wHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
REPAIR, REFURBISHING, RECONDITIONING & REBUILDING
Pianos are a wonderful musical investment! Well-built pianos will last at least 70+ years when they are regularly serviced. Pianos outlast cars, computers, televisions, keyboards, digital pianos, furniture, and sometimes us! However, due to neglect of service or deterioration of age, pianos may require repairs, refurbishing, or even rebuilding.
Pianos have thousands of stationary and moving parts which are capable of breaking. It is important to have a knowledgeable piano technician service your instrument. A professional technician will be able to correctly identify the problem, discuss the solution, options, time involved, and quote pricing of parts & labor.
Typically repairs can be done during a service call. Some repairs only take a few seconds. For example, removing a pencil or piece of trash from a grand piano can be as easy as taking the fall board off the front of the piano.
Other repairs will take only a few minuets to address. For example, when a white key is binding on the key slip, it will cause the key to get stuck in the down position. By placing a small shim behind both ends of the key slip, the front of the white key will gain enough clearance from the key slip to move freely.
Even repairs that may seem more serious can sometimes be taken care of during a routine visit from your technician. For example, if there is a broken hammer in a piano, the technician could remove the action. This would allow him to remove the offending note. He could then glue and clamp the broken part and afterword reinsert the action. This will give him the opportunity to tune the piano while waiting for the glue to dry on the repair.
Sometimes the quality of the piano will determine the effort needed to repair it. Spinet pianos are a good example. Spinets are upright pianos which are 36 to 39 inches tall. These pianos were designed during the depression era and have been discontinued due to lack of quality. Spinets are the shortest of the upright models, and possess what piano tuners call a drop action. This means that the action is tucked behind the keybed in order to preserve space. This is a design of lesser quality than the direct blow action employed in all other types of upright pianos. Repairs and regulation on spinet pianos are more of a challenge because of the difficulty involved in removing the drop action from the piano in order to address any problems.
Reconditioning the existing worn parts in a piano’s action can bring life back to its playing mechanisms. An example of reconditioning would be the process of reshaping the felt hammers which strike the strings of the instrument. This process involves using sandpaper to bring the shape of the hammers as close as possible to their original shape when the piano was brand new. Another example would be easing keys. This process involves removing friction from the front rail which rubs against the hole in the bottom of the piano key. This will fix the key without buying or replacing any parts.
Reconditioning can sometimes involve enough work to make it advisable for a technician to remove the action from the piano and bring it back to his shop. For example when rebushing flanges from a piano action, the flanges themselves are recycled but the pins and felt inside of the flanges are replaced. This process will require more time and or tools than the technician has available to him on a service call.
Occasionally it will be advisable to refurbish or replace a set of parts, which have deteriorated, rather than just fixing the few which are faulty. Sometimes when a problem occurs with one key on a piano it is a sign that the same issue will arise in the other 87 keys in the near future. If several parts are on the verge of breaking or having the same problem as the broken key, then it may be in the pianist's best interest to allow the technician to address the problem before it gets worse. This means that the technician will need to order new parts, remove the action from the piano, take the action back to his shop, remove the old parts, clean the action, install new parts and deliver the action back to the piano.
A couple of good examples of refurbishing would be replacing an old set of hammers with a completely new set of hammers, or replacing all the key tops and key fronts on a piano. Another common refurbishing job is to replace the hammer butt flanges or cords which are faulty on some older upright Yamaha models.
String Repair and Restringing:
Although piano wire is extremely strong material, when inside a piano it is under an extreme amount of pressure. Sometimes a string will pop during the tuning process and on rare occasions a string will break while the piano is being played. When a piano string breaks it often only takes a little bit of investigation to find evidence of corrosion or rust on the strings. Piano Technicians bring piano wire in a variety of gauges along with the tools necessary to repair or replace strings on service calls.
Anytime a piano wire breaks you should always keep it with the piano. You can do this by safely storing it in the bottom of the piano. This is especially true for bass strings which have to be custom ordered. Sending the old bass string by mail to a string maker in order to be duplicated will assure that the new string you receive will be exactly like the old one and it will fit perfectly.
After a certain amount of wear and tare, piano strings will lose their color. The sound of the piano will become dull and over time the strings will become deteriorated. The length of time before the complete restringing of a piano is needed will be determined by the quality of the piano in question, it’s individual up keep, and amount of use the instrument has received. Before proceeding with restringing a piano, it is crucial that a piano technician confirm that the pinblock will be capable of receiving larger tuning pins. Without replacing the tuning pins with larger size tuning pins or replacing the pinblock, the piano may never be able to hold a tuning.
Rebuilding a piano is a very labor intensive and involved procedure. The rebuilding process is usually reserved for bringing life back to high quality pianos or large concert instruments. An honest Piano Technician will tell you if the work involved is worth preforming on the piano. He or she will also notify you if it is only advisable to rebuild the piano because of sentimental attachment. Here are some examples which compare repairs to rebuilding: touching up the finish vs. refinishing the entire case, repairing a crack in the soundboard vs. a complete replacement of the soundboard, restringing the piano using bigger tuning pins vs. putting a new pinblock in the piano in order to restring the piano.