We carry out restorations on Grand pianos and Upright pianos, from soundboard repairs, replacement wrest planks, to action overhauls. Additionally we are now also able to offer the Precision Touch Design service to all grand piano actions that we rebuild. A highly recommend extra to guarantee the outcome of touch and tone.
We use modern techniques and materials, providing you with many options to customize your restoration. Scale optimisation and the use of Hybrid Scaling for restringing, using modern ABS carbon parts from Wessell, Nickel, and Gross to enhance your piano further.
Restoration is split into 3 areas. Casework, strungback and keys/action. We can carry out work to the induvidual areas or for a complete restoration/rebuild, all three.
The Piano Action & Keys
A piano's action contains many felts, leathers, baizes & chords that can wear away or become damaged by poor environment. If the action has been used a lot over the years then there will be many felts & leathers which might need replacing. High quality felt/baize is made from wool and to very high standards. They are expensive to buy due to their quality but will last a very long time. A small number of replacement felts are pre-cut, the majority have to be measured and cut to get the right thickness and size. Remember that this has to be done 88 times for each type!
Hammers are the prime area of the action which we inspect closely as these hit the string to produce the sound and affect tone and touch.When assessing old hammers, we look to see if the hammer has grooves in the felt, due to use, which might need to be sanded away. A smooth flat surface will produce a better quality of tone. Time is taken to mate each hammer to the string so that equal power is acheived. The shape of the hammer is also important, like the top of an egg and not thicker underneath than the top. If there is not much felt left on the hammer, replacement of the hammer head is needed. Other reasons for replacing the hammers are if the original hammer felt is too hard or soft, i.e. not producing the right tone required. Toning, by needling the felt, can sometimes soften the tone of a piano but if the hammers are of poor quality or the felt is damaged, then toning will not work. High humidity can ruin a set of hammers as when the felt dries out; the felt is very hard and will produce a harsh tone. Hammers are bought in sets to the right weight, moulding, length etc. and are then bored to pattern and shaped if required. Upright hammers are very different to grand.We recommend a PTD installation for all action work for grand pianos, from new hammers or to a new action.
Regulation is the final work carried out to piano actions. Actions are mechanical works of art but if not regulated well, they can be disastrous. Regulation is the fine adjustment to the complex mechanism when the action has received new parts or seen much use. A poorly regulated action can result in a sluggish response, uneven touch, excessive wear on the materials, and poor sound performance. Upright actions are always regulated whilst the action is inside the piano. Grand actions are done firstly on a bench using a jig and then small adjustments made inside the piano.
Touch Weight is the term used by technicians to decribe the amount of weight needed to set a note into play. But new research using Piano Touch Design has now proved this to be meaningless. Touch weight is not play weight, which is why all pianos play differently. Using PTD, we can analyze an action and make sure each note plays evenly.
The casework is another important area of the piano that is often neglected and badly maintained. We can sometimes avoid stripping the case and losing the original finish but in some cases due to bleaching etc. we have no choice but to remove all the finish. This gives us a better opportunity to carry out repairs to the veneer and colour the wood to how the customer would like it. It is easy to darken a colour but not very easy to lighten it with the original finish still there. The colour of the piano is decided and staining carried out. We can spray a finish or hand apply it depending on the type of finish required. All of our colouring is applied by hand which is the only way to achieve the best results. Colouring well is a sign of a good polisher as some less experienced, or in most cases poorly skilled polishers, get the colours wrong, have un-even panels or just lose detail in the veneer. For more information, please go to our French polishing page here.
The strungback is the area which includes the frame, bridges, wrest-plank and strings.Re-stringing is carried out on pianos when the strings become either brittle, producing a harsh tone, or are contaminated with rust. Re-stringing may also be needed if repairs to the soundboard are required, where removal of the strings must be performed to gain access. Without the strings in place re-varnishing of the soundboard and respraying of the iron frame can also be carried out, resulting in the strung back looking like new.The cast iron frame is the most important part of the piano as it takes the enormous tensions of the strings. An average upright frame can be under tensions of 15 tons, and a grand up to 30 tons. Cast iron is the only material which is rigid and strong enough to withstand these tensions, but because it is brittle the frame should be treated very carefully, as once a crack appears near the long breaks, then the piano will require major work. Some cracks can be repaired. Some pianos are prone to cracks and through no fault of the piano owner or tuner, a frame can crack. Frames are not interchangeable as each casting is different.
Why not have your piano Re-Scaled? We can measure your piano, put this information into the computer and use software to optimize tension, inharmicity and by using Hybrid stringing, we can improve tone by using different types of wire. We offer standard German Roeslau wire or Stephen Paulello Nickle plated wires. These wire offer protection against oxidation, brilliant appearance, reinforcement of the fundamental, purity and enrichment of the timbre.
Soundboards can have cracks which have resulted from poor humidity conditions. Splits in the wood can be filled with spruce or glued, they do not affect the sound quality or down bearing (pressure exerted down by the strings) but can vibrate. Cracks in the bridges (which the strings pass over) could affect the side deflection of the strings and cause buzzing & dullness of the strings. It is easy to have the bass bridge re-capped or a new one made but not so easy to have the long bridge repaired as the removal of it can cause more damage and re-capping is expensive. If the soundboard on a piano is beyond repairing then a new soundboard is the answer. This is expensive and is only carried out on higher market grands.Wrest planks are where the tuning pins (wrest pins) are located and which control the tensions of the strings and thus control the tuning.The plank is usually made from Beech or Maple. Older pianos had solid wood planks but modern pianos now have multi laminated planks which have better holding and stability power. When the tuning pins cannot hold the tensions needed to keep the piano in tune, re-pinning or chemical treatment is carried out. If a piano is being re-strung then new larger pins are always used. Wrest planks are replaced if there are deep cracks which cannot be repaired or if a new soundboard is being fitted.