Does My Wurlitzer Need New Key Bushing Felts?

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If you flip a Wurlitzer key upside down, you’ll see two holes underneath. These holes line up with the two metal pins in the keybed that guide the key’s vertical travel. They’re called the key bushings, and they’re lined with felt. As the keyboard is played, this felt becomes compressed over time and the keys no longer fit snugly around the key pin. Or, if these felts become damaged, they could prevent the key’s smooth travel and the touch-responsiveness of the keyboard becomes compromised.

If your key bushing felts have deteriorated, they can be replaced. This will revive the performance of your keyboard while keeping the keys themselves cosmetically original. But how can you tell whether new key bushings will improve the condition of your Wurlitzer? This guide will help.

Do the keys of your Wurlitzer have excessive side-to-side motion? This is a classic key bushing problem. The keys should only have vertical motion, and should resist any attempts to move them horizontally. Keys with horizontal motion contribute to a sloppy, imprecise playing experience.

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To test this, place your finger on the front of a key and, very gently, try moving it from side to side. If it easily moves from side to side, it is very likely that you need new key bushings. You can open up the Wurlitzer to confirm this. If the bushing looks worn but the key post underneath is in good condition - not loose or missing - replacing the bushing will fix this problem.

Is the key sticky or slow to return? Sticky keys have a few different causes, but bad key bushings can definitely contribute. It is possible for the felts to become loose and prevent the key from traveling freely. In this case, replacing the felt will improve the keyboard’s performance. However, the only way to know for sure if this is the underlying problem is the open up the Wurlitzer and examine the key bushings.

If I have only one or two problem keys, do I need to replace all of the key bushings? If all the key bushings are aged to a similar degree, it is a good idea to replace all of them. Even if they aren’t sticking across the board, it’s probably only a matter of time before more of them start to fail. Plus, it will improve the consistency of your keyboard if all of the bushings are in similar condition.

However, if the key bushings are deteriorating only in a certain area because of a spill or other damage, you could choose to replace just those bushings. And, obviously, if you’re pressed for time and need the Wurlitzer for a show or a recording session, you can replace only the worst offenders as a stopgap measure. Be aware that, once you replace the bushing, the glue requires several hours to dry. Otherwise, it will just become loose while you’re playing, and the key will possibly perform even worse than before.

How to Check if Your Wurlitzer’s Key Bushings Are Bad

  1. Turn off and unplug the Wurlitzer.

  2. Remove your Wurlitzer’s lid.

  3. If you have a Wurlitzer 200a or any other 200-series model, you will need to remove the amp rail before you can access the keys. In other models, the keys can be removed as soon as the lid is off.

  4. Remove the problem keys. (If your Wurlitzer hasn’t been cleaned for a while, this is a great opportunity to remove all the keys and vacuum out the keybed.)

  5. Examine the key bushings. The felt should be firmly attached, and it should be the same thickness across the bushing. if you can clearly see the outline of the key post, it’s time to replace the bushing. Likewise if the felts are missing, falling out, or otherwise loose.

  6. Examine the key post. Is it straight? Is it firmly attached to the key bed? Are there any cracks in the key bed, or any other structural damage? If so, this will need to be addressed before your Wurlitzer can be played to its full potential. Note that it is of course possible that your Wurlitzer needs new key bushings, as well as repair to the key bed.

  7. Sometimes, it helps to remove keys from a working part of the keyboard and compare them to keys from the problem area. This can help you spot any visually obvious deterioration.

If you have determined that you need to replace the bushing felts on your Wurlitzer (or Rhodes) keys, and would like to perform the repair yourself, check out our Key Bushing Re-felt Kit. It includes enough felt to re-felt the entire key set and the clamps to get the job done.


Further Reading

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