Repair and restoration
As previously described, it makes a big difference who you entrust your instrument to. Look for references, look how long the workshop has existed. Look which instruments she has already restored, what experience she has and, above all, look how and for whom she has worked so far! Are they only orders for private households or have they been orders in public houses where an expert is also behind the restoration.
As with any other instrument that you love or want to love, the experience of the restorer is important. And also the material that he has available.
A distinction must be made between a repair and a restoration. Of course, a restoration does not exclude a repair or various repairs. However, a restoration means that the historical character, especially the historical flair of the case, should be preserved.
At the moment some "restorers" are springing up. Of course - the harmonium is coming back into fashion! But that doesn't mean that your instrument is in good hands with everyone.
There are "restorers" who simply renew everything that can be renewed. Even the tongues are polished, what a waste of time. Whether this also changes the sound is open....
The bellows are covered with paper of a different color, bad leather is used, the shellac polish is treated incorrectly, modern screws are used, replacement tongues from another manufacturer are used... the list is long of what you can see.
If it has not already been done, a harmonium should be completely cleaned from the inside. A really necessary thing since even the smallest crumb can stop a tongue from swinging. Especially if an instrument has not been played for a long time, you bought it and transported it.
Likewise, all fabrics, valves and bellows leather must be tight. In addition, defective/worn felts around the keyboard and mechanics should be checked and replaced if necessary. These are often worn out or eaten by moths or mice, especially on very old instruments.
The complete wind system must be checked for cracks and wind loss, as less wind not only means that you have to pedal harder - often the harmonium does not sound in full and expression playing is not possible.
Here I could list further steps and tricks that are necessary for a good repair or restoration. But you don't have to reveal everything!
If you look at the following button "ouevre/fotos" you will find a small overview of my previous restorations. Unfortunately, a few instruments are missing from the early days, when not everything was photographed. As you will see, quite a few well-known houses, nationally and internationally, have used my services.
And - don't be afraid! Depending on the extent of the work, a repair or restoration does not have to be expensive!
If possible, I try to do the work on site in one or more days. This saves you the cost and hassle of transport. Don't trust anyone who tells you that the harmonium has to be in the workshop for several months. This often means that you are told about a huge amount of work, but ultimately the harmonium stands around in the workshop most of the time.
My workshop has several locations in Europe. I set this up over the years to prevent the constant transport of material and also to be able to be on site faster. Since I work as a harmonist and organist (www.matthiasmüller.org) here and there in concerts, especially in the summertime, I can access my materials quickly.
I know very well that some of these sentences in this text will attack or snub many a "restorer" - did I hit the mark?
I've also been a member of the Church for over 40 years and have seen poor restorations countless times. Municipalities or clients who have had their money taken out of their pockets. Especially when it comes to donations, I find this approach a shame for some restorers and organ builders!
I have seen restorations where the leather became brittle after only 5 years. I have often seen that a historical harmonium has become a "high-gloss object". I have experienced that organ builders have pulled thousands of euros out of the pockets of poor local history museums, monasteries and chapels for work that could have been done for 500 - 600 euros. (And despite the high sum, there were still mistakes afterwards...) But even these truths have to be told once!!!
I would also like to mention that an organ builder with the title "Meister im Organ und Harmoniumbau" does not have to have much knowledge about the repair/restoration of a harmonium. In Germany, if you learn to build an organ, you can automatically call yourself a harmonium builder. This has always puzzled me because harmoniums have not been built for decades. (Independent of Indian instruments) This name is deceptive - a harmonium is a thorn in the side of many organ builders, as it prevents many a small church from having their organ restored.
All in all, I would like to say that you can confidently entrust me with your instrument. Before and after photos are taken of any work, which you will of course also receive, and at the end of my work I would be happy to offer a concert or house concert. So you can be sure that your instrument is really ready to play. And I would be happy to add a few suitable sheet music for your instrument from my archive.
I offer the repair/restoration at special conditions to small parishes, pensioners and monasteries who like to play their beloved harmonium often and are not in a good financial position. These also include, for example (should the location of the harmonium be of interest to me) preparing a harmonium for board and lodging as well as travel expenses and a low hourly wage. And then, of course, at the end with a public concert (with a collection for the musician) to get at least a little fee. We love to get to know new people and new places, so we try to offer repairs/restorations of your instruments as quickly as possible anywhere in the world.