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The Joys and Complexities of Piano Restoration

It is rare in the modern age to have a complex, functional piece of machinery in our homes that is entirely mechanical. The magic of pianos is based upon the balance and movement of a number of interrelated mechanical parts. Even with care and tuning, over time both balance and movement, and their effects, tone and voice, can be affected by the normal aging and wear of the various mechanical parts of a piano.

One of the most significant factors in the ability of the piano to produce both excellent sound quality and ease of movement of the keys – the touch and tone – is the environmental effects on the various materials. Wormwood and moths can impact materials, and humidity and drying from central heat can cause cracking or swelling of wooden parts. Metal hinges can wear, so their action changes over a row of similar hinges, making movement inconsistent. Ivory keys can become loose, both in their side to side and up and down movements. Metal strings can collect dust and dirt, muffling or altering their vibration. The more fragile materials, such as felt hammers, age more quickly than sturdier materials, and can impact tone and voice significantly.

The wooden case, like many pieces of fine furniture, can be damaged by careless moving, by normal use, by children and pets, even by sunlight. The beauty and enjoyment of a piano can be radically improved by careful restoration of the fine furniture case, but the case also impacts sound and use. Plans for restoring a piano include the restoration, refinishing, and polishing of the case, as well as the careful assessment of the interior, sound-producing parts of the piano.

Like all carefully balanced mechanical objects, one thing affects another. Restoration work on a piano takes this into consideration, and ensures that the impacts of one change are restored across the action of the piano. Always the action of the working piano – the touch and tone – is of paramount importance in restoration decisions. Restoration work also considers the working life of the instrument. If it will be moved frequently, or stored in a home with central heating, or used for lessons, these uses will impact the recommended repairs.

The Golden Age of pianos, from 1880 to 1940, produced some of the world’s finest mechanical musical instruments. During this time, piano makers had access to excellent materials and many skilled craftsmen. These pianos are still being enjoyed and played, are still producing wonderful music. But they need more than tuning and servicing to maintain their value and worth. Careful restoration can restore a beautiful old piano to the peak of its performance.

Do you have an old piano that needs restoration or repair? Consider allowing our expert craftsmen to evaluate your restoration needs. Please contact us for an appointment, or for more information.

Find out more about our piano restoration service.

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