Replacing Piano Backchecks

Click Here to watch as Craig goes thru the process of replacing backchecks on a Steinway restoration job

For more information call 248-624-0940

Effect of Humidity in Michigan on Piano Pin Block

pin-block-repair-miMichigan is very hard on our pianos due to the ever-changing weather conditions in the state.  Indoor humidity levels can be as high as 70% in the summer months, and plunge to as low as 10% in the winter months.  This dramatic fluctuation of moisture in your home can have severe effects on your piano.  The wooden structure and small wooden components of your piano’s action expand and contract.  Piano keys can twist and warp, and the piano pin block can loose its ability to hold the strings at pitch.

At this time, I’m going to address the effects on the pin block. As seen in the video below the pin block is a plank of rock maple wood that has many small holes, which have tuning pins driven into them.  These tuning pins must be tight enough to prevent the pin from twisting in the pin block, allowing the tension on the string to drop off.  If the pin block no longer holds strings at pitch, the pin block must be removed, a new pin block is installed, and the piano is restrung.

 

The constant action of a pin block expanding and contracting, compresses the wood fibers around the tuning pin.  Over time, this compression of the wood against the pin enlarges the hole in the pin block.  When this has occurred poor tuning stability will result.  If not caught early, and proper humidity levels have not been maintained during the winter months, [see video…humidity control] the piano owner will have a decision to make…replace the piano, or have the piano restrung and replace the pin block.  Proper humidification during the cold winter months is an easy cost effective way to avoid unnecessary repairs and prolong the life of your piano.

Watch our video on Humidity Control for your Piano in Michigan:

To avoid over or under humidification of your home, purchase a digital hygrometer that measures your humidity levels.  Forty two percent is the target humidity level.  Watch for excessive condensation on windows, and make downward adjustments on your humidifier as needed,[see humidifier owners manual].

I have a shop in the Oakland County area of Southeast Michigan.  Piano restringing and pin block replacement is a service I provide my clients.  If I can be of help, or if you have questions concerning tuning instability, I’d love to help.  You can reach me at 248-624-0940 or 248-647-6810.

Please check past blog posts for more information on humidity control, the Dampp-Chaser system, and dryness related problems.  Your piano is worth protecting.

Pianos and Humidity in Michigan

Piano owners in states like Michigan, will soon be playing and singing the blues. As we roll into the month of November, furnaces are drying the air we live in and our pianos are drying out. I have presented three options to help you manage the humidity level swings that are occurring now. Click on the video thumbnail to learn effective ways to prevent tuning instability, malfunction of the action of your piano, and in some cases structural damage that can render your beloved piano unplayable.

Craig Cole is a piano technician serving Oakland County, and surrounding communities of southeast Michigan. November through March are the optimal dry season months for piano tuning, and services such as action lubrication and action regulation. If you have questions about piano services Craig provides, or to schedule your piano tuning appointment please call Craig at: 248-647-6810.

 

Your piano needs humidity now

piano-humidity-miYour piano needs humidity now. I service pianos in the Oakland County Michigan area. My clients live in cities like Troy, Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Livonia, Novi, Northville, and many other cities in southeast lower Michigan. One thing this area has in common is cold wintry days. This is the time of year we service our furnace, rake our leaves, and buy our boots and hats in preparation for the months ahead.

If you are a piano owner in a cold climate there is another thing you should prepare for; dry air in your home that will cause many problems with your piano. I have provided a photo of a rather severe dryness related problem. In the photo of the piano’s bass bridge a large split can be seen. This split is caused by years of dry wintry conditions that has caused the wood of the piano to become dry and brittle. Many other problems such as; tuning instability, sticking keys or the occasional note that will not play, cracks in the soundboard, and loose tuning pins are a few of the problems caused by winter dryness.

To avoid the expense of major repairs on your piano, HUMIDIFY. Humidity is cheap insurance that will protect your piano from the dryness monster. You can humidify your whole house with a furnace mounted humidifier or a stand alone console type humidifier that is rated for the number of the square feet of your home. If you choose either one of these two options you should purchase a digital hygrometer. This simple battery operated devise will help you zero in on the best humidity level for your home and the things in your home like the piano. As a rule of thumb 38 to 42 percent is a good humidity level to protect your piano.

A third option is a piano humidity system. I install the Dampp-Chaser system in pianos to protect the piano from the effects of both winter dryness and summer time excessive humidity. If you are thinking about protecting your piano I would be happy to discuss this option with you.

