Piano Restoration

I am offering my personal piano for sale. It is a 1924 Chickering Black Beauty 9′ Concert Grand. I am estimating the year of construction as the concert grands had separate serial numbers than normal production pianos. This grand is called a Black Beauty because the plate was finished in black so it would not reflect off the lid during concerts. This piano has been completely restored and outfitted with the latest QRS Anchio play back system. It is a magnificent instrument to play and hear. I am offering it for $15,000.00. Delivery is available anywhere in the USA at buyers expense.

Some of the restoration that has been done to this piano includes:

  • Complete stripping, repair, and refinishing of the case in Satin Ebony.
  • Installation of a new Delignit pinblock, tuning pins, Mapes Bass Strings and Rosleau wire.
  • Complete rebuilding of key sticks with new bushing, white key tops, and new blacks.
  • Restoration of action to include new Renner shanks and Premium Blue Hammers.
  • Installation of QRS Anchio Computerized Play Back System.
  • Installation of Damp Chaser Concert Grand Environmental Control System.
  • Adjustable Concert Bench, double solid brass castors, all metals polished.
  • All work done in 2006 to 2007, piano comes with 3 year parts warranty.
  • Custom voiced for residential application with Bosendorfer voicing techniques.

Contact me for additional photos of this piano and the complete restoration list at or call 724-593-2350. CLICK HERE for a pdf file of the repair order.

Below is a copy of our contract for rebuilding and restoration. You can refer to our service prices page to get a general idea of what it would cost to repair your piano.

Although technicians use various contracts this form itemizes and identifies almost everything that is being done in the restoration business on pianos.

Review the article on rebuilding first to give you some idea as to the process and what is considered before starting a major repair.

REBUILDING and RECONDITIONING

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. Felt wears, strings break, wooden structures weaken and crack, and the exterior finish loses its beauty. Regular service and periodic action regulation can compensate for minor wear, but heavy or extended use-especially when combined with wide seasonal humidity swings-can eventually cause severe deterioration.

In our profession today we now have developed specialization at a higher level than ever before. That is to say if you want your piano touch weighted, keyboard resized, finish changed, or anything you can imagine there is an affiliate in our organization that can perform this change for you at above your expectations. We have reached a level of expertise and education in the piano repair field that exceeds the expectations of the clients. To say the very least, having been repairing pianos for over 40 years, this is a very exciting development. Allow our Pianotec technicians and affiliates deliver to you the DREAM piano.

Today, many high-quality older pianos exist in various stages of wear. Because it happens so gradually, this wear often goes unnoticed, leaving many pianos operating far below their potential. In extreme cases, some older pianos are simply left unplayed because of their poor condition.

Some technicians possess the skills to restore such instruments to excellent condition. This work is variously described as rebuilding, restoration, renovation, remanufacturing, refurbishing, or reconditioning. To establish some uniformity, the Piano Technicians Guild uses the following terms:

Reconditioning is the process of putting a piano back in good condition by cleaning, repairing, and adjusting for best performance with parts replacement only where necessary. This is most appropriate for a piano with only moderate wear or those of medium value with average performance requirements.

Reconditioning does not involve replacing major components such as the soundboard, bridges, pin block, and most action parts. This means the performance and life-span of an older piano will not be restored to new. Instead, reconditioning is designed to improve a piano’s performance, keeping in mind both costs and benefits.

Rebuilding involves complete disassembly, inspection, and repair as necessary, including replacement of all worn, damaged, or deteriorated parts. The piano is then reassembled, tested, and adjusted to the same or similar tolerances as new. Complete rebuilding includes the entire piano structure – including soundboard, bridges, pin block, and strings – as well as the action, keyboard, and case refinishing. Partial rebuilding includes only one or two of these areas, for example rebuilding of the action and structure, but not case refinishing.

Rebuilding restores the piano to original condition or better. Such comprehensive work is usually most practical for high-quality instruments where maximum performance and longevity are required.

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 pin block 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.

When does a piano need reconditioning or rebuilding?

Most pianos can be played for many years without major repairs. However, the tone, touch, and appearance will continually decline with age. When regular maintenance such as cleaning, regulating, voicing, and tuning can no longer provide satisfactory performance, a piano may require reconditioning or rebuilding.

Exactly when a piano needs rebuilding or reconditioning depends on its original quality, the climate, usage, and performance requirements. One piano may need rebuilding after just twenty years, while another may need only reconditioning after fifty years. The best way to decide is to seek out a qualified piano rebuilder with the judgment, experience, and expertise to advise you on such an important decision. If your Registered Piano Technician does not offer rebuilding services, ask for referrals.

