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.

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.

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.

5 Signs Your Piano Needs Refurbishing

5 Signs Your Piano Needs Refurbishing

Some projects are perfect for the do it yourselfer. Some projects aren’t.

Changing the color of the walls of your family room is a perfect do it yourself project; grab a bucket of paint and go. But when it comes to refurbishing the piano that takes center stage in your family room, it’s best left to the hands of a true professional.5 Signs Your Piano Needs Refurbishing

Start with the keys

The easiest place to start when checking the condition of a piano is with the keys. The keys should be played one at a time listening to them closely. The tuning may be off, meaning you might not hear a quality pitch as we walk from note to note. Listen beyond for buzzing sounds or harsh multi-tones even when you’re pressing just one key. Also pay attention if a key creates no sound at all, which could be a sign of further internal damage.

Test the pedals

When you press down on a pedal and find it non-responsive, it can be an indication of a bigger problem. Many people ignore the pedals, with little intention of using them in the first place. Check them anyway as it can be an indication of larger problems inside.

Inspect the hammers for wear

Each hammer within the piano is covered in felt. Timbre is achieved when the hammerhead felt strikes the strings and produces the desired note. Worn felt reduces both timbre and tone. Make sure felt is intact and wood does not show through. Also keep in mind that felt is attached to the hammers through pressure, not through glue. In many cases it can be easy to spot a do it yourself attempt to improve the quality, which can actually work against you.

Examine the bridge and pinblock

The bridge is the wooden piece between the soundboard and the hammers. It helps keep the piano in tune. This wooden piece should not be out of position, warped or cracked. The pinblock holds each string ensemble in place with tuning pins. Likewise, the pinblock must not be cracked or warped, and the tuning pins should be tight. Piano strings are attached in groups of two or three, and if the pinblock is damaged, the piano will remain out of tune. If you see signs of rust anywhere, it probably is a result of water damage and may be beyond repair.

Inspect the soundboard

The soundboard is the foundation of the piano. If the soundboard is cracked, warped or damaged, the rods will not move correctly, and the hammers and felts will work improperly, producing the wrong sound or no sound at all.

One of the worse sounds for people to hear is an incorrect note on a piano. But that is not a true indication of a problem with a piano. If damage is at a minimal, and the note is merely out of tune, piano refurbishing can be an easy process. It may be as simple as tuning and replacing a few worn parts. The only way to determine for sure the true potential of the piano in question is to start by having a professional evaluate the piano.

Have questions? Give us a call today.

Caring For The Finish On Your Piano

Caring For The Finish On Your Piano

A piano brings a lifetime of enjoyment to any home. But if you are ready to purchase your first piano, as with any investment, taking care of it from the beginning will ensure you lifelong quality and workmanship.

Today’s pianos are finished with a variety of materials, from lacquer to modern polyurethanes and polyester resins. A piano’s finish is designed to protect the wood from dirt and spills, as well as reduce damage from every day circumstances, such as humidity changes within the room.Caring For The Finish On Your Piano

Piano finishes are designed to protect the piano without the need of polishes or waxes, and in fact are best protected with simple maintenance.

Avoid finish damage to your piano

Your piano’s cabinet is made out of wood, and like all wood, it is subject to expansion and contraction as humidity changes. With extreme variations, the wood will begin to develop tiny cracks and even begin separating in certain areas. Locate the piano in a stable area of your home, away from direct sunlight, and away from drafts, dampness or heat sources. Also avoid placing anything on the piano which can lead to scratches, or can spill liquid onto the finish, such as a plant or a drink.

Regular dusting

Rubbing dust across your piano can instantly cause scratches. Use a feather duster or a damp cloth to pick up dust without the impact of scratching. Choose a cloth made of soft cotton rather than a harsher material, such as a synthetic fabric. Also make sure you wipe any moisture immediately, as moisture can quickly get into the grains and start the damage process.

Cleaning the piano finish

Occasionally you may find smudges or fingerprints on the finish. If a damp cloth doesn’t remove it, you can dampen your cloth with a mild soap solution. Never use traditional furniture polishes or lemon oils claiming to protect wood finishes. They offer no protection from scratching and can actually soften the finish over time. They also contain silicone and oils that contaminate the wood, leaving it vulnerable to extensive damage.

Cleaning the piano keys

Piano keys often become soiled from oil and dirt on fingertips. To clean the keys, use a soft cloth dampened with water and a mild soap. Make sure the cloth is wrung out, and is damp, not wet. Wipe the keys from back to front rather than side to side to avoid moisture falling between the keys. Clean only a few keys at a time, drying them immediately with a dry cloth.

