Piano Key Restoration

Piano Key Restoration

Do you love your piano? Has it been in your family for generations? 

Is it looking a little shabby? Are the keys yellowing, cracked, or missing? Do they sometimes press down and never pop back?

It may be time for a little restoration. 

Key TopsPiano Key Restoration

The first place to start is with the key tops. By replacing the tops, it can add life and charm to your older piano. Keep in mind that if your piano is antique and still has ivory keys, replacement with ivory might not be an option. It is illegal to buy and sell ivory. However, in some cases, a technician might be able to find ivory top keys for a historical restoration. 

Key Bed

While the tops of the keys may be cracked or chipped, the problem might be deeper if your piano doesn’t play correctly. The key bed consists of several different components. During restoration, many things may be repaired or replaced. 

Rail pins – these pins balance each key into place when the hammer is activated

Key bushings – these felt pieces are used within the pin holes to keep fluidity in the action

Capstans – these are the screws that hold the keys into the action

Key buttons – these are pieces of wood glued to the key tops for balancing

For proper key restoration, it requires both quality workmanship to ensure the piano sounds as good as it looks. 

A good restorer will ensure that your piano looks as close to original as possible. They will select proper key materials to ensure a professional look. They will also ensure proper function throughout. That means:

  • The notches of both black and white keys are properly made for a tight fit
  • The key edges are properly cleaned and finished to avoid dirt and buildup from occurring over time
  • The key edges are flush on all sides to avoid dysfunction when the keys are pressed

Are your piano keys in need of a little restoration? 


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

How Do I Know If My Piano Is Worth Restoring?

How Do I Know If My Piano Is Worth Restoring?

Do you have an old piano that was handed down to you from your parents or grandparents? Is your old piano on display in your living or family room, but doesn’t play the way you wish it would? 

Pianos aren’t just instruments you tuck away and pull out only when you wish to play them. Instead, they can be works of art themselves. Yet when they don’t play correctly, it can be frustrating. 

Pianos are the most complex instrument, with thousands of moving parts to create sound. And as you probably know, if some of those parts aren’t operating correctly, the sound can be anything but soothing. 

Many things can happen over time. 

How Do I Know If My Piano Is Worth Restoring?

interior of a concert grand piano – wide orientation

  • The felt wears away
  • The strings lose tension
  • The strings break
  • The wooden structure cracks
  • The exterior loses its sheen

Can it be fixed?

Most pianos can go years without any major repair. The more you maintain it, the longer it can go before requiring major restoration. But once you start seeing the signs, you’ll have a decision to make. Ask yourself these three questions. 

Is the overall condition of the piano in good shape? If the piano has been subjected to extreme neglect, severe fire or water damage, it may be beyond repair. 

Is the original quality of the piano good enough to restore? Some pianos were simply cheap imitations of the real thing. If it had little value when it was created, no matter how much restoration you do, you’ll never have a quality instrument. 

Will it take more money to repair it than it would cost to replace it? Now maybe the time to invest in something new. 

Only you can decide how much commitment you want to put into restoring an old piano. If you have any questions, we’re here to help. 


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Are Your Ivory Piano Keys Worth Anything?

Are Your Ivory Piano Keys Worth Anything?

One of the most common questions we receive pertains to repair and renovation of old family heirlooms. When a piano has been around for generations, there is a greater chance they were created with ivory keys. Are ivory keys worth anything?

Since ivory is scarce, people often think they might hold value on the second-hand market. The opposite is true.

Ivory is illegal to buy and sell. Try selling ivory on eBay, for instance, and your product will be removed immediately. You can’t transport ivory overseas and in some cases even throughout the United States. So the market for selling ivory keys would be limited at best.

So what can you do with them?Are Your Ivory Piano Keys Worth Anything?

The best you can do is give them to the piano renovator as you have your piano restored.

Many times a technician will keep some ivory key tops in case they have a call for historic renovation. No two pieces of ivory are the same. When they try and match based on historical representation, they will try and find something as close to matching as possible. If they have a big enough collection of old ivories, they will have a greater chance of matching.

Before laws tightened, a set of ivory keys may have been worth thousands of dollars. If you find anyone selling or trading ivory today, you should use caution as laws are complex. Laws exist throughout the world for animal protection; dealing even with existing ivory can jeopardize the safety of those animals.

Do you have a piano with ivory keys?


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Can I Refinish My Piano Cabinet?

Can I Refinish My Piano Cabinet?

