The Restoration Process

Koelle Piano has been custom rebuilding and refinishing Steinway, Mason Hamlin and other fine pianos since 1976. Unlike huge rebuilding factories trying to mass produce the restoration process we hand restore each instrument using only the finest parts available. Our mission is not to create a masterpiece, but to restore one. We have to copy what the masters already achieved. Our goal is to bring the piano back to 100% of its original specifications. This includes the action touch and tone. The work is done by me and my assistant of over 30 years. The entire process for a complete rebuild takes approximately six weeks to 8 weeks.

Disassembly

The disassembly, or tear-down, is the first stage and involves careful measurements prior to removing the old strings, tuning pins and pin block. The plating, either brass or nickel, is marked and packed at this time and is subsequently shipped to a professional plater.

Action or Keyboard

The action or keyboard is another stage of piano rebuilding. Here we begin by completely cleaning and re-felting the frame. Next we re-bush the keys, polish the ivories, or replace the key tops.

The upper action or cradle is next. Here we install new whippens, hammer shanks and custom, premium hammers. Only the finest Steinway or Renner parts are used.The hammers are a very critical component of rebuilding since they are an important part of the tone of the instrument; only the finest will suffice.

After all the new parts are installed, the action is regulated to exacting standards. A well-regulated action is a pianists dream, allowing them control of both touch and tone.

The Plate or Harp

The plate (harp) is an integral part of the piano. The plate is bolted to the case. Together they form the structure that holds the 15 to 18 tons of string tension on the instrument. The plate which is made of cast iron is very strong.Compared to other forms of metal cast is brittle and can crack. Care must be taken in handling so that it is not jarred or dropped. Once removed, the plate is washed, sanded, re-bronzed, and the lettering is hand painted.

Koelle Piano does not consider purchasing and does not sell any pianos with plates that are in any way cracked, broken or otherwise damaged.

Falconwood Pinblock

Since the pinblock is built into the piano, and all of the strings and the plate need to be removed to install a new one, it is of the highest priority that the finest materials be used. The Falconwood pinblock was developed over 60 years ago. It is the best pinblock in the world. I have been using it for 37 years and have never had one fail. The Falconwood pinblock is unique in several ways.

So why doesn’t everyone else install Falconwood? Simple. Because of its density it requires superior woodworking skills as well as more sophisticated tooling. It is also considerably more expensive than the standard 5 to 10 ply block.

Koelle Piano uses a 27-lamination Falconwood pinblock in all of its rebuilds, thus allowing us to give a 15 year guarantee on all rebuilding work performed.

Soundboard

The soundboard is the amplifier of tone. In a quality vintage piano what we look for in a soundboard is crown [curve] and carry of tone. It is not uncommon for cracks to develop due to expansion and contraction as well as a result of glue joints drying out cracks are repaired by drying the board down and shimming the crack. If a board has lost its crown, it needs to be replaced. As vintage pianos have aged, more soundboards are in need of replacement. Few technicians are equipped or capable of doing this.

New Soundboard

We have been installing new soundboards to manufacturer specs for over a decade. It is a complex process beginning with selecting the finest sitka spruce with a very tight grain. The board is then built and tapered to matchthe manufacturers measurements. The new ribs are made and tapered. Then after a careful drying process, the board is glued together in the soundboard press to give us the ideal crown. This is the curve of the board that will deliver the maximum power and sustain that is so sought after in the finest pianos. Next the bridges with new maple caps will be glued on and the Soundboard is ready for glueing inside the case.

Reinstall Components

At this point we carefully realign and set the plate location and height in relation to the soundboard, bridge, and pinblock. This is a delicate and exacting procedure and is the culmination of all our efforts. Should the plate be off in height or location by 1/32”all of our painstaking work will be compromised.

The piano will now be restrung using the finest piano wire and copper wound bass strings. Careful stringing will help insure good tuning stability. After stringing the coils will be lifted and the strings spaced. Through a series of tunings the piano is then carefully brought up to standard pitch.

The action with all its new components will be aligned and spaced and bench regulated to get it playing. At this point the dampers are installed and regulated.

The Action

With the heavy rebuilding effort finished, it is now time to work on the delicate points of the action. With the key frame and action parts fit, we need to fine regulate each key. With a series of 14 precise steps, each key is adjusted to play with the same touch and tone as all the others through the entire keyboard. This is the art of a well regulated action. Fine tuning voicing now complete the piano for showing or delivery.