Restorer Makes Pianos Grand Again

Restorer makes Pianos Grand Again
by Rhonda Clark
Tulsa World Staff Writer

Piano Craft, a piano restoration business owned by Kim Jacobs specializes in refinishing and restoration of everything from spinet to upright and grand pianos.

“What I like most is taking an old piano that was once really, really beautiful and over the period of time it got kind of old looking — the finish kind of got bad on them — and bring them back to their original glory.” Jacobs said. “Then you can stand back to look at them and say, ‘Wow.’ It’s not that I make them look good, I just make them able to look good again.”

Jacobs has had some unique pieces to work on, including a 1963 Steinway square grand piano owned by Bill and Sherri Griggs of Tulsa. Sherri Griggs said serial number records traced the piano back to its original owner, a lawyer in Lancaster, Penn. She said the piano’s legs had cracks and that Jacobs did a “gorgeous” job restoring the piece.

“It was totally restored,” she said. “It looked like it rolled out of the Steinway factory after it was finished. It is my pride and joy.”

Restoration includes things like refinishing the wood, buffing the brass, placing new decals, cleaning and reattaching parts on the inside, and replacing keys. Jacobs orders many parts from a supplier in Chicago or makes the parts himself.

Piano resetoration may be the easy part of the job for Jacobs. When moving the heavy instruments, things can become challenging. He enlists the help of his brother, Miles Jacobs, and friend Dave Reddick, for major moves.

“The most difficult thing we did was we had to put a piano in a crate and put it on top of an elevator because it was too big to go in anywhere,” Jacobs said. “We lowered the elevator down where we could get it on the roof of the elevator. That was pretty tricky.”

Kenneth Schell owned ABC Music until it closed in August 2005. Schell has been in the piano business for 40 years and contracted Jacobs’ services to move pianos and do some refinishing work.

“He knows more about moving pianos than anyone else,” Schell said. “He could handle a 9-foot concert grand like it was a dish pan.”

Schell remembered the time Jacobs delivered a 9-foot grand piano to be used for an event.

“He had to pick the piano up about 6 1/2 feet and shove it in a little hole and put it on the stage,” Schell said. “The he had to pick it up and brought it back without a scratch on it.”

Jacobs, a native of Columbus, Kan., came to Tulsa in 1971. In 1981, he approached A.J. Shields for a job with Shields Music.

“I was a guitar player,” Jacobs said. “I had been hounding them about a year or two to put me to work there because I wanted to sell guitars and thought that would be a fun job. Finally, they hired me, but they didn’t tell me that one of my jobs at the time would be to help Mr. Shields to deliver the new pianos and move pianos, and I thought, well OK, I’ll do that, too, if I have to.

Jacobs said Shields taught him the finder points of piano moving and how to work on pianos.

Jacobs later wanted to learn more about piano repair and restoration and went to work for the former Rogers Piano Company.

“(Rogers) did everything” Jacobs said. “They did rebuilding and total restoration.”

Jacobs returned to Shields Music until it closed in 1997. He decided to open Piano Craft and has been doing restoration and moving ever since. Jacobs likens his business to more of a body shop than a mechanic’s shop.

The most unusual request was from a client who wanted an old-fashioned mahogany upright piano painted fire-engine red.

For this guitar player turned piano expert, the finished product is the best reward.

“Taking an old classic instrument like a piano and making it look great again and play great again is probably the best reward and seeing the look on people’s faces,” Jacobs said.

Tulsa World
May 24th, 2006