Through more than 40 years and after restoring more than 3000 classic pianos, I have constructed a working environment that is efficient, cost effective, with an economy of scale that presents very little resistance to the work needed. In the 1980s I developed a "25 Step Restoration Process" which guides my work. These 25 steps target the piano's structural components with the purpose of returning the piano to its intended state of equilibrium. The process especially focuses upon restoring the essential foundation and functionality of acoustic pianos 50 years of age and older. My experience has taught me that the vast majority of the remaining classic pianos were built by masterful artisans during a period of history, long before even the thought of robotics or particle board were used in making a piano. And, although time takes its toll, their structural integrity remains intact such that restoration is a viable option. In other words, as an experienced piano restoration specialist, my recommendation is, "Yes, your piano is worth it."
And yet, you might be told otherwise. Certainly the piano salesperson will attempt to talk you into a new piano, or your piano teacher might have an opinion. Maybe your neighbor has a piano and thinks they know what's best for you. And of course, there is a never-ending stream of confusing chatter on the Internet. But what is perhaps most bewildering is when your piano tuner, knowing full well how much you love your piano or how long it's been in your family, might tell you that it isn't worth restoring. At this point, it's understandable that you may wonder, why might this be?
In the field of piano tuning and repair, it is often the case that tuners are well trained in the art of tuning pianos. Nevertheless, they typically lack sufficient skill in the art of piano restoration. This is not to denigrate piano tuning as a profession. It takes dedication and many hours of practice to become a proficient tuner. And certainly, tuning and restoration as vocations are related, but they are not the same. Because of this, piano tuners are often unable to address the structural needs of aging pianos, like making a new bridge, or a new soundboard, or restoring a faded finish. If the piano's structural integrity is intact, things run smoothly for the tuner. But if the elemental framework needs repair, the tuner is often at a loss. Unfortunately, when this happens, the piano itself is frequently blamed for the tuner's limited focus.
Piano tuners will sometimes tell their clients that their piano is too old, it's "over the hill" and not worth the time and cost of repair. In essence, what this reveals is that restoration is an entirely different skill and not within their realm of expertise. Then there are times when some technicians will actually recognize the integrity of an older piano and will decide to take on the task of restoring it in their spare time. This usually takes place in the technician's garage, but more often than not, these makeshift shops are short lived, the piano sits in pieces gathering dust, and the tuner returns to tuning. But for some, because of their interest and enjoyment in the work, the project can be the beginning of a new direction in the technician's career. In fact, this is how my career in piano restoration began more than 40 years ago. Through my fondness of classic American and European pianos, I found my calling in restoration, and moved from my limitations of a makeshift space with inadequate tools toward the development of a genuine shop tooled specifically for a career completely dedicated to piano restoration and repair.
As you can imagine, piano restoration is a highly specialized field of work and study. Competence of skill and proficiency of technique do not come easily or quickly, and like many focused careers, a command of the craft takes sustained levels of enthusiasm, dedication and years of hands-on experience. Truly, a certain character is needed to move past the stage of amateur, dabbler, and neophyte. Not only this, but actual shops adequately tooled with technicians specifically trained for this kind of work are relatively rare and increasingly more so. I take great pride in my shop and my work. I love my work! And so, again, I will say that if you care about your piano and truly want to have it beautifully restored, I welcome you to inquire further.
Thank you for your interest!
Michael Sweeney - Owner