The most common type of clear coat finish on modern pianos is not shellac, lacquer, or polyurethane. It is high-gloss polyester, which yields a beautiful, almost mirror-like level of gloss. Virtually all ebony (black) finishes in recent years are coated with polyester, as well as many other colors. One of the greatest advantages of polyester is its durability – it is very resistant to scratches, wear, and chemical damage. However, for the same reasons, it is also difficult to repair when it does get damaged. These pictures are of a piano I worked on recently that had received very heavy use in a school environment for years. Even this major damage, however, can usually be repaired to an almost like-new finish. The biggest hindrance is typically cost, as it is labor-intensive to repair polyester, and the finish materials needed are specialized and somewhat expensive as well. If you have a… Read More
To replace the old, yellowed, and chipped ivory keytops on this keyboard, the customer choose Tharan. Tharan is a relatively new substance developed by Kluge in Germany, with the goal of imitating the feel of ivory as closely as possible. It also looks beautiful, with a slight sheen that sets it apart from the standard plastic keytops used on most pianos. Furthermore, for pianists that are accustomed to the slightly better “grip” of ivory keytops, Tharan is an excellent choice due to its high mineral content and matte texture. The ivory trade, of course, has been very restricted throughout the world and replacing ivory keytops with new ivory is no longer an option. However, several options exist which very closely mimic ivory, and in many ways are superior.
I don’t discourage DIY piano work. In fact, I think it’s a great thing for piano owners to learn more about their instrument and even do repairs when they feel comfortable doing it. However, there are some potential pitfalls and it pays to be aware of them in advance. One of the most common accidents when working on a grand piano: pulling the action out without keeping a close eye on the hammers, and snapping off a hammer that was sticking up too high. The previous owner of this piano had done all the work on it himself, and while most of it was decent work, there were three different hammers that had been broken off in this way. They were all repaired, but unfortunately the repairs were causing other problems since they, as well, were each somewhat experimental. So, by all means, learn more about your piano and try… Read More
This is what happens when bass strings are replaced improperly! The copper winding around each bass string must terminate at an exact point relative to the length of the string and the geometry of the piano. Notice the copper winding in this picture that extends too far, continuing on past the bearing pin, which separates the winding and makes the string nearly untunable. The separated winding also deadens the tone significantly. Since all pianos are slightly different in measurements, copper-wound bass strings typically have to be custom ordered. This is slightly more time-consuming and costs a few dollars more, but as you can see, it is the only option if you want the job done right.
This is an example of a significant crack in the soundboard of a small baby grand piano. I am asked often about soundboard cracks, and often by people that have heard it’s a “death sentence” for the piano, or that it means the piano “can’t be tuned.” Neither is necessarily true at all. While soundboard cracks are obviously undesirable, and in some cases can cause serious problems, they are quite common in old pianos and they are usually repairable. Depending on the nature of the crack, it may not even need any immediate intervention, but simply analysis and monitoring. Soundboard cracks are generally most harmful when they cause the soundboard to separate from the ribs which stabilize the soundboard and give it the appropriate crown. (The ribs are approximately 1-inch wide tapered wood beams that can be seen running diagonally on the back of an upright, or underneath a grand.)… Read More