Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Meet Marvin Rus, Chief Concert Technician for Eastman School of Music

Posted on: November 12th, 2015 by Calvin

Marvin began his career in 1983 at Michigan State University and studied with noted technicia, Owen Jorgenson. Later, from 1987-1992, he became the “Coordinator of Keyboard Technology” at Wichita State University. Marvin has worked for Eastman School of Music since 1993 and has been rebuilding the schools’ old and worn-out pianos with Wessell, Nickel and Gross composite parts.

Featured is Marvin’s personal Mason & Hamlin Model A. James Reeder Pianos refinished and did the belly work on the piano. Marvin installed a WNG back action and top action stack on a WNG keyboard. To date, with the help of Jim Reeder, Marvin has completely restored over a dozen pianos, a couple dozen with individual components, and about 10 personal rebuilds.





WNG Keyboard and WNG assembled top action.


WNG assembled damper action.


Rascal wanted to pose as well with Marvin’s beautifully completed rebuild that will be cherished for many, many years!


With the WNG composite action many problems associated with wood actions just disappear, such as:

  • Centerpin resistance that will not change with humidity
  • Composite shanks that have consistent strength and do not warp
  • Screws that will not loosen as in wood parts
  • Hard anodized capstans and key pins that minimize friction

Also, WNG has excellent features such as:

  • Adjustable damper helper springs to increase dampening for large pianos
  • Adjustable damper lever capstans
  • Spoons on damper underlevers for ease of adjustment
  • Choice of leading options for damper underlevers


  • Customize Repetitions, Shanks and Flanges
  • Adjustable repetition helper spring options
  • Repetitions with fourteen heel placement locations
  • Three different jack types
  • Knuckles can be attached or unattached
  • The WNG precision system locates the knuckle from 15 mm to 19mm in .5mm increments

9.01.15 – The Big Bad Chickering by Randy Mangus

Posted on: August 18th, 2015 by Calvin

This Chickering was the biggest challenge since the parts are not mounted at 90 degrees to the rails and the action brackets were wood and the flanges were metal. Restoring this obsolete action would not have been possible without a WN&G complete top and back action. It only had bass sustain for the middle pedal before, but now has full sostenuto.



Service Spotlight

The hammer boring to my very unorthodox specs for this action was perfect. The manufacturers sample parts kit made it easy to work out all the dimensions for setting up the action even before parts were ordered. Down-weight came out at 46-48 grams, up-weight at 24-25 grams with some key re-leading and action ratio at 5.5/1.

Randy Mangus

Rebuild Pictures

The Wessell, Nickel &amp Gross Manufactures Kit allows the technician to test out the geometry of any action. The kit is $225.00 and refundable upon purchase of an assembled or unassembled top or back action.

Part # 06-5325

Part # 06-5325

Mock up with WNG mfg kit

Mock up with WNG mfg kit

Finding the magic line

Finding the magic line

Original with underlevers too

Original with underlevers too

Top flanges were for threaded damper wires

Top flanges were for threaded damper wires

Marking new underlever rail

Marking new underlever rail

Center punching rail

Center punching rail

New back action

New back action

Keys need extensions

Keys need extensions

Locating hammer center pin elevation and position

Locating hammer center pin elevation and position

1st part on new action

1st part on new action


Drilling new hole in long Renner type flange

Drilling new hole in long Renner type flange

Cutting off whippen back extensions

Cutting off whippen back extensions

Shanks and whippens installed

Shanks and whippens installed

A big thanks to Randy Mangus for taking on this project and for letting us tell his story! If you have a WNG rebuild project that you’d like to share with us and have featured here, please email Nina Butler at!

10.21.2014 – About Us Page is Live!

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by Calvin

After many delays, the About Us page is now live! Check out Wessell, Nickel & Gross’ history by visiting our new About Us page!

11.11.2013 – WNG Grand Piano Installation Class

Posted on: November 11th, 2013 by Calvin

Last week, Wessell, Nickel & Gross had another extremely successful grand piano installation class. The hands-on course was taught by Bruce Clark and Mike Collins, who showed its 9 attendees the fundamentals of how to install and perform maintenance on WNG’s revolutionary composite piano actions. For more information on future WNG classes and how to participate in them, please contact Nina Butler at






03.21.2013 – From Russia with WNG

Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by Calvin

From Russia with WNG


On January 9-11th, Wessell, Nicel & Gross, together with the Association of Russian Piano Masters, hosted its second-ever training session at the Central Musical School of Moscow.

The event was an overwhelming success with WNG’s Chief European Technician, Ludvig Vasicek, leading the class and 60+ technicians from every corner Russia in attendance.

