As Pianos Age...

People tell me all the time “it’s in excellent condition.”  Invariably, they are speaking of the cabinet.  I’m terms of evaluating the condition of antique pianos, the cabinet is of secondary concern.  It’s the internal mechanical components that are most important because these are by far the most important to rebuild. I’m the picture is a grand piano wippen.  It is one of several assemblies that comprise the machine that operates each key.  Notice how many “red and white bits” are in it. These are all felts.  And felts degrade and turn to dust over time. So, on old pianos, all of these felt parts degrade.  This affects the geometry and playability of the instrument negatively. And as you c

High End Pianos...

will be constructed of high quality raw components. Look at the key in the top photo.  Notice how the growth rings of the wood are all parallel to the length on the key, uniform in appearance, and straight grained?  This key, from a Steinway Model M ($50,000+)  is made from a piece of high quality quarter sawn wood.  This key will not snap at the balance rail hole, nor will it twist or warp due to changes in humidity. Compare to the second picture, from a budget quality Wurlitzer upright.  These keys literally snapped in the middle from normal playing use.  I relied them.  You can see the running diagonal to the length of the key.  This is the direction of the grain in this key.  It is very

Buying a Used Piano?

If you open the lid and see something like this, you definitely don’t want that piano. The hammers and flange pins have seized in this one and don’t return to their proper positions resting on the wooden rail- a $350 fix at best, possibly more.  Especially if the piano is a spinet. People often don’t know what to look for when buying used. There’s a lengthy post about used piano shopping in an earlier post in this blog.

Can a Cracked Harp be Fixed?

Nope. Piano Harps (aka Plates) are made of cast iron. Cast iron can’t be reliably welded. If you’re considering purchasing an old piano, inspect the harp closely for cracks. If you find any, you should pass, because the piano’s tuning won’t be stable (best case) or the plate could actually collapse (worst case).

The Wavy Keyboard

Does your keyboard look like this?  If so, I can make it perfectly flat and straight again.

Restringing Pianos is a LOT of Work

Restringing pianos is a silly amount of work. Been working 4 hours and I don’t even have the high treble done yet. I’m about 20% done, and I’m fast at doing this. Fixing pianos is labor intensive. That’s one reason it can be expensive to refurbish them. Parts can be expensive too.

THAT’S what new string installs should look like...

Oftentimes, when technicians install strings, the work is sloppy.  They will put too many wraps of wire, or too few.  Or overlap wraps.  Or leave spaces between them.  Why?  Because installing strings is difficult to do neatly.  Especially bass strings.  An inexperienced technician will definitely have trouble winding neat string coils.  Like so many piano things, you’ve got to do it a lotta times before you master it... To me, it’s a matter of taking pride in one’s work.  This is how they ought to look.

So, What’s the Difference Between a Budget Piano and a Steinway?

A lot of things, but I’ll give one example.  Expensive pianos are constructed with attention to detail in the quality of internal components so that they are reliable and don’t break. In theese pictures you see keys from a budget Kimball piano that have snapped literally in two pieces simply from playing.  The top picture shows how the keys balance and pivot on the center key hole on the “balance rail.”  This is a high stress area of the key. The second picture shows the repaired breaks.  Notice that the keys don’t have any reinforcement around the weak area around the hole.  One can easily see how weak this area of the key is. Compare to the bottom oicture, which is of the key hole of a Ste

Stuff You See on Old Pianos...

Stuff you see on old pianos... On this old Kimball spinet, the hammer shanks have warped, causing the hammers to become so misaligned that they don’t even strike their intended string anymore! Can we fix that? No problem!

My Soundboard Is Cracked! My Piano Is Ruined! (Not)

You might see cracks like this in your soundboard. Especially if your piano is old. Should you be worried? Is it rattling or buzzing when you play? No? Then 99.99% probability you’ve got nothing to worry about at all. And if it is rattling, generally fixing it isn’t too difficult.  If you’d like, I can fill and glue it.  But, you really needn’t spend the money. There are some people who will insist that cracks will weaken the soundboard, or cause some other structural disaster. While those cases surely exist, they are quite rare. In fact, many manufacturers, including some of the most expensive brands, don’t cover soundboard cracks in their warranties! So, what does that tell you?

Why do hammers and keys sometimes return slowly ?

Several possible reasons, but usually because of corrosion on the pins of the flange joints in the action. The piano action has lots of hinges that pivot.  In these pictures, you can see the greenish oxidation of the copper in the alloy that the pin is made of. How to fix it? I use a lubricant called CLP that is great for dissolving this junk. Some pins are so corroded, however that there is no other solution but to replace the pins. This extra friction can be a real problem in older pianos. A pin joint in a piano action part should have 2-4g of friction resistance. A badly corroded joint can have 20g or more of resistance. Whenever we have a piano action in for repairs, we always

Why do hammers and keys sometimes return slowly ?

Several possible reasons, but usually because of corrosion on the pins of the flange joints in the action. The piano action has lots of hinges that pivot.  In these pictures, you can see the greenish oxidation of the copper in the alloy that the pin is made of. How to fix it? I use a lubricant called CLP that is great for dissolving this junk. Some pins are so corroded, however that there is no other solution but to replace the pins. This extra friction can be a real problem in older pianos. A pin joint in a piano action part should have 2-4g of friction resistance. A badly corroded joint can have 20g or more of resistance. Whenever we have a piano action in for repairs, we always

Stuff you see on old pianos...

On this old Kimball spinet, the hammer shanks have warped, causing the hammers to become so misaligned that they don’t even strike their intended string anymore! Can we fix that? No problem!

1934 Story & Clark Art Deco Baby Grand

One of the coolest (and rarest) pianos I’ve encountered, owned business Karl Petters.  She is getting new strings, a full action maintenance, regulation, and other refurb work.  It will sound and play as close to “as new” as possible now as can be short of full on restoration.  Stunning piano.

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