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MMD > Archives > October 2003 > 2003.10.26 > 04Prev  Next

Rebuilding a Player Piano in the Customer's Home
By Kim Bunker

Hi All,  Kim Bunker here from Orange Coast Piano Santa Ana, California.
I read Diane DeTar's letter about the rebuilding of a Steinway player
in a customer's 21st floor apartment.

In nearly 30 years of rebuilding player pianos in our shop, my crew
and I once rebuilt a Chickering Stoddard Ampico in a friend's home upon
their request.  So they flew myself, my crew and all of our equipment
to Chicago, Illinois, for this full restoration which took nearly four
weeks: finish, strings, piano action rebuild and player action rebuild.

To make a very long and terrible story ending very short, never let the
customer control anything!  All work should be performed in the shop
because of the many variables that occur when restoring an automatic
musical instrument, especially a player piano.

The number one problem is, let's say something goes awry while you're
there doing this work and you forgot to bring a particular tool or
tools; all it takes is one tool -- it could be the simplest thing like
that to destroy, number one, your reputation as top quality player
piano rebuilder, and in this case also a friendship spanning twenty
years, etc.

These were friends of many years, with whom we traveled with all over
the world.  Prior to this restoration were very close friends, until
after this job from hell was over.  They said before we arrived that
the Ampico was totally in original condition, all parts untouched,
since it was built.  (They did not know anything about Ampicos;
we thought they did.)

Then, to our surprise, when we arrived in Chicago all parts were out of
the piano and in boxes.  Of course they had been told that by whomever
they bought the piano from.  (By the way, they lost the name and phone
number of the person they bought it from.)  But they were told that all
of the parts were there. (Not!)

Somebody had marked the wrong serial number on the plate, making it
seem a younger piano than it was.  We found out that this 5' 8"
Chickering Ampico was built between 1918-19, thus making it a real
Stoddard-Ampico (no diagrams at time were available), and to put the
icing on the cake one-third of the expression devices were missing!

All I can say now, as a very experienced rebuilder, is when taking on
a player restoration _always_ bring it to your shop.  You will be able
take care of most any disaster their.  Also, never assume anything.

Thanks for now
Kim Bunker - Orange Coast Piano
Santa Ana, California

(Message sent Sun 26 Oct 2003, 18:38:43 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Customer's, Home, Piano, Player, Rebuilding

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