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#1241490 - 08/01/09 12:06 PM A picture is worth a thousand words
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
This past week I was called to look at an old Bell upright that was being given away to the customer who was going to move the piano themselves. They wanted to know how much work was needed to get it properly working and general condition.
When I arrived the piano was sitting in front of the garage it was removed from (ready for pick up that day) and I checked it out and called the customer to let them know my estimate for repairs and its general condition. I took several photos of some problem areas like missing/chipped ivories and some problems with the action (3 broken hammers shanks and some missing bridle straps) Other than these, the piano was in good shape for its age.
I had noticed that it looked like it might rain and I had suggested to them to just roll it back inside the garage until pick up and they said they would.
Several days later after the piano was moved I went to pick up the action and was horrified at what I found. The whole center section of the action looked like it was dunked in water. All the felts and leather had popped off, the hammer felts separated behind the staples and the keys below were stained dark from water damage. The people who gave the piano away insisted they put it back in the garage before the rain and it must have been like that when I looked at it. The customer was caught in the middle when I insisted that this damage must have occurred after I had looked at it.
I produced the camera and showed them the photos I took and the issue was immediately resolved.
These people "were" good friends with each other and I could not believe how the finger pointing could occur in a situation like this but I am really glad I took the pictures that covered my end of things. It turns out that they covered it with a tarp, and when they removed it, the water on the tarp dumped inside it somehow.
Anyone else use camera as part of the job?
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#1241492 - 08/01/09 12:10 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: Emmery]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Great idea Emmery and great story!

I don't use my camera often enough but this gives me some incentive to use it more often. Covering our own butts is as important as well as another prospective buyer.
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan

We love to play BF2.

#1241502 - 08/01/09 12:25 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: Emmery]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4263
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Any appraisal for insurance, re-sale or my own whole sale purchase, I ALWAYS take a series of photos so that there is no argument. Especially estate sales, usually the instrument has been idle for a while……

For example check this one out. This person wanted to sell this instrument as “in good condition” and one of my customers found the ad on-line. This is going back a year or so now………

Take a look here…………


This instrument now has no financial value.
Dan Silverwood
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

#1241504 - 08/01/09 12:31 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1117
Loc: PA
This is a great idea. I've recently purchased a camera myself to take on the job. I still have to figure out how to use the thing though.

I hate to look at the risks and be a downer, but I would always get explicit permission to use it, and in some cases, to even have it on my person...

For instance, when tuning in an elementary school (for obvious reasons). Or, for some institutions, even if you are in a public area (9-11).

Or, even in a private home.

Edited by daniokeeper (08/01/09 01:04 PM)
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair

#1241596 - 08/01/09 02:22 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: daniokeeper]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
Actually, the funny thing is, I didn't take the pictures with covering my butt in mind. I was going to email the photos to the customer with areas of needed repair marked out to save on an extra trip out to their home to explain things.

I will often take pictures of the soundboard /rib/bridge conditions on older pianos that have sat for a long time and need a large pitch raise or some rib re-gluing. If there is separation on the rib I will insert some paper or an artists palette knife blade between and take a photo. Sometimes the piano won;t buzz before the pitch raise and after the buzzing starts here and there with the new added tension. This way the customer is assured it was a pre-existing condition as a cause, especially if the risks are explained before you start.

One issue that comes up in legal situations is the authentication or verification of a photo time stamp. Presently I believe Congress is deciding on what will be accepted as a tamper proof system since digital cameras capture most of this information as EXIF data but you lose it after print. There are programs that will expose this data but it is still not tamperproof because the camera can be preset with different date and time prior to the shot.
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

#1241610 - 08/01/09 02:33 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: daniokeeper]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
Joe, you are right on...and Emmery, you make some very interesting points...thanks!

I'm always circumspect when taking pics inside somebody's home...and get their permission. This way, they don't happen upon me photographing their heirloom or valuable instrument and wonder why...I keep records of insurance appraisals and any pianos we're looking at picking up for eventual re-sale (rare).


Edited by RPD (08/01/09 02:35 PM)
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

#1241810 - 08/01/09 09:45 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: RPD]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1117
Loc: PA

I assumed that the experienced techs would be careful.

But, someone new might not realize the potential problems.
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair

#1241833 - 08/01/09 10:23 PM Re: A picture is worth a thousand words [Re: daniokeeper]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2668
Loc: Olympia, WA
Great story, Emmery! There's nothing like some solid evidence to make your case.

So sad about the Bell! Those can be awesome pianos!! frown

Originally Posted By: Ernest Hemmingway
"To make war all you need is intelligence. But to win you need talent and material."
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ch. 9.
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA


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