Sometimes the outside of your piano might not look the best. There are water stains and rings from where glasses of water have spilled. The side panel is looking a little faded and worn. If you had to describe it, you’d probably use the term “well loved.”

With just a little TLC – a coat of paint or a quick coat of stain, it would look as good as new. Right?Can I Refinish My Piano Cabinet?

There are a few things you should consider. 

Has the musical part of the piano been restored?

If not, you may be approaching things in reverse. Pianos age over time. What shows on the outside of the piano is also often apparent on the inside. That means if the outside is showing wear and tear, the inside could probably benefit from a little TLC too. Just because the outside looks great doesn’t mean the piano will play well and be something you’re proud to display in your home. 

Is there serious damage to the cabinet?

If the cabinet is just ugly because it’s been painted the wrong color in the past, it may be a simple remedy. However, if the piano has had serious water damage, if veneer is falling off, or if the wood is splintered and damaged, it can be a sign of more damage. Before you begin, ensure that the cabinet only has surface damage. Do all parts fit well together? If it is a grand piano, are the lure, desk, and lid in good solid condition? Are all pieces in relatively good condition? While simple work is possible both to repair and replace, always be aware that the more extensive the damage on the outside, the more potential problems you may find on the inside. 

Are you prepared to paint it rather than stain it? 

If the finish has been severely damaged, you can strip it, fill in the damaged wood with wood filler, sand it, and paint it. Depending on your home’s decor, a coordinating color can make it very rewarding. Staining brings every detail, every problem into the light. Depending on the color you select, you can hide some of the external flaws. However, stick with white, offwhite, or even a more modern color. Attempting to spray on black lacquer should only be attempted if you have a spraying booth for best results. 

Why are you refinishing the piano?

For some people, a piano is a family heirloom that has been passed down for generations. It’s rarely played. Instead it is showcased as a piece of fine furniture. If that’s the case, ensuring the outside looks great may be the right choice for you. However, if your goal is to create a musical instrument for you and your family to enjoy, realize that the inside is equally important. Renovating the entire instrument at once is a much better plan. 

Do you have the ability to do this?

Refinishing a piano isn’t the same as slapping on a coat of paint. There are a lot of details that can impact the final look if they aren’t refinished in the proper way. Also understand that even with painting a piano, the sanding process shouldn’t be overlooked to remove water stains and rings, and any imperfection that exists in the wood. This is a delicate job, as any sand that gets into the mechanics of the piano can make it unplayable at best. 

If you have any questions or reservations, it’s best to talk with a professional first.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

What Is A Registered Piano Technician?

What Is A Registered Piano Technician?

Can anyone repair your piano? Can anyone tune it efficiently? The answer, of course, is yes. In fact, there are many websites and books that will tell you how easy it is to perform, and how in some cases you can do it yourself.

What Is A Registered Piano Technician?Repairing a piano isn’t brain surgery. Yet a piano is a delicate instrument with thousands of parts that work together to create beautiful sound. And if even one piece isn’t working up to par, it can impact the sound entirely.

The field of piano technology is unregulated. A registered piano technician is a member of the Piano Technicians Guild that has established standards of quality for piano technicians, giving you some assurance that they are experts at what they do.

To obtain a registered piano technician classification, a member must pass three examinations:

  • A written exam that tests knowledge of piano design, tuning theory, repair techniques, and other topics related to piano technology
  • Two practical hands on exams that test tuning and technical skills

On the tuning exam, the candidate must match as closely as possible a master tuning created by the examiners. The exam is scored by using sensitive electronic equipment to record how closely the candidate’s final process compares with the established norm. They must demonstrate their ability to tune by ear, unaided by electronic devices.

The technical exam requires a candidate to demonstrate their skills in assembling a grand and a vertical piano action and in making the adjustments (regulation) so that they function properly. They must also demonstrate that they can make all common repairs involving the wood, cloth, felt, piano wire and other common materials used in creating a piano.

Only registered piano technicians can use the title in their marketing. And if you see the title, you can be assured that the person you select has a wealth of knowledge behind them in working and adjusting pianos.

Who are you trusting your piano to?


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

What Do Piano Tuners Do?

What Do Piano Tuners Do?

Piano tuning may seem to be a fairly straightforward process; a tuner simply brings the piano back into tune. And if you watch any do it yourself instruction videos online, it can seem like anyone can do it. If you’re mechanically inclined, have the right tools, it should be a simple process, right? While the process may be simple, mastering it is actually quite difficult. Professional tuners spend their entire careers perfecting their skills. If you get it wrong, the outcome will be noticeable in the way your piano sounds.

