Last, the piano must visit the Action/Assembly department. Once the cast-iron plate is repositioned and the case parts reassembled, the first task is to restring the piano. Restringing is a process where detailed work is appreciated, especially by the technicians who will tune this piano over the next several decades. A neat and organized drilling of the pinblock, installation of the tuning pins at the proper angle, and careful coiling of the piano wire on the tuning pins will result in more predictable movement of the pins and strings while enhancing the instrument's appearance. Additionally, tuning of the duplex system will give the instrument an audible sparkle.
There are 5,000 moving parts in a piano action, made of wood, leather, wool felt, cloth, and buckskin, and all the degradable materials need to be replaced in order for the instrument to offer the pianist the greatest opportunity for musical expression. Curt Brown and Joseph Cossolini head up this department, bringing to their task decades of experience in restoring pianos. They inspect all work done to this point, and install and adjust all action parts. The hammers and shanks, damper felts, backchecks, key bushings, key end felts, and key frame felts are replaced, damper underlever systems are reconditioned or replaced, and the movement and timing of all action parts are coordinated through a series of hundreds of adjustments called action regulating. The evolution of the piano over the last 150 years has resulted in many different possibilities for action geometry, so parts from suppliers such as Steinway, Renner, and Wessell, Nickel & Gross are carefully chosen to authentically re-create the action geometry engineered by the original manufacturer. However, understanding these geometric relationships also allows improvements to be made when needed to lighten the action, or in other ways to create a better playing experience for the pianist.
The last step of the restoration process is one that at Cunningham we call "concertization": turning the piano into a fine, performance-ready instrument. First, the piano is played in by machine for a full day to settle the cloth and felt parts. Then, every part of the instrument is re-examined. It is fine-tuned several more times, the hammers are voiced, and the action is given additional regulating as needed. Last, the piano is given a final quality inspection in the form of extensive playing by one or more of the accomplished pianists on the Cunningham staff.
When the restoration is completed, the piano will have the tuning stability, tonal projection, feel, response, and visual beauty of a new instrument. The owner or purchaser will, in addition, have the satisfaction of knowing that the original manufacturer's intentions have been honored, that our world's natural resources have been minimally tapped into to restore rather than to create anew, and that the cost of the restored instrument is but a fraction of that of a new premium piano. Cunningham has been the source of restored premium grand pianos for several piano dealers and major universities in the United States, as well as for clients in Munich, Panama City, Beijing, Tokyo, Milan, Seoul, and Rio de Janeiro, among other international locations.