McGuire Piano Blog

A new grand piano lid

February 7th, 2019

I recently acquired (very inexpensively) a 6′ 4″ Knabe grand piano made in the 1950s.   The instrument is in  good rebuildable condition.  The case is in horrible condition, having lived in a school for many years.  I decided that to bring the piano back to its glory, that a major woodworking project was needed.   I will be re-veneering the entire case to give the piano a like new look.

The lid of the piano was a special concern, since the edge profile was severely damaged.   Ultimately, I decided that I would build a new lid for the piano.   The photo series below tells the story.

This project stretched my skills as it took me into new turf! The nature of the project was one of continual refinement to the materials. As such each step increased the risk cost value! So at each step, my stress increased as did the potential for ruin! Lots of time and dollars here.

Repair Skills Workshop

January 14th, 2019

I recently hosted a  repair skills workshop at my shop on January 12, 2019.  Twelve piano technicians, members of the Piano Technicians Guild, gathered here for coaching on the repair skills tested in the Registered Piano Technician exams.  Many of the participants worked for the entire day. There was lots of knowledge sharing all around.

House transformation

December 16th, 2018

This weekend our house is transforming into a recital hall!  We are pleased to be hosting a Christmas piano recital for Tiffany Bailey’s piano students tomorrow evening.    I always love hearing other talent perform on my piano, so this is going to be especially enjoyable.  The piano is a Steinway model A3 from 1922.  I recently installed new Ronsen Weikert felt hammers on the instrument.

To prepare,  Justin DeJong helped me move the normal furniture into the garage.  We glided the piano over from the northwest corner to the southwest corner where it could be seen from two wings of the new recital hall.  This “gliding” was accomplished with my shop-made three-wheeled piano transporter.

Stage right

Stage Left

Shop-made piano transporter


Terri McGuire has been adding her touches with Christmas decor. It’s good to have a master of event planning on the job!

The recital hall will look a bit different with 30 chairs and people!   More pictures to come of tomorrow’s event.

Steiff Rebuild – New sharps

September 4th, 2018

Quality is a collection of small details.  And for every piano, the first thing the pianist encounters is the keyboard.  For a high-end piano, the look and feel must be superb.  Inviting.

I enjoyed taking the time to ensure that the replacement sharps for this keyboard were second-to-none in fit and finish.

New sharps for piano keys

The new sharps are made of natural ebony and supplied by PianoTek Supply.   I was thrilled with the craftsmanship and uniformity of the product.   Fitting the the new sharps to the old key sticks proceeded as follows:

  • Remove old sharps with steam and leverage.
  • Scrape old keystick as needed  (the old hide glue joint made this effort minimal).
  • Glue new sharps, centered on old keystick.
  • Bolster old keysticks with veneer applied with hot hide glue to allow the nice uniform sharps to be the ruling dimension (the old keysticks are not of uniform dimension).
  • Sand veneer flush with the new keytop (this assures that pianist cannot ever feel a rough edge).
  • Dye keystick sides black.
  • Clean and polish new sharps (I used Howard’s Feed and Wax for a light wax finish)

The picture below shows bolstering the keysticks with veneer, prior to final sanding and finish.

Bolstering keysticks with veneer


Installed on keyframe:

piano keys sharps installed on keyframe


Adam Schaaf – Regulation

May 6th, 2018

The photos which follow show new hammers installed in the action and regulation in progress.

Regulating escapement

Regulating damper timing on the workbench

Regulating damper spoons on the workbench

1905 Heine Recondition

April 20th, 2018

I do love my job, especially when it’s clear that my objectives are met. My objectives? … enabling the joy of music for my customers.

This 1905 Heine upright came to my shop as a neglected and beat up piano, but with “good bones”. For this piano, we erased years of wear with cleaning, repairs, and reconditioning.

Today, when I saw the customer fighting the tears, expressing joy in the result, and telling family stories of the music and the piano … then I know my objectives were met.

Technically this is the work performed:

  • New keytops installed (many ivories were damaged or missing)
  • New key bushings installed (giving the pianist a feeling of firmness and security when playing)
  • Cleaned, stained and polished sharps (preserving the authenticity and beauty of the original ebony)
  • Installed new dampers (the originals were worn and hard, preventing them from performing their function)
  • Reshaped shaped hammers (improving the tonal qualities of the piano)
  • CA glue treatment of pinblock (restoring the torque the tuning pins need to do their job)
  • Action repairs (just making everything work!)
  • Regulation, tuning, and voicing (the icing on the cake. Now the touch is smooth and responsive. The voice of the piano has clarity and uniformity)
  • Clean, polish, and touchup the case (the pictures tell the story)
  • Refinish keybed rub-rail (lots of door jamb damage went away)

Is it everything I want in a piano? NO. Is it everything the customer needed? Clearly, YES.

Adam Schaaf Upright Piano – Action rebuilding

November 19th, 2017
Adam Schaaf Piano bottom board is reinstalled

The reconditioned bottom board is re-installed. Pedals are buffed and new bushing cloth is installed for squeak free performance. Trapwork is reconditioned for fault free operation.

Keys have been rebushed and reinstalled on the reconditioned keyframe. This effort will help to provide the excellent touch response we seek to provide the pianist.

New treble dampers installed on Schaaf upright piano

The action brackets have been cleaned and painted for a fresh appearance. New treble dampers have been installed and regulated for uniform lift. At this point, The action rails and damper levers have been cleaned by blasting with corn cob grit. The wippen rail has not yet been re-installed. The old hammers have been removed, making damper work straight forward. This process emulates the original process order utilized in the factory 98 years ago.

New Renner piano hammers custom bored for installation

New Renner hammers have been custom bored for installation.

Restringing the Adam Schaaf Player Piano

November 19th, 2017
Piano Restringing in process

1919 Adam Schaaf upright piano restringing in process

Adam Schaaf player piano - stringing complete

Stringing is complete, and treble pressure bar is re-installed. This photo is taken from the perspective of the stringer while the piano is on its back.

Adam Schaaf Player Piano – Preparation for Restringing

October 4th, 2017

After completing work on the bottom board and keyframe, I’m preparing the piano for restringing.

Original Condition

Adam Schaaf player piano original condition of the low treble strings

Original condition of the low treble strings


Adam Schaaf Player piano: Original Condition of bass strings and tuning pins

Original Condition of bass strings and tuning pins

Preparation for Restringing

In preparation for resstringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, and the plate has been cleaned.

In preparation for resstringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, and the plate has been cleaned.
In preparation for restringing: old strings and tuning pins have been removed, new understring cloth has been installed, tuning pin bushings have been removed, the plate has been cleaned, and plate bolts have been tightened.

Additional work to be performed before restringing

  • Soundboard cracks will be shimmed
  • Separated ribs will be re-glued to the soundboard
  • New tuning pin bushings will be installed.

Adam Schaaf Player Piano — Bottom Up

October 1st, 2017

An Adam Schaaf player piano recently arrived in my shop for a complete rebuild.   I’ll be doing the piano work, and the player work will go to a player expert.   I’m pleased that my client has recognized the need for good piano work to precede good player work.   With good piano work, the player mechanism can perform at its best.

Work began with restoration of the keyframe, bottom board, and pedal trap work.



Adam Schaaf player piano keyframe before restoration

Keyframe before restoration

Adam Schaaf upright player piano keyframe after restoration

Keyframe after restoration


Bottom Board and Pedal Trapwork

Adam Schaaf upright player piano: bottom board and trapwork before restoration

Bottom board and trapwork before restoration

Adam Schaaf upright player piano: bottom board and trapwork after restoration

Bottom board and pedal trapwork after restoration