Josephine Miles

Back in action: key considerations for piano restoration

11:34, 23rd July 2019

Piano restoration is a complex art requiring specialist knowledge and skills. SAP Renovation in Poland offers an overview of the different types of restoration and explains why it is so important to look after your piano

Every piano restoration project is different. At SAP, we offer the complete range of services required to restore old pianos to their former glory, running the gamut from small cosmetic changes to root-and-branch overhaul. Our work falls into three distinct categories:

  • Refresh
  • Restoration
  • Rebuild

Refreshing a piano involves making small adjustments to improve pianos so they are more suitable for beginner pianists. Restoration entails larger changes and replacement of parts, making improvements which are necessary for intermediate to advanced pianists. Rebuilding is the most extensive undertaking, potentially involving a complete redesign of the original piano – typically for professional pianists.

All forms of renovation aim to improve some or all of the following attributes of the instrument:

  • Sound potential
  • Comfort and safety
  • Aesthetic appearance

The greater the level of renovation, the greater the improvement. When determining the most suitable type of renovation for each piano, we consider the condition of the instrument and the pianist’s level of playing.

Condition of the piano

Most pianos requiring renovation are very old. Four key areas are often in need of attention:

  • Wooden components
  • Hardware
  • Acoustic components
  • Action components

1. Wooden components

The physical and chemical properties of wood diminish over time, leading to problems with:

  • Moisture absorption capabilities
  • Density
  • Durability
  • Acoustic insulation
  • Aesthetic appearance

2. Hardware

Piano cabinet hardware also ages over time, losing its shape and durability. The following issues may arise if hardware replacements are overlooked:

  • Cabinet elements become mismatched, limiting their functionality
  • Connections become unstable due to poor condition of wood or screws
  • Crooked, bent or damaged elements are visually unsightly
  • Large-scale mechanical damage

Ignoring stability problems with parts such as legs or fittings can lead to significant damage to both the piano and pianist.

3. Acoustic components

The acoustic parts of the piano include the soundboard, bridges, strings and pin block. Lack of attention to these components may result in:

  • Poor clarity and quality of sound due to cracked soundboard and/or insufficient crown
  • Unstable tuning due to worn or damaged pin block
  • Extraneous noises from rusted strings, broken agraffes and worn bridges
  • Unattractive appearance caused by wear and tear of soundboard, bridge wood or iron frame paint

4. Action components

If the piano’s action is not looked after, various problems may occur:

  • Low regulation, dynamic and repetition capabilities – general tightness or looseness in action and keys
  • Poor sound quality and strength due to worn hammer felts and/or neglected voicing
  • Undesired mechanical noises accompanying the working of the action and keys due to worn felts and cashmeres
  • Discomfort in playing as a result of broken key covers, uneven spacing between keys and stiff key bushings
  • Disability of the damping mechanism due to worn-out damper felts, tight or loose damper guide rail bushings, or stiff or loose trap work
  • Degeneration of visual appearance caused by wear and tear of shanks, hammers, dampers, whippens and other action components

Important considerations for customers

If your piano requires restoration or if you are considering purchasing a restored piano, it is essential to take into account your exact requirements and level of playing, and to spend time finding out about the options available to you. The market offers similar models which may differ vastly in price due to their condition or level of restoration – so it is worth doing your research before making a purchase decision.


Discover more about piano restoration, including a directory of selected restoration companies, in the August 2019 issue of International Piano

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