The iron frame, used in the piano as we know it today, was invented in 1825 by Alpheus Babcock (1785-1842). He was an employee of the Chickering Piano Co. U.S.A. who used an iron frame for the first time in their Grand Pianos in 1840.
Until iron reinforcement pieces were introduced to pianos in 1799, frames were generally made out of wood, which were liable to warp and twist under string tension, eventhough it was generally much lower than it is on a modern piano. An iron frame has the ability to withstand 19+ tons of string tension, along with increases in resonance, overall power and tuning stability.
There are 2 major types of casting for piano frames: sand cast & vacuum processed. With green sand casting (also known as wet sand casting), after the sand has been pressed into the desired shape, the pattern is removed from the sand, and a ‘negative’ imprint remains. Molten iron is poured into the mould, and when cool, the sand is broken away, leaving an exact shape behind, ready to be polished, primed & sprayed, to the manufacturers specifications.
The Vacuum mould casting process, also known as the V process, employs a sand mould that contains no moisture or binders. The internal cavity of the mould holds the shape of the casting due to forces exerted by the pressure of a vacuum. Vacuum moulding is a process that was developed in Japan around 1970.
The first thing to do when buying a ‘pre – loved’ piano (or if you are offered a free one), is to assess the casework-are there any signs of general damage, such as missing or splintered veneer, damaged castors/feet, corrosion on the hinges, pedals etc. indicating that the instrument has been damp at some point, perhaps left in a garage? More seriously, are there any signs of woodworm? and if so, is it active? Don’t touch the piano if it is!
If you can, remove the top & bottom doors (the panels that face you, above and below the keyboard), also the fall (keyboard cover). If you have any misgivings about going further than the outside of the case, then you should enlist the services of a qualified Piano Tuner/Technician, to help you in your search.
Have a look for broken or missing keys – these can’t always easily be replaced. Missing hammers will also need to be replaced. Another sure sign that the piano has been in a damp environment, is rusty strings. These do not always take kindly to being tuned, and many could break during tuning. Any signs of water damage on the case, keys or action, should be viewed with suspicion. A vase of flowers, mug of tea, or similar, could have been spilt inside, potentially causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage, or writing the instrument off completely.
Moth damage can be fairly catastrophic for a piano, with a lot of the main wooden components relying on a cushion or spacer/washer of felt, as well as keyboard and pedal trim. It is worth checking that the pedals are working correctly. If not, some further work may be necessary in order to rectify the problem.
A serious problem which would probably write off the piano, or make it terribly difficult to hold in tune, is cracks in the iron frame itself. Obviously, they only need to be hairline cracks, to compromise the string tension and any grip the tuning (wrest) pins may have. So if these can be spotted before purchase, along with small splits in the wrest plank, radiating out from the tuning pins, a lot of money and anguish may be saved.
If you would like any help or advice on any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. My advice is strictly impartial, and is my own professional opinion only.
Hello, and welcome to my website! My name is Stephen Haynes. I am a Professional Piano Tuner and Technician covering the West Midlands area. My aim is to make your piano sound as good as possible for the fairest price. I also carry out repairs and regulation in addition to my tuning services. It doesn’t matter if your instrument is very old or brand new – they all receive my very best care regardless of age. I usually work a seven day week, so I can attend to your piano at a time which suits you best. If you would like me to assess your piano first, I offer a FREE PIANO HEALTHCHECK within 5 miles of my WV12 postcode.
I am now starting a Piano Stool Restoration Service, following an initial project from a colleague, so if your current stool is looking a little tired and is in need of a facelift, don’t hesitate to contact me, and I’ll see what I can do for you.