Now is the time of year to prepare your piano for the winter dryness that lies ahead. If you have a humidifier clean it, change the wicks/filter, and test it to see that it is operational. Also have your piano tuned and prepared for the times ahead with family and friends that will enjoy a well played Holiday favorite.

In the Oakland County area call: Ace Piano Tuning for an appointment.

Restringing a Piano with New Pin Block in Michigan

A piano that is exposed to dry conditions such as a harsh Michigan winter or a piano that is old, may have a pin block that will no longer hold tension on the strings.  The photo below is a pin block that was removed from a seventy five year old piano.  The tuning pins that are seen in the pin block are finely threaded screws.  They must fit in the pin block tight enough so they do not easily turn in the block.

pin-block

The photo below shows a new pin block that is being fitted to the metal plate of the piano.  When the fit is perfect, the pin block and plate are installed in the piano.

pin-block-#2

Piano owners that are told their piano is untunable will have to make a decision.  Options include; do nothing, have a chemical applied at the base of each pin which may give a few additional years of tuning stability, or have the piano restrung and change the pin block.

Of the three options indicated, restringing is the repair of choice when the piano is a family heirloom, or the piano is a high quality instrument such as Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, etc.

Please watch the video below to get an over view of the restringing process.  Ace Piano Inc. has been serving piano owners in the Metro Detroit area for close to thirty years.  Only the finest replacement blocks and strings are used.  Craig is an experienced and skilled craftsman that incorporates old world techniques, and up to date technology to deliver the highest possible end result…a piano that is able to provide many more years of beautiful music.

 

If  we can be of help please call Craig at; 248-647-6810

Piano Tuning and Service in Michigan

Time sure does fly when we’re having fun! Once again, the holidays are upon us. It won’t be long and family and friends will be gathering for all the holiday fun. Many families celebrate around a piano. The piano gets dusted, the keys are cleaned in preparation for all the favorite tunes that will be played…but we forgot the note that stuck last year in the middle of that tune uncle Fred tried to play, or how that song little Suzie tried to play sounded more like a cat fight outside the window because the piano had not been tuned for ten years. The point is; pianos are used for our enjoyment at this time of year. This is a great time to have your piano tuned and checked so all will go well as the family enjoys all the traditions of the holidays.

This is also the perfect time to get the humidifier ready and operating. A digital hygrometer at hand to help monitor the humidity level of your home will pay huge dividends by reducing repair and adjustment costs caused by the reaction of your piano’s wooden parts to sudden dry conditions that are just around the corner. The target humidity level to maintain is 42%. You may have to make minor adjustments to that reading depending on your home and the individual nature of the way each home is built, insulated, and the type of windows you have in your home.

Craig Cole services pianos throughout the Oakland County, Michigan area. Give him a call today to schedule your piano service appointment. Main office phone number is 248-647-6810.

 

How to Fix Sticking Piano Keys in Michigan

Sticking keys or a note that plays one time but then will not allow repetition of the note are sources of frustration for all levels of players. I have heard countless frustrated mothers explain the reason her child stopped taking lessons, only to tell me her next child just began taking piano lessons and she wants the piano tuned. As I begin the tuning process it soon becomes apparent why the first child quit, and will be the reason the second child will quit. On the other end of the spectrum the high level player will walk away from the piano, and won’t touch it again till the problem is corrected.

In an attempt to keep this article user friendly I am going to touch on two of the causes of the sticking/sluggish note. First is verdigris which is a contaminate that can be seen as a green moldy looking substance that causes the action flanges to pivot slowly, and in severe cases not at all. The photo below shows a action flange with verdigris:

Sticking Piano Key - Verdigis

video clip shows the slow moving action part effected by verdigris:

Second cause is humidity level changes that cause the small wooden parts of the piano action to expand or contract causing the action parts to bind:

Impact of Humidity on Pianos in Michigan

Please take a look at my video, showing the repining of the action flange that was sluggish as a result of verdigris:

This approach is highly effective and can be performed on two or three notes that are a problem or the entire action can be repined.

In the case of humidity related malfunction, humidity control is the most effective and lowest cost approach. Things like humidifiers on the furnace, digital hygrometers, air conditioning in the summer months, and in some cases the piano life saver, also known as the Dampp-Chaser system are the first line of defense in preventing and reversing the effects of high or low humidity on your piano.

