I paused for a moment in my work this morning to realize that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Practicing the crafts of piano restoration fits me in such a fine way. This morning I was doing key work on an 1880’s Knabe grand, and while I applied my skill to restoration, I could pause to admire the work of craftsmen from 130 years ago.
James Michener is credited with the following:
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.
I’m grateful that I can often reside in that zone.
The Janssen Piano Company of New York made about 160,000 pianos from 1901 until 1964, when it sold to the Conn company. I service a number of Janssen console pianos from the 1950s that continue to be good instruments that are loved by their owners.
Today I tuned #134626 from 1956. As I began, I knew that I would like it. I liked it even more when I took the time to read the “Janssen Creed” inside the lid.
Many pianos of quality are made today, but where do we see this type of statement? Sure, we might say “this was just marketing,” but I see it as a personal commitment to quality. Today we have ISO, CMM, Six-Sigma and scores of other process control and corporate accountability systems. And we’re making excellent pianos. But in 1956 we had personal commitment and worker accountability, and we made excellent pianos.
In the 20 years that I lived with my father, how many times did I hear: “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well!” The answer can only be “countless times!” I know this to be a fact, because those words constantly return to me 43 years later.
Yesterday I tuned a hundred year old McPhail upright piano. It was an absolute pleasure. A rare thing to say about a hundred year old piano. With the exception of new dampers and new bridle straps, the piano had all original parts. It had been maintained over the years, but what was really inherent in the piano was the careful workmanship imparted in a Boston factory so many years ago. The quality came through. And once my work was done, it was a joy to play!
While enjoying the job, I took a moment to look at McPhail’s declaration of its commitment to quality, which was displayed on the plate of the piano:
The inscription clearly reads, “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit”. I can only hope that my own work would meet the standards of McPhail in 1915. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
Having the right tool at the right time can make all the difference. The video below shows the use of a cute miniature detail plane, to make a repair on a key prior to installing a new keytop.
Duane McGuire, RPT Piano Tuner-Technician
I love pianos: as a musician, as a technician, and as a craftsman.
The joy of my profession is to bring out the best in every piano I encounter.
Words to Live by
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. --James Michener