Most people don’t understand the reason you tune a piano.What Do Piano Tuners Do?

Tuning a piano is a specific process of setting the tension of the strings using a special tool. They are stretched to a specific point so they will vibrate in harmony. However, tuning is never performed one key at a time. Instead, all keys are used in the process, keeping harmonious sound from all keys. If you were only to tune the pure intervals, the notes would not be the same pitch. Because you must be allowed to play in all keys and octaves, tempering is also required. Equal temperament is used to produce out of tune intervals to make sure the piano sounds right when all notes are played.

A piano tuner’s most important tool is the lever, or hammer, that acts as a key or wrench. It is a specially designed tool that fits piano pins, which are tapered and square. Using a standard socket wrench is not recommended because of the tapering, it will likely slip the tool off the pin and damage the corners. It will also be too short to control tuning and will risk loosening or damaging the pins along the way.

Most piano tuners today use tuning hardware and software to help them through the process. There are many applications available; it’s important to be able to move around as the tuning process takes place. These programs actually hear the tone being played and will automatically display how close you are to the appropriate tune. You can then tighten or loosen the string until you get the appropriate sound from the string.

With the proper tools in place, the tuner begins working on the piano one string at a time. He ensures the string is in place, and provides the proper tune for the note being played. He then continues working on the other strings in the set, which is call tuning unisons. This will set the temperament and allow tuning by octive comparison. This is a process of continuously checking the tuning of each key and using them as a reference to ensure the sound is correct.

Using an electronic tuner for all keys is not a good idea. Each string is a different length, made differently, and has altering resonant characteristics that make it unique. Pitch can be wildly off, something that might not be noticed with electronic tools, but can easily be heard by the human ear. This is where experience comes into play. This is what gives a tuner their unique approach to the process.

When was the last time your piano was tuned?


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

7 Things Piano Restoration Companies Look At

7 Things Piano Restoration Companies Look At

Pianos have a lot of moving parts. No matter if you play your piano every day, or if it sits quietly in the corner for weeks at a time, parts wear out. Strings lose their tightness; felts begin to wear down; wood can warp.7 Things Piano Restoration Companies Look At

Even with the best of care, pianos need regular maintenance to help them survive from year to year. And even with regular tunings, eventually, a piano needs even more work. That’s when restoration becomes necessary to keep your piano in good, working condition.

Yet handing over your piano to a restoration company isn’t as easy as it seems. There are a lot of companies that make promises, but who should you trust? Before you sign on the dotted line, there are some legitimate questions you should ask to determine if the rebuilder you choose is the right choice.

You would be surprised at the different levels of service offered by different restoration companies. Some collect a handful of pianos at a time, offering cut-rate pricing to get you in. Then when they have several in place, they ship them off to wholesale rebuilders who do a less than a quality job. Your family heirloom is now worth very little. The sound will be destroyed. The parts will be anything but quality. And there’s very little you can do.

Which is why it’s important to ask questions before the process begins.

1. How long have you been in business? Longevity provides you with assurances that the restoration company is a part of the community and cares about its reputation.

2. Where is the work performed? This will ensure quality workmanship.

3. Can we see work in progress? This will tell you if the company has something to hide.

4. Is the process documented? If you can see photos or have a running document of the process, you’re ensured quality work is being performed.

5. Who will be working on the restoration process? Quality work isn’t performed in assembly line manner.

6. What organizations are you a part of? The longer a restoration company is in business, the more they will be a part of the community.

7. Can you furnish references? A reputable dealer will never be afraid to pass along happy customers’ information.

Are you in the market for finding a reputable piano restoration company? What is your most important question?


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Piano Key Repair and Restoration

Piano Key Repair and Restoration

What’s one of the first parts of a piano that show their wear and tell you it’s time for a little R&R (repair and restoration)?

Your piano keys.

Maybe they are missing, broken, chipped or damaged. Maybe they are unlevel and hard to play. Maybe they wiggle from side to side. Or maybe some go down and some don’t as your fingers attempt to carry out a tune.Piano Key Repair and Restoration

When it’s time to repair or restore your piano keys, one or more things may be in order.

Key top replacement – In some cases by simply replacing the veneer on the keys will bring new life to your piano. Keep in mind that there are special considerations for vintage pianos that still maintain ivory keys.

