Westchester’s Oldest Piano Dealer

Steve Oliver is still selling and rebuilding Steinways,  Westchester’s oldest piano dealer, celebrating 40 years!

steve oliver the piano man article dec 1998 sml

Posted in Piano Rebuilding, piano tuning, restore & Refinish, steinway pianos

Tips for buying a used piano DIY

this crack is visible, when not sure shine a light from inside the piano and look underneath

grand sound board (underview) with cracks

1. First play all of the keys:

Make sure they all operate and there are no sticking keys. While you are checking look inside to make sure the hammers are not wobbly this is a sign of problems, either loose or worn action parts. Hint clicking noises are also a sign of action component issues as well.

2. Look at the soundboard:

Make sure there are no large cracks and that the soundboard is not loose from the ribs. On a baby Grand/ Grand, you can look in from the top,  a good trick is to have someone shine a drop light or flashlight from the top while you look for light through cracks from underneath. You can do the same on an upright by removing the bottom frame panel and shining a light in from the back.

3. Inspect the bridges for cracking and lifting and crown:

This is one of the more crucial area’s that is often missed by many piano tuners and lay people . To locate the bridges look for where the strings go over small raised platforms on the soundboard there are guide pins there called bridge pins. Hint: If  some of the strings sound dead, tubby or buzz, the chances are the bridges are cracked or there is not enough crown. The crown is the height setting for the bridges, most piano teachers, tuners and lay people will not know how to measure this crucial setting The more expensive the piano,  the more concerned you should be with this. (I hope you understand i am not recommending a clunker).

worn hammers (grand)

worn hammers (grand)

4. Look from the top and inspect the hammers for excessive wear:

Note:  If the hammers are flattened down at the front (on uprights) top on grands and they are no longer tapered, then the have excessive wear and will need filing or replacement. They will also need work if you can feel impressions where the strings hit with your fingernail sometimes they can be filed and re-shaped, usually once or twice in their lifetime.

5. The most important item is the tuning pins.

If the tuning pins are loose the piano will not hold tune and  this equates to a car with a blown engine, IT WILL NOT WORK without major repairs. This will be more difficult for the lay person to check without a tuning hammer and some experience. My suggestion is to try to find out the history of the piano when it was tuned last,  again difficult since many instruments are neglected.  A good way is to ask the piano tuners name, if someone has been taking care of their piano they should know his name immediately, if they hesitate or don’t remember that is a good reason to walk away or hire an expert!

Price:  Free pianos are never free!

Before you take on a free piano have it checked very carefully, consider that it has probably been sitting there for years and has been neglected , not tuned adjusted etc, ( you are doing the beginner a favor starting them out on a poor piano).

Consider the cost:

You will have to move the piano, unless you are doing it yourself  this can be hundreds of dollars depending on stairs, distance ,and difficulty.  most  used pianos i see from Craig’ s list and for free  usually need more than one tuning and adjustments this adds up to hundreds of dollars too. Then factor in No warranty. When you add it all up especially in the case of a beginner piano you would have been better off buying from a reputable source.  There are many professional restorers and dealers out there who would be able to sell you a good upright with all of this work and a warranty for under $ 1,000.00


There is much to be said about the quality of the older hand built American builds.  Better select hardwoods, slow grown  cold climate solid Sitka spruce soundboards, rare veneers and better overall parts that were allowed to dry naturally. Today everything is kiln dried and has a tendency to warp and shrink,  especially the action parts. Many of today’s pianos ( just about all) are made with particle board then cardboard on top of that followed by a thin layer of wood veneer.  This is process is used very frequently on upright pianos, just about every brand i can name.


Posted in Tips for buying a used piano-diyUncategorized

American Piano Conservation

If you really want to be a  piano conservationist and truly re-cycle… Then help our environment, rebuild, restore or purchase an older American piano. They can be re-cycled to be like new. Think of how much waste is going into the landfill.  You will be helping the rain forests and tress. It takes a lot of wood, many trees,  metal,  Ivory,  plastic and hardware to build one of these instruments. You think plastic bottles take a lot of room? Ever see how big a seven foot concert grand is?  Take a guess at how many trees and precious resources it took to build it and how much landfill space it takes!

