Piano restoration can be very expensive and is recommended only for the most valuable of pianos.
Piano restoration can be very expensive, so it is recommended for only the highest quality of pianos by the most experienced restorers.
There are numerous steps involved in piano restoration. First, the piano needs to be evaluated by a professional. During this evaluation, the professional will determine whether the piano is worth restoring, what steps need to be completed, and the costs involved. The piano owner needs to have a good understanding of the differences between piano restoring terms: remanufacturing, refinishing, rebuilding, reconditioning, refurbishing, restringing, rehammering and repair.
Restoring and refurbishing are interchangeable terms that can be used to describe any of the other terms listed above. It is recommended that a piano owner ask many questions regarding the actions to be taken on the piano.
Remanufacturing is the most complete restore. It involves all components of piano restoration and is extensive in nature.
Refinishing involves stripping the piano’s old finish and replacing it, usually by hand. Sometimes it also involves repair of damaged cabinet parts or wood, and polishing, repair or replacement of cabinet hinges, locks, and casters. The purpose of this type of restore is to make the piano appear like new. Refinishing is usually done every 25 to 50 years or whenever the piano needs it.
Rebuilding is, at the minimum, complete replacement of all strings, hammers, and numerous action parts and felts. Sometimes the pinblock will be replaced, and the soundboard and bridges often repaired or replaced, but these are not always included in the rebuild.
Reconditioning is replacement or repair of some, but not all, parts.
Restringing is obvious – piano strings are replaced. There are other actions which may be taken with a restringing, so it is wise to ask questions concerning exact actions to be taken. Restringing is usually done every 25-50 years, although more often on pianos in frequent use.
Rehammering replaces the piano’s hammers and all parts associated with them.
General repair is done as needed only on the parts needing to be repaired. Sometimes, the parts are repaired, sometimes replaced, but usually nothing else is done.
Before the piano is taken apart to be worked on during a complete restoration, or remanufactured, all the specific details of this particular piano are noted. The piano tone is determined; readings and measurements are taken of the strings. The location and setting of the harp is noted, and examined for needed repairs. As the piano is taken apart, all parts are labeled or marked – metal parts receiving the serial number of the piano.
The wood is then hand-stripped to avoid the use of harsh chemicals which would ruin the fine piano wood. Then, the wood is hand sanded and dusted, dents and cracks filled.
The soundboard is then fully repaired and finished with many thin coats of high-quality varnish.
Piano strings are held by pinblocks. The pinblocks are actually duplicated, rather than repaired. Over time, the wood weakens and affects the sound, so restorers build another pinblock exactly like the one currently in use.
At this point, the stringing process begins. The strings are attached to the pinblock, and tuning pins are marked and positioned. Careful tuning takes place as each hole in the pinblock and each string position precise.
The keyboard is the next project. Key tops are replaced if needed or wanted, then the action of the keys are measured, adjusted and regulated until everything is in perfect working order.