How do I decide if major repairs are appropriate?

Not all pianos are worth the expense of reconditioning or rebuilding. In consultation with your piano technician, you should consider the following factors:

  • The overall condition of the piano. Can it really be restored to original condition or is it deteriorated beyond repair? Pianos subjected to severe fire, flood, or moving damage may not be repairable.
  • The quality, size, and type of the piano. Low priced, small pianos of poor design have limited potential. If the rebuilt piano would not be capable of meeting your performance needs, it would be better to replace it with one of better design.
  • The cost of repairs versus replacement. Major repairs may exceed the value of small low-quality pianos. However, most large high-quality instruments can be rebuilt for one-half to two-thirds the cost of a comparable new piano, making rebuilding a cost-effective option for fine pianos.
  • Sentimental value. Personal attachment or historical value may justify investing in major repairs rather than replacement.

What work is included in reconditioning?
Reconditioning may include:

  • Thorough cleaning.
  • Repair or replacement of damaged parts as needed, typically including such jobs as felt replacement, hammer filing or replacement, and partial restringing.
  • Adjustment, regulation, tuning, and voicing to return all parts to proper function, reduce mechanical noise, and improve tone.
  • Finish touch-up or polishing.

What work is included in rebuilding?
Complete rebuilding typically includes:

  • Complete disassembly of the instrument.
  • Repair or replacement of soundboard, bridges, and pin block, as well as repair of any structural damage to the case.
  • Replacement of all strings and tuning pins.
  • Thorough restoration of action and damper system, including replacement of hammers, many action parts, springs, and most felt.
  • Rebuilding of the pedal and trap work system, including replacement of all worn felt, leather, and metal parts.
  • Refinishing of case and plate, polishing or replating of all hardware, and replacement of all decals, felt trims, and rubber buttons.
  • Complete action regulation, tuning, and voicing.
  • Multiple tunings to stabilize new strings.

How do I arrange for these major repairs?

If you suspect that your piano needs major repairs, have a complete evaluation done by a qualified piano technician who specializes in rebuilding. Discuss costs versus benefits of various repair options, and whether the completed piano would meet your performance requirements. Most rebuilders will provide you with a written proposal. Expect to pay a modest fee for this service.

You may want to visit the rebuilders shop to inspect other work in progress, or ask for a reference list of past clients. Checking out similar jobs will give you a sense of how your instrument could be improved, as well as a feeling for the technician’s workmanship.

When you decide to proceed with major work, be sure to ask for a written contract. This enables you to know exactly what will get done to your piano and the associated costs, estimated completion date, payment method, and guaranteed policy.

REBUILDING EVALUATION CHECKLIST AND PRICING SHEET

Client:________________________Phone:____________________Date:______________

Manufacturer:__________________Model:____________Serial#___________________

COST ACTION
____________ Keys: OK or warped buttons bushings split
____________ Frame: OK or loose cracked warped glide bolts felts
____________ Key Covers: OK or replace sharps replace tops and fronts clean
____________ Back Checks: OK or replace recondition wires end felt
____________ Main Action Rail: OK or split brass split wood loose screws
____________ Whippen Rail: OK or split brass split wood loose screws
____________ Hammers: OK or replace clean align jacks lubricate
____________ Shanks & Flanges: OK or replace repin rebush align
$___________ Pin Block work recommended:_________________________________

PIN BLOCK
Visual: OK or cracks pin solution replace poor fit
Test: OK or torque low torque borderline
Pins: OK or original oversized rust leaning forward
Strings: OK or bass tubby dead rusted align
$___________ Pin Block work recommended:________________________________

DAMPERS
____________ Heads: OK or loose wires need refinishing replace
____________ Felt: OK or rust from strings replace noisy leaking
____________ Underlevers: OK or hard tongues recondition replace upgrade
$___________ Damper work recommended:_________________________________

SOUNDBOARD
Visual: OK or cracked shim replace ribs loose
No crown some crown negative crown
Improper fit buzzing refinish
Poor damper guide rail
$__________Soundboard work recommended:_______________________________

BRIDGES
Treble: OK or cracks pin movement poor notches no rear notches
Buzzing string grooves needs scale correction
Rusted pins cap separation separation at board
Improver grain direction failed glue joint
_____________
Bass: OK or cracks pin movement poor notches poor bevel
Buzzing string grooves needs scale correction
Rusted pins cap separation separation at apron
Improper grain direction failed glue joint
_____________
$____________ Bridge work recommended:________________________________

CASES
Color:________________ Style:________________
Lid: OK or cracked loose veneer checking crazing touch-up
Dark varnish refinish woodwork
Case: OK or cracked loose veneer checking crazing
Dark varnish refinish woodwork touch-up
$____________Veneer work recommended:_______________________________

CONTRACT FOR REBUILDING OF CLIENTS PIANO.

