Comments to MMD Posting

Ampico A Stack Installation

This stack is difficult to install after it has been rebuilt, because the strikers on the stack have no striker guide built into it. They fall all over, at odd angles and such because they are only supported by the pneumatic striking finger at their ends. Since some of these strikers may be 8 inches or more long, it makes for a very clumsy installation, unless you have a method of doing it.

Several years ago I made a video to show rebuilders how to do this, and then, how to regulate it as well, after everything was in place. My method is a very good one for a new installation I think, because it allows the rebuilder to not only get the strikers in the holes and work with the piano placed on its side, comfortably, but it shows you how to align those same strikers perfectly with the felted guide holes provided above the keybed. You can buy this video right here at Player-Care.

Since the subject came up again, this time in the 02.08.12 issue of the MMD, I thought it would be a good idea to comment about two other clever methods offered by Ken Vinen and Bob Taylor.

I appreciate knowing these ways of doing it, too, since once in awhile a rebuilder or owner may need to remove that stack out of the piano again. Ken uses the "straw" method, in which soda straws (I presume large ones, over .285" ID) are slipped over the striker wires, and the stack is placed under the keybed on riser supports of whatever you can use, high enough that the wires do not quite reach the keybed. Then the straws are extended, one at a time, up through the keybed and the striker guide hole. They obviously will stay tight enough on the wires that they won't fall back down (?) And it gives you opportunity then to raise the stack up to its mountings and tighten it up to the bottom of the piano. A very clever idea.

Now if you can't get the extra large straws (I haven't found any quite that large, but they might be readily available), then use the small "cocktail straws", that should fit over the wire itself. This method however, you will have to remove the wooden striker tops.

The second way offered is from Bob Taylor, who suggests using a vacuum supply, attached to the stack nipples, bass and treble. The vacuum will raise all the pneumatics at once, since the valve pouches are open to air. This vacuum makes for a spring effect that allows you to get the stack in by springing down the strikers one at a time, and then they rise when you take your finger off them, hopefully finding their hole.

By supporting the stack on two threaded rods (all-thread) you can gradually work the stack up with end nuts and washers until you have dressed all the strikers into the keybed slot. Then, as I understand it, you connect the stack to vacuum, both sides, and let the strikers close. This will cause them to press against the striker guide strips mounted above the keybed.

The keybed is thicker than the strikers are able to travel, so you will have to be very patient, because they will be all crossed up and every which-way in the keybed slot, just below the striker guides. I don't really believe that in 15 minutes, all strikers will then be in their respective holes and it's just as simple as pie, but you never know. You will have to put the strikers into the holes from below the stack, working on your back on the floor with a small, direct light so you can find the holes and see the specific wooden striker top in the pack that you will want to move to a given hole. At least, they have an air spring which will hold them in the hole, once that hole is found. And there will also be some strikers who will find the wrong holes, jump up through them unbeknownst, and will have to be switched. But this is a clever method too, compared to flipping the piano on its top onto a padded surface, as some have done in the past. Oh well.

Reinstalling The Amphion Ampico Stack

At any rate, I thought I would just offer you one more solution to this problem that I have actually used when having to remove a stack of this kind in a home.

Before you take the stack down, remove the front stack cover's bass end mounting screws and mount a flat support "stick" that's about long enough to touch the keybed above it. Replace the mounting screws with longer ones that let you screw that stick up tight to the cover board. Do the same to the treble end. Now you have two flat "supports" standing up at the ends of the striker row at each end.

(How do you match the holes, you ask? Take some masking tape and cover the holes and the area you plan to cover with your support. Rub a pencil over the holes to make a graphite impression, stick that tape onto your stick, and drill it out.)

Next, you cut strips of heavy card, veneer, plastic, or whatever you can find that's stiff and thin that will span the length of the striker row, and cut them about 2" wide (but depending on the room you have). Now temporarily, with tape or something, find a way to mount your strip to the supports you mounted. You will probably need another somewhere in the middle, too.

Your striker wires will press against the edge of the strip, which is wedged in there at an angle because it hasn't been relieved yet. From the bottom then, mark the contact points with a pencil That writes upside down. You may need to notch out where the supports go to get the strip in position to be marked, but tape it too, so it cannot move on you while you're marking it.

Make slits in the strip to capture the striker wires. The slits have to be wide enough to pass the striker wires through, of course. Then make some tabs or whatever suits you to allow the strip to be mounted on the supports. I just notch and put the tab on first, then drill a pilot through both the support and my tab before even slitting the strip. Later, I will just pin the strip with a roll pin or centerpin. It doesn't even need a screw.

The last step is to run masking tape down the whole row of striker wires. That can be done in front and they won't fall out because of the three different rows of centers they pivot on together.

Drop the stack and you have a striker guide that you can use to put it back up again, exactly where it used to be. When you do that, though, temporarily remove the striker guide strips above the keybed and replace the stack. Then simply slide each striker guide strip over its strikers.

The advantage of doing it this way is obvious. You don't have strikers falling all different directions. You can remove and replace that stack as often as you like without further problems. You don't have to spend 2-3 hours removing, replacing, and re-regulating the wooden striker tops that play the keys (if such would be required), and you don't have to buy special hardware just to get the stack up close enough to start fiddling with scrambled striker wires up in the slot, or wonder how you are going to make connections to a suction box that will move and not disconnect themselves. It's clean, straightforward, and direct, and no extra holes have to be drilled into the stack or its cover.

I thought this might be of use to a few of you who are wondering what to do next, when it comes to removing and replacing an Ampico Amphion Stack.

Sorry I am no longer able to write for the MMD, but I felt my head was in the lion's mouth, with necessary articles that filled out the subject being rejected and such, it was just a matter of time before partial information which I was allowed would easily be discredited, and no one would be the wiser.

If you would like to read a fair and honest article on this problem, written by John Tuttle, go to

Craig Brougher

Contained within this page may be "unsolicited" links to relevant external websites which are appropriate and necessary to promote the philosophy of fair and balanced publishing. This page was last revised March 11, 2014 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions Expressed within the Pages of the Player-Care Domain.

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