A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Hammer

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HAMMER (Fr. Marteau; Ital. Martello; Germ. Hammer). The sound of a pianoforte is produced by hammers. In this the pianoforte resembles the dulcimer, from which we may regard it as developed by contrivance of keys and intermediate mechanism, rendering the pianoforte a sensitive instrument of touch, instead of one of mere percussion, incapable of refinement or expression. The pianoforte hammer consists of head and shank like any other hammer; the shank is either glued into a butt that forms its axis, or is widened out and centred or hinged with the same intention; and the blow is given and controlled by leverage more or less ingenious, and varying with the shape of the instrument and the ideas of the makers.

Both head and shank must be elastic: English makers use mahogany for the former, on which are glued thicknesses of sole or buffalo leather and specially prepared felt. Of late years single coverings of very thick felt have been successfully employed. For the shanks most English makers prefer cedar, on account of its peculiar elasticity and freedom from warping; on the continent, peartree, birch, hickory, and other woods are in use. The hammers gradually diminish in size and weight from bass to treble.

[ A. J. H. ]