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64. Piano Wire- Replacement of a Broken One

We offer all sizes of piano, harpsichord, and zither wire.
Bass strings also for all pianos.
Universal strings are available for all pianos.

Please read the section titled, Broken Wire Emergency earlier in this chapter. It is very important that you understand how the wires make a trip down to the bottom of the harp and back.

Wire with no wound wire on it:  

Your broken wire involves two tuning pins, and it may affect two notes. Be sure you understand the principle. Once you have identified which pins the wire is connected to, loosen both tuning pins in steps, alternating back and forth between the two pins, about a total of four whole turns.

Next, with a small flat bit screw driver, remove the windings on the tuning pin. One winding is left without being connected if the wire broke at the top. The other will have to be removed by prying the end of the winding out of the hole in the tuning pin and lifting the winding off of the tuning pin.  Leave the tuning pin without turning it back in, and, for the pin that did not need to be turned out, go ahead and turn it out about four turns after you clear the broken winding off of it. 

To get the wire out of the piano you may have to cut some red of green cloth strips wound through the wires below the lower bridge or above the bearing point at the top. Cut the cloth, and fish the wire out of the piano. In grands this is very easy. In uprights, see Chapter Five, and dismantle the piano to the point where you have taken the action out.

Now, measure the length of the wire. This is done by bending the wire straight where it went around the anchor pin at the bottom of the harp. If it broke at the anchor pin, measure both pieces and add them together. After you measure its total length, add six inches for the windings at the ends of the wire where it attaches to the tuning pins.

Turn to the Mini Catalogue to the section on ordering wire. Remember to cut a piece of the wire off to mail to me so that I can match the diameter of the wire exactly.

Single wire with winding:

If you purchased a universal all-purpose wound wire from me or your tuner, you MUST read about how to get it ready in the next section BEFORE starting this procedure.  Trust me, it is so :-)

The bass section has single wire with more wire wound onto it to slow it down. This gives the wire the low sound. Some old pianos have iron wound onto the core wire. More recent wire all has copper.

Unwind the tuning pin four whole turns, and remove the winding that broke off. Sometimes the wire breaks at the lower end. In this case, remove the winding at the top end as instructed above, and fish the wire out of the piano.

Wind the wire up in a circle, and mail it to me. I need the broken wire so that I can match it exactly. See the Mini Catalogue for the section on ordering wire.

Be sure the piano is dismantled, as in Chapter Five, to the point where the action is out of the piano.  To install the new bass wire, attach the loop to the anchor pin.  Next, force the wire around the pins on the lower bridge just like the ones next to it.  Now, fish the wire up through the piano.  Fish it over the bridge and under the pressure bar as in the Illustration.  Make sure the pin is turned out about four turns from where you found it at the time the wire broke.  Also, try to line the hole up vertically to receive the wire as you fish it up.  Use your tuning lever to arrange the pin correctly.  

Fish the top end of the wire through the hole in the pin, and draw it all the way through.  You will have to let the wire bow around below the top where you are working until you can pull it through the hole in the pin.  Use your needle nosed pliers for this.  You will have to use a small screw driver to help the wire through the pin area if it is not easily fished through.  Forget about the "L" as in the instructions below.

How long is the excess wire beyond the hole in the tuning pin?  Cut it off leaving two inches excess wire sticking out above the pin.  This will form your new winding.  Pull the wire back so that the end of it is just showing out the top side of the hole.  Make sure the loop is secure on the anchor pin at the bottom, and call a friend if you can to help keep the lower end right.  Take one more look at the wire.  Is it wrapped around the wire next to it?  Yes?  Well, that will make a very strange noise. Reverse the process, get the wire parallel and in its right place, and start over.  

Now, start tightening the pin with your tuning lever.  Make sure the winding is tight by using a screw driver to pry it up tight as the pin turns.  See the Illustration to see how the winding should look.

Universal wound wires:

Universal wires are a real blessing.  You simply measure the diameter of the wire, including the copper winding, then you order a wire that size.  The wire is extruded so that it has six sides, and the windings won't unravel it you remove some of the copper winding.  The only trick is, the wire is made long enough to use in a concert grand.  That means it would go into your spinet with about three feet of excess.  So you must make the adjustment to the design of the wire.

Note:  The lowest bass wires on any piano are double wrapped with copper. You can tell if your broken wire is double wrapped by checking at the end of the copper winding.  If it has a taper to it, it is double wrapped, and you must order an exact replacement.  There is no "universal" wire for double wrapped bass wires.Check out the catalogue for prices, and you MUST send the old wire with your order.

Lay the old wire next to the new universal wire.  Note that the copper winding at the lower end, near the loop, goes too far down toward the loop.  Use your diagonal cutters, VERY GENTLY, to cut just through the copper wire at the point where your old wire winding starts.  DO NOT squeeze hard enough to even score the steel wire.  

Now, work up a bit of the end of the winding there at the loop end, and start unwinding it.  When you come to your cut through the copper, gently work it if necessary to break clear off.  

