Archive for the ‘Repairing, Regulating, and Evaluating Pianos’ Category

Tenor Damping

The longer the strings are, the longer the dampers have to be to effectively dampen. 

The lowest tenor string is one of the longest strings in an upright. But the damper cannot be higher; it will hit the hammer. It cannot be lower, it will rub on the top bass string. (See in the photo above. Notice the chopped bottom of the damper block.)

Notice how Yamaha tries to deal with this problem by, 1, having the hammers edge higher so they can keep the damper longer and, 2, adding an over damper on the bottom tenor note. 

Modified Coil Maker

I just posted a video clip of a modified coil maker that I use to make a bass string hitch pin loop. If you want the whole video to see how I use it to make the coil and hitch pin loop, send me a note.


Pin Block Repair

I recently inspected a piano with a birdcage action. The customer was very excited to get it working. I told her it would never work great. She understood. 



I gave her an estimate and she agreed on a schedule. 

Then I opened the top and saw one of the largest pin block frame seperations I’ve ever seen. 

This is the separation after a no glue repair. 



I gave her the price for that and she said go ahead. 

I’ve seen pin block repairs before that were not glued and decided to try the no-glue repair on this piano. There were eight holes for bolts so that was good. 



I measured and tried to get bolts that were just long enough. I did not want to start grinding bolts off. 

I decided to have the bolts go out the back but you could do it the other way around. We will add a piece of wood trim to stop the bolt ends from scratching the wall. 



One pin was very close to the bolt. I had to remove the pin, insert the bolt, and re-insert the pin. 



After bolting, we added CA glue because the pins were loose. 

Now we’re tuning it up to see how high she can go. A tone flat and already one bass string broke. The customer was made aware of that possibility. 

The goal is to get it so that each note is working and she can play the piano and it sounds as musical as possible. 

Sometimes we have to remember that we are servicing the customer and not just the piano. ?

Reblitz Upright Regulation Steps Modified

Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding: For the Professional, the Student, and the Hobbyist by Arthur Reblitz is the standard text I recommend for my Basic Piano Tuning and Basic Piano Repair courses.
It is an excellent resource for repair and regulation, although I find it a bit weak on tuning. (That’s why I wrote my Basic Piano Tuning Course Manual)

However, the upright regulation steps listed in Reblitz, have room for improvement.

Some steps refer to adjustments that usually don’t need to be done if they’ve been done already, like positioning the let off rail. Some steps refer to adjustments that could make things worse, like changing the back checks. (It is not as critical, and if they are all in a straight line, adjustment may leave them not as straight.)

Also, instructions are given to set all the blow distance at once. Same with key dip, and let off. I was taught to set a few samples first, in order to confirm the ideal blow distance, let off, and key dip that produces appropriate aftertouch for that piano. (I call blow distance, let off and key dip, the Regulation Triangle and I’m writing a book on how to regulate a piano using this method. See Regulation Triangle Method for Easily Understanding Upright and Grand Regulation)

If you are interested in reading my full modifications for the upright regulation steps listed the Reblitz book, just enter your email HERE.

Dampp Chaser Pads – Before and After

Here are some photos of Dampp Chaser pads on a piano I serviced today.

I thought you might find it interesting to see the quality of mineral deposits That the pads can collect.

Surprisingly, the pads still wicked water, but I changed them anyway.



Notice the water line just rising on the right pad.

Piano Tuning and Repair Workshops in Montreal, Quebec. April 11 – 15, 2016

I’m looking for people who are interested in a live course with me, on the topics of aural piano tuning and basic piano repair and regulation.

The course will be given at Westend Pianos in Montreal Ouest.

Each course is 20 hours long, and while you will not be a piano tuner after 40 hours, you will have a great headstart and be able to start practicing using some excellent methods.

Get more information below:
Piano Tuning Workshop
Piano Tuning Tools
Piano Repair Workshop
Piano Repair Tools

If you are interested, please contact me as soon as possible because I need to prepare your tools.


Solving a Pedal Noise

One possible cause.


Easing Key Bushings

This is a novel way to ease key bushings.
The standard way is to iron them or compress them. This way actually shaves them.

A key may bind on the balance rail pin or the felt bushings.


I use a standard large set of tweezers. They need to be the right size.


To ease the balance rail hole, I just insert the tweezers end into the hole. Be careful; not too much.


To ease the felt bushings, I insert the tweezers and move them back and forth.




I’ve always done this and never really understood why it worked so well. I thought I was just compressing the felt.

Then one day, I looked at the tweezers.



I found powdered felt. I realized the tweezers were shaving the felt! No wonder it worked so well!


Jack Repair

Today I tuned a piano where one key activated two hammers.


Upon closer look, I could see that the jack was crooked and positioned a bit under the neighbouring hammer butt.


90% of the time, this is caused by the jack becoming unglued from the whippen.

I decided to remove the whippen and investigate.

First, I removed the bridle strap.



Then removed the whippen screw.


Once I removed the whippen, I saw that it was not an unglued jack, but a slipped jack pin.


I just used the tip of my screw driver to reinsert the pin and then I replaced the whippen and reattached the bridle strap. Job done.


If I had looked more closely at the jack with the whippen in the piano, I may have seen the pin sticking out. Then I could have just inserted my screwdriver between the whippen and carefully pushed the pin back in, making sure the jack was aligned under the butt so that the pin had a good chance of lining up with the felt bushing.

There’s a chance of pushing the felt bushing out, but I’ve never had that happen with a vintage piano (<1930). I would be hesitant to try this on a newer piano  (>1960) because typically the felt is a poorer quality

If the jack was unglued, I would have just added a little wood glue, pressed the pieces together, waited a few minutes and reassembled the whippen.

Cramped Tuning Pins


Some pianos, like this Heintzman console, have pins that are so close together that the strings actually touch.

Tuning a unison when the pins are this close, is a challenge, to say the least.

Once you tune one string, then start tuning the next string of the same unison, the rubbing and friction of the 2nd string on the already tuned string, causes the already tuned string to change pitch. 

It’s really obvious when you are tuning the third string of a unison. The rubbing can cause your already tuned double string unison to go out of tune, and your beautifully pure unison is shot. 

I’m sure you can imagine quite a lot of back and forth with this situation. 

With some forethought, it is easy to tune these kind of pianos. Here are the steps to tune a unison that has rubbing strings in the non-speaking section, caused by cramped tuning pins. 

1) Notice which two strings are the closest. (in our picture above, it is the right two)

2) Mute the unrubbing string (left string in our case) if you are using double string unison technique, or just mute the unrubbing string plus one rubbing string (i.e plan to tune one of the rubbing strings first).

In either case, you want to tune the two rubbing strings as a pure unison.

3) Tune the 3rd string to the other two already tuned.

The actual final pitch may skate around a bit because of the rubbing that was happening when you tuned the first two strings, but when you add the third, the pitch will stay because there is no rubbing (or much less) happening during the tuning.

With this technique, you can easily tune pianos with cramped pins, without the frustration of having your unisons go out of tune while your tuning.

Good luck. Try it out and let me know how it goes.


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