Various Q & A:
Can you please tell me why you are selling the piano?

A few reasons:
  1. I have had this piano for 30 years now, and I have always said that "one of these days ..." I would have it fully rebuilt / restored.  I am now realizing that I probably will not rebuild it in the foreseeable future, if ever.  It's a great instrument and deserves to be restored, but I think I'm just not going to be the one to do it.
  2. I have become more mobile and more of an "apartment dweller" than the "big home dweller" that I used to be.  Accomodating this large instrument is now a major factor in choosing and moving into each new apartment.
  3. I could use the money.  I recently was laid off, which accelerated my thinking about selling the piano. (see Note 1)
Does it have hard or soft touch to the keys?

The touch is perhaps what might be called medium.  I find a lot of modern grands to have an overly hard touch.  I have strong fingers, but still, playing should not be such an athletic exercise!  The keys are firm and predictable, but soft enough so that I can play as loud or soft, fast or slowly as I like.  A glissando on this piano will not hurt anyone's fingers!

Has it ever been rebuilt?

I don't think so.  But it looks and sounds really great ...  especially considering that it has not been rebuilt.

Could I could come by to see it sometime?

Yes, that would be a great idea.  You are welcome to call and come by.  I'll let you study and play it, take out the action, etc.   And, of course, I'll try to answer whatever questions come up.
Are the legs and music rack original to this piano?

They seem to be original.  They all match each other very well in veneer, varnish, etc.  The music stand is stamped with the same "6103" as other wood pieces.

I have seen several Chickering's with that case style but they all have had round turned legs and the carved music rack.

Yes, I agree.  I've not seen another quite like it, and all the others I've seen are much more ornate.  Mine seems to be just a more understated, elegant design.  I also have not determined what type of wood the veneer is, but it seems more likely to be mahogany than the flashy rosewood I've commonly seen.

It looks like a fine instrument.

We've certainly enjoyed it.  I'm sure I'll miss it, but after 30 years of planning to rebuild it "one of these days" I think I should give someone else a chance!
Is the piano in good shape?

It is a beautiful piano and plays well.  I really enjoy having and playing it.  However, it has not been "rebuilt" or "restored."

Are there any known repairs needed?

No repairs are really "needed," since it looks nice and plays well, but there are things such as some hammers that are worn and would look and sound better if replaced.  The ones that are most deserving of repair are very high notes which are hardly ever played except while tuning, i.e., the upper half of the upper octave.  There is actually one hammer missing.  I think I took it out many years ago to see about finding a source of replacement parts, and forgot about it.  It is the very highest note, which is almost never played.

Are the strings and all moving parts in good shape?

Everything functions fine except as noted above.  I have replaced a few strings (2 or 3) over the 30 years I've had the piano.  There is actually one treble string missing that I broke in 2002 and haven't yet bothered to replace.

Did you do the string repairs yourself? If so how did you do them?

Yes, I changed those few strings myself. I merely bought standard new strings to replace the ones that had broken, and installed them just like the originals. They are the same as the original strings in diameter, etc., but they do look quite different from their much older neighbors.

Is the original bench with it?

The bench I have is not really related to the piano, other than it's where I sit when I play it.  :-)
Are there cracks in the soundboard?  If so how many, and would you call them hairline cracks, or are the gaps wide enough to be measured, i.e., 1/32" or 1/16"?   These can best be viewed by crawling under the instrument and looking up and beyond the huge wood braces that support the outer case of the piano to see the underside of the soundboard.

I had never noticed any cracks, but I had never really looked closely underneath -- so I just took a good look with a good flashlight.

The general appearance of the underside of the soundboard is very pretty, as if it had just been recently varnished.  However I do see at least one area where there seems to be a partial crack along the edge between two joined pieces, i.e., lengthwise.  In fact, where this crack meets one of the struts, there is a slight vertical displacement, of perhaps 1/32 inch.  This crack does not extend the whole length of the joined boards, but only a little over a foot, perhaps 18 inches.  It is most prominent at two struts.  Near one is the displacement I mentioned before.  Near the other, there is another short fissure, parallel and about 3/8 inch away from the joint, that looks as if it formed from the stress of one of the screws holding the soundboard to the strut.  I'll take some well-lighted pictures underneath to show what I am describing.

