John Koelle  (847) 336-5919

Piano Rebuilding

John Koelle, piano technician, has been rebuilding Steinway, Mason Hamlin and other fine pianos in the Chicago area for the past 24 years.  Every aspect of the job is personally managed by John in his own shop.

The entire process for a complete rebuild takes approximately 6 weeks. 

The Process Includes:

Disassembly Action or Keyboard The Plate or Harp
Falconwood Pinblock Soundboard Reinstall Components

The Rebuilding Process

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Typical insides after a complete rebuilding
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     The disassembly, or tear-down, is the first stage and involves removing the old strings, tuning pins and pin block.  The plating, either brass or nickel, is collected at this time and is subsequently shipped to a professional plater.


Action or Keyboard

     The action or keyboard is another stage of piano rebuilding.  Here we  begin by completely cleaning and re-felting the frame.  Next we re-bush the keys, polish the ivories, or replace the key tops. 

     The upper action or cradle is next. Here we install Renner  whippens, hammer shanks and custom, premium hammers. The hammers are a very critical component of rebuilding since they are chiefly responsible for the tone of the instrument; only the finest will suffice.

     After all the new parts are installed  the action is regulated to exacting standards.  A well regulated action is a pianists dream, allowing them control of both touch and tone.


The Plate or Harp

     The plate (harp) is, in a structural sense, the most important part of the piano and must be handled with extreme care.  Once removed, the plate is washed, scuffed, re-bronzed, and the lettering is hand painted.

     Koelle Piano does not consider purchasing and certainly does not sell any pianos with plates that are in any way cracked, broken or otherwise damaged.


Falconwood Pinblock

     Since the pinblock is built into the piano, and all of the strings and the plate need to be removed  to install a new  one, it is of the highest priority that the finest materials be used.

     The Falconwood pinblock was developed over 40 years ago.  It is the best pinblock in the world.  I have been using it for 24 years and have never had one fail.  The Falconwood pinblock is unique in several ways. 

  • It is the most dense pinblock available.  The density of a Falconwood pinblock is 1.0.  Other pinblocks never exceed .80 density.  This means the Falconwood Pinblock is 20% stronger
  • When boring the Falconwood pinblock, a larger drill bit is used (.272).  As a result less wood around the pinblock is harmed when the pins are driven in thus adding years of life to your Falconwood pinblock.
  • The Falconwood pinblock is multi-laminated (27 ply). A Multi-laminated pinblock is stronger and more stable than the common 5-ply blocks.

     So why doesn't everyone else install Falconwood?  Because of it's density it requires superior woodworking skills as well as more sophisticated tooling. It is also considerably more expensive.

     Koelle Piano uses a 27-lamination Falconwood pinblock in all of its rebuilds, thus allowing us to give a 15 year guarantee on all rebuilding work performed.



    The soundboard is the amplifier of tone.  In a quality vintage piano what we look for in a soundboard is crown [curve] and carry of tone.  Since spruce trees grow only 6 to 8 inches in diameter and all good soundboards are made of spruce it is necessary for a soundboard to be made of a series of boards.

     It is not uncommon for cracks to develop due to expansion and contraction as well as a result of glue joints drying out.  These problems are remedied by drying the board down and shimming with spruce shims.  The soundboard is then sanded down and refinished.


Reinstall Components

     After the soundboard, pinblock, and plate are completed it is time to felt the plate and reinstall all new strings and tuning pins.  These are of the highest quality.  Through a series of tunings the piano is then carefully brought up to standard pitch.


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