Thursday December 4 – Piano Repairs

I have the piano that my grandparents bought about 1920.  It is a Heintzman upright baby grand.  My mother, who was born in 1926, learned to play the piano on it.  In the early 1960s my grandparents gave it to my parents.

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My father took it apart and stripped the black finish and oiled it with walnut oil.  He had a friend refurbish the sound board.  You can see the original colour inside the piano.

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About eleven or twelve years ago, Megan was interested in taking piano lessons so my parents, who no longer played, gave it to me.  I found a company to move it and made a place for it in my dining room.  Megan initially took piano lessons from her Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Barnhouse, who was an amazing kindergarten teacher, partly because she played piano and had one in her classroom and used it every day.  I remember several of my elementary school teachers playing the piano.  I think that is pretty rare in a teacher these days.   Most just throw on a CD.  I think there is something much more compelling and educational about the teacher providing live musical accompaniment to the lessons.

Megan has Mrs. Barnhouse for Senior Kindergarten.  Alun had her for both Junior and Senior.  Trystan had her for Junior Kindergarten and then she retired.  At that time teachers were still able to come back as a substitute teacher after retiring, so even Owen was able to experience her as a teacher, although not her wonderful piano playing.

I read that a piano should be tuned after moving and then, depending on how much it is played, it should be tuned a couple times a year.  My dad told me the piano hadn’t been tuned since he rebuilt it in the early 60s.  I asked Mrs. Barnhouse to recommend a piano tuner and she suggestion Robert Mayer from Georgetown.  He has perfect pitch and tunes by ear.  He sat down and played beautifully upon his arrival.  He then declared that there was very little tuning required and I would not need his services again in the near future.  Apparently, this piano is known for being excellent at holding its tuning.

About a year later, my father was was playing the piano and pedaling exuberantly.  There was a loud crack and then every note played was sustained even though the pedal was not depressed.  I called Robert and he came out to take a look.  He thought the frame was cracked but did not have his “piano cradle” with him so couldn’t turn the piano over to check or repair.  He asked me if I had some magazines.  I provided him with a pile and he slid them under until the frame was supported and the sound was back to normal.  He said I could just leave it like that.

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Fast forward ten years.   Our dining room ceiling is a mess of water stains and cut-out drywall.  Thirteen years ago, when Alun was two years old, I was on the phone one afternoon.  I could hear the toilet in the master bathroom refilling.  After a while, it occurred to me that it had been refilling for too long.  I went upstairs to check and found the floor of the bathroom covered in water and most of a roll of toilet paper blocking the water from draining.  Water was flowing over the top of the toilet, spilling onto the floor and down the heating register!  I quickly turned off the valve and started throwing towels on the floor, but it was too late, the water ran along the joists of the dining room ceiling, dripped through in a few places and created long brown stains.  We didn’t have the skill or money to repair it so we just left it.

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Some number of years later, I heard a dripping sound from the dining room and went to investigate.  There was a huge bubble of plaster full of water in the ceiling beneath the shower.  I grabbed a pail and poked a hole in it.  What a mess!

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Michael cut out the wet drywall, determined what was leaking and repaired it.  That worked for about a year, then it started leaking again.  We got an estimate to repair it:  $5000.  We decided to leave it and shower in the main bathroom.  We did that for years until last January we decided it was time to fix it.

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We found a contractor through the Home Service Club.  He recommended ripping the shower out completely, pouring a cement foundation, putting in waterproof drywall and re-tiling.  Greenpark, the home builder, had just put a fiberglass pan on the subfloor.  It had always shifted and creaked when we moved around in the shower.  No wonder we eventually had a leak.  When Dean ripped out the tile and drywall, he also found that the drywall had been installed backwards, with the waterproof side away from the shower – another possible reason we had problems.

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That was in January.  We have been showering all year with no more leaks.  It’s now time to fix the dining room ceiling.  In order to do that we will have to move the piano.  In order to move the piano the frame needs to be fixed, so I called Robert once again and asked him to bring his “piano cradle” – a clever contraption that allows him to rotate the piano onto its back, by himself, to work on the frame.

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Turns out the frame wasn’t cracked.  There were two long screws that were stripped and no longer holding the bottom tightly to the sides.  A little wood glue and he was able to tightly re-seat the screws.

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I pointed out a key that was sticking and asked him to see if he could fix it.  He said it was probably a nickel.  The next time I walked into the room, he told me he had been wrong, it was a quarter and handed it to me.  He also asked me if middle C had always been sticking up.  As long as I can remember it has been.  He also fixed that.  It was apparently some dirt under the key.

I can date the last time Robert visited from the fact that the magazines were from 2004.  Here’s the quarter he found.

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The piano did not need to be tuned.

If you ever need a piano tuner I would highly recommend Robert.

 

 

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About Lisa Stokes

I am a stay-at-home mother of four whose hobbies include photography, quilting and cycling. I have recently started to advocate for better cycling infrastructure in my community. I am photographer and librarian at the Brampton Quilters' Guild. I build and maintain a community ice rink in my local park.
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2 Responses to Thursday December 4 – Piano Repairs

  1. Lisa – Robert is the best. His wife is a quilter and used to be part of our Monday sewing group. Small world.

    Like

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