Tuning and restoring old pianos (over 80 years old)

Just a quick post about tuning old pianos after an experience tuning an Edwardian piano for a customer in Rotherham last week, where a wooden bracket holding a celeste rail in place broke in my hands, requiring an extra gluing job. I have to stress that the wood becomes extremely brittle in pianos as they reach old age (about 80+ years; if your piano is considerably younger than this you needn’t worry), when taking the piano action out things can break in my hands even if I’m being as careful as possible. This is not due to mishandling the piano; I am always as careful as possible when performing any repair or restoration work on a piano, especially old pianos. The best option is to have the minimum amount of repair work necessary for the piano to function, because if the action is in a fragile state, there’s a risk of parts breaking, and it is difficult to find replacement parts for extremely old pianos. You can have parts remade, but it usually ends up costing more than the price of a newer, better piano. If the damage is outside the action that is less of a problem, usually a strong wood adhesive can glue back anything that breaks.

I usually have to take the celeste rail out of the piano to be able to fit my tuning wedges in between the strings as I tune the piano, but if I can avoid that I will. A broken celeste rail can lead to the sustain and damper pedals not working properly.


– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.