From the December/January 2009 Issue:

When to Restore an Antique Piano

How do I know when I should have an antique piano restored?


Article Photo
enlarge | A technician should look at any piano you are thinking of having restored. Pictured is a Victorian Steinway grand piano with an African mahogany veneer that’s refinished in a brown and red mahogany satin.
Determining whether to buy or restore an antique piano depends on a number of factors. Pianos built between the turn of the twentieth century and the eve of World War II are among the best ever built. A restored piano from this period can give you the best of both worlds because the cabinet and harp are better on older top-brand pianos, while the strings, leathers, and felts are better today.

Antique pianos often have cases with handcrafted carvings in styles ranging from traditional and Louis XV to French provincial and Victorian. Many also have exquisite veneers such as African or Honduran mahogany, burled walnut, rosewood, or oak. Some have ivory keys, only available today on these rare vintage pieces.

However, pianos can wear down over time. The finish begins to darken and crack. The strings no longer hold a tune. The felts start to harden, changing the once rich tone to one that is bright and hard to the ear. These are among the indicators that an old piano is in need of restoration.

There once were thousands of piano manufacturers, however, a technician will be able to analyze the brand and the condition and help you determine whether a vintage instrument is worth buying or restoring. If it’s worth restoring, an antique piano will cost a fraction of a new one of comparable quality. In fact, that antique piano could very well be a diamond in the rough.


Todd Lindeblad
a piano restoration specialist
with Lindeblad Piano in Pinebrook