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7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
#2939735 01/28/20 01:32 PM
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This may come across as an odd question. Especially with the unforseen potential of different conditions of pianos out there. However, I was thinking last night as I get closer to wrapping up the few projects I've been working on with my Yamaha grand. As I thought about it and coming closer to completion, I'll be honest, I became a bit sad. I've really enjoyed working on this and learning so much.

With that said, I'm always online looking at pianos. I honestly don't know why but it's something I enjoy. While doing this, I've run across several pianos that seemed like great long-term projects for someone. As an example, a few months ago I ran across a 1920's Bosendorfer that was advertised as free. The case was damaged and in bad shape but the piano was playable. I see plenty of other examples out there but not really sure what hidden gems would be worthy of attention besides something like a Steinway B or D?

Figured this could make for an interesting topic?


1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
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Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2939744 01/28/20 01:53 PM
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Depends on your definition of "worthy".

Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
David Boyce #2939759 01/28/20 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by David Boyce
Depends on your definition of "worthy".


Worthy would be based on zero sentimental value contributing to the project. So, purely being that it would be considered special or sought after. As an example, I have read that the 1920's Steinway pianos are sought after. I myself do not know why as it's just something I've read.

I initially discovered this forum after inheriting my 1924 Chickering baby grand (5'7") from my grand parents. I quickly discovered that it is not a desirable piano to restore for multiple reasons. So, that could be a good example of a piano that would not be considered worthy of restoration, unless there is sentimental value as the primary reason.


1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2939857 01/28/20 05:07 PM
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By "worthy" then, you mean "financially worthwhile in terms of re-sale value"?

Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
David Boyce #2939868 01/28/20 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by David Boyce
By "worthy" then, you mean "financially worthwhile in terms of re-sale value"?


I suppose financial value could be a way to determine a worthy candidate for restoration work. The reason I mentioned the Chickering I have, is because a few techs have inspected it and the general census was that it's just not a good design. There was even a comment about something how Chickering was doing/trying different designs all the time where as other companies in that era, say Steinway, were not doing this? I took this explanation as a way to quantify Steinway quality control and engineering over Chickering, in that era? I hope that's not getting too far off topic.

To make this a bit easier to ask. If we were to make a list of the top 5 pianos from the 1920's-1970's, what would they be?

1.) Steinway B
2.) Bosendorfer Model 225
3.) ?

Last edited by TurboMatt; 01/28/20 05:40 PM. Reason: incorrect spelling

1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2939889 01/28/20 06:11 PM
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6) Howard baby grand
7) early Pearl River upright (may not make the 1970 date, though)

Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2939898 01/28/20 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by TurboMatt

1.) Steinway B
2.) Bosendorfer Model 225

3.) Bechstein Model E
4.) Prewar Blüthner Model 1

Last edited by johnstaf; 01/28/20 06:26 PM.
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2939915 01/28/20 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by TurboMatt
To make this a bit easier to ask. If we were to make a list of the top 5 pianos from the 1920's-1970's, what would they be?

1.) Steinway B
2.) Bosendorfer Model 225
3.) ?


1) Steinway D
2) Baldwin SD10 (or counterpart back then)
3) Bosendorfer Model 225
4) Steinway B
5) Mason & Hamlin BB (pre Aolian)


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Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
Carey #2939993 01/28/20 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by edferris
6) Howard baby grand
7) early Pearl River upright (may not make the 1970 date, though)


Interesting to see Pearl River. I always assumed they were a lesser brand. I'll look up the older ones to see what they were like.

Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by TurboMatt

1.) Steinway B
2.) Bosendorfer Model 225

3.) Bechstein Model E
4.) Prewar Blüthner Model 1


Looks like a nice list there!

Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by TurboMatt
To make this a bit easier to ask. If we were to make a list of the top 5 pianos from the 1920's-1970's, what would they be?

1.) Steinway B
2.) Bosendorfer Model 225
3.) ?


1) Steinway D
2) Baldwin SD10 (or counterpart back then)
3) Bosendorfer Model 225
4) Steinway B
5) Mason & Hamlin BB (pre Aolian)




I do believe that the Baldwin pianos have changed quality over the years. Any certain years that shine more than others?


1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940003 01/28/20 10:02 PM
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Matt,

Chickering was a maker never satisfied with the status who. Yes, they were always changing things, experimenting, testing. Yes, it can drive us nuts not knowing what we will encounter when rebuilding one, but it challenges our skills and craftsmanship. Those guys were UNBELIEVABLE craftsman. Some of the designs they came up with were amazing. This ingenuity though does not always translate into marketability (as is still true today).

There are some absolutely fantastic Chickerings out there. One of the big drawbacks in quite a few was their proprietary use of brass flanges. Great for about 60 years and then it starts cracking. We call that a mistake today, however when seen through the lens of a 30-40 year design lifespan, it was a brilliant design, completely eliminating the effects of humidity on alignment and tightness.