1. New spruce sounding board installation: quarter sawn spruce ribs, crowned and tapered panel, ribs feathered, finished both sides, sanded, waxed, fit board to case inner rim, glue board in rim .$__________

2. Bridge repairs:
A. Clean, dry scrape, relubricate, transfer, glue to new board.$__________
B. Recapping, hand notched, drilled and pinned. Bass_______, Tenor-Treble______.$__________
C. New Bridges: Laminated, hand notched, drilled, pinned. Bass_________, Tenor-Treble_______. $__________
D. Repairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________

3. New pinblock repairs: Fitting of block to plate flange. Drill plate screw holes. Install plate screws.
Drill tuning pin holes. Fit and install block to case inner rim . $__________

4. Restringing repairs: New steel music wire. Bass strings copper wound. Wire coils handmade. New tuning pins 2/0 x 2 1/2 (.281). Level and space strings. Chip tune 4 times. Finished tuned before delivery. One tuning and check up after delivery . $__________

5. Plate repairs: Primer coat, reguilding of plate, two coats of gold bronze, two coats clear top finish,
Hand lettered. Refloat plate. Set bearing. Screw down plate. Tighten and set all bolts.$__________

6. Agraffe repair: New Bass________, New Tenor_______, installed, leveled. $__________

7. Action Rebuilding:
A. New hammers, set of 88 (wool), installed . . . . . . . . . . $__________
B. Reshape hammers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
C. New hammer shanks with flanges, installed . . . . . . . . . $__________
D. Back checks, recovered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
New back checks, installed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________
E. New key tops (naturals) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
F. New key fronts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
G. New black tops. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
H. Rebush keys. Balance rail_____Front rail______. . . $__________
I. Balance rail pins (New) installed (Keyframe) . . . . . . . $__________
J. Repair balance rail holes in keys (New wood) . . . . . . $__________
K. New key sides (Wood). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
L. Refelting: Front rail punchings, Balance rail punchings. Back rail cloth. . . $__________
M. Regulation of action includes: Key level, key depth, hammers spaced to strings,
hammer blow distance, let-off, drop, back check distance, repetition springs reset. $__________
N. New repetitions installed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________
O. Repetitions reconditioned. . . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________
P. Voicing and tone regulation. . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________
Q. Tighten all screws, realign parts. . . . . . . . . .$__________
R. Lubricate all friction points. . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________
S. Other. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
T. Other. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________
U. Other. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________

8. Damper repairs: Refelt damper heads. Rebush guide rail. Install dampers, regulate . $__________

9. Damper underlevers: New set installed______Reconditioned_______Regulated______$__________

10. Repair Keybed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________

11. Trapwork repairs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________

12. Refinishing – Final cost after finish removed

A. Standard Procedure:
Remove all old finish, including filler. Dry and sand. Stain coat, silex filler, two coats sanding sealer.
Dry and sand. Two coats lacquer. Clean and buff all metal parts. Open, Pore, finish. $__________

B. Premium Procedure:
Remove all old finish, including filler. Dry and sand. Stain coat, silex filler, two coats sanding sealer.
Dry and sand. Six coats lacquer, sand level. Top coats lacquer as needed, finish to
Desired sheen. Clean and buff all metal parts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $__________

13. Case repairs: Reveneering and remodeling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$__________

14. Bench: Refinish____________, New___________ . . . . . . . . $__________

15. Polish pedals and brass hardware . . .$__________
New pedals and brass hardware. . . . . . .$__________

16. Install 3 part environmental control system. $__________

17. Cartage to and from. . . . . . . . . . . $__________

Sub-total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . …………………………………………………………………. $__________
PA Sales Tax 6%. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ………………………………………………………………..$__________

Total – Good until __________only. . . ……………………………………………………………$__________

Deposit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ……………………………………………………………….$__________
Deposit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ……………………………………………………………….$__________
Balance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ……………………………………………………………….$__________

Approved/Owner________________________________________________

Approved Technician_____________________________________________