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Our Restorations

Ralph Joseph Onesti Piano Restorations
1317 MacDade Boulevard, Woodlyn, PA 19094
Phone or Fax 610.833.1657    email: rebuild@onestipiano.com

What is involved in the rebuilding process?
Is my piano worth the investment?
How do I comfortably determine a source for rebuilding?

Click on item above for details.

As with any decision making process, information gathering can either simplify or complicate your efforts. Each inquiry can result in a new theory, another opinion, and varying viewpoints as to whether or not your instrument is a candidate for rebuilding. Finally, choosing a rebuilder can be equally challenging. Piano restoration is a highly skilled trade, and like any other, is competitive and susceptible to the level chosen by the individual rebuilder. With that understanding, we will offer how and why we've become the rebuilder of choice for so many.

The custom rebuilding of a Steinway, Knabe, Mason & Hamlin, or other high-quality piano, at the hand of a qualified, competent, instrument maker, can be far better than a production-line piano.

Cost effectiveness is also a consideration. Financially speaking, a fine model grand piano is virtually always less costly to have remanufactured by a qualified facility, than to replace it. To determine whether or not your instrument falls into this category you should have it evaluated by a registered, qualified technician.

The following information is organized in a way that will introduce you to the rebuilding process, then provide guidelines and suggestions to aid your search.

Although we do no longer perform restorations, and are focused on the service aspect of our business, we do perform evaluations and can guide you in the process. The following copy describes what we have done and serves as a guide to what should be done by a skilled, competent rebuilder:

  • The bridges are constructed here in our shop and not subcontracted elsewhere. After installation on the soundboard, and after the soundboard has been installed in the piano, they are drilled, hand-cut and notched . This procedure provides the ultimate in downbearing and side bearing control, and is performed in any quality piano house or factory. We never install old bridges on a new soundboard.
  • With respect to the soundboard, it is not designed from measurements or a template, nor is it ordered from a one-size-fits-any supplier. Rather, the finest material is individually ordered and kiln-dried on the premises to the proper moisture content. It is painstakingly hand-fit and scribed to your piano's case, providing the proper woodworking integrity to assure maximum tonal reproduction. We feel this is the only way to properly fit a soundboard.
  • The plate supporting posts, located on either side of the plate bolts, are individually hand-fit, so that the plate is never ‘bent’ into position. This allows for the plate to rest in its natural state and posture, allowing for further reverberation. This makes obvious the fact that the old posts are never reused. Although the manufacturer may have done a superior job on the initial fitting, it is quite normal for cast steel to warp over a number of years.
  • Pinblocks are custom-fit to the plate and machine-drilled at a precise angle for proper torque, resulting in maximum stability and ease of tuning. The drill bits we use are specially ground for our shop. The materials used are a time-tested lot (one of the reasons we can give a full fifteen-year warranty), adding to the overall stability of the finished product. Finally, the pin block is fastened, not only to the sides, but to the front stretcher as well.
  • Where the action is concerned, we have the ability to accurately replace the original main action rails, whether they are wood, or Steinway-style brass. To tear down an action, finding that these are split, and to proceed to reuse them regardless of condition is commonplace in many rebuilding shops. At Ralph Joseph Onesti Piano Restorations, we not only have replaced these rails, but have done so in a custom fashion, allowing for any corrections we find necessary to the proper function of the action. Oversized action screws, to accommodate for old action rail wear, are never used.

After having built the acoustically ideal instrument, to ‘copy’ the original parts in measurement and angle would be to mistakenly assume, that after many years of playing, they are still at their optimum posture. Therefore, we wait until the instrument has been strung and brought up to pitch in order to custom install the hammers, which are carefully bored and shaped on the premises.

All action parts are replaced. Reproducing a worthy grand piano, as close as possible to the original manufacturer's intent, without the advantages of new and improved action parts, is considered a handicap. A normal action consists of thousands of parts. Each new part is inspected and installed for optimum movement, resulting in greater playing enjoyment.

You are probably aware that warranties are a game of numbers in which the guarantor assumes a risk for a certain period of time. The above procedures have provided Ralph Joseph Onesti Piano Restorations with limited exposure to risk. That is why, in almost four decades, we have had no problem providing a guarantee, which is in some cases, three times the normal warranty provided by the original manufacturer for a new instrument. While you are here, please take a moment to see a a finely restored grand or take a look at work-in-progress in our Gallery.