SS OTOH found a design they liked and stuck with it. They were primo marketers from the get go, essentially bribing concert artists into endorsing their product by establishing the piano bank, creating the "Steinway family" of loyal artists. Whoa to the artist who decided to LEAVE the "family" though.

Personally, I think Chickerings are among some of the best. True, they are not usually powerhouse pianos, but they have their own sweet delicate sound that can be very pleasing. They made powerhouses but that is not what they became known for. Also, when SS began in 1853 in America they essentially "declared war" on Chickering who was THE piano to have (if you were anybody). SS was determined to put them out of business (it was NEVER determined how the fire that destroyed the Chickering factory started).

BTW, Schaff is now 3D printing duplicate Chickering flanges which solves that problem.

What model is your Chickering?

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
P W Grey #2940020 01/28/20 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Matt,

Chickering was a maker never satisfied with the status who. Yes, they were always changing things, experimenting, testing. Yes, it can drive us nuts not knowing what we will encounter when rebuilding one, but it challenges our skills and craftsmanship. Those guys were UNBELIEVABLE craftsman. Some of the designs they came up with were amazing. This ingenuity though does not always translate into marketability (as is still true today).

There are some absolutely fantastic Chickerings out there. One of the big drawbacks in quite a few was their proprietary use of brass flanges. Great for about 60 years and then it starts cracking. We call that a mistake today, however when seen through the lens of a 30-40 year design lifespan, it was a brilliant design, completely eliminating the effects of humidity on alignment and tightness.

SS OTOH found a design they liked and stuck with it. They were primo marketers from the get go, essentially bribing concert artists into endorsing their product by establishing the piano bank, creating the "Steinway family" of loyal artists. Whoa to the artist who decided to LEAVE the "family" though.

Personally, I think Chickerings are among some of the best. True, they are not usually powerhouse pianos, but they have their own sweet delicate sound that can be very pleasing. They made powerhouses but that is not what they became known for. Also, when SS began in 1853 in America they essentially "declared war" on Chickering who was THE piano to have (if you were anybody). SS was determined to put them out of business (it was NEVER determined how the fire that destroyed the Chickering factory started).

BTW, Schaff is now 3D printing duplicate Chickering flanges which solves that problem.

What model is your Chickering?

Pwg


Peter - Your advice and wisdom is and will always be the key input I'm looking for on any post I make. However, I did not expect you to chime in on this one. Being that it's not exactly a technical post. So, thank you!

Regarding my Chickering, I'm not exactly sure what model it is. I think it is 5'7" from when I initially measured the piano while it was still at my grandparents home. I've looked over the every inch and cannot locate a scale number which Chickering supposedly had on all their plate castings. It's a "Centennial Grand", serial number 137479, while potentially helpful, it doesn't help with the length. My grandparents have owned the piano since 1950 at which point the piano had some type of work done. According to the records that my grandfather had, it received "steinway hammers" and regulation/reconditioning. I paid 3 different technicians to independently inspect the piano since owning it. The last tech (from Piano Craft) spent quite a bit of time giving it a full 'once over'. Measuring friction on parts, key weight, etc. At that point I knew nothing about the action and I wish I did. He did state that the piano is in excellent condition for it's age (1924) but also felt it would not be a powerhouse even after a full rebuild. So, I went shopping and found my Yamaha G5 which I can attest to it being far more powerful, even in the worn condition that I received it. One key point the tech from Piano Craft made was that the incorrect hammers were installed and their weight was too high. He said it would absolutely need hammers, shanks and bass strings at bare minimum to be properly playable. The sound board was said to be good and the exterior case is in excellent condition. Mainly because my grandfather cleaned the piano several times a year as well as had regular tunings. So, from the sake of old pianos, it was extremely well cared for.

With all of that said, I will admit a few things. I look at the Chickering every single day and wonder what it would be like if it received a few years (probably how long it would take me) of some very in-depth TLC. Then I fall back on the local techs that stated that the Chickering technology is dated, needs X amount of work, etc. The other thing I will admit is that I really don't want to sell the piano. I will maybe get $500 for it. So, should I keep it around as my dark piece smaller piano and focus on the Yamaha stuff for power? Or, sell the Chickering then try to find another 'old piano' to fit the bill for the dark/soft sound? If the Chickering is as bad as I have initially thought, I figured it would be a great idea to try to find another (maybe larger?) vintage piano in need of a home that is willing to throw TLC at it.

Thanks for all of the feedback so far. You guys are all great!


Last edited by TurboMatt; 01/28/20 11:53 PM.

1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940093 01/29/20 06:44 AM
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Bösendorfer for free has usually a vienese action.

Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940132 01/29/20 10:14 AM
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Admittedly they are not the easiest pianos to work on. My opinion though is that the reason for doing so is more emotional/historical, than technical. It represents an era of piano making lost to history.