Some of the woods, maple, rock maple,  beech,  oak,  cherry,  solid spruce to name a few. The list of Rare veneers is too long. (many of them  extinct or extremely expensive).

Other materials:

  • Plate bolts,  screws many of them solid brass and chrome
  • Solid brass for the top hinges and big hinge, pedals and rods
  • Felts for the hammers, dampers, key bushings , damper bushings and finish trim
  • Wood that the keys are made of
  • Ivory that an Elephant died for! will be discarded.

There are about 12,000 parts in a piano! New pianos of today will take more trees of inferior quality (fast grown), and more metal etc. Now with plastic finishes, once crack they cannot be restored again. They will not be the heirloom quality pianos of yesteryear, nor will they last anywhere near as long

Posted in Tips for buying a used piano-diyUncategorized

Restoring flood damaged pianos

flood damage moving 1 Hoisting off a moutain in Boulder Colorado




Down to the  bare bones, 1895 Steinway drying out waiting for new sound board

fallboardwet sanding after decal application and clear coat, this process will be repeated 5-7 times before finsih texture is achieved

repaired board with finish coat, looks like new!DSCN0154

(Above) soundboard repairs and shimming


What to do if your piano has suffered water damage.

  • Get the piano to a qualified piano flood restorations specialist (even if he is out of state, experience is crucial)  moving out of state is very easy and low cost today. . The piano has to be stored slow dry to be assessed. the major damages will be apparent after a month or so, other items may show up later, up to a year.We know what can happen and anticipate this when we estimate for damages.
  •  Experience  in the business of buying and selling also factors in when estimating and appraising the damage.  (not all piano tuners are qualified in the art of restoration and pricing).
  • Do not use the insurance company’s representative!  The insurance company will pay for your professionals estimate service . (this is usually is around $125-150 for a written estimate) which is required by the insurance companies.
  • Once the damage has been assessed, the decisions about whether to restore or total your piano can be made.  Again i repeat use your own piano expert, it is crucial that they know values. Often times the values are wrong and you will not get  fair compensation.
  • In cases of flood damage many pianos can be restored if the water level has not split the body rim on a grand or baby grand, and only if the layers have not separated on the body. The soundboard and other components can be replaced.) , i do recommend replacement of all the parts including all action components key tops , key bushings,  hammers hammer shanks, wippens and screws.
  • It is very important to have the piano dry out for several months before doing any major restoration.  we can get the insurance to pay for a rental and storage during this period.
  • I cannot stress how important it is to have the right person look at your piano and represent you. There are many pianos that are worth saving  especially the higher end Pianos such as Steinway,Bosendorfer, Mason & Hamlin, Bluhtner, Grotrian Steinweg, Baldwin, Yamaha, etc.
  • If your piano cannot be repaired or restored,  it is still important that you get an expert involved.  Although many piano companies are no longer in business, it doesn’t  mean that  your piano is less valuable.
  •  Claims must consider replacement with one of like quality, the same type of woods,  construction, finish and overall quality. Since many of the newer pianos do not match those standards the price must be compared to the higher end,  higher priced pianos of today  and valued accordingly.

Steve Oliver Pianos performs all types of  piano services,  we specialize in flood damaged pianos , With five generations of experience, we have done hundreds over the years, more recently pianos from New Orleans and Hurricane Sandy. Re-building  restoration and and piano refinishing are our specialties.  From the first contact and piano moving until completion we are there every step of the way. We will move your piano from anywhere in the united states at a very reasonable cost.

We promise you prompt,  on time,  professional services with a smile, services that encompass over 100 years of family experience. We will restore your piano to it’s original splendor and treat your family heirloom like it is our own .

Please  feel free to ask for me  personally , i am never to busy to speak to anyone.  steve@steveoliverpianos.com  914-403-4445


Steve Oliver


Posted in Flood damaged pianos, Piano Rebuilding, Piano refinishing, piano tuning, restore & Refinish Tagged with: , ,

When I find one this damaged…

Every now and then I run into something like this, while it’s a little heartbreaking I also appreciate seeing a piano “in the wild”,Lol

Posted in Tips for buying a used piano-diyUncategorized