1848 Pleyel


This ca. 1848 Pleyel needed some serious rescuing of its tuning pins. Once we were sure it could hold pitch at 430 Hertz (common for this period), I could get on with putting it back together – rubbing down the iron strings, regulating the hammer spacing, re-building the dampers in a way that, as far as possible, kept the originals. (Note the folded felt – much stronger and more efficient than our modern wedge felts.)SPSpleyel5

It’s now a stable and expressive instrument.SPSpleyel1



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Bechstein String Tangle

The lid on my 19 guage steel wire tin failed.

As I was drawing out a length for this model L Bechstein, the lid suddenly jumped off – and I got THE WHOLE LENGTH…in one big tangled mess!

That’s 500g of diamond-drawn piano wire wasted.





But as you can see in the second photo, it all worked out well in the end – especially with these beautiful looking and sounding EKA bass strings.

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Sticky Spider Keys

This lovely Bizzi 2-manual (2x 8′, 1x 4′) harpsichord, which I have serviced before, had some sticking keys.

The reason was a surprise: a spider’s nest!

Keyboard out – notice the white patch!

Upon removal of the keyboard and keys in the treble area, the wee web was revealed. (The spider had already vacated – so no spiders were harmed in the making of this operation!).

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Concert in Conca

The pianist Heidrun Bergander decided to fly me over to Catalunya to prepare her Tuinman fortepiano for a concert in Conca de Barbera. Early instruments have much lighter stringing than modern pianos – and so are much less stable in their tuning.

The pianist Heidrun Bergander with yours truly

Heidrun and the singer Cristina Ruiz

However, this lovely copy of a Walter 1805 fortepiano took the 1 hour journey and adjusting to the atmosphere within the walls of this medeival castle and re-adjusting to the heat of the lights and audience….and only needed tuning twice more before it gave a perfect performance!

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For Sale: Chappell Baby Grand – SOLD

Reconditioned by me – that means it’s beautifully voiced and sounds very even and open; easy to play. I’m quite enjoying playing it myself!


New strings (and bass strings) and tuning pins throughout.

Action is thoroughly serviced, with a light touchweight.

Key coverings are ivory.

Casework is clean but patchy: major dents filled and polished over, but there remain many small scratches and the colouration is uneven.

Most important for me is always the functionality of an instrument – that’s why the insides and workings are in top working order. Sorry about the casework. Nevertheless, a bargain, I think.

Do come and try it.

Price: £2,800. (Delivery paid for by customer).

Two free tunings.



Pedals before & after


Before re-stringing…


After re-stringing.

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Key Spacing – Sharps

Once re-bushed, all keys (naturals & sharps) may need some fine spacing. This is best done prior to key levelling.

The sharps are classically spaced very slightly towards the centre of the keyboard, bearing in mind that the movement of the pianist’s hand puts a slight outward pressure on each key.

Also, the groupings of the sharps (c sharp, d sharp / f,g,a sharps) should have equal spacing between each key, so that the pianist’s fingers will reliably fit.

1  If keys are not properly upright (and their respective capstans can also safely be altered), some correction of the balance pin is appropriate.

2  If the spacings need adjusting at the front guide (bat) pin, first remove the baize, then bend the bat pin as close to its fixing as possible, so as not to bring any curvature into the functional length of the pin.

3  If moving the key in either of the above ways makes the distal ends rub (and you’re sure the correction is really necessary), then fine planing of any excess key wood is the final step.

space too narrow

space too narrow









bend the bat pin

bend the bat pin

even spacing

even spacing

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Hammer Felt Trimming

When hammer heads are angled on their shanks, they can sometimes require trimming (bevelling) to give clearance. I’ve posted on this previously (Hammer Cutting) but these pics show more clearly how to select the required angle (the amount) of bevelling: Simply, cut the felt in line with the hammer shank –

cut in line with shank

cut in line with shank






bevell is cut

bevell is cut









Sometimes, this brings the cut close to the felt staple, so this too needs cutting/filing (otherwise you’ll get to hear that sickening sound of a beautifully sharp blade striking metal), and the felt perhaps needs rounding off.


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