Yes, it should have small, light hammers on it because it is a high leverage action. This is technically difficult to achieve these days where everything is bigger, heavier, louder, yadayadaya... I have one if these from 1907. I was not sure if I was actually going to like it, but I really do...the sound is unique abd light, but good sustain and color (except in the very low bass). Now that i have a solutiin to broken whip flanges (cheap too) i am no longer hesitant about it. Still has its original hammers (VERY light and narrow). I epoxied the pinblock rather than replace it, made minor scale changes too. I like it.

I think you should keep it. Just an opinion though. It is technically not worth the money to restore it but one woukd not do it for that reason. One does it because they WANT to do it and preserve a piece of history, and quite possibly fill an emotional need Tues to pleasant memories (assuming there are some there).

Someone here ought to be able to identify the model by a few pics. 121, 122, etc.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940189 01/29/20 11:53 AM
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The idea of preserving the piano in a pleasant and playable condition sounds great. Regarding the hammers, would they need to be specially made or are their replacements available that would work? Ideally something softer to produce a warm dark tone would be ideal for this piano.

I had the action out a year or so ago. I don't recall seeing anything broken but it was heavily worn. Now funny enough, the action is very quiet and seems to work ok. The main issue I ran into was that it felt odd in that it's very hard to play soft consistently. The Piano Craft tech said the hammer weight was all wrong and would never perform right until that was corrected. One thing is also mentioned was the key weight was way too heavy. I recall him stating it was about twice as heavy (65 gram I think?) as it should be. You can absolutely feel it when playing. While those issues may be connected, it would be the first issue to tackle.

To circle back around, I took up the idea to find another older piano to restore, play with, learn etc because my assumption was this Chickering was a waste of time. Now, I do plan to have a better more modern piano (keep my G5 or find a C7) as I get back into learning and taking lessons so the project piano will be just that, something to learn and have fun with. If the collective here think this old family Chickering will be good for that, I'll move it to another part of my home and start tearing into it.

A few pics I took this morning. Hopefully you can see it's in good overall condition. There are some very small cracks in the bridge area which would need to repaired. Should I take this on, I would remove and replace all the strings, re-work the action with needed parts, re-paint the plate as the paint job is sub-par, recondition the case and have my brother (master wood worker) take care of the staining etc. Could definitely be fun!

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1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940198 01/29/20 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by TurboMatt
Originally Posted by edferris
6) Howard baby grand
7) early Pearl River upright (may not make the 1970 date, though)


Interesting to see Pearl River. I always assumed they were a lesser brand. I'll look up the older ones to see what they were like.
I believe Ed was just pulling your leg. Howards and Pearl Rivers were pretty awful.

Originally Posted by Carey
1) Steinway D
2) Baldwin SD10 (or counterpart back then)
3) Bosendorfer Model 225
4) Steinway B
5) Mason & Hamlin BB (pre Aeolian)


Originally Posted by TurboMatt
I do believe that the Baldwin pianos have changed quality over the years. Any certain years that shine more than others?
Mu understanding is that the larger Baldwins were terrific until the early 2000s.


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Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940236 01/29/20 01:02 PM
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Two compelling videos of small Chickerings that have been restored. Warm, subtle and beautiful soft sound. Makes one think of what to do....hmm?





1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940263 01/29/20 02:08 PM
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Case style says 121 or 122 to me. Chickering was acquired by American Piano in 1908, eventually becoming Aeolian American. They may have dispensed with the cast in model numbers by this time in a different run of plates. (1920's).

I'm only guessing though. Nice sweet tones in those vids.

Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 01/29/20 02:09 PM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
TurboMatt #2940265 01/29/20 02:13 PM
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My 121 has a 6:1 action ratio. If yours does too that would be the reason why your action is so heavy. However it MIGHT be possible to remove enough weight from your hammers to make an appreciable difference. And softening them too can help get back that Chickering sound. Don't know for sure though, so don't get yer hopes up.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8
Re: 7 foot or larger pianos worthy of saving/restore?
P W Grey #2940276 01/29/20 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Case style says 121 or 122 to me. Chickering was acquired by American Piano in 1908, eventually becoming Aeolian American. They may have dispensed with the cast in model numbers by this time in a different run of plates. (1920's).

I'm only guessing though. Nice sweet tones in those vids.

Pwg


Does yours have the case style noted anywhere on the piano? Would you say the sound is fairly common for a restored Chickering in those sizes?

Originally Posted by P W Grey
My 121 has a 6:1 action ratio. If yours does too that would be the reason why your action is so heavy. However it MIGHT be possible to remove enough weight from your hammers to make an appreciable difference. And softening them too can help get back that Chickering sound. Don't know for sure though, so don't get yer hopes up.

Pwg


Would this be done by using those weights on the keys to set a baseline then start the weight reduction? As far as hope, I would assume this piano is going to need a full work over to be correct.


1980 Yamaha G5 Grand Piano
1924 Chickering Baby Grand

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