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MMD > Archives > March 2002 > 2002.03.27 > 12Prev  Next

Stringing a Piano in The Customer's Home
By D. L. Bullock

I was totally blown away by John Tuttle stringing a piano in a
customer's home [020325 MMDigest].  I can only say I would doubt
that I would ever be able to do that.

It would be the extremely _rare_ piano that is in good enough shape
to do so.  99.9% of the players I find to work on not only need new
strings but also need ribs glued back to the soundboard, bridges
replaced or repaired, cracks shimmed, more or some crown added to the
board, the plate regilded, everything anywhere close by cleaned, the
soundboard refinished.

If merely replacing strings is the only objective, it would indeed be
a job for a living room, but then you have to go back the next day and
tune it again.  Then go back the next week and tune it again.  There
are six tunings to be done some time in the first month or two after
stringing is done.  That is certainly a lot of trips.  If you charge
a service call each time, that totes up some fees.

It is only 1 out of 10,000 pianos that can have the soundboard shimmed,
bridge replaced or any other such things without removing the plate.
If you do up the soundboard so that your new shims do not crack open
again a year or two later, then you must put the piano into a dry room.
Mine keeps the soundboard at 10% humidity or less and around 105
degrees Fahrenheit for three weeks.  This assures that cracks that are
being shimmed will not widen further next year after your new shims are
in once the weather gets dryer than it was when you shimmed.

If you can find competent piano movers there will be no damage at all.
In the case of reproducing uprights, I have never seen the piano that
needed stringing and did not need the player system removed and rebuilt
as well.  The levers also always need to be cleaned and rebushed.  They
must come out so do it all at once.

Yes, all this could be done in Dr. Golightly's plush living room, but
I have in my shop one such fine piano that was completely restrung 12
years ago.  The "technician" strung it beautifully.  It has now been
traded in on a different piano since it has not been usable for several

Its value was less than half of what he charged to do the work years
ago.  It sounds like a spinet with a chorus of bees buzzing away when
it plays.  It is, however, a 6-foot grand.  All, and I mean _all_ the
ribs are loose from the board.  The board is loose around the edges.
The crack that was shimmed was not done right or it would not be
cracking right beside the 12-year-old shim.  I suggest that if the
"technician" had done the complete job, the customer would still be
playing the piano and it would be in great shape these years later.
I have not seen a piano for decades that I could string without doing
the soundboard as well.

How come I only get the problem children?  I never get any of those
simple jobs anymore!

D.L. Bullock
St. Louis

(Message sent Thu 28 Mar 2002, 01:05:29 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Customer's, Home, Piano, Stringing

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