Each piano must be evaluated and then an approach can be custom tailored to fit the piano’s specific situation. I service pianos in the Oakland County Michigan area, and would love to help you with your piano service needs. If you have any questions, or to schedule an appointment please call Ace Piano at: 248-647-6810

Thanks,

Craig

 

Piano Tuning and Regulation – Michigan

For those of us that have dedicated our lives to the craft of piano technology, answering client’s questions is an important part of the service we offer. Questions like; when should I tune my piano, or why should I humidify my home in the winter months, and where is the best place to put my piano are all commonly asked questions. I was asked another question the other day by a client that was very frustrated with the way her piano was performing. She told me she had made her purchase eleven years ago based on the wonderful dynamic range of the Steinway model B grand piano. She told me of the ease of which she could go from soft and intricate to loud and powerful, had sold her on the piano originally. But now…well, she was not happy. It took only a moment to check her piano and identify the problem. The problem was a maintenance issue. Her piano was suffering from the lack of proper service and maintenance required to keep the action of a piano performing at peak capacity. piano-regulation-miShe interrupted my explanation with a question, “What is action regulation, and why is it needed?” Most piano players are not technicians, and this young lady had very little understanding of the way her piano works, so I made an attempt to give her a user friendly, and understandable answer to her question.

First; I asked her if she had ever driven a car that hesitated, coughed and sputtered when she stepped on the gas to accelerate quickly? Second; I asked her if she ever had a door hinge that squeaked when she opened the door?

She answered yes to both of the questions. I suggested to her that action regulation is to her piano what a tune up is to her car. I told her that a squeaky hinge needs to be lubricated to reduce the friction that is causing the hinge to drag and squeak. I explained that the poor performance she was experiencing with her piano was nothing more than the results of the settling of the moving parts of the action, due to the compression of the felt and leather parts of her piano’s action caused by use and gravity. I further explained that a grand piano action has hundreds of moving parts that rub and move against each other. To keep friction in her piano action to a minimum, lubrication is required on a regular basis. Action regulation is a series of adjustments that put the moving parts of the piano back in proper position and alignment allowing peak performance from the piano’s action, coupled with lubrication of the moving parts of the action that will reduce friction, and eliminate that perceived feeling of heavy touch weight and lack of responsive touch.

piano-regulation-and-lubrication

A smile came across her face and she said, “I get it!” This client took the steps to restore the playability she had loved when her piano was new. If your piano is more than five years old, and if it has never been regulated and lubricated, it is time for normal piano maintenance. Remember; pianos need to be tuned, regulated, and lubricated to keep them performing at their best.

In the Oakland County, Michigan area call: Ace Piano Tuning at 248-647-6810. I would be happy to help.

Piano Tuning in Michigan

Winter is upon us, and our pianos are beginning to react to the dryness of our homes. Those of us who live in cold northern climates need to take aggressive steps to humidify our homes or any space our piano is located.

piano-tuning-mi-1One common problem piano technicians come across at this time of year is the note on the piano that sounds like two or three notes played together, though only one note is being played. The most common cause is a loose tuning pin. The tuning pin can be thought of as a finely threaded screw. When the pin block is dry and old, and in some cases new pianos can, if exposed to extreme dryness, lose the ability to hold the tension of the string. When this occurs, the tuning pin can turn/unwind and the note will sound like two or three different notes.

There are three different approaches to remedy this problem.

  1. Remove old tuning pin and replace the pin with an oversize pin. This approach is great if there are just a few loose pins…perhaps up to a dozen loose pins.
  2. Apply a chemical at the base of each tuning pin, which will be absorbed by the pin block causing the wood to expand and tighten around the tuning pins. This can be an effective approach if the entire pin block is loose. It is also a cost effective way to gain a few more years of use from the piano without the investment of new pin block and new strings.
  3. The third approach as just mentioned is pin block replacement and re-stringing of the piano. This is the best approach when the pin block is unable to hold the tension of the strings through out the entire pin block. It is the most costly approach, and may not be practical if the instrument is of poor quality, or if the instrument has other major repair needs that will cost more to have done than the purchase of a new piano.

piano-tuning-mi-2If you suspect your piano is suffering from the effects of dryness and age, it is best to consult your piano technician. They can provide you with information concerning the best approach to remedy the problem. Keep in mind each piano is unique. The approach recommended should be tailored to your specific situation…no cookie cutter approach will due. Insist on a full explanation of the benefits and problems associated with each approach.

piano-tuning-mi-3Craig Cole is a piano technician servicing pianos in the Metro Detroit Michigan area. He has clients in Howell and Grosse Pointe, Clarkston to Plymouth and Canton. With thirty years of experience and thousands of happy customers Craig is the piano service professional to call. His central phone number is; 248-647-6810. Call for an appointment today.