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). Beginning in the Twin Cities of Minnesota at Steinway & Sons retail giant Schmitt Music and moving to Brooklyn in 2001, Brian has worked with several of the finest piano rebuilders and tuners in New York City. Early influences include established tuner/technicians Steve Drasche and the late Gene Manfrini; experience in the local Piano Technician's Guild has led to association with esteemed technicians Daniel Levitan RPT, and Mike Miccio RPT, and soundboard guru and old world master craftsman, Marco DeLellis. In late 2011, Big Wrench opened a piano sales showroom and repair/rebuilding shop on the popular Smith Street in Brooklyn, and has since relocated to a bigger facility on the corner of Hoyt and Degraw Streets. Other tuner/technicians currently helping out at Big Wrench Piano Care are Steve Okonski, Isaac Namias, Scott Murphy RPT and Nicholas Meara-Bainbridge. Steve and Brian also work together with the sales and service of vintage electric pianos, mainly models produced by Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer.
In addition to our showroom of fully rebuilt and refurbished pianos, we focus on piano action rebuilding, most notably the high-end balancing and calibration work pioneered by David Stanwood, RPT. We are currently the only licensed business within New York City that performs the patented balancing work known as a Precision TouchDesign™, which pairs the weight of each piano hammer to the weight of the key, calibrating each note similar to a balance scale. Other services include professional in-home tuning, cleaning, repairs large and small, action regulation, appraisals and evaluations for potential buyers and sellers, full or partial rebuilding including soundboard and pin block repair or replacement, re-stringing and refinishing. Many aspects of the trade and services available can be seen and heard in a visit to the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus, Brooklyn showroom and workshop at 264 Hoyt Street.
Our shop is a musical haven and we have the utmost respect for all genres of music. A visit to our showroom will often find professional musicians playing pianos and guitars, or talented amateurs and students stopping in to try a rebuilt Steinway grand piano or smaller refurbished upright. We have filmed and recorded many local musicians, producing several small videos of their work called Big Wrench Sessions, and our work on vintage electric pianos is showcased in our live Acoustic Electric Series. Back in the shop, we are constantly studying, researching, or experimenting to find a better way to accomplish an improved result. Our goal is best summed up in Brian's quote: "Like all successful tuner-technicians, I have a deep love for the instrument. I realize I'm fortunate to make a living in an interesting and challenging field and don't want to take it for granted. 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." Hence Big Wrench Piano Care and the roots of service in a trade, from the midwestern small town of Freeport, Illinois in the mid 20th century to New York City today.
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