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B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131349
10/28/07 01:33 AM
10/28/07 01:33 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 4
Virginia Beach
B
Buddy Chris Offline OP
Junior Member
Buddy Chris  Offline OP
Junior Member
B
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 4
Virginia Beach
I just picked up a B.Shoninger Upright Piano from a guy in Norfolk at no cost. He was storing in an old mover's truck along with random home appliances and furniture stacked around and even on top of it. Several keys stick and are missing the ivory tops. The finish is faded and has some scarring. It is atrociously out of tune but at least all of the strings and hammers are intact and not too badly worn. I spent quite some time removing layers of dust and dirt and now I'm pondering upon its history and if it's worth restoring.

I searched the web and found little on this manufacturer.

What I did find out is that Bernard Shoninger (1829-1910) established B.Shoninger Organ Company in 1850 and business did well through the Civil War period. He retired in 1898 and left the business to his sons. The company went out of business after 1929 and was sold to National Piano Corporation of New York. The manufacturing of Shoninger Tall Upright Pianos continued well into the 1960s.

This narrows the manufacture date from 1850 to 1970.

There is a sticker on the back of the piano labeled with the National Assn. of Music Merchants (NAMM) mark. According to <a href="http://www.namm.org">www.namm.org</a>, these stickers were not placed on Pianos until 1919 and were limited to those displayed at trade shows or had special features such as a wood tooled bench or inlayed artwork. The first sticker program lasted from 1919 to approximately 1940. A second sticker program was released in the 1960s and lasted through the 1970s. The serial number on the sticker only indicates the dealers who sold the piano.

This narrows the manufacture date from 1919 to 1970.

Vintagepianoshop.com describes early 20th Century American Upright Pianos to run between 1910 to 1929 with less ornate and more streamlined appearances. Usually finished in high polish mahogany, oak, or walnut which deteriorated and even rotted over time. This deterioration or rotting in these early finishes resulted in a rough, black "alligatored" look.

This narrows the manufacture date from 1919 to 1929.

The sites that I've found on reading serial numbers only list serials between 21000 to 37000 (1950 - 1960). The serial engraved on my piano is 70347. I also found another number inscribed on various pieces within the piano which read 17770. I can't find much on reading the serial number on the Shoninger Pianos, so this is the best I can find in narrowing down the manufacture date. From the readings, I am assuming that this piano was manufactured in the 1920s; is this correct?

Specs:
Serial: 70347 on the tuning plate / 17770 on various wood pieces.
H: 55.375"
W: 62.750"
D: 25.250"

Can anyone help me determine the exact date? Also, what type of solution is recommended in cleaning the finish of this texture? Or is my only recourse is to re-finish to bring back any shine? This is my first acoustic piano, would something like this be worth salvaging?

I have few pictures posted:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1774990977
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1775838276
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1774989381
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1775833122
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1774984577
http://www.flickr.com/photos/buddy_chris/1774981805

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Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131350
10/28/07 06:39 AM
10/28/07 06:39 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
B
Big Bird Offline
Full Member
Big Bird  Offline
Full Member
B
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
G'day Mate,

I can't help you with determining date of manufacture.

Before deciding what to do with your piano I would suggest you have a look at www.myspace.com/harryg73 I, like you have got a piano for virtually the cost of transport.

I have spent the last two months hearing the opinions of experts as to what makes a piano worth restoring.

The general consensus when it comes to restoring an instrument is that you should not spend more on it than what you would get if you sold it.

Now I can understand if you are in the business of restoring and selling pianos then this would be the case.

But then if you are a hobbyist, an enthusiast then what would the final retail value of your instrument matter, as you are not undertaking this excersise for financial gain?

I mean...if the car world was the same, no one would restore cars with the exception of Rolls Royces, bugattis and Ferraris.

But there are those of us that do it for the challenge, that do it to keep a piece of automotive history alive, that do it because that is the type of vehicle we enjoy.....why can the same not apply to a piano.

