Rebuilding a piano’s interior takes a significant set of specialized wood working skills that are best handed down from generation to generation and honed by the technician over decades. The soundboard of a piano is a delicate diaphragm that transmits the vibration of the strings into a tremendous thunderclap or a barely audible whisper. Maintaining the originality of the pianos creator is of the utmost importance in this process. There are many opportunities for a piano rebuilding shop to make choices of quality over convenience. Many of these are not easily seen by the piano novice.
But if these strict guidelines of preserving the originality of the piano are not adhered to, then the opportunity of hearing what the original manufacturer intended is lost forever. The major components of the pianos interior includes the soundboard, the pinblock, and the treble and bass bridges. All of these components are designed to last a long time if well cared for, but they are also designed to be replaced when they start to wear down with age. The pinblock, which is responsible for the tuning stability of the piano, will lose torque and the instrument will not be able to hold concert pitch. The soundboard, which is a natural amplifier of the pianos tone, will lose crown, which causes the tone to become less warm and to have a faster decay rate.Before World War II, the wood that was the most desired by American piano manufacturers in piano soundboard material was called picea glauca, otherwise known as Adirondack or White Spruce. It was the preferred wood of such notable piano houses as Knabe, Chickering, Mason & Hamlin, and Steinway and is still used today by the most discerning string instrument manufacturers. This is evidenced by the heavy premium placed on an instrument that uses Picea Rubens as opposed to the less costly Yellow Alaskan Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis).
It should be noted that some new piano manufacturers who also restore their older ones seem to be fighting with their past, choosing to replace their original soundboards with what we believe to be not only inferior woods, but forever altering the character of the piano altogether. This is being done in the name of creating an exclusive product offering, to create marketing superiority, and/or to reduce production costs by using less expensive materials. In our opinion, if one uses different woods than what was originally chosen, then the authenticity of the piano is lost.
The pinblocks main function is to hold the tuning stability of the strings at the necessary tension level. In order for this to be accomplished, tuning pins must be driven through many layers of a hard rock maple plank of wood that has been cut to marry perfectly with the cast-iron plate. The tolerances of the block must fit exactly on all sides, without any room for error. Forming a new pinblock is not something that can be done by a machine. Each one is unique and must be treated as such. No production line process can properly address the custom set of needs of such an endeavor.