DSC00059 (2)Imagine having your 100-year-old piano looking, sounding and playing like new again. If you are considering restoring your piano, Select Piano Works is your best choice to move forward with this major undertaking.

Why rebuild?

From the PTG Website:

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“A piano not only serves the art of music, it is a work of art itself. A wonderfully complex machine, it has thousands of moving parts, a framework and soundboard supporting tremendous string tension, and beautifully finished cabinetry.

Although remarkably durable, pianos are subject to deterioration with time and use.  

What happens to a piano as it ages?

In the short term, leather and felt compact, affecting the adjustment (regulation) of the parts. The action becomes uneven and less responsive, and the piano’s tone loses dynamic range. Squeaks and rattles may develop. Routine maintenance such as hammer filing, regulation, voicing, and tuning will correct these problems and maintain the piano in near-new condition.

After extended or very heavy use, action parts become severely worn. Leather and felt wear thin. Keys become wobbly, hammer felt gets too thin to produce good tone, and the action becomes noisy. Regulation adjustments reach their limit. In addition, piano strings may begin breaking and the copper windings of bass strings lose resonance.

After decades of exposure to seasonal changes, the wood of the soundboard, bridges, and pinblock is weakened. This causes loose tuning pins, poor tuning stability, and further loss of tone. By this time the piano’s finish will often be scratched or faded.”

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In many cases, people start talking about rebuilding once the tuning pins on their piano become so loose they can no longer hold tension on the strings and therefore start slipping shortly after a tuning. In other words, the piano goes out of tune sooner than it should. Sometimes the damage is so significant that tuning is simply out of the question. Many people are surprised to find out the proper fix to that problem is a new pinblock, tuning pins and strings. It’s usually at that point piano owners start to educate themselves about what it takes to restore their piano back to its original glory.

When I am asked by a customer to give them an estimate on rebuilding their piano, what I like to do is break it down into 3 parts:

  1. Belly: this includes the soundboard, pinblock, plate, bridges and strings.
  2. Action: this includes keys, action frame, pedals, dampers, hammers and all action parts.
  3. Case: this includes all the cabinetry parts of the piano and the finish that covers them.

Though all three of these parts are connected to each other, many times it’s only one or two of them that needs attention. Each estimate I do is generally unique to that particular piano that it is given for.

A good source of information for piano care is the Piano Technicians Guild rebuilding page.

Cost

Piano rebuilding can be labor intensive. Every piano and situation is unique and it would impossible for me to list specific prices. Depending on the job, the time spent on a restoration project will be a minimum of 40 hours. However, a typical complete rebuild that includes belly, action and refinishing is around 200 hours of work. The cost of replacement parts on a complete rebuild will be around $6000 – $8000. This makes the total cost of a typical restoration being $16,000 to $18,000. For most piano makes, it would not be smart for that type of investment. However the value of a high end piano like a Steinway or Mason & Hamlin is such that rebuilding is a very attractive option.

For the past 28 years I have restored primarily Steinway pianos; however I also have experience with a few Mason & Hamlins, Baldwin’s, Chickerings and a few off-brand named pianos. Occasionally I will run into a customer whose piano is not really a high end make, however the customer has a strong sentimental value and for that reason they wish to restore it back to the piano they remember. Each situation will be different. When I am working on an estimate for a customer I don’t have the goal of  “pushing” a complete rebuild. Most of my jobs consist of doing just a portion of a rebuild. Possibly just a belly and action rebuild with no case work. My goal is to determine what is important to the customer and what options I can offer to them. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but many times I’m able reach my customer’s goals at a price they can live with and also ends up being a good investment for their piano.