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Chickering 109C better recording #2351326
11/17/14 10:04 AM
11/17/14 10:04 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Craig Hair  Offline OP
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Chesterfield. MA
Hello all,
I managed to get a better recording of the Chickering 109C. One musician friend had this gizmo called a Zoom H4n, basicly a point and shoot hand held recording studio. Another friend sat down and played the piano. This is what we got. It is not Ragtime; it is a little more free form. But it is clear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bD2hKnD4UA

In review, this is an 1896 Chickering 109C #87315 ~6'6" in length. It was the baby grand of the line. It features the original 118 year old soundboard with a recompression recrowning. It is strung with Mapes plain wire and Ari Isaac's bass strings. The bass strings are wrap-mass duplicates of the originals, using Ari's semi-hard copper in an attempt to match the stiffness of the original steel wrap as closely as possible. It is fitted with Ronson Bacon felt hammers.

Thank you for your time

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

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Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351341
11/17/14 11:18 AM
11/17/14 11:18 AM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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I saw the photos of the work on that piano on your page. The way it came out, I can't wait to hear the Bluthner!

When I apprenticed, my mentor took in an 1896 9ft Chickering (I restrung it). It took four strong people just to lift the left corner. An amazing piano.


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351356
11/17/14 11:59 AM
11/17/14 11:59 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Chesterfield. MA
Operatenor,
Thanks for listening. We are just starting one of those 9 footers now. It is making us re-evaluate how we move pianos around.


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351388
11/17/14 01:57 PM
11/17/14 01:57 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 2,726
Portland, Oregon
Grandpianoman Offline
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What a great job Craig!....impressive sound, especially for an original 118 yr old sound board....and what a beautiful piano....and yes, that is a helluva piano wink

The fact that you restored the original board...is this something that can be done to any old sound board that is past its prime?

Bass strings sound great...of course, I am a big fan of Ari's work...I've got a 7ft Steinway AR that is going to get his bass strings and hammers. The original soundboard of this Steinway has been shimmed, and has excellent sustain throughout the whole piano.

Last edited by Grandpianoman; 11/17/14 04:43 PM. Reason: spelling
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351413
11/17/14 03:03 PM
11/17/14 03:03 PM
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 484
Montreal, Canada
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guyl Offline
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Those old Chickerings can be heavy yes! When I moved my scale 93 (6'-5", 85 keys, ~1884) the four of us just couldn't lift it squarely off the floor. It got a rebuild some 25 years ago including new soundboard and it sounds amazing.


What do snowflakes and Chickerings have in common? There are no two exactly alike!
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351437
11/17/14 03:43 PM
11/17/14 03:43 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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Originally Posted by Craig Hair
Operatenor,
Thanks for listening. We are just starting one of those 9 footers now. It is making us re-evaluate how we move pianos around.


Is it the one pictured in one of your albums? If so, it appears to be quite similar to the one I restrung in 1977. laugh

[Linked Image]

Last edited by OperaTenor; 11/17/14 03:47 PM.

Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Grandpianoman] #2351442
11/17/14 03:48 PM
11/17/14 03:48 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Chesterfield. MA
Grandpianoman,
thanks for that. We are pleased with the results of this effort. We try to get back to the original voice. The soft hammers on the bright toned wires mounted on the extra wide soundboard seemed to be the original configuration and we thought it might give us a strong fundamental tone without loss of clarity. I waited until the piano was up to pitch with the old hammers still on before I chose new, and anything but the softest was just objectionable. The Ronson hammers have come alive as I was hoping. For once I wanted a set of hammers that needed to be played in rather than voiced down straight out of the box. This Chickering tone may not be for everybody, but I just love it.

Can we do this with any old soundboard? So far, yes. If the shrinkage in the panel has pulled the sounboard flat or concave then the board is ready to have this adjustment made. We call it an adjustment because, other than the little slips of wood we have to add to make up for shrinkage, the only things we change are the glue and the finish; thats HOT hide glue and french polish finish. We prefer boards that have never been shimmed, because these shim faces need to be repaired before the panel can be glued back together again. But it can be done, and not too noticably either; if you take care to use repair stock that has a well oxidized face. The repair would be obvious from below, but from up top it would blend right in.

Thanks again for listening,
Be well,
Craig



Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: OperaTenor] #2351591
11/17/14 08:31 PM
11/17/14 08:31 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Craig Hair  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2011
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Chesterfield. MA
Actually, it's this one next. This is the 105B and seems to be just 9' in length. The other picture is of the scale 77 and it measures in around 9'4". You gotta work your way up to something like that. They all seem to be variations on a theme. they both have Brown actions, so that should be interesting

[Linked Image]


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2351607
11/17/14 08:52 PM
11/17/14 08:52 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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Sandy Eggo, California
Craig, you post the best piano porn!



