that out, there we go. So we can get a close-up look.
We've got the damper lever, this is the damper spring, there's the flange right there, this is the damper head, and the damper felt. This right here, that's the damper lever felt and so if you're replacing that we'll show that maybe in another video. When you replace that that's we just replace that with action cloth. so of course this spring fits in a groove there that's lined with felt. But we're concerned here to this video with the with the damper felt. As you can see that's in pretty rough shape. As you can see close up.
Cutting the Old Damper Felt
Right now we're just gonna take the the old damper felt off. I just have a utility knife here. You can use exacto knife or something like that. We're gonna go here and cut or scrape the old felt off of the damper head. It's not gonna all come off. It never does. When you get it should be a little bit of felt left.
So then what we're gonna do is just shave it. Try not to remove wood or your finger. Sometimes, you just-- OOPS, my screw fell-- use a flange screw for that damper lever. So sometimes I'll just scrape it like this with my knife. Which gets all the fibers off. Get that nice and clean. It takes a little time but okay. We've got all the felt scraped and cut off of that damper head there.
Glue Process (New Felt)
Once we got that then, we're gonna glue the new felt on. Here I've got my replacement. This is a unicord or single damper for the single string notes. We're just gonna glue. So this block on the back is just gonna get glued to the damper head like that. We'll put some glue on the damper head. Spread that around a little bit.
Really the best glue to use is not PVCE glue even though PVCE glue is the most convenient. The best glue to use is hot hide glue. Okay, so if you've got that I just didn't have my hot hide glue pot set up today. So we're for at least for the purpose of this video I'm gonna demonstrate it using the PVCE glue. Which works, is the next best choice. Again that's PVCE glue. We've got available in our online store.
We're just gonna put glue on the damper head where the felt is gonna go. I'm just gonna spread it out there a little bit. You can spread it with your finger or whatever. So it covers the area where the felt is gonna go. Now this one, we have two different styles of the base damper felts and this one the thing is the block in the middle is centered so you can put it either way. But if you've got one that's offset make sure that it's going in the right direction for whatever your piano is designed for.
So we're gonna put this on the block and what I want to do is center it between the sides. So it might like this one's just slightly wide for the block. Just a hair but the old one was too. But we want to get that and then we want to do it so it's centered from top to bottom. So that this one's got a little bit of a gap on the top of the bottom. Again the old one did too. We're just going to push that on there and make sure it's on nice and solid. Then just set it down here to let it dry. Then once we've let that set for at least a few hours then we can go ahead and screw. This one over here I've got done.
Screwing the Damper Lever Back to the Rail
Just going go ahead and screw it back onto the rail. Make sure you'll have to push down on the spring to find the flange because the flange is gonna be or the spring is gonna be pushing up on the flange. Once you get that in place then you can screw the flange screw back in. You could either take them all off as you go or you can put them back on but if you're gonna let them dry you probably take off at least a few. Just make sure you keep them in order so that they're in the same order as they were when they came off.
So that's for the base sections. You'll go through obviously from here to here and we have the unicord or a single string note dampers and then from here up to there we've got the double string note dampers. Now you might find in this section between the treble and the tenor brake or the bass in the tenor brake. Some of these might be a little shorter. Which means you'll have to cut some of the damper felts to match what the size of the old ones were. So just keep noted that. You can use, sometimes I'll use a scissors you know real sharp like Fiskars scissors that will cut and that works fairly well. Sometimes I'll use an exacto knife or something like that or a rotary cutter works too sometimes.
Working on Treble Dampers
We're going to come up here to the the treble dampers. Here we've got again I'm going to just take one off and here we've got the damper felt. You can see this is a different style. This is these are treble damper felts just it's got the crease in the middle which allow it to have better pressure on the strings. We're gonna go ahead and remove the felt. Flange screw fell again. Here we go. Nice and clean. You'll see there's a little bit of felt on there but as long as it feels smooth and clean that's the important thing. Then you do the same thing with that you take your your new damper felt you know if there's gonna be with the treble damper felts they taper from in size.
So the ones up here on the top are gonna be not as long as the ones further down. So they'll gradually get so that when you buy you the trouble vertical trouble damper felt set you kind of find the size that matches what you need for each of those. Then you'll put the glue on the block, place that on there, center it make sure it's centered side to side and top to bottom and then you'll let that dry and put your apron livers back on and and you're good to go. A fairly simple process. It's something that piano is typically need when they get old and worn out. If you have any questions feel free to let us know. We're glad to help.