As I have said in other posts, I am not a piano player, and definately not a piano technician's little toe, but I am taking a crack and if successful will have preserved a piece of musical history.

Significant or not, it is still history, and leaves me asking the question...How much history has been sent to the tip, chopped up and even used for firewood all because of the commercially viable opinions of "experts"

Got no idea what mine would be worth when finished, got no fixed cost on getting it completed, but man if I get it right, how cool will it be to bring something like that back from the dead?

Not gonna tell you what to do, and yes consult many others, but do not be afraid to spend a few dollars on something that will provide you with years of kudos.


"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't you're right"...Henry Ford

www.myspace.com/harryg73
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131351
10/28/07 07:20 AM
10/28/07 07:20 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 283
Grimsby ON Canada
Thomson Lawrie Offline
Full Member
Thomson Lawrie  Offline
Full Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 283
Grimsby ON Canada
The serial number would indicate late in the year 1923 as 1924 starts with the number 70500.

The finish looks like it has had it. You might try cleaning it up with mineral spirits followed by lemon oil to remove the old wax and dirt and give it a bit of shine but it won't help with the darkness of the finish or the crackling.


Piano Technician
www.pianotech.ca
Piano tuners make the world a better place, one string at a time.
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131352
10/28/07 02:52 PM
10/28/07 02:52 PM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,815
West Coast
Craigen Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Craigen  Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,815
West Coast
Can't beat a free piano! Well maybe with a bat.
Don't spend money on this relic. It is 40-50 years beyong its useful musical life expectancy.
There are thousands of these old uprights around.


Piano Technician, member Piano Technicians Guild.
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Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131353
10/28/07 04:09 PM
10/28/07 04:09 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
B
Big Bird Offline
Full Member
Big Bird  Offline
Full Member
B
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
And there it is....expert opinion.


"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't you're right"...Henry Ford

www.myspace.com/harryg73
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131354
10/29/07 06:46 AM
10/29/07 06:46 AM
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 132
Virginia Beach, VA
S
ShootCraps Offline
Full Member
ShootCraps  Offline
Full Member
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Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 132
Virginia Beach, VA
Short answer: It's not worth restoring.

Long answer: If everything is working and it will hold a tune for 6 months, it could be a useful first piano for you to start learning on. It won't have the booming bass and singing treble of a piano in its prime, but it will work. You'll have to hire a tech to check it out. That will cost around $100. If it's not worth even trying to tune it, the tech may not charge you anything. Good luck.


"Show people are doomed. Doomed to a lifestyle of booze and pills and heavy meals late at night." Ruthless! - The Musical.
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131355
10/29/07 08:17 AM
10/29/07 08:17 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 4
Virginia Beach
B
Buddy Chris Offline OP
Junior Member
Buddy Chris  Offline OP
Junior Member
B
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 4
Virginia Beach
Thanks, Everyone. I may just make this a personal project...something to do in my spare time. I don't know how to tune so it may not sound pretty, but I can make it look pretty. Anyone have any tips on how to re-finish a piece of "furniture" such as this? Should I just sand it down and overlay another coat? Or should I strip the original finish off first?

Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131356
10/31/07 05:27 PM
10/31/07 05:27 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
B
Big Bird Offline
Full Member
Big Bird  Offline
Full Member
B
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 32
Melbourne, Australia
Depends on what sort of finish you want.

You might find a local tech or trade school taht offers couses in furniature refinishing.

Take a short course at a school before you take the wrong course with your instrument.


"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't you're right"...Henry Ford

www.myspace.com/harryg73
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131357
11/01/07 12:38 AM
11/01/07 12:38 AM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 616
Monterey, Ca
Zormpas Offline
500 Post Club Member
Zormpas  Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 616
Monterey, Ca
I obtained a 1918 Hobart M. Cable upright for free 2+ years ago, and have been working on it ever since.

It is actually starting to turn out to be a pretty decent instrument. This is because:

1) I've done a LOT of work on it, and spent a LOT of money - far more than its worth. But its a learning experience, and I'm not planning on getting rid of it. It certainly is far cheaper than buying a new one, or even a "good" used one; and there's that pride of doing it yourself.