Have any more questions about cleaning your piano? Give us a call. We’d be happy to advise you on how to protect your investment for years to come.

Is It Worth Repairing My Piano?

Is It Worth Repairing My Piano?

“I have an old piano handed down to me from my parents. I haven’t played since I was a kid, but now that I’m nearing retirement I’m thinking of picking it up again. It’s been in storage for years, so I know it will need a little work before I can bring it into my home and play it. I know after a little research that the piano market isn’t what it used to be. Should I spend the money to repair my piano? Should I just buy a used one?”

Great question; it’s actually one of our most popular.Is It Worth Repairing My Piano?

A lot of people have old pianos handed down from parents, grandparents, or other relatives and at some point decide they would love to pick up piano playing again. The only thing is if you’ve ever played a piano that’s sat for years with no repair and no maintenance, you’ll quickly discover it doesn’t play quite the way you would like it to. The notes sound a little tinny. The scales seem to be a little off.

A piano is a living, breathing instrument made up of wood, wire, and other materials that gradually break down even in the best of conditions. And as those changes occur, a trained technician knows what to look for, how to correct the problem, and how to bring it back to proper working condition.

But when something breaks down and it isn’t repaired, the deterioration continues to occur. Over time, small problems can become big problems, requiring more work to bring it up to par.

One of the things you mentioned is buying a used instead of repairing your own. That’s an option, but only if you know where the used piano has been. If you purchase a used piano from a friend or from an ad on the Internet, your chances of purchasing a piano in worse condition than the one you own is likely. After all, you know where your piano has been for years; you have no idea where the one you are buying has sat. If you buy from a reputable dealer, you will know its in the best playing condition possible. Anything else may give you more headache than enjoyment.

The second question you asked was whether it was worth repairing your piano. Without knowing the brand or seeing the piano, its difficult to say. But in most cases, repairing a piano to playing condition is a doable option. Does it have sentimental value? If it sat in your grandmothers and parents home for years, it may be an antique you will treasure for years to come. And if it’s a well-known brand, it may actually increase in value and hold its investment by making the repairs necessary to bring it back to playing condition.

If you would like to find out more, the best way to move forward is to have one of our technicians see the piano and help you make the final decision.

What Is A Pitch Raise?

What Is A Pitch Raise?

How long has it been since you hired a technician to tune your piano?

Something happens to a piano when it is left untouched, untuned for a long period of time. With every year that passes, the pitch of your piano drops further and further from where it should be.What Is A Pitch Raise?

Overall, as a piano sits and absorbs the elements from the surrounding area, it will in general go flat in the colder winter months, than rise up in the summer, though in most cases the movement isn’t proportional. If this process continues time after time, it will be the job of the technician to bring it back into tune. And if and when you decide to tune it, it becomes more difficult for a piano tuner to pull it back up to its proper tension levels.

The piano contains over 200 strings, all that need to be adjusted during tuning. As a technician raises the tension of each string, it puts a lot of strain on the piano’s structure. It’s impossible to make a large jump and have a stable tuning in one pass. So the technician must spend the time raising each of the strings up to their average tension levels, then move forward once again to accurately bring it into tune. This is called a pitch raise.

The process continues until the piano is deemed to be in tune.

Also keep in mind that when a piano goes through this much adjustment at one setting, the likelihood of it moving back out of tune increases as well. It is recommended to have the piano tuned again within a six month period of time to help keep the tension level of the strings more stable.

Once a piano is back in tune, a regular tuning schedule (every six months to one year) will prevent the need for a pitch raise in the future. Like many things, regular maintenance will keep your piano in the best possible performance level.

Rebuilding A Steinway Does It Have To Have Steinway Parts

Rebuilding A Steinway Does It Have To Have Steinway Parts

What do you do if you have an old Steinway piano filled with meaning, but it simply doesn’t play the way it used to? Rebuild it of course.

Rebuilding a piano is common practice in today’s world. Some of the best pianos in the world we’re made years ago. And through age and playing, they may need a little bit of work to continue being in peak condition. If you have a highly regarded, well made piano, why replace it when a little bit of work can have it in mint condition?rebuilding-a-steinway-does-it-have-to-have-steinway-parts

And in many cases, a top piano can have more value for resale than a new piano from today. Piano’s have history, that’s part of their desire. But rebuilding a piano can leave you filled with questions if you’ve never gone through the process before.