 

  • Key bed – In some cases, piano key restoration must include the entire piano key structure down to the key bed. It will include repairing and replacing many of the parts, including key bushings and balance pins.
  • Balance rail pins – The balance rail pins are what each key lever balances on when the key is pressed to activate the hammer. These rail pins can rust and corrode over time.
  • Front rail pins – The front rail pins are located at the front of the key bed and hold the key in position at the front. These rail pins can also rust and corrode over time.
  • Key bushings – Each of the key levers has a hole that fits over the balance and front rail pins. Around these holes is a piano felt which can compress and wear down over time.
  • Capstans – The capstan is the cap that is screwed into the key lever in the back to connect the lever with the action. It can oxidize over time and cause friction between the lever and the action.
  • Key buttons – Each of the key levers has a small button glued into place that help balance the rail pin. These can easily become damaged over time.

If your piano isn’t playing the way it used to and you know your keys are at least part of the problem, the best place to start is by talking with a quality piano restoration company. In many cases we see people attempting to fix problems with piano keys themselves, or trusting the work to someone that is anything but professional, and it shows in the finished results.

Your piano keys bring life to your music. Without properly functioning keys, your music will never be up to par. If you have questions about your piano keys, give us a call today.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Piano Problems? You May Need Properly Bushed Keys

Piano Problems? You May Need Properly Bushed Keys

The last time a piano technician came into your home to tune your piano, did you hear him mention your piano keys may need rebushing? What are properly bushed keys? And why is it important to the overall playability of your piano?

Properly bushed keys provide the foundation for accurate key leveling and spacing, and create a more solid and secure feel to the action of the keyboard.Piano Problems? You May Need Properly Bushed Keys

Each key on a piano is held in place by two pins. The balance rail pin is near the center of the length of the key, and the front rail pin is at the front. There is a hole near both sections in which the rail pins fit into place. Each of these holes is bushed with a thin layer of felt.

When the piano is new, the bushings are loose enough to allow the key to move freely up and down, yet tight enough so that the keys don’t slip back and forth.

With a lot of play and repetition, the felt bushings become worn and compressed. You may start to feel the wiggle from side to side as you play, and may even knock together with neighboring keys. As a long time player, this can be more than a little disconcerting. But to a new player, this can eliminate the desire to play.

There is a proper way to fix worn key bushings and replace them altogether. This must be done with precision, as the work is delicate and misplaced bushings can drastically impact the sound of the piano.

Each felt bushing must be steamed and lifted out.

Next, the right thickness of felt must be created to assure a proper fit. The felt is held in place with special cauls and hot hide glue, while the edges are carefully trimmed to prevent them from poking up and disturbing the fit of the key.

After the glue is dried, the cauls are removed and keys are put back into place. If the rebushing was performed correctly, little adjustment is needed to get the piano back into proper working order.

Have a question about the playability of your piano? Give us a call today.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Do The Felt Hammers On Your Piano Need Recontouring?

Do The Felt Hammers On Your Piano Need Recontouring?

Every time you play a note on your piano, the felt hammer depresses down onto the string, striking it to create sound. This happens over and over again as your fingers run across the keyboard pressing down note after note.Do The Felt Hammers On Your Piano Need Recontouring?

In all pianos, vertical and grand, the felt hammers become grooved over time from this action. As they strike against the string, it compresses the felt just a little. Over time, this can begin impacting the sound your piano makes.

If your piano is rarely played, this process may take decades. If your piano is heavily played, it may take a few years. And if your piano is used daily in a practice room at a music school, for instance, the time frame may shorten considerably.

When hammers are new, only a very small area of the hammer is striking the strings. As the grooves begin to wear into the felt, a half inch or more of the face of the hammer may be striking the string every time it is played. This can cause a harsh and uneven tone.

If you open up your piano and look down at the hammers, you will notice the grooves in the felt, with almost a dirty or heavily worn look to them. The hammers should not be fixed so they look “clean”. Cleaning the felt will not fix the problem. Some attempt to take off a thin layer with a dremel tool to fix the problem, yet this is largely a cosmetic fix that will not impact the overall tonal quality. Others have even attempted to clean the felt with soap and water; this only risks further damage to your piano.

An experienced piano technician can recontour the hammers, restoring them back to original shape. The hammers are “filed” in such a manner as to take off very thin layers of the felt until no string grooves remain. This allows the original curve of the hammer to once again take place.

Keep in mind that the felt hammers can only last so long, even with regular maintenance and recontouring as needed. Eventually the hammers must be replaced.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172