2) I have a sympathetic tech who has helped me, guided me, and advised me. I have him do the tuning, and some of the more delicate work. He's quite happy/impressed with how its turning out.

3) I got lucky. I got a good piano to start with that didn't have major problems - it was just very tired. I don't make any claims of skill here - my obtaining this particular piano was just dumb luck.

Ok, now for some free advice:

1) Don't even think about refinishing it until you know what you have and you have it fairly well fixed up. I've only "just" started working on the finish. Like a car, fix the guts first.

2) Find a good tech who doesn't mind hobbyists. Have him do the stuff you cannot. For instance, I had mine do the hammer reshaping - not that its a particularly hard job, but its an unforgiving one. Most jobs you can simply re-do if it doesn't work out the first time - not so with hammer reshaping!

3) Have your tech do the tuning - this is an utterly back breaking, tedious, frustrating, and impossible job if you don't know what you're doing. You don't. Neither do I...

4) You can read all my adventures, and misadventures with mine here:

http://www.doubleveil.net/piano/


-Zorba
"The Veiled Male"
http://www.doubleveil.net
1918 Hobart M. Cable "H"
"No-one would knowingly provide Franz Liszt with a mediocre piano." -E. M. Good
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131358
11/01/07 12:53 AM
11/01/07 12:53 AM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Supply  Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Quote
Short answer: It's not worth restoring.
Which is why this is a good subject for a Do-It-Yourselfer who is heck bent for leather to "restore" (term used loosely) a piano.
I cringe a lot more when wonderful instruments or pieces of historical value fall into the wrong hands (these hands can be those of piano technicians as well, sometimes).

What is the worst case scenario? The world loses one more tired and weary MOR piano.

It is not about the value of the piano here. If the piano WERE worth restoring, I would rather see it in a professional's shop.

Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131359
11/01/07 11:51 AM
11/01/07 11:51 AM
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 132
Virginia Beach, VA
S
ShootCraps Offline
Full Member
ShootCraps  Offline
Full Member
S
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 132
Virginia Beach, VA
Quote
Originally posted by Supply:
Quote
Short answer: It's not worth restoring.
Which is why this is a good subject for a Do-It-Yourselfer who is heck bent for leather to "restore" (term used loosely) a piano.
I cringe a lot more when wonderful instruments or pieces of historical value fall into the wrong hands (these hands can be those of piano technicians as well, sometimes).

What is the worst case scenario? The world loses one more tired and weary MOR piano.

It is not about the value of the piano here. If the piano WERE worth restoring, I would rather see it in a professional's shop.
But that was the question: "would something like this be worth salvaging?". From a strictly financial point, no. When you are finished restoring it, you would have an old upright worth maybe a few hundred dollars. You would never get your money out of it.

I was lucky. I refinished the cabinet on mine, which was fun and didn't cost much except for my time. I glued a few hammers back on and that was it. Total dollar investment maybe $75. The piano was good enough for my daughter to learn on for 7 years. I think I sold it for $300.

As a fun project for the DIYer it has great value. It's neat to read what some of the guys are doing with their projects.


"Show people are doomed. Doomed to a lifestyle of booze and pills and heavy meals late at night." Ruthless! - The Musical.
Re: B.Shoninger - basic restoration #131360
11/01/07 11:22 PM
11/01/07 11:22 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Supply  Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,919
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Quote
Originally posted by ShootCraps:
But that was the question: "would something like this be worth salvaging?". From a strictly financial point, no. When you are finished restoring it, you would have an old upright worth maybe a few hundred dollars. You would never get your money out of it.
There are lots of different kinds of value besides "getting your money out of something". Ever buy a ticket to a sporting event or concert? Did you get money out of it?

Fixing a piano in order to get your money out of it puts it into a commmercial realm. I don't think most DIYers on this list are in it for the money. They are looking for a different value. I think we can all agree on that.


Moderated by  Ken Knapp, Piano World 

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