10 – Pinblock Failure
— by Wes Flinn RPT
As a Registered Piano Technician (RPT), I must alert all owners of pianos of a pre-1980 build date, that they can easily have an unknown and potential tuning problem, called “pinblock failure.” The information and links below describe both the problem and remedy:
All physical, acoustic pianos built before about 1980 were prone to pinblock failure, due to the use of ALL NATURAL WOOD MATERIALS IN PIANO PINBLOCKS.
Failing pinblocks have always been a chronic and disabling problem in ALL physical pianos built up until about 1980, when most manufacturers world-wide had begun using advanced technologies and materials to finally, at last, overcome this vexing problem. Over the years, up until that time, the only service remedies were: (1) very expensive pinblock replacement, or (2) the use of various chemical treatments that were often NOT EFFECTIVE. By about the year 2000, piano technology in general had begun using a chemical treatment remedy on piano pinblocks called ‘cyanoacrylate’ (CA) which revolutionized piano pinblock service repair, and which provides a permanent and inexpensive remedy to this historically vexing problem, and which remedy usually eliminates the need for pinblock replacement for pianos that need this remedy.
HERE ARE YOUR OPTIONS:
The only real test for the condition of ‘pinblock failure’ is to tune a piano, and “see what happens”. The result will be one of these conditions:
1 – Tuning will be successful, and the piano will tune normally; or,
2 – Tuning will fail immediately, requiring pinblock service first before any tuning attempt can be ever be successful; or,
3 – Tuning will be briefly successful, failure beginning in hours or days after the tuning, and not be noticed as failing during tuning procedure; or,
4 – Tuning will be remotely successful, failure beginning weeks following tuning, and not be noticed as failing during tuning procedure.
Results #3 and #4 are the worst case scenarios, and usually cannot be detected or predicted in advance of any kind of tuning procedures.
Realize that only condition # 2 will predict IN ADVANCE the actual failure of a tuning – results # 3 and 4 are “take your chances” and “see what happens” choices – you may lose the tuning prematurely and thus lose your money spent to tune the piano, and thus defraud yourself without knowing it.
The BEST REMEDY is to proactively service a pre-1980 piano pinblock before any tuning effort is made, to cure the problem to begin with, and be done with the problem permanently as described in the attached article, and thus avoid results # 2, 3, or 4.
The only alternative is to proceed with tuning procedures as usual, and “see what happens.” A technician can often sample test the piano and determine if it seems strong enough to tune satisfactorily, and if so, can go ahead and tune satisfactorily without pinblock service – DECISIONS ALL DEPEND ON the condition of that INDIVIDUAL PIANO at the point of tuning !! This last choice of action does not, and cannot, however, avoid the possible 3rd and 4th results described above, and only the “BEST REMEDY” procedure described above will eliminate the problem in advance of tuning.
Note: To those interested in the details of the piano pinblock story, the following links are available which include many pictures and descriptions:
(1) Brief (using CA): https://www.pianotuningphoenix.com/Repair-PDFs/A-07b.20007-CA-Pblock.pdf
(2) Detailed (using CA): https://www.pianotuningphoenix.com/Repair-PDFs/A-07a.10007-CA-Pblock.pdf
(3) Full story: https://www.pianotuningphoenix.com/older-piano/
(4) Alternative Procedure: Same proceedure as 1, 2, 3, above – using Glycerine-based product