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?
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!