As is typical of every Wessell, Nickel & Gross training session, core aspects of WNG’s actions such as reduction of torque, improved energy transmission via carbon tube shanks, and composite material’s extremely low maintenance were easily demonstrated and appreciated.

The training seminar culminated in a concert finale, played on a piano that had just been outfitted with a new WNG action by the class. The piano performed exceptionally well, and everyone in attendance who had an opportunity to try the newly outfitted piano noted the smooth touch, excellent control, and extremely wide spectrum of sound that it was now capable of.

Though there are no further classes scheduled to take place in Russia for the rest of the year, additional classes in Finland, Germany, Belgium, and the UK are planned for 2013. If you are interested in participating, please contact Ludwig Vasicek at for more information.


10.3.2012 – WNG Meets Increasing Global Demand

Posted on: October 3rd, 2012 by WNG

Release date: September 25, 2012

–New marketing agreements create worldwide distribution network–

SACRAMENTO, CA — Following its immensely successful participation as a feature presenter in the prestigious “by invitation only” workshop hosted by the Russian Piano Masters Association at the 2012 NAMM Musikmesse tradeshow in Moscow this past May, Wessel, Nickel & Gross (WNG) has announced the signing of new distribution agreements with three major, globally-established, European piano parts suppliers. Jahn Piano Parts in Grub am Forst, Germany; Taffijn Piano Supply in Belgium; and FTP Forniture Tecniche Pianoforti in Arcugnano, Italy all have entered into distribution agreements to join WNG’s burgeoning worldwide distribution market and will offer the revolutionary products in their shops and website stores. “In an economy where many businesses are shrinking and experiencing reduced demand, WNG is proud and honored to be expanding to meet unprecedented increases for our piano action products,” stated WNG Executive Vice President, Tom Lagomarsino. “The response of the market is incredible, and we are extremely thankful to be able to offer our products to more customers, more effectively, and more efficiently through our expanding global network.”

WNG’s unique piano action parts are made with carbon fibers and advanced composites that are ten times stronger than wood, are unaffected by humidity and dry climate conditions, and do not tarnish or oxidize. In addition, the piano actions built with these parts are becoming recognized as far more responsive than other piano actions due to the lightness and precision of the parts and their lack of tarnish. “With these characteristics, it’s no wonder that WNG piano action parts are revolutionizing the piano manufacturing, restoration, and repair markets,” states Ludwig Vasicek, Technical Director of Wessell, Nickel and Gross and also Mason & Hamlin pianos in Europe. “Our seminar at NAMM Musikmesse was filled to capacity and all in attendance were truly excited to receive hands-on information on the use of our products,” Vasicek continued. The all-day seminar workshops hosted by the Russian Piano Masters Association were attended by over 100 inquisitive piano technicians as they received an introduction to WNG, Mason & Hamlin pianos, and PianoDisc player piano products. The workshops covered in detail the service and maintenance, installation, and WNG product characteristics and benefits; and they ended with honors for the certificated technicians.

WNG, Mason & Hamlin, and PianoDisc plan to once again share their expertise at the 2013 NAMM Musikmesse in Germany and Moscow and 2013 NAMM in Anaheim, California. Convention and workshop details will be forthcoming within the next month.

Wessell, Nickel & Gross (WNG) was founded in 1874 by Otto Wessell, Adam Nickel, and Rudolph Gross, each an accomplished piano action maker. The three met while they were under the employment of Steinway & Sons and quickly became friends. Wessell, ever ambitious, urged Nickel and Gross to leave Steinway and start their own piano action business. The two agreed, and Wessell, Nickel & Gross was formed. Today, under the leadership of the Burgett Brothers, WNG has brought back the ideals, innovation, and standards of craftsmanship that the original founders once had, and is poised and ready to bring the company back to its original status as the best piano action maker in the world. See

Established in 1854, Mason & Hamlin is one of America’s oldest names in piano making and a pioneer in piano design and manufacturing technology. Mason & Hamlin builds its high-end, handmade pianos in its factory in the USA (Haverhill, MA) and its line of vertical and grand pianos is sold in countries across the globe. Its sister company, PianoDisc, manufactures the world’s best selling piano player system and other retrofit systems. Established in 1988, PianoDisc has over 600 dealers and distributors in 40 countries. PianoDisc is headquartered in Sacramento, CA, and has offices in Germany and China. See and



8.10.2012 – Material World from International Piano July / August 2012

Posted on: August 10th, 2012 by WNG


Story taken from International Piano July / August 2012

Integral piano parts continue to be crafted out of wood but could there be a 21st-century alternative? Tom Lagomarsino, executive vice president of Wessell, Nickel & Gross, suggests that the answer lies in carbon fibre and nylon glass

For more than three hundred years, piano makers, dedicated to providing the very finest musical instruments to the great composers, artists and piano-playing enthusiasts of the world, have taken a great deal of pride in their craft and products. Although the piano witnessed many changes and improvements in the 19th century – increased pitch range, steel strings, felt hammers, a more stable design with cast iron plates and improved bearing and tension of the stringing scale – such refinements were considered by some as vexing and a compromise of Cristofori’s delicate masterpiece of 1700. While steeped in tradition and fine design, many manufacturers have been reluctant to embrace advances in the resources and technology available to improve both the instrument and the performance experience for players and listeners.

