Founded in Brooklyn, New York in 2002, Big Wrench Piano Care is a small, craft-oriented piano sales, tuning and repair service catering to the needs of piano owners and musicians on every scale. At its core is Brian Whiton, Registered Piano Technician (RPT). Brian got his start in Minnesota at the Steinway & Sons retail giant, Schmitt Music. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2001, he has worked with several of the finest piano rebuilders and tuners in New York City. A short list includes the rebuilding outfit AC Pianocraft; Steve Drasche, Daniel Levitan RPT, and the late Gene Manfrini; and soundboard guru and old world master craftsman, Marco DeLellis, RPT.
In addition to selling and refurbishing pianos, he also focuses on piano action rebuilding, most notably the high-end balancing and calibration work pioneered by David Stanwood, RPT. Many aspects of the trade and services available can be seen and heard in a visit to the Boerum Hill, Brooklyn showroom and workshop at 177 Smith Street.
Pianos have been at the center of Brian's life for years. When not tuning or rebuilding, Brian is likely studying, researching, or experimenting to find a better way to accomplish an improved result. When not working, he is sitting down at his 1927 Steinway 'M' grand, plunking out Ragtime, Harlem Stride, or original interpretations of the classic American songbook. "Like all successful tuner-technicians, I have a deep love for the instrument," Brian says. "I realize I'm fortunate to make a living in an interesting and challenging field. I enjoy all aspects of this trade. A unique satisfaction derives from basic tasks, like a crisp tuning or small repair, to larger endeavors such as the giving of new life to a once ailing piano. I strive to remain rooted to the circular process of playing an instrument, improving upon it, learning from the experience, and restarting the cycle."
Why the name Big Wrench? "People seem to enjoy the name, and pianos are big and can require large tools to maintain them. But it really relates to my late grandfather, who managed his own business as a skilled tradesman and plumber. In my youth, he taught me a great deal of knowledge as well as practical hand and tool skills as I worked with him on various construction projects. He was a master craftsman who never settled for anything but the best. One image I'll never forget is that of a giant six-foot pipe wrench adorning the wall of his shop. I was always riveted by it - a wrench as big as a person! It is a powerful memory that connects my grandfather and his knowledge to my craft."