With regard to sending a piano back to its original manufacturer for restoration, we offer this. Building vs. rebuilding has historically been more successful for the manufacturer. In short, and in our opinion, rebuilders do not ‘build’ well, and builders do not ‘rebuild’ well.

There are times, many times, after evaluating an instrument, that we recommend the customer purchase rather than rebuild. We are happy to accompany that client to a local retailer where they can select a piano suitable to their needs.

Among piano technicians, retailers, rebuilders and manufacturers, cooperation is paramount. It is this cooperation that takes our industry to new levels.

RJOPR is eternally grateful for the truly wonderful designs, and the help and support of quality manufacturers who would rather see their instruments live on through proper rebuilding than to be discarded out of hand. It is a testimony to the integrity, honesty, caring, skill and art of a manufacturer to have one of their own, alive and well after its one hundredth birthday.

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Is it worth it? Good Question! And one that needs a clear answer.

In keeping with our general advise, we suggest that anyone considering rebuilding his or her piano, first and foremost, should be a good consumer. When deciding between one or several proposals, a visit to the individual rebuilder's shop for a first hand look at their work and operations, is not an option. Obtaining the names of a few satisfied clients; preferably to include at least one who is willing to allow you to view their instrument, should come easily.

Our Evaluation Package leaves nothing to the imagination. The history of your instrument is included, with specific information to convey whether or not rebuilding is cost effective. In every instance, we will be honest! We can't help it! (Look up Onesti in the Italian dictionary). There are many fine, older, quality pianos worth rebuilding, and many more whose manufacturer, age and condition may render them a poor candidate. In other words, if you have inherited Great Auntie's piano which holds little monetary value, but in which heirloom value weighs heavily, we will honor your wishes. Every step of your custom restoration is described in detail, as well as a checklist of procedures. The rebuilding contract that accompanies the evaluation is concise, complete and inclusive of all costs.

It is our hope that this information has provided further enlightenment with regard to piano rebuilding. If you would like to set an evaluation appointment, or need further information, please contact us by phone or via email at: rebuild@onestipiano.com.


The following is intended to be of some use in selecting a rebuilding firm for your instrument. 
The text below is general and not specific to any particular company. 
The questions raised and points to look for should be applied to all who are considered 
for your vendor. Please feel free to copy/print and re-use for different vendors.

 1.  How many years has the vendor been in business?  _____
 2.  Has the rebuilder provided the proper references?  Yes  No
 3.  Are  you allowed to visit the shop facility before and during the rebuilding process?
      Yes     No
 4.  Does the rebuilder, with the exception of furniture work, perform all acoustic
      rebuilding tasks on the premises.?  Yes  No
 5.  Is the rebuilder a registered qualified (tested) member of the 
      Piano Technicians Guild? Yes  No
 6.  With regard to the warranty, is it limited or unlimited. If limited, are the limits
      restricted to the norm (wear, abuse, maintenance, and environment) or do the
      restrictions inhibit comfort?  Limited   Unlimited   Restrictions Normal
 7.  Along with the proposed rebuilding, does the contract provide for future protection 
      of the piano?  Yes  No
 8.  What is the length of the warranty?  _______Year(s)
 9.  Is rebuilding the only business of the vendor?  Yes No
10. Who will provide service in the event of a warranty complaint?
11. Does the contract provide for action part break-in where applicable?  Yes  No
12. Are acoustical parts completely remanufactured, or does the rebuilder re-use old,
     worn parts?    New acoustical parts throughout     Re-uses old parts
13. Has the rebuilder been specific with regard to the actual work to be performed?
     Yes  No
14. Is there a checklist of work procedures that the client can follow?  Yes  No
15. Is it permissible for the client to check on the work performed using their own
      technician?  Yes  No
16. Is a manual of maintenance provided for the client's technician, where the rebuilder
     and the technician are not the same person?  Yes  No

Firm:______________________________________ Date:___/___/___  
Phone:(   )____________
Consider:   Yes      No

Visit a real rebuilding shop!

Take advantage of a rare opportunity and invest NOW in an Exquisitely Restored Onesti - Rebuilt Instrument.

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