Piano “Horror” Stories – Part 1

Notice the quotes? I use the word “horror” with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. There have definitely been a few pianos I have seen over the past three decades which have been scary, or in scary condition, but for the most part, hindsight has made many a horror story into a comedy.


Some stories, however, are horrific. Over the years I have seen pianos “fixed” with duct tape, “lubricated” with WD-40, moved in pick-up trucks, and worst of all, “rebuilt inside” by being sprayed with gold paint. I’m not kidding, I have seen, and continue to see, ridiculous repairs and farcical fixes such as these.


There is a right way to do everything – most of the ways – logical and simple. A few of them, expensive and challenging. A good example of this involves an old piano that I found in a granary near the small town of Boissevain, Manitoba. It was a full upright, built in the States, with a bentwood flamed Honduras mahogany case.


Anyone seeing this piano in the condition it arrived, would have stepped back in horror, but I saw the potential buried underneath. I took two five gallon pails full of mouse carcasses, droppings and filth out of that piano, wearing rubber gloves and face masks. I stripped it down to nothing, until it was reduced to thousands of little bits filling shelves and work benches. Every piece was deodorized, sanitized, cleaned, and repaired, and the case was stripped down, sanded, and treated to twelve coats of hand-rubbed lacquer.


The cost for this project greatly exceeded the cost of a new piano, however, much less than it would have cost to have it re-created. The most interesting thing to note, is that another rebuilder quoted a figure of almost half of what I quoted. To rebuild this piano at that price, corners would have been cut – probably the cleaning. Piano à la mouse anyone?


– Jamie Musselwhite.

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