Twentieth-century innovations brought us the first man on the moon, the split atom and colossal advances in technology, medicine and science, but there was a profound lack of progress in piano design. And as these same designs – considered cutting-edge 150 years ago – are carried over into the early part of the new century, some might see an industry seemingly content with yesteryear’s creations.

Today few companies report much in the way of plausible research and development expenses to improve design or protect intellectual property, and thus little has changed in the material and functional design of today’s grand piano in comparison to Cristofori’s. Most of today’s piano actions are comprised of wood, the same material that’s been used for 300 years. Although wood action quality has been enhanced by advances in manufacturing processes, quality of selection and so on, wood is still wood and it has not changed a great deal over the centuries. For optimum performance, a piano action must be extremely consistent, balanced, durable and precise as well as resistant to corrosion. Wood is subject to atmospheric changes and conditions; it reacts negatively to arid and high altitude dryness, as well as to moisture, humidity and rainy environments. One could hardly say that wood action vulnerabilities are optimum or congruous on the concert stage, in an institution or at home. Wood action parts can lack a consistency of grain, strength and weight of balance. Simply put, no two trees are alike – nor are any two hammer shanks or repetition parts in a piano action.

But this is changing. THE STATUS QUO and great piano makers of our time are now being confronted with startling innovations and applications of synthetic material and design elements that promise to thrust piano technology and performance to a level unparalleled, unmatched and unseen in 300 years of piano-making.

The Wessell, Nickel & Gross company (WNG ) high performance piano action is a non-wood action consisting of parts made from composite materials, specifically carbon fibre and nylon glass. WNG combines a base resin of nylon glass and long carbon fibres to create a composite that is both strong and rigid. Nylon has been in wide use for over 50 years. Long fibre is durable to the extreme. In the benign environment of the piano action with limited – if any – exposure to the sun, material scientists expect a minimum life expectancy of 100 years; indeed, it could be much longer.

Composite parts are stronger and more durable than wood parts, with the same weight but yet a more responsive action feel. WNG carbon fibre hammer shanks are more rigid, therefore they deliver more power for the pianist, a longer sustain and an increased repetition speed. Environmental considerations aside, composite actions are also impervious to changes in climatic conditions, humidity-related swelling or shrinking and loss of consistency in performance, and are much more durable and rigid than wood with over 10 times the strength. The low maintenance and durability of these parts are a piano technician’s dream. Additional benefits include lower liabilities and longer instrument life – this is especially useful for schools and institutions where decreasing operational budgets restrict the affordability of maintaining optimally performing instruments. Forward-thinking companies like Kawai of Japan have used composite action parts much to their advantage and to the benefit of many educational institutions. WNG offers compatible turn-key piano actions and parts to piano manufacturers and piano rebuilders for every make, model and brand, for both today’s pianos and for pianos over a century old. Additionally, the Boston-based Mason & Hamlin, a sister company sharing the same ownership as WNG , has demonstrated its courage of conviction by exclusively offering WNG composite actions in all of its grand piano models.

For more information about WNG high-performance piano action parts, please visit

8.8.2012 – Find A Rebuilder page now live!

Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by WNG

The Find A Rebuilder page, a database of WNG-certified piano rebuilders / technicians,  is now live!

Piano rebuilders / technicians: contact to find out how you can be added to this page!

8.7.2012 – On Rebuilding with Wessel, Nickel & Gross Composite Wippens – Thoughts from the Designer

Posted on: August 7th, 2012 by WNG

By Bruce Clark, Lead Engineer, Wessell, Nickel & Gross

Story taken from Piano Technicians Journal / July 2012


At Wessel, Nickel & Gross we agree with much that Anne Acker asserts in her comments on Chuck Behm’s Weber restoration series.

Various approaches are available for those who make their living rebuilding pianos. At one end of the spectrum are those who view an old piano as simply the raw material for their next creation. In some ways this group resembles the traditional piano maker more than one who refurbishes. This group is typified by those who rescale the old piano, or correct touch resistance problems, or who redesign the soundboard by changing the ribbing and adding cutoff bars. Whether or not one agrees with the choices made by any particular rebuilder, the goal is to get the best possible performance from the piano at the end of the rebuilding process. Whether or not the final product bears any resemblance to the original is of little concern in this style of rebuilding.

