Reconditioning, rebuilding, refurbishing, etc.
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Pianos deteriorate over time – doesn’t just about everything? On the inside, strings get rusty and break, soundboards crack or lose their crown, pin-blocks dry out, hammers get worn down, ivories break off, the pedals squeak, the action gets loose and sloppy. On the outside, the case shows damage or simply loses its beauty.
In the situation I just described, if you have a high-quality piano, or a family heirloom, it may be worth it to just start over. Because of the high cost, the above pianos are really the only candidates for a total restoration. The process of restoring your piano to its original condition is complex and costly and should involve the skills of several experienced and talented piano professionals.
Just to make things more confusing, the following terms seem to be used by us piano professionals and usually mean the same thing: reconditioning, rebuilding, refurbishing and restoration. Hopefully, no piano professional is going to recommend a total restoration of your piano when only a partial is needed. However, and this is my personal guide, once it is determined that the cast iron plate needs to be removed by a piano professional to repair the piano’s issues, it is usually a wise decision to restore the piano to its original condition – in other words, a total restoration.
What you can expect from a total restoration
The following is a partial list of everything you can expect when your piano has been totally restored:
A complete case and bench refinishing
A repaired, refinished and re-crowned soundboard
A re-painted cast iron plate (sometimes called gilding)
A new, re-drilled pin block
New tuning pins and strings
New key-tops and fronts -- if it is an older piano that came with ivories
All brass hinges and pedals polished and/or replaced
New decals applied to the fallboard and the soundboard
A complete action regulation-- probably with new hammers
What you can expect from a partial restoration
I cannot fully answer that question. However, here are a few things to consider and remember. A pin-block cannot be removed from the piano without removing the plate, tuning pins and strings. However, the piano can be re-pinned with larger pins while still in the piano and the old strings can be restrung. A crack in the soundboard is not a major issue unless you hear a buzzing sound or the soundboard has lost its crown. Piano cases can be refinished while the plate is still in the piano. Cast iron plates can be repainted while in the piano, but results are not always good.