The repair and restoration of pianos is typically broken down into three main areas.
I. Refinishing (Cabinet and Hardware) - How it looks
II. The "Belly"- How it sounds (tone)
III. The Action- How it feels (touch)
Depending on the age, maintenance record and current condition of your piano, any or all of these areas may require attention once preventative maintenance is no longer enough to meet your requirements. Whether you're considering the purchase of a restored piano or restoring your own piano, it is important to understand how these three areas interact with each other and how each impacts the overall performance of the end product. 85% of each piano is composed of wooden parts and no two pianos live identical lives. As such, each of our repair evaluations are unique based on the piano and the needs of its owner.
Refinishing (Cabinet & Hardware): Wood-finish Pianos have a thin layer of veneer outside of the strong structural wood that makes up the structure of the instrument. Ebonized pianos have several layers of lacquer that is either rubbed (Satin) or sealed with a poly-coat (polished). Over time this can be subjected dents, nicks, scratches and sun-fading, in addition to the normal wear and tear from books, hands and periodic moving. The hardware of a piano consists of the pedals, hinges and other metal structural pieces that are typically finished in brass or nickel. Over time the finish of these parts may tarnish, corrode or wear thin from use (damper pedal, typically). While the cabinet and hardware appearance have little to do with the touch or tone of a piano, most of our clients feel that their piano should look as fine as it plays. Repairs in this area range from in-home spot repair of small damage to complete stripping and refinishing of the entire piano.
The Belly: The Belly section of the piano includes the soundboard, bridges, strings, plate, tuning pins and pin block. All of these parts work together to maintain the pitch/tuning of the piano and amplify the tone produced by the strings to the desired dynamic level. With so many different pieces working together each part should be individually evaluated when considering repair or restoration work. Again, depending on age & conditions a piano may just need restrung and repinned, as opposed to replacing the entire pinblock. Additionally, a soundboard with cracks need not be replaced if the crown (curve) is still suitable.
The Action: If you've never looked inside your piano you may be surprised to learn that in between the 88 keys and the 88 hammers that strike the strings are thousands of smaller parts. Wood, metal, leather, felt and wool make up the parts that give each piano its feel or touch. Unlike wood and metal, the wool hammers and the felts that that eliminate friction and absorb energy do wear out over time based on use and preventative maintenance schedules. Eventually, even some wooden action parts wear out, warp or break over time. Preventative maintenance like voicing the hammers or regulating the keys will prolong the life of your action. However, even a properly maintained action will eventually need additional work due to fact that some parts last only so long under use.