A Journal of A Piano Technician

Posted: May 11, 2012 in Piano

I am shown here tuning a Schimmel piano.

I am shown here tuning a Schimmel piano.

Since I am a piano technician, I remind myself that I must do what piano technicians do. If I do not, then I would not be a piano technician. What is your archetype for a piano technician? What do piano technicians do? I’ll tell you…

We order parts, constantly. With about 8,000 brands of pianos in the market, each with 9,000 parts, there is no way that a shop can always have every part that is needed for every repair or rebuild.

We buy tools, constantly. I love tools. I buy tools often, and yet, like most piano technicians, I never have the tool I need when I need it. There is always ONE tool that is missing. I have double sets of tools, just in case, one set for house calls, one for the shop. I carry four bags of tools, piano wire and a vacuum cleaner in the car.

This jig helps cut a hammer shank.

We Make Jigs – This jig helps cut a hammer shank.

We make jigs, constantly. No matter what you are repairing, you usually need to make a jig, or a shelf, or a new table, or something else in order to repair the thing you are working on. After the repair is done, you throw the jig into the box where you throw all your jigs. You leave the shelf on the wall.

We sharpen blades, constantly. If it cuts woods, trims, shaves, rubs, scrubs, grinds or sculpts, chances are that it needs to be kept sharp. Yes, there are machines that do that, but none of them are any good. The best way is to sharpen by hand. That takes time: lots of time.

We put things away, constantly. There are no shops that are the right size. All of them (excepting the ones you see in those fictitious magazines and on high-budget TV shows) are too small. When a job is done, you MUST put your tools away. This can take days, even weeks to accomplish.

We clean stuff, constantly. Your tools have to be kept clean. Brushes, workshop tables, drill bits, floors, lights, and anything (which is everything) must be dusted. This never happens, but we tell people we do it.

Who needs a scrapbook when you can walk down memory lane in an old tool drawer.

We Put Things Away – Contents of a tool drawer.

We make tools, constantly. Piano technicians are inventors. We get little credit for that, but it is true.  There is always a new tool to make. We do that. We either put wheels on it, or a handle. We sharpen it, or make a loop in the end. Drawings are optional. We have a full set of drafting tools and an old slide rule.

We create new projects, constantly. We do this because there is always a need for a new project. We store parts, make boxes, sort mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, and other liquids, waxes, cleaners and unknown solvents, and generally move things (like pianos) from one place in the shop to another place.

We also have to build a webpage, tweet, do Facebook, figure out SEO, network with other technicians, be “seen” in the community, blog, take pictures, post pictures, organize tool manuals, go to tool shows, go to trade shows, read magazines and journals, store the magazines and journals, take phone calls, schedule appointments, drive all over town and back again, wash the car, move pianos (even if we refuse to move pianos), locate the missing screw we dropped into the piano, find the perfect flashlight (we have several), prop it up, balance it, nail it down, make it rotate, lift it up, hold it down, turn it, twist it, glue it, unglue it, melt it, heat it up, cool it down, wax it, remove the stain, put a new one on, take the old one off, hang it on the wall, strip it, finish it, polish it, sand it, rub it with pumice stone, rub it with rottenstone, rub it with talc, place it in the car, take it back to where we got it.

We repair pianos, sometimes.  For a brief period of time, you get to do what piano technicians do. The rest of the time, we prepare to do it.

  1. Dan Severino says:

    I heard that if a lumberjack must fell a tree be must spend 80% of his time sharpening his axe.