Now, lay the wire back down on a table, old wire next to the new.  At the top end of the wire you will have a great excess of wire.  Again, with your diagonal cutters, cut gently through the copper winding on the new wire.  This must be right at the point where the winding starts on your old wire.   If you are going to err anywhere in this whole process, you can cut off a little too much, but not too little.  Read that again please.  

Again, unwind the excess at the top.  As you wind the wire, pull on the copper  with one hand while you roll it in the other hand to see if you can spin it faster than cranking it off.  If you can do this, be sure the end of the steel wire is well over your head.  It IS dangerous stuff.  You will have a wad of copper wire now which you must put in a drawer for some unknown purpose, right?  Archeologists will find it in the future and put it in the Chicago Museum under "ear ring from the 20th Century."  Also, you might try rubbing your copper bottomed pot with it.  It might shine it quite nicely.

Now, the wire is still far too long.  You can put it in this way, which is the safest thing to do.  The only thing is, you will have quite a time fishing all the steel wire through the tuning pin.  If you are brave, you can measure the distance from the bottom pin that holds the loop to the tuning pin.  Add 3 inches, and cut it off there.  Make a mistake here, and the wire in trash.  If you decide to leave the wire full length and cut it after installing it, CAUTION PLEASE--  That end flying around as you install it could cut you or injure your eyes real bad.  Life's full of tough choices, isn't it?

Now go back up to the section just previous to this one, and install your wire.

Installing the new plain wire:

This is a bit tricky, but patience will be rewarded. The following is for three wire notes only.  First hold both ends of the wire together and make a bend in the middle. Offset the ends of the wire about two inches before you bend the wire in the middle.  This allows for the tuning pins being at different distances from the anchor pin.  Do not kink it sharply, but use a screw driver shank to bend it around so that you get a rounded bend to go around the anchor pin.

If you have an upright, dismantle the piano, if you haven't done so as yet, up to the point where the action is out of the piano. See Chapter Five for this procedure. This is so that you can fish the wire down through the piano and see what you are doing.

Hook the wire over the anchor pin at the bottom of the piano, and then push the wire over the bridge pins. Note the zig zag arrangement of the wire over the bridge. This is very important if you are going to get all of the sound from the notes when they are played later. See the illustration.

The hardest part of this task is to fish the wire up behind the bass wires.  You will just have to patiently work at it.  After you get the wire up to the top, you will have to check very carefully to make sure the wires are not crossed.  Also, be sure one wire is not in and out of the bass wire area.

Now, you need to keep one hand holding tension on the wire to keep it on the lower anchor pin. It will try to come off if you let go. Note the Illustration.  With the other hand start fishing the ends of the wire over the bearing point "B", BUT under the pressure bar at the top "A". Use the other wire nearby as your guide. If you are in the neighborhood of a pressure bar screw "E", be sure you pick the side of the screw for the wire that is the most direct route so that the wire will not later ride on the screw. Space the wires evenly on the bearing point"B", like the notes nearby.

Make sure, with your tuning lever, that both of the pins you are working with have their holes in a straight line with the direction the wire is coming up to them. This is so that you can find the holes and slide the wires right through them.  You will need your needle nosed pliers to do this.  Pull the wires through the tuning pin holes, and let them stick up beyond the tuning pins.  Be sure the wire bend down at the lower bridge  and anchor pin is in place.  If the ends of the wires are sticking up more than two inches beyond the tuning pins, after you fish them through the holes, cut them back to that length.

AFTER you have fished the wires through the holes with one hand (you are holding the wires tight with the other hand), using your needle nosed pliers in your third hand, make a one eight inch "L" in the end of each wire. This will keep the wire from slipping back out on you as you tighten it.  Try to figure out how to make the "L" so that it turns to the side, not up at you or down the pin.

Since you don't have a third hand, you might call for help, and ask someone to hold the wires tight on the lower bridge pins and anchor pin as you do the work at the top.  

Now, pull the wires at the top backward so that the "L" is against the tuning pin. This will leave excess wire, and this will give you excess for the winding when you are done. Do you want to know the name for the winding on the tuning pin? It is a "Becket." Feel better now? Good.

Start tightening the two pins alternating back and forth. As you tighten, use a small screw driver or other tool to force the windings up tight. This is not only for neatness-- it is important. The illustration shows the right and wrong way to do this.

As you get tighter, pluck the wire, both parts of it, to hear as it approaches the pitch of the wires next to it in each key involved. Do not go above the pitch of the note in which each new wire is.


Do NOT hold the wire with one hand as you get to the point where the wire approaches the pitch where it belongs. If you are holding the wire, and if you happen to get a defective piece of wire, it can break and cut your hand like a sharp knife. When you pluck the wire to test it, use a guitar pick of a small screw driver.

Go to the section earlier in this chapter called, Tuning- Do it Yourself--Tuning, Touching up Twangs. Match the new wire to those near it in the key for that wire.

On to task 65.