Diane DeTar wrote, "I'm just curious as to how other technicians handle
their rebuilding jobs in customer's homes."
When we do small jobs like piano action refurbishment only, or a wind
motor, or even a bottom bellows, the work can be done in the home or
rather parts removed from the home, done in the shop and returned to
the home. We simply will not restore a stack completely in the home.
Most of the time the piano needs enough attention that the whole piano
must be brought in. For one thing, when we complete a stack restoration
our practice is to play over 100 rolls on it before the player and
piano actions are regulated once again. Lets face it, when you get
a piano rebuilt no one wants the customer to hear it the first day it
Before break-in the valves are not seating, tuning is not stable, the
regulation on lots of things are not quite there yet. I barely can
stand to listen to it myself. By the end of several days of playing
rolls the valves are seated, the felt has packed, and after regulation
and tunings the thing plays well enough to have the customer hear it.
I would never go through the disappointed looks from the customer when
the break-in period begins. I much prefer to see the delight in their
eyes when the piano plays beautifully at the presentation to the
I have had people who were afraid to let their beloved instrument out
of their house. I have had museums who would not allow the instruments
out of their location. I have had them tell me they were afraid that I
would remove things from their instrument and return it lacking certain
elements. My response in both cases was that the job would not be done
correctly if that were to happen. I told them further that if I operated
my business like that I would not be in business long and they would
not have heard of my reputation and they would have never called me in
the first place.
Back thirty years ago, when I was beginning and had no shop but my
parents' garage, I would do such "in place" restorations. I found
myself always driving about as much as I was working. You can only
remember so many things to bring. As the work progresses, you always
find something that is needed and is only to be found at the shop.
This means another shop trip or another trip to the hardware store to
get what you did not know you would need.
My method of operation requires that I have the right tools at hand
when I work so the job can be done most efficiently and in the quickest
method possible. I have collected the right tools for the last few
decades and I simply cannot bring them all with me to a customer's
house. If the customer is insistent that the piano stay in the house,
I simply pass on that job. I have never been idle enough to make it
worth my while to spend 50% of my time on a project driving back and
forth from the customer to the shop and no one wants to pay that much
more for their project.
If they want in-home restoration, I simply go into detail in what is
required. I have only had one or two insist on it when I tell them
I cannot be responsible for their lovely white carpet as I pull 80
years of coal dust out of their piano. The house cleaning alone when
you sand pneumatics or refinish a case is a full time job few
homeowners want to even consider.
I told the museum that wanted their instruments restored at their
location that I would only take the job if they were willing to move
my complete shop to their location in another state so I could work on
their instruments as well as my previous customers. The last time I
heard, their collection still sits unrestored.
D.L. Bullock St. Louis