6 – My Email to Owners
of Older Pianos
— by Wes Flinn RPT
As a professional Registered Piano Technician (RPT), I am sending you below the correct, reliable and practical information for you to follow when you expect to successfully tune a pre-1980 physical acoustic piano, either now or in its future.
All pianos built before 1980 used pinblocks built with natural woods which began to weaken naturally after about 25 years of age. Time, temperature and humidity changes bring on loss of moisture and strength in natural-wood pinblocks, and in time they progressively become too soft to hold string tensions needed to maintain a tuning. Sad, but true, and it is not a matter of “if”, but rather a case of “when” this failure will occur. After about the year 1980, however, most manufacturers were using advanced materials and designs that largely overcame these natural and common problems. Most 1980 and later build date pianos do not show these weakening signs yet, and may have an indefinite life expectancy. When the problem occurs, however, there are only two remedies: repair the pinblock, or replace it.
Each and every piano, being a physical product, is different one piano to the next, and it is sometimes possible that an older pinblock can appear to be still in working order. The issue we face here is that we can’t ever positively tell except by testing a piano through tuning to find out just how weak its pinblock may be; sometimes a piano may appear to tune successfully, yet the pinblock can be actually only marginal in strength, and the common result is that a new tuning will often fade away in a short time.
Worse news yet is the explanation of the problem: the physical process of any tuning procedure breaks the oxidation buildup inside the tuning block, which buildup can be what is holding the pins in an old pinblock, and the resulting new tuning can get either immediately worse on the spot, or show up as a fading tuning in a short time.
The worst of the worst news is that the technician is blamed for this result, because the owner never heard any of this story, and doesn’t understand that the piano is the problem, and that no technician at any price can tune a piano successfully which has a defective pinblock.
The good news, however, is that today there is a proven “fix” available to correct this very real and vexing problem, a method which is quick, reliable and not expensive, considering that this one single procedure will rescue a piano out of disability into full usefulness again. I am sending you below picture essays of this procedure — this method is dependable and established – I have restored the tuning ability of dozens and dozens of pianos with this method or “fix”.
Finally, I have to inform you that tuning any pre-1980 model piano without including this repair procedure can cause extra cost and loss to the owner. The owner must understand that experience shows that any attempt to tune a pre-1980 model piano without pinblock repair can make the situation worse, either immediately or a short time into the future. But with application of this repair procedure to strengthen the pinblock, we can then successfully tune the piano repeatedly on into the future. I will bring the necessary equipment and supplies for the job of pinblock repair. The complete procedure requires about 3-1/2 hours.
Cost for package of work: pinblock repair with remedial tuning runs $200 for a grand piano and $225 for an upright piano (Cost may be more depending on size and condition of a piano).
Physical machines all have mandatory service and repair issues, such as brake repair on your car, and these issues are all part of use and ownership. Pinblock repair on a piano equates to brake repair on your car – if you have this problem, you know you must fix it if you plan to continue using that machine, and then go on with life. The following information illustrates the pinblock repair procedure: