I recently did some work on the Yamaha Grand at Penticton Alliance Church. I removed the action (the mechanical unit inside the piano that includes the keys and hammers) and brought it to my shop. I removed all of the old hammers, installed a new set of hammers and did a full regulation (adjusting all of the moving parts so they are operating properly). Old hammers develop a flat hard surface where it strikes the string creating a harsh bright tone. New hammers are softer and have a full dynamic range. Here are a few photos from the process.
I see a lot of these old uprights in my piano tuning travels. Many have reached the end of their life but some of them just need a few repairs and they are still going strong. This Willis just needed a string replacement, some new key tops and a good tuning.
Here is a before and after of a hammer carding job I did recently. Hammer carding is essentially reshaping old worn out hammers to give them a nice soft curved striking point again. After a lot of use hammers will develop a flat hard surface that is hitting the string resulting in a bright harsh tone.
As reported in the New York Times in this article, many pianos from the turn of the century have their last note as a “thud in the dump.” It is sad but true that these 100 year old wooden mechanical instruments reach a point where it is too costly to restore them. The Naramata Centre has just retired three of their vintage upright pianos but none of them went to the landfill.
I helped out with the move and put one of them in my neighbour’s shed. It’s not quite waterproof yet, but the Piano Shack will be a great space for some experimental piano weirdness to happen.
The other two pianos went to the Shatford Centre where we will be doing a piano recycling workshop in May. We will be salvaging the wood and recycling the metal. If you are interested in coming, let me know, and get a tetanus shot.
I was tuning at the Penticton Lakeside Resort the other day. The only pianos that get more (ab)use than school pianos are hotel pianos. Not only wear and tear but often mysterious things spilled inside.