At the other end of the spectrum are those, such as Anne Acker, who provide “conservation-oriented restoration.” I take this to be much like a museum restoration in that historical accuracy and authenticity are the paramount values. Practitioners of the restoration approach strive to keep as much of the old as possible while restoring the rest of the instrument to a functional level. The goal is to keep the instrument as a historically accurate representative of the intentions of its manufacturer.

Most actual rebuilders fall somewhere between these two examples. Often only the most egregious problems will be corrected, sometimes for conservation, sometimes because of economic reasons.

Typically, rebuilding customers choose the style of rebuilding through their choice of rebuilders. If one wanted a museum-style restoration it wouldn’t make sense to choose a rebuilder who will redesign the instrument, and if the customer wants a piano that plays its absolute best by contemporary standards, a conservation approach is not likely to satisfy. Inevitably any individual rebuilder, because his work is an expression of his values, will prefer one style of rebuilding to the other. Those of us in the field need to realize, however, that this is for the well-educated customer to choose, not the rebuilder.

If the customer has chosen a conservation-style restoration, then we at WN&G agree that our composite action parts will not be appropriate. Composite parts would not be historically accurate or authentic for historic reconstruction of an 1850s instrument, for example.

We also agree with Ms. Acker’s observation that current wooden parts are not exactly authentic either. She in fact outlines some of the work needed to modify current parts to be more historically correct. However, the only real way to be historically accurate would be to duplicate, in new wood and cloth, the old parts. In essence, you would need to become an action maker that specialized in one-of-a-kind actions. I think it is no accident that no such company that I am aware of exists today. Even if it did, such a one-off action would be tremendously, perhaps prohibitively expensive.

In the case of Chuck Behm’s Weber, the design of its action is sufficiently obsolete that it should be considered untenable. Even new parts break from time to time during normal use. If an action has reached the point that replacements for missing parts are no longer available, then either the piano becomes a museum piece, fragile, rarely played and maintained as an example of the past, or a redesign and upgrade must occur for the instrument to continue as a piano, useful for daily practice and perhaps performance.

At the time this Weber piano was made, the linked wippen design was common. Parts were available and technicians had appropriate skills to apply to the problems of maintenance. But this design was discarded over a century ago and technicians today, for the most part, do not have the relevant skills to maintain this piano even if the action had suffered no wear or deterioration over the last century. The customer would find it most difficult to get quality service for this piano, even if every other aspect of the piano was spectacular. It is clear that the rebuilder opted for redesign and I think the customer likely agreed.

One more comment: In choosing parts it is reasonable to simply weigh wooden action parts and compare the weight. Construction of wooden parts is similar enough for the comparison to be approximately correct. In the case of WN&G repetitions, because the design and materials are so different, this no longer works. The material in a WN&G repetition is a nylon/glass fiber composite with a specific gravity of 1.47, about twice that of maple. It is also about ten times stronger than maple. If we just copied wooden parts, the result would be inferior because of weight, so for any part that moves we used the material properties to design parts that have a lower moment of inertia.

For example, our flanges are 1-1/2 to 2 grams heavier than wooden flanges, but there is no point in lightening a flange, as it is screwed to a rail and does not move. Mass is only important when a part moves. If you place an assembled WN&G repetition on a scale and read the weight, right away you have about a 1-1/2 to 2 gram error because of the weight of the flange.

But more important, simply weighing a part gives you no clue as to the distribution of its mass and thus its inertial resistance to movement. The WN&G composite repetition base has been designed so that the center of gravity is closer to the center of rotation than in a wooden wippen. This makes the rotating mass (i.e., the moment of inertia) less, even though the overall weight of the part is greater.

To understand how this impacts the actual functionality of the repetition, it would be best to use the tool designed by David Stanwood to measure the weight at the heel when the wippen is suspended as a lever. If you measure the old wooden repetitions and the new WN&G repetitions, you will find WN&G repetitions are very slightly lighter than the best wooden parts when measured this way.

By the way, as far as weight goes, if one were to use a typical old-fashioned brass capstan to replace the rockers, that capstan would be the heaviest element in the system. Old Steinway hexagonal capstans weigh between 10 and 12 grams and current brass capstans are typically about 6 grams. WN&G lightweight capstans weigh between 1.3 and 1.8 grams depending on which capstan you use. A side benefit would be that the anodized aluminum capstan reduces the friction between the capstan and the wippen heel much more effectively than do the old brass capstans.