118_KI_Mahagoni_Vavona_gross

Brand new Ronisch piano

Taking apart high quality pianos fascinates me.  This last month i had the opportunity to work on a German Rönisch piano.  Rönisch still exists today and has a long heritage of high quality piano manufacturing.  Established in Germany in 1845, their website and info can be found here: Rönisch

So after 119 years, the keys on this older Rönisch were feeling warbly… yes that is a technical term… combining… wobbly… and… warble… hahaaa.  Anywhooo… what i found interesting was that the key bushings were made from EXTREMELY thin leather.  In fact, when i approached my piano technician friend to find out if he had any such leather he said that he only had one 4″ strip that was about 18″ long… should be enough for key bushings i thought.

Replacing key bushings on the under side of the keys.

Replacing key bushings on the under side of the keys.

I began cutting strips of leather to replace the old bushings and i thought to myself… why don’t we use extremely thin material today? I mean… the thicker the bushing cloth, the more it’s going to wear down into cloth ‘ruts’ where the steel guide pins rub against them constantly.  And so i thought about the purpose of bushing cloth (or leather).  It accomplishes 2 purposes – one is to cut down the noise of 2 hard materials.  Wooden keys with a steel guide pin will knock against each other.  The second purpose is to softly yet gently hold the key in place and take up excess slack space between the wood and steel.  My question though is… why not have extremely THIN key bushings? I mean… maybe Rönisch was on to something way back then.  Because if you make a space only large enough to have this thin bushing cloth or leather, the two firm substances will still glide perfectly without excess material getting in the way.  Hmmmm… this is hard to articulate.  I guess i’ve seen SOOOO many pianos where they have sub-standard thick bushing cloth, it really made me think why it needs to be that way.  My guess is that it’s just easier to implement.  Even finding this leather was a bit of a challenge.  BUT… proof is in the pudding – when i finished the key bushings, i had almost NO adjustments to make.  That makes me smile.  Lean key bushings make for less chance of something going sideways… literally. lol… Anyway… i just found it interesting that a piano designed 120 years ago may have had better engineering than what we have today.