Steve Vanderwood

Serving Whidbey Island from Clinton to Deception Pass
...and beyond if forced to.
About Steve Vanderwood
   I have been tuning and rebuilding pianos since 1979.  In the past I've refinished over 700 pianos.  After many years of refinishing, the fumes and chemicals started to have an effect on my health so I was forced to give up that portion of the piano business.  Now I tune, regulate, repair, and move pianos.  
  I learned piano technology from working in piano stores and shops.  The first was Lewis Tartar's Piano Emporium in Laguna Beach, California.  Lewis learned the piano technician trade from his father who was a highly skilled tuner/technician.  The Piano Emporium was a piano store which sold rebuilt uprights and grands.  Lewis would buy older pianos for an inexpensive price and bring them to the shop in the back of the store to be rebuilt.  The pianos were disassembled.  The action removed to a workbench to be repaired.   The strings were measured with a micrometer and removed.  The cast iron plate would be unbolted and lifted out to be cleaned, primered, and lacquered in gold.  The body was taken apart, stripped of its finish, then refinished.   All the hardware was buffed.  After the repair, restringing, and refinishing,  the action would be reinstalled and regulated.    
   Lewis showed me his method of tuning.  He'd demonstrate how to tune a temperament by listening for the appropriate number of beats between thirds, fourths, and fifths.  Then he'd tune the octaves beatless while testing with fourths and fifths.  This was all by ear.  No electronic tuning device was used in the store.  Lewis used a "C" tuning fork as the first note of the temperament.  Later I moved to Kirkland and worked at a piano establishment for Grant Davis. I learned Grant's method of tuning the temperament starting with the "A440" tuning fork, which I prefer.  Grant was 75 when I met him and had been a technician for 50 years. Now I use an electronic tuning aid to get that first "A440."  It is much easier for me than using a tuning fork because I only need two hands--one hand to strike the key and one hand to hold the tuning lever instead of one hand to strike the key, one hand on the tuning lever(hammer), and one hand to hold the tuning fork.  Even when using an electronic tuning aid, a technician needs to listen to the beats between notes.  The beats between notes being correct is the difference between music and noise.  Grant also showed me how to regulate an upright piano action so it would mimic the quick repitition lever response of a grand piano action.  A technique he developed.  
   In 1992, I moved to Whidbey Island where I have been since.