If you rebuild a Steinway piano, will it still be a Steinway?
This is one of the most frequent questions we receive. After all, a Steinway piano was originally created in house using parts and manufacturing processes exclusive to Steinway. If you use anything other that Steinway parts, is it still a Steinway?

The answer is yes. If you go with a reputable rebuilder, his first goal will be to repair your piano so it is in top playing condition. He won’t cut corners or use parts that will undermine the playability of the instrument. If Steinway parts are the best for the fix, they will be used. But in some cases, especially with older pianos, Steinway parts may not be available. In which case the most important thing is to use the best part for the repair.

Is there such a thing as imitation parts?
A Steinway piano has over 12,000 parts. A reputable rebuilder knows that to keep a piano in top condition, using the parts already there can be the best. If they are repairable, by all means use the existing parts.

But in some cases, a part is beyond repair. In order to be playable, it has to be replaced. But a part isn’t automatically inferior just because it doesn’t have “a name” on it. In all cases, the most important part of rebuilding is making sure everything fits and reacts perfectly together.

Do all parts need to be replaced?
Not always. Old hinges and hardware aren’t always broken or non-working. They simply have dulled with age. Polishing them up can make them look like new again. And because they were original to the piano, nothing will fit better on your piano. Besides, in order to be environmentally friendly, why throw away something that still works and can be made to look as good as new?

Have additional questions about rebuilding your Steinway? Give us a call or stop by today.

How To Free Sticking Piano Keys

How To Free Sticking Piano Keys

If you have a piano, and have played for any length of time, chances are you’ve experienced sticking piano keys. They play fine, until one day you press down a key and its sluggish, and simply won’t make a sound. There are a lot of reasons this can happen, including:

  • Jamming partsHow To Free Sticking Piano Keys
  • Broken action
  • Food or other particles between the keys
  • Warped keys rubbing together
  • Broken keys
  • Excessive moisture

One of the most common reasons a key will stick, causing a note to not make a sound when pressed, is moisture within the action. A key is guided in its up and down motion by two metal pins, a balance pin and a guide pin. Both pins are extended up into the key channels through a thin felt bushing cloth.

The guide pin can be the problem, especially if the piano resides in humid conditions. Even a small amount of moisture trapped in the bushing can cause the felt to swell, and cause it to grip the pin too tightly. The result is a sticking key, or a key that fails to return to its normal position after being depressed. This is also a frequent problem with new pianos, as the bushings are made to fit tightly, and it may take time to allow the felt to wear down and compress. The pin can be freed by working the pin through the bushing a few times in order to open up the space. Work the key up and down using moderate pressure to compress the felt bushing.

Another easy to fix problem, especially with new pianos, is an out of position keyslip. The keyslip is a thin strip of wood located in front of the keys. The distance between the keys and the keyslip is an eighth of an inch or less. If moisture or swelling impacts the keyslip, it can easily rub against the keys, causing them to stick. Sometimes you can gently work the keyslip back into position with your fingertips, pulling towards you. If the keyslip is warped, it may need replacing.

If the problem isn’t easily fixed, and you continue to have problems with sticking, its time to call in a reputable tuner to fix your keys and bring them back to playing condition.

Restoring The Pinblock

Restoring The Pinblock

What’s one of the most important parts to any piano? Arguably, many people would point towards the pinblock.

The pinblock is designed to hold the tuning pins tightly in place so the piano does not go out of tune. Pinblocks are usually made of hard maple or beech wood, and are usually laminated so that the end grain of the wood presses up against the tuning pin from multiple directions.Restoring The Pinblock

Tuning pins are about 2 ½ inches long and are made of steel. They are embedded into the pinblock about an inch in depth, with the remaining inch being visible above the wood.

In most cases, tuning pins become loose for one of two reasons.

First, the pinblock may simply be worn out. After years of tuning the pins and moving them back and forth, they simply cause the hole in the wood to be larger than the pin itself. Its similar to a wood screw that has been stripped.

Second, the more serious of the two problems can be a cracked pinblock. Cracks can form in the pinblock between two or more of the tuning pins. The crack causes the holes to open up and the pins become so loose they will not stay in place. Cracks can be caused by a number of things, including an excessively dry environment, or by an inexperienced technician who pounds the pins in without the proper support from behind.

Is the pinblock worth replacing? That all depends on the piano and the pinblock. If a pinblock is cracked in an inexpensive upright, its often not worth the cost of fixing it. If a name brand grand piano is suffering from a worn out pinblock, a trained technician may be able to restring the piano using oversized tuning pins, and give your piano several more decades of life.

The only way to know for sure is to have a trained technician inspect your piano. Give us a call today.