By Hannah Beckett, RPT
Accumulating tools as a new technician can be overwhelming. It adds up quickly, and there are many options and many suppliers to choose from. When I was starting out as a technician, I didn't have a lot of guidance in my tools acquisition quest and ended up wasting money on cheap tools that were ineffective, or wasted budgeted money on tools that I wouldn't need until further down the road. This article is geared toward the student who is making their first big shopping list. Believing strongly that it is important to have the right tool for the job, the Barebones List is for those who want to make a one-time purchase of regulation tools and want the minimal amount to get the job done well. The Luxury List is an addition to the Barebones List and is designed for those who have a little more cash flow and want to improve their processes.
Barebones Regulation Tool List
This should be your everyday combination handle set. You'll also be using many of the other attachments for jobs outside of regulation.
Available: Schaff, combination handle (#26), Phillips head (#34), flathead (#3115), offset key spacer (#464), handy hammer (#36), key balance hole easer (#43), flange spacer (not pictured, #65).
Price: Worth it.
This is an expensive one, but the double-end makes it extremely versatile.
Available: Pianotek, product # LFT-4
There are many capstan tools to choose from. This is my favorite because of the handle and length. It is comfortable and easy to manipulate for fine adjustments.
Available: Schaff, product #88
You will also, unfortunately, need the squared capstan adjuster. Square capstans are mostly in older grand pianos, but they are still out there.
Available: Schaff, product #86
Key Leveling Stick
It could be argued that this belongs on the luxury tool list, however, I wish I had coughed up the change for this tool right at the beginning of my time as a technician. It is extremely helpful to have a full picture of key height from bottom to top, and this is a lifetime tool from WN&G.
Another more affordable option is the two-octave-long aluminum straight edge available from Pianotek. It is useful for many other tasks as well.
Available: Pianotek product # D-26
These are sold as a set on Pianotek. It is very important to organize them correctly in your tool box BEFORE they get jumbled together.
Available: Pianotek, product # A-40
Absolutely necessary for reaching black key front rail punchings.
Available: Schaff, product #3212
This gives you the ability to measure letoff, blow, and checking with the action inside the piano.
Available: Schaff, product #R-29
I like this drop screwdriver because of the ergonomic wooden handle. The length of the tool allows you to rest your arm on the action for quick adjustment. It also can be used for jack and button regulation. This fits spade heads only. I use a very small screwdriver for the slotted heads of drop screws.
Available: Pianotek, product # JDS-2
Other technicians prefer the double-ended drop screwdriver from Pianotek that fits both slotted and spade head drop screws.
Available: Pianotek product JDD-3
This is a tool useful in many areas of our work. Keep it on hand when regulating as a very accurate key dip measuring device. Learn how to use it here.
Available: Most hardware stores and online
Key Easing Pliers
These will get you by for a while, but you will eventually become frustrated with having to remove the stack from a grand action for small adjustments. See the luxury list for the time-saving (but more expensive) option.
Available: Schaff, product #214
Hart spring tool
Available: Pianotek, product HST
Jack Alignment Tool
A handy tool for all action types. Learn how to use it here.
Available: Schaff, product #R-28
Wire Bending Pliers
These are essential for damper bending and backcheck alignment.
Available: Schaff, product #244
Luxury Tool Set
Grand Key Lifter
If you don't have fingers small enough to lift three grand keys high enough to slip a punching under the black key - this will be your new best friend.
Available: Performance Pianos
This fabulous tool has a 400-gram weight that provides a consistent measurement of key dip on every key. Learn how to use it here.
Works on Steinways and other pianos with letoff eye-screws. The ratchet cuts down on time and movement. Recommended if you work on a lot of Steinways.
Available: Amazon (Craftsman 41469)
Grand Key Easing Pliers
These allow you to ease a grand key without removing the action. Saves tons of time!
Available: Schaff, product #3120
Spurlock Damper Underlever Jig
The rigid design of this tool is perfect for reinstalling dampers evenly in their underlevers. Adjustable, precise, and light-weight, this tool is a must-have for frequent full damper regulating.
Available: Pianotek, product #SST-107