Ron Overs' work with pianos began soon after he completed his secondary school education in the early seventies. He had come to Sydney from the farming community of Barellan in central New South Wales to further his piano studies. While at the University of Sydney he met Kristie Aylward. They were married in early 1975. Subsequently, Kristie completed her degree in English literature while Ron found employment with R H Elvy & Co. as a trainee piano technician, under the instruction of Murray Warner. As foreman at Elvys, Murray was an experienced piano technician and a first class tuner. During 1975 he spent many hours outside of his work time educating Ron on the history of the great piano makers. On many occasions, the hour after work at Elvys was spent on the piano floor. Murray would discuss the design parameters of the high-class instruments (Blüthner, Bösendorfer, Ehrbar, Schiedmeyer, Schwechten and others), frequently referring to an old photocopied edition of Samuel Wolfenden's A Treatise on the Art on Pianoforte Construction. On Saturdays Murray would check the piano classifieds in the Sydney Morning Herald, then they would visit selected examples of the quality pianos offered for sale. Occasionally, the sellers must have wondered about the motives of the thirty four year old technician and his twenty three year old student, visiting their piano without any real intention of buying. Some owners were quite interested to learn something of the history of their piano.
After three months tuition with Murray, Ron was employed as a regular tuner/technician for Elvys. His condensed education continued until late 1975, when Murray's step-father (Christchurch NZ piano technician Fred Sanger) died suddenly. Murray returned to Christchurch (with his wife Sybil, and son Carl) to take over his step-father's business. Today Murray still services the Christchurch Town Hall instruments, and several other Christchurch venues.
In early 1976, Ron Overs left Elvys to establish his own piano servicing business. By 1980, he had secured service contracts for several leading Sydney venues, including the Sydney Town Hall and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Grand piano rebuilding work increased gradually in scope and through-put during the eighties. Staff numbers had increased to four technicians by 1988 when he rebuilt his first concert piano, a Baldwin SD-10. Unlike his later concert grand work, this piano was rebuilt largely to the original factory specifications.
In 1982 and 1985, Ron was engaged by Bösendorfer to prepare their Imperial grand piano for the Sydney International Piano Competition. At the '85 competition, competitors were openly discussing the arrival on the European scene of a new piano manufacturer from Sacile in Italy, Fazioli (several contestants had played Faziolis and were very enthusiastic about their performance). Ron subsequently contacted Fazioli, establishing a dialogue with Paolo Fazioli. In 1994 Ron was instrumental in the importation and supply of a Fazioli F278 concert grand piano for the Sydney Town Hall.
From 1994 through to 1999, Overs Pianos specialised in rebuilding grand pianos with redesigned bass and treble string scales, shaped and hardened capo' bars and detuned front duplex systems, custom manufactured agraffes, revised hammer strike 'lines', tuned rear duplex scales and carefully graded down bearing and soundboard impedance modifications. Three concert grand pianos were rebuilt for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Since 1988, Ron has lectured on various topics at the Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Conventions. He lectured at the October 1998 Auckland convention on grand piano rebuilding. Notes from this lecture and his 1996 Gold Coast (Australia) lecture on tuning hammer technique are available on this web site (see 'Technical stuff' in the side frame).
In 1999 Ron spent much of the year investigating improvements to the geometry of grand piano actions. A new action was designed using CAD (a computer aided design programme) over a six month period and, after working models were built, a patent application was lodged with the Australian Patents Office in March 2000. A full US patent, no 6,972,359, was issued in December 2005. The new action has approximately half of the working friction of standard grand piano actions from other contemporary manufacturers. The first Overs Action was fitted to the Overs 225 grand piano no. 1 and exhibited at the Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Convention in Sydney, July 2000. Piano no. 3 was exhibited at the US PTG national convention in Reno Nevada last July, where Ron also presented a class on the design and function of the Overs Action. Piano no. 6 was exhibited in Rochester, NY in June 2006, and sold to a buyer from Boston.
In 2003, Ron developed the Overs I-rib sound board. This sound board design was incorporated in the Overs 225 grand pianos no. 4 and 5, which were manufactured for the Sydney Conservatorium High School and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. These pianos were completed early in 2004. In 2006 Overs Pianos were invited to exhibit an instrument at the US National PTG Convention in Rochester, NY. Piano no. 6 was exhibited enroute to a buyer in Boston.
At the present time Overs Pianos' staff is comprised of two tuner/technicians - Curtis Wilkinson and Greg Miller (part time), two manufacturing technicians/rebuilders - Wal Sullivan and Leonard Kraev, office manager - Maureen Brett and business development manager - Chris Casaar. Ron is currently working on a new 173 cm grand piano, for a launch in September 2009.
Ron and Kristie are directors of the Overs Pianos company. However, while Kristie spent many years running the piano business while the two girls were growing up, she has retrained and now teaches English at TAFE to speakers of other languages.
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OVERS PIANOS - SYDNEY,
First published, 11 December 1998
Last updated 2 July 2008.
Copyright © 1998-2008, Overs Pianos.