The most common repair to the cabinet is refinishing. It is also the single most expensive item. Typically refinishing costs $1000.00 per foot. You have a 36" spinet, expect to spend $3000.00. It does not enhance the tone nor performance of the instrument. I have yet to hear of a circumstance where a piano that was not tunable, became so after refinishing.
Yet people continue to spend thousands on the finish before realizing it will take thousands moreto make the piano serviceable. By the time a piano's finish needs repair, it often requires other repairs as well. You can easily wind up spending more than the market value. Before plopping down three to nine thousand dollars on the appearance, you will be well advised to have a piano tech look it over. Only after determining the true cost of the repair, can you know what your sentimental attachment is worth.
The harp is the audio generator and the soul of the instrument. A piano can look like it fell off a truck and
still have beautiful tone. A piano can look good, but have a hollow tone as in the case of a particle board spinet. But a piano must, must hold a tune. When Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis sang a duet one had a rich full voice, the other was shallow harsh. Yet they harmonized because they were both in tune. F.Y.I., occasionally a piano looks like it fell off a truck because it did fall off a truck!
The action is the mechanism that transforms human motion into music. Comprised of
an estimated 12,000 component parts, it is immensely complicated. The finger travels
approximately half an inch while the piano hammer travels nearly two. That’s a mech-
anical amplification of 4:1. As a result, the hammers accelerate from 0 to 40 mph in a
span of less than 2 inches. At the end of its journey it’s greeted by a metal string and
changes direction with almost the same speed. The energy from the “Almost” part is
transferred to the string. Imagine being stopped at a traffic light and getting rear ended
by another car traveling 40 mph. As your car accelerates forward it slams into the car a-
head and bounces backward. Even with safety crumple zones, the impacts are sufficient
to cause fatality. With those type of stresses in mind, coupled with the complexity of a
piano action, it is reasonable to expect a fifty to hundred year old piano action to require
extensive regulation and repair.
A couple other repairs worth mentioning:
• Fractured Fairy Tales.
Though written off today as novelties, players of yester year were essential to those who enjoyed good music but lacked the talent to perform. In those days there were no hi fi’s nor stereos, no phonographs, no radios. No wonder, no electricity. However, you could purchase a paper roll that
was cut by an artist of the day. The lyrics were printed right on the paper so you could add your voice to that of the piano’s. The concept of a karaoke machine has only been around for about hundred and twenty years.
Fractured Fairy Tales was a phrase borrowed from by Jay Ward, the creator of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” is a name given
to a class of repairs that should not be performed but are anyway. Common sense would dictate that the repair would vastly exceed the value of the instrument but the owner refuses to part with the fantasy of its potential. Though on a much smaller scale, I would compare it to the recovery efforts of “The Lost Squadron” . The planes had no historical significance yet millions were spent in the recovery and
restoration for just one. (Had they only waited a couple of years, the glacier
would have melted and they could have saved five or six mil on the recovery.)