Monday, 23 February 2015

Willis Undergoes Surgery

Willis has a lovely and familiar voice that I've had the pleasure of listening to since I was a child. But in recent years, that voice has developed a handicap and now this old friend is in need of surgery.

Willis is an upright piano, manufactured by Willis & Co. Limited of Montreal and bought by my parents in 1929. In those pre-television days, parlor pianos were major hubs of entertainment and my family's piano was no exception. It kept a merry beat accompanied by violins and guitars. Music reigned! Then, years and decades glided past and Mom became elderly and passed away. Working lives away from home and other claims on our time left poor Willis neglected and all but forgotten. Moths, or some similarly destructive insect beasties (whose presence in the house I was totally unaware of) had munched their greedy way through much of the felts. All 88 hammer butt felts were consumed down to the glue. Each played note still held it's concert pitch but was accompanied by an unattractive 'click' as it's returning hammer came to rest on bare wood instead of a felt cushion.

So I've undertaken 'in-house' repairs. The action assembly rests on a surgical/kitchen table. Luckily for me, there is a piano parts dealer,, that not only ships the parts but also provides excellent videos on how to install them. And what better way to spend the remainder of this cold winter than to help an old friend regain his voice? 
The patient being disassembled for surgery.

Manufacturer's decal on the hammer rail.

There will be no meals taken on this table for awhile.

Hammer and jack removed for repair.

All thirty-eight treble dampers will receive new felts.

Eighty-eight keys. Two pin holes per key. Two bushings per hole. Very labour intensive.

Might as well replace the damaged ivory tops with new plastic replicas.

The insect damage inspires future use of moth ball packets. 

One hammer restored. Only eighty-seven more to go!


  1. This is a mission of huge proportions, and look at your bench vice, that is a dream. Lovely surgical detail, any orthopod or other kind of surgeon would be so happy to have any details printed out like that.


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