The Care and Maintenance of your Antique Piano
If you have an antique piano, there are some conditions you should be aware of as an aid to the conservation of your instrument. These apply whether you have a playable instrument, awaiting repair, or are choosing to conserve the instrument in its original state.
The humidity of the space in which your piano is kept will affect the overall condition of the instrument. A stable moderate temperature alongside a humidity of between 50 and 60% RH (relative humidity) is advised. A hygrometer is recommended for the purpose of monitoring these levels. One may increase the humidity by pumping water into the atmosphere with a machine called a humidifier, or decrease it with a de-humidifier, which collects surplus water. Both methods need attending to either daily or weekly depending on the conditions and size of the machine. It may be that only one of the seasons each year will create an extreme humidity situation that will require action. A damp atmosphere will attract mildew and cause action parts to stick, conversely dryness can shrink the wooden structure and cause major damage that may be costly to rectify.
If there are any signs of live woodworm, such as frass, a powdery wood substance excreted by the beetle, then please get in touch with us for advice. Moths need deterring as they can cause huge problems and eat through any original cloths, particularly within the action of the instrument. If there seems to be a moth infestation, or if you want to avoid a future one, then purchasing a moth-proofer is the best solution.
If your instrument is awaiting repair, and is not in a playable state, we advise keeping very little or no tension on the strings. The wrong amount of tension can structurally damage an instrument or break strings. A practice commonly adopted for early pianofortes is to tune them at one semitone below the modern concert pitch of A = 440Hz. We go to great care to calculate the correct tensions for specific instruments with a tension graph, so please see our Strings Page should you be interested in any replacement strings. If your instrument is being re-strung then it is possible for it to be tuned to modern concert pitch should you wish, as long as the appropriate gauge of wire has been fitted. Some modern piano tuners will offer to tune early pianos, but it is imperative that they are aware of the lower pitch of your instrument and have the necessary tuning lever. Square pianos with original tuning pins extant require a different size lever than the modern standard. We can provide you with an appropriate tuning lever should you require one.
Please avoid your piano being in close proximity to any direct heat sources, such as radiators or open fires. Prolonged direct sunlight will bleach and fade your instrument’s finish, or buckle any exposed wood, so avoid this too.
Great care should be taken when moving your instrument. Although castors are fitted, it is suggested that the instrument is lifted into position at all times. Rolling over uneven surfaces may cause the instrument to fall out of tune and could result in permanent damage to the wooden leg threads or delicate castors. For longer distances, you may wish to employ a professional piano mover. Please contact us for recommended removal firms.
To keep out dust and to protect the interior, keep the main lid closed when not playing the instrument. The lid will warp and become permanently disfigured if it is left to sit on the prop sticks for prolonged periods. Ivory keys will gradually yellow with the fall-board closed, and gradually whiten with it left open. If you wish to keep the fall-board open, it is advisable to keep the right-hand lid flap closed, to protect the soundboard. It is important to have any repairs or servicing to your square piano carried out by a professional.