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2352094
11/18/14 11:42 PM
11/18/14 11:42 PM
Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 377
Florida, Connecticut
gynnis Offline
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Florida, Connecticut
Craig, awsome piano. Interesting to compare this with my stretched 145E (5'10") from 1927 (probably restrung about 40 years ago). The bass on the 6'6" 109C is more string like, and of course fuller than the 145E (definite double reed sound in the wound strings). The treble under the capo on the 145 seems a bit richer than the 109. Both pianos have a long singing tone, which I guess is due to the low tension scaling and the relatively thin sound board. When I'm in Connecticut, I'd love to see your 9' one.


Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord, Technics P-30, Roland RD-100.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2352146
11/19/14 01:58 AM
11/19/14 01:58 AM
Joined: Nov 2013
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Paul678 Offline
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Originally Posted by Craig Hair
Hello all,
I managed to get a better recording of the Chickering 109C. One musician friend had this gizmo called a Zoom H4n, basicly a point and shoot hand held recording studio. Another friend sat down and played the piano. This is what we got. It is not Ragtime; it is a little more free form. But it is clear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bD2hKnD4UA

In review, this is an 1896 Chickering 109C #87315 ~6'6" in length. It was the baby grand of the line. It features the original 118 year old soundboard with a recompression recrowning. It is strung with Mapes plain wire and Ari Isaac's bass strings. The bass strings are wrap-mass duplicates of the originals, using Ari's semi-hard copper in an attempt to match the stiffness of the original steel wrap as closely as possible. It is fitted with Ronson Bacon felt hammers.



Agreed with the other poster, this is great piano porn! (maple wood is rock hard!)

Remember that late 1800's Chickering I checked out a while ago? Yours looked to be very, very similar. But what an awesome transformation you did! I didn't think you could get the original soundboard to look so nice...and it sounds good too.

Do you need an apprentice? I'll move to your state!

grin ha thumb

Last edited by Paul678; 11/19/14 02:00 AM.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2352287
11/19/14 01:12 PM
11/19/14 01:12 PM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 448
SF Bay Area Ca.
Swarth Offline
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Swarth  Offline
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Posts: 448
SF Bay Area Ca.
If a Mason & Hamlin CC had not fallen into my lap I would have purchased a 110B to restore. I still have my 109C and the bass is so lush. It needs a complete restoration and except for strings and hammers has the original action, which poses a problem for most rebuilders who want nothing to do with them. I applaud your efforts to preserve these wonderful instruments.


Quid est veritas et mendacium, cum orbis terrarum.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2352729
11/20/14 11:41 AM
11/20/14 11:41 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
C
Craig Hair Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
Craig Hair  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
Good Morning,

Gynnis,
Thank you, I would actually like to hear a sample of your piano's tone. These are the last of the completely un-Steinway like chickerings; mitered case, 88 agraffes, no duplexing at all. Our hope was to get back to the original voice. The "string sounding" bass was kind of intentional. The original strings were steel wrapped, and had a brighter bite than modern copper. We had a choice between stainless steel and semi-hard copper. We went with the semi-hard copper because reports were that stainless went a little too far into the brightness. The experiment worked in so far as the bass section has a much crisper "buzzier" tone. It is not at all like the deep "hum" that comes from soft copper bass strings, and seems to blend well with the piano's overall character with an almost invisible break. Still, if I had to alter one side of the break or the other, I would choose to have the bass strings a little brighter, so perhaps on the upcomming 105B we will go with the stainless. The strings are much longer and the wrapping not so thick, so the extra stiffness of the stainless may not manifest negatively. The 109C has no capo, just agraffes squeezed between cast iron (no wiggles there) and the notes seem to me to be very pure and piercing even with soft hammers. That is one reason I would like to hear something from your piano; the introduction of a capo is a dramatic change, and the change in tone color would tell us something about the change in the designer's intent.

Visitors are always welcome. We're maybe just a mile off I91 in the City of Holyoke, MA. So if you are driving through New England, we would be happy to give you the fifty cent tour.

Paul,
I found that I could not post just a soundtrack, so I figured I would try to make it interesting. My intent has always been to be informative. I have my soapbox, I admit it; as do many others. I love old wood, especialy old musical wood. And if that is your fascination, then there is nothing better to invest your time into than old pianos. I'm hoping to demonstrate that there is an alternative, equally valid, equally musical aproach to restoration.
We called this type of Chickering the "Dreadnought Class" because of their weight. They were always around, here in Massachusettes, but nobody gave them much attention. Some other piano was always easier to repair and easier to sell, and since the design was not the "Steinway system" they were considered venerable but either "out-dated" or "out-classed" by later designs. It turns out that the Dreadnoughts are built more like giant guitars than battleships. You might want to see if that Chickering isn't still there, it would be a nice long-term keeper project.

Swarth,
Thanks for listening. These Dreadnaought Chickerings have moved to the front of the pack for us. Does your 109C have copper or steel bass strings. They seem to have been available with either. A CC,huh? Would that be a CC, a CC1, or a CC2?