Thanks so much for your exploration!  The cracks you described do not sound catastrophic by any means.  As a matter of fact, for a piano this old to have no cracks is almost unheard of.

Yes, I think you're right about that.

The gap between the brace and soundboard however can sometimes cause buzzing on certain notes, but it is quite repairable.

I've never heard any buzzing, but I suppose there might be potential.  Anyway, the cracks are few, small, and accessible, so that only minor soundboard repair would be called for, if any.

Can you provide photos of the cracks you spoke of?

Yes, here are a few, in order of increasing detail and file size:
640x480-47kB 1600x1200-837kB 1600x1200-1071kB 1600x1200-1841kB

While you're under the piano, you will see struts or braces that hold the soundboard together that are approximately 1"X 1" pieces of wood (these are only on the bottom).  Could you try holding a piece of string across or perpendicular to these braces or struts from one end of the soundboard to the other and see if the soundboard is flat or if it has a little arch? (This is called a crown and is critical to the sound of the instrument in the higher octaves.)

I never thought about crowning until you mentioned it, but it does make sense, and I have found a few interesting articles about it on the web.  Anyway I got under the piano with some string, and I was unable to detect any visible crown in either direction.  This made me wonder ...  (forgive me if I sound rather naive, but bear with me) ...  whether the particular design of this piano might obviate the crown.  For example, I see in the latter two cited patents comments like this: "This sounding-board, instead of having a continuous support around its edges, is supported only at isolated or distant points around the edges by blocks or analogous devices c, erected upon the skeleton or main frame A; hence it is free to vibrate freely throughout its extent." I have certainly never sensed any deficiency in volume or tone that I would attribute to soundboard weakness, but that's obviously rather subjective, and I'm not a piano technician.  I do know that the fellow from Garland Pianos was satisfied with the soundboard when he examined the piano in 1997.

From my understanding, the crown in the soundboard has been a basic tenet of piano manufacture since it's earliest days as the pianoforte, regardless of how it is supported around the edges.  However, I believe the test I suggested will only illustrate the crown on certain instruments as different manufacturers used different techniques to achieve the crown (sometimes the braces themselves are crowned on top but level on the bottom).  The most dependable test for this is to to listen to octave 5, or from the C one octave above middle C to the C two octaves above middle C.  If there is a decrease in volume or brilliance in this area it points to soundboard crown problems.

The best I can say is that I surely have not and do not notice any particular uneven volume or brilliance, in that octave or any others.  Keep in mind, however, that I have never had the piano restrung.  I've replaced a string or two or three in 30 years, but I've never replaced them all, so the old strings are likely to exhibit a general lack of brilliance compared to what would be heard with newer strings.

Are the keytops ivory?

I do not believe they are ivory.  They are in good shape, with no discoloration, and I see no grain in them at all.

It's quite certain that this piano had ivory keytops when it was manufactured.  It was however common from the 1930's through the 1960's to replace warping ivory with celluloid or later forms of plastic.

Yes, I think that's probably true for this piano.

Ivory has come back into vogue in a big way since it was banned in the 1980's, and adds to the value of an instrument if it is still there.

I can imagine that this would add to the value, although I do actually prefer the feel of these keytops, whatever they are made of.
Does the plate or "harp" (the cast iron frame that holds and supports the tension of the strings) have any cracks?

The harp is beautiful and certainly has no cracks or defects. The beautiful gold paint is a bit worn and tarnished in some places, but otherwise the harp is like new.

Is the middle pedal functional? Does it hold up individual keys in the treble when it is used?

Yes, the middle pedal is functional, but it is a "bass sustaining" rather than "sostenuto" pedal, so it lifts all the bass dampers rather than those of arbitrary depressed keys.
Links to more interesting information about pianos:

Note 1: I was laid off July 2002, which was "recently" at the time I wrote this answer. I'm happily employed now, ... but still "could use the money." (back to FAQ)