Piano Music House has successfully transported pianos for 33 years. We have trained and experienced staff who are used to handling pianos, that do our transporting.
We wheel pianos on a trolley so that we have better control over them. This prevents bumping and reduces the possibility of dropping them. If a piano is dropped the cast iron frame can break because of the tremendous tension that is applied by the strings.
Pianos are transported in an upright position except when the space is too small to go around the corners or in to a small lift. In those cases the piano is placed on its side.
In order to transport grand pianos, the legs, pedals and lids are removed. Grand pianos are always transported on their sides. This makes it easier to go through doors and to handle.
Philip Theron is a fully trained piano tuner with 44 year’s experience (He does all the tuning himself). Philip has tuned school pianos throughout the old Cape Province and continues to do so in the Cape Peninsula and surrounds.
He also tunes in private homes and many church pianos.
At our in-house workshop we mainly work on pianos. All the repair work on other musical instruments is outsourced. In our refurbishing section, the work is overseen and finished by a trained polisher. When a piano comes in to be refurbished, it first gets dismantled – the panels, the hinges, pedals, legs, whilst any loose panels and mouldings are taken off the panels.
At this stage the piano is ready to have the old lacquer stripped. After this, the wood is washed to get rid of all chemicals. Next the wood is sanded, then all lose veneer is repaired, or in severe cases, replaced.
All the holes are filled in with a good solid stopping and the piano is then ready to be sprayed.
Before any spraying can start the strings, tuning pins and key-bed pins and felt need to be masked in order to protect the parts.
Then several coats of clear sealer are applied until the wood grain is properly sealed. The polisher then colours any areas of the wood where there is a colour difference or areas that have been repaired.
We try to stick to the natural colour of the wood, but some people prefer the wood to be tinted to a specific shade. When this is complete, the polisher applies a clear lacquer, either satin (also referred to as semi gloss), matt or gloss finish, depending on the customers’ preference.
Some customers request that grand pianos are done in a black or white finish.
Before the piano can be re-assembled, the brass hinges, pedals and sometimes candelabra, need to be cleaned and polished. The keys also need to be cleaned. Ivory keys are bleached and buffed.
Now the pedals, hinges, keys and the mechanism can be put back. The panels are put into place after the inside repairs and tuning are done.
When a piano comes into the workshop, it is determined what repairs need to be done.
If the cabinet needs to be refurbished, it is sent to the re-furbishing workshop. If the cabinet does not require re-furbishing, work can start on the mechanism, keys, strings or tuning pins.
The work on the mechanism can entail replacing worn or moth-eaten felt, leather that is worn through, replace tapes ( ribbons with leather tips that serve to pull the hammer back after the hammer has struck the strings), replacing springs or the loops where the springs hook in.
If the tips of the hammers are grooved because of lots of playing, they need to be re- faced, or in severe cases where the felt is worn thin or even worn through, the hammerheads are replaced.
Centre pins are a nickel-plated brass pins on which the different parts hinge. The centre pins vary in thickness by 0,025mm and are replaced when the parts are loose.
Sometimes the felt bushing in which the centre pin turns is broken or has come out. The bushing (thin woven felt) then needs to be replaced.
Broken parts are repaired if possible, or replaced if available. Parts even have to be modified on occasion to get them to work.
There are different types of felt in a piano, i.e. compressed felt, which is not to be confused with the common felt that is sold in material shops, which varies in thickness, shape and texture.
Then there is woven felt, which also comes in a variety of thicknesses. None of these are locally available and need to be imported.
Sometimes the keys need new felt bushes where the pins run through the keys.
Due to dampness, the lead weights corrode and swell out and this causes the weights to push against the next-door key and results in the keys sticking. New lead weights are cast to replace the corroded ones.
Sometimes the key tops, whether celluloid or ivory, are missing, broken or very discoloured. Damaged keys tops are replaced with new plastic ones. Some people prefer ivory key tops. In these cases we just replace the missing ivory top with old ones in a good condition, left over from a previous job.
Whenever felt is replaced on a piano, that section needs to be regulated. Because there might be a difference in the thickness of the new felt, adjustment needs to be done in order for everything to function properly.
In the case of the dampers, it needs to be very accurately regulated for it to function satisfactorily.
When hammers have been screwed out, the hammers need to be lined up with the strings properly.
Sometimes parts of the piano do not function smoothly. A special lubricant is applied to the correct places. If parts are slow to fall back or there are noisy pedals, then some lubricating spray is applied.
Sometimes strings are missing, badly corroded or break when the piano is tuned, especially when the piano is tuned from a low to a higher pitch. The strings then need to be replaced. The strings in the middle and treble sections are made of steel wire of various thicknesses, from 0,8 mm to 1,15mm.
In the bass section, the strings have to be made up according to the specifications of the piano. A special machine is needed to wind copper wire around the steel wire. The varying thickness of the copper wire, length of copper winding and the distance between the hitch pin and copper winding varies.
This is one of the factors that determine the pitch of the string. The strings in the low bass section even have a double copper winding around them.
The Tuning Pins:
Sometimes a piano comes into the workshop with loose tuning pins i.e. the tuning pin is not tight enough to hold the tension of the string.
The pins need to be replaced with a thicker gage pin. Tuning pins vary in thickness by 0,10mm in some cases and 0,15mm.
There is another remedy for loose tuning pins. Pouring a little liquid (tuning pin tightner) around the tuning pin where it goes into the pin block, causes the tuning pin to corrode thus swelling out, resulting in the pin being tighter.
Although this is a lot cheaper, it is not advisable as the corrosion weakens the tuning pin. It can also weaken the pin block as the glue of the lamination might come loose.
The joints on the soundboard sometimes come loose on pianos that come from a dry climate. This also applies to the ribs and front part of the bridge and would need to be glued back in position.
If the bridge is cracked, a new one needs to be custom made and replaced.
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