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2352761
11/20/14 01:21 PM
11/20/14 01:21 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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Sandy Eggo, California
"Dreadnaought Chickerings"

Perfect! laugh


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2356670
11/30/14 04:42 PM
11/30/14 04:42 PM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 448
SF Bay Area Ca.
Swarth Offline
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Swarth  Offline
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SF Bay Area Ca.
My Chickering would look perfectly fine with Gun ports and a few canons mounted...Craig your comment about "giant guitar" interests me, could you elaborate further?

My M&H CC2 is from ~1966 and I had planned to restore it, sell it and then get a 110B I had found to restore and keep. The best laid plans...instead I get to keep the CC2 in perfect condition, so it's not a total loss smile


Quid est veritas et mendacium, cum orbis terrarum.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Swarth] #2357328
12/02/14 10:05 AM
12/02/14 10:05 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Craig Hair  Offline OP
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Chesterfield. MA
It is a half baked analogy, but I was thinking about the case. These are heavy pianos, but without the plate, the cases don't seem much more massive than a standard case. The inner rim is made up of a fairly thin vertical section capped, top and bottom with flat plates to form a kind of wooden C-stock; strong but lighter than solid wood. The construction reminded me of the inner wall of a guitar. The case also seems to have a different level of rigidity. A bent rim seems to be resisting any influence from the soundboard; the mitered case of this Chickering seems to get going with the soundboard. A piano blogger I read once called the two systems "high" and "low" impedance cases. Impedance I believe not only has to do with a bodys resistance to energy transfer, but also the nature in which that same body returns energy. The low impedance case, I do believe, would influence the soundboard to favor the fundamental. The yact-tail is also a factor. Steinway perimiters seem to be pared back to a minimum,( though I'm sure that it is an optiimum). This case is just the opposite; there seems to be extra soundboard behind the bass bridge just to make sure that the bridge is alone in its own expanse of soundboard. The bridge is placed at the lowest impedance spot on a low impedance board in a deceptively light low impedance case. And just when this all seems to be a recipe for dull tone, they string it with steel wrap bass strings the brightest available; which, incidently also have very long hitching lengths, making that system as compliant as possible.

Well, when I thought about the bright sounding strings strung across a wide flexible soundboard, mounted to a highly resonant, lightly built rim, it was clear; her daddy was a guitar.

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2357942
12/04/14 01:21 AM
12/04/14 01:21 AM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 448
SF Bay Area Ca.
Swarth Offline
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Thanks for your insight on how these Yacht tailed beauties operate in almost a different dimension. The gentleman who replaced the strings and hammers used Mapes; wire and copper bass strings along with Renner Blue hammers. Several techs have told me not a choice they would have made but for whatever reason I love it. I'd love it even better if he had bothered to properly restore the bridge and pinblock before doing so.


Quid est veritas et mendacium, cum orbis terrarum.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2358086
12/04/14 10:30 AM
12/04/14 10:30 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 532
Chesterfield. MA
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Craig Hair Offline OP
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Craig Hair  Offline OP
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Chesterfield. MA
Swarth,
I think of it like comparative anatomy. I'm just trying to find a cohesive theory to explaine the variation in design. I could very easily be full of stuff and nonsense.

You know, with these particular Chickerings, the belly is not buried under as much work as you might think. If the tension on the strings is lowered, it is possible to pull the plate with the strings attatched. The bridge could be repaired , or the soundboard recrowned, without having to disturbe the rest too much.

Did they happen to say what their choices might have been? I have seen several of these old Chickerings with what looked to be original copper wrapped strings, so I suspect that a choice could be made, according to taste. And we feel that Mapes wire is best, here. Chickerings need no help with upper partials.

Be well,
Craig


Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Chesterfield, MA
Conservative Piano Restoration
Watch us on YouTube

Every 5 minute job can be reduced to three 10 minute jobs.
Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2358135
12/04/14 12:42 PM
12/04/14 12:42 PM
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Bob Newbie Offline
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What a bass!! I thought for a moment in the beginning of the recording you were going to breakout with Linus & Lucy theme(peanuts) smile

Re: Chickering 109C better recording [Re: Craig Hair] #2358153
12/04/14 01:30 PM
12/04/14 01:30 PM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 448
SF Bay Area Ca.
Swarth Offline
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Swarth  Offline
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SF Bay Area Ca.
My purchase of the 109c started my journey to try to understand grand pianos and perhaps get mine in decent playing shape. I learned enough to realize that I could do very little that a professional could not do 10x better in half the time. The real killer here is the pinblock where I had a tech come in a try to get it to hold a tune. Not happening. Add in the bridge buzz and you have all kinds of beats going on. Then there was the action, specific to the 109c on the day they made it it seems. However bad of shape it is in now, you could still tell that this action was superb, indeed built for this piano. It would be a real shame to rip it out and kluge a new one in there, and most techs would rather not mess with or understand the complex geometry involved. I know I talked to many. There are (mostly far east of me) a few dedicated restoration experts that treat Chickering with the reverence they deserve. I have to save my $$ before I can start another project like this.



Quid est veritas et mendacium, cum orbis terrarum.
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