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Joined: Feb 2021
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Hi all, I am helping clear out a relative's home and she has what I think (thanks to this forum) is a Chickering Quarter Grand, from ~1905. Serial number is 108486. It's just over 60" long, 51" wide and just over 37" tall. The soundboard has a large crack as you can see in the pictures, and I've attached as many other photos as I can to show the overall condition, which doesn't appear to be so hot. As mentioned, this was an elderly relative's piano and we have to make a decision on its future, so I was wondering based on the condition if it has a future? We will not be keeping it but in its current condition, will anyone want this piano for restoration?  If necessary, I will bring in a local technician as well to get a close up analysis / estimate if it is thought to be salvageable / salable.

If not financially feasible for an individual to own and restore, we'd donate it if there is anyone who would come and take it and I'll start learning who to contact for that (Long Island.)  Thanks for any input, I've already learned a ton about Chickerings from reading through these forums and really appreciate any thoughts, especially as someone playing catch up on the vast trove of info here. 

Here is the link to the gallery I created. http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/galleries/3085863/chickering-early-1900s.html

Have a great day. -E 

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Oh, how this makes me wish I had the resources to restore a piano myself in my free time. Sigh. smile


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Why did someone leave a muting strip in place? One surmises that at some point a tuner came, strip-muted the piano, and discovered while tuning that the piano was un-tunable due to loose tuning pins. Whereupon, the tuner discussed this with the owner, then left, forgetting to remove the muting strip. If that theory is correct, then in addition to the big soundboard split, it has very loose tuning pins....

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Hi David, thank you for your thoughts. Anything is possible with regards to what my relative may have done with regards to the piano or its servicing over the years. Is this something someone like me - with no knowledge of a piano's inner operations - can check?

The more I research, the more I feel like it may be a lost cause, which seems a shame for such a beautiful piano. Either way, I appreciate your feedback. Thanks again. -E

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I just looked at an identical one that was being liquidated from an estate. Someone picked it up at the last minute, otherwise it would have been scrapped.

Nobody can tell exactly what the condition is without seeing it in person. The one I looked at had some stuck keys that went away when I took the action out and put it back in. That crack is pretty severe, but it may not affect the sound much. However a lot of people would just condemn the piano on that basis. It depends on what one's tolerances are.


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Arrondissement, in photos 5,6,7,8 and 12, you can see a thin strip of red felt material lying across the strings, in fact pushed down between the trichords (groups of three strings per note), giving the felt a somewhat 'cobbled' appearance.

That felt is a Muting Strip. Tuners push it into place so that only the middle string of each trichord sounds, when initially tuning each note. After tuning the middle strings for each note, the outer strings are then tuned to match them, with the strip being removed.

The fact that the muting strip was left in place, suggests to me that a tuner started to tune it, and then left off tuning, without removing the muting strip. Why would that happen? Maybe the tuner took ill and had to leave, forgetting the muting felt strip. But more likely to me is that the tuner found the piano untuneable, discussed this with the owner, and then left, forgetting the muting strip. It would not be possible for the piano to be played and sound anything like normal, with that muting strip still in place.

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BDB - thank you for your reply. I have reached out to a company that does restorations in hopes that they will want it. I would love for someone to have it again, regardless.

David - thanks again for your additional response and explanation of what I am seeing, I greatly appreciate it. I did not, however, properly clarify my question: what I meant was to ask if there is any way for me - with no knowledge/skill in working with pianos - to determine that the tuning pins are loose? If not, no worries as I am getting a handle on what I think needs to be done with the piano, just thought I would ask as I will have access to it all day tomorrow and could check. Thanks again. -E

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The best way for someone unfamiliar with determining whether the tuning pins are loose, although not 100% accurate is to do two things: Check the pitch of some of the notes near the center of the range of the piano. There are free pitch meters which will suffice. You cannot expect them to be spot on, but you do not want an A sounding closer to a G#. Then pull out the muting strip, and see if any of the notes sound wildly out of tune, with individual strings at different pitches. Because the muting strip was in, it may have been that someone quit tuning midstream, so that might not be a great indication, but then listen to the notes that were not muted and hear how they are.


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Maybe some pictures of the underside of the soundboard? but let's be realistic, this piano looks toasted, rebuilding it will be probably very expensive and in addition it's a very small piano so it won't sound very good and won't be worth much after that.
And you have no guarantee that whoever does it, will do a good job, it's very risky and even if all goes well you'll end up with a mediocre piano unless you find some magician rebuilder.

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One must learn to tailor advice to the situation at hand, and in this case, you should actually read what Arrondissement wrote.


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Arondissement, go with what BDB suggests, and see how you get on. A piano tuner with a tuning lever can tell immediately if the tuning pins are too loose for tuning to be possible, but without the tuning lever and the experience, it is trickier.

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Hi all, thanks so much for the info and feedback, I truly appreciate all of it. I've talked by phone with some knowledgeable folks and combining that with all I have learned here has been invaluable toward making the decision on which direction to go. Thanks again, I greatly appreciate all your posts and advice.

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Please, please, please do NOT donate this piano.

I see this all the time: people think they are being “generous” by giving an old piano to a school, church, or retirement home. Then I get there and have to deal with a disaster. Pianos from 1905 are shot and generally not worth pouring money into. This piano, for example, needs the soundboard fixed, so you might as well restring it—with new pins—and you wouldn’t do that without new hammers. And shanks because the knuckles are shot. And it probably needs new dampers. And felt. And new key bushings. It’s a rabbit hole.
I think some big Chickerings are worth it, but not this tiny baby grand.

Pianos like this are good for parts, including ivory and case screws, or for a new tech to practice things like stringing.

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Did you make a decision? Any follow-up report? Thanks!


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