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#2034542 - 02/17/13 12:47 AM Chickering Grand from the mid 60's
Pianolance Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 1178
Loc: Nashville, TN
I came across a Chickering 5' grand from about 1964. I know that a larger grand would be better but it's not an option at this point. This Chickering was in pristine condition inside. Bridges and soundboard are good condition and free of cracks. The piano hadn't been tuned in about 5 or 6 years and was still in relatively good tune, although I'm sure the overall pitch had dropped, but it was in pretty much tune with itself. The hammers were totally ungrooved and looked factory new, still fuzzy and bright white. The piano could have benefited from a tuning and good regulation, but even that wasn't bad at all. The action was not sloppy or irregular. Dampers, sostenuto, and una corda pedals worked as they should. The finish wasn't perfect but was very presentable. The keytops were plastic and somewhat yellowed but with no cracks or chips. Action was fairly light which I like. The wood was walnut. One oddity that I noticed was the cheek blocks were very narrow or skinny. Other than that, this one appeared to be a real gem. Asking price is around $2900 before any negotiations. My real question is, what was Chickering manufacturing quality of this vintage. I know it was owned by Aeolian, as was Knabe and Mason and several others. I also understand that a piano of this size will have limited sound potential. This piano sounded as good as my 5'2" Knabe ever did.
_________________________
Knabe 5'2" Louis XV Walnut circa 1927
Very part time piano broker.

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#2034628 - 02/17/13 08:06 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8072
Loc: Georgia, USA
Hi Lance,

I'm certainly not the expert here, but I've read several comments from our PW experts, and they say that some of the Aeolian samples from this era were pretty good, despite their reputation.

As far as the price, in my view, when you get to around $2500 or $3000 or so, the better candidates don't sell for much cheaper than that, though there are anomalies from time to time.

Maybe some of the real pros will chime in here with a comment or two...

Good luck, and I hope things are going well for you.

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2034746 - 02/17/13 12:43 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Steve Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/07
Posts: 634
Loc: Toronto

Hi Lance:

I'm sure the bellywork is good, and the action may or may
not be perfect. Overall, it's a good piano and rugged.

Worth considering.

Take care,

Steve
_________________________
Vintage Piano sales and restoration in Toronto
Exclusive Live Performance Player Systems Dealer

http://stevejacksonpianos.com

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#2034777 - 02/17/13 01:34 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1252
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Pianolance
My real question is, what was Chickering manufacturing quality of this vintage. I know it was owned by Aeolian, as was Knabe and Mason and several others. I also understand that a piano of this size will have limited sound potential. This piano sounded as good as my 5'2" Knabe ever did.


A popular but irrelevant question. At this point, who cares if Chickering was turning out 5 bad pianos out of 100 or 40 bad pianos out of 100? Your concern at the moment is not with some historic statistical factor but rather what is the condition of the particular instrument in question. If it's a good one, then how often Chickering made good ones is really irrelevant. If it's a bad one, then it doesn't matter if the rest of them they made that year were superb.

It sounds like you have already done a good job of making a preliminary examination. The next step would be to have a technician knowledgeable in rebuilding look it over if you really want as much assurance as possible going into the deal.

Of course, there will be things that can be done to improve the instrument, but it sounds like it is satisfactory for what it is as it is.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#2035033 - 02/17/13 10:59 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3448
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
I personally wouldn't invest $3K in a 50-year-old instrument, regardless of condition. Pianos are mostly organic materials: wood, leather, felt. They're big wooden typewriters, sitting under a harp, and need to operate with close tolerances. Wood warps, splits, and gets brittle; leather gets hard and cracks; felt deteriorates.

Imagine if you were shopping for clocks with gears made out of wood. Would you spend $3K for one that looks nice? What do think the chances are that it will need repairs over the next five to ten years?

At the other extreme, you can get a brand-new, entry-level studio upright for $3K, with a ten-year warranty. Sure, it won't perform like a grand, but it will still be functional in 20 years... which you can't guarantee by any means with this piano.

If you can't name who was president the year the piano was made, it's probably too old to invest in. I'd at least like to see people shop in the 25- to 30-year-old range. Pianos don't get better with time; they just gradually disassemble themselves.

--Cy--
_________________________
Cy Shuster, RPT
505-265-4234
www.shusterpiano.com
www.facebook.com/shusterpiano
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Registered Piano Technician
Dampp-Chaser Certified Installer
PianoDisc Certified Service Technician

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#2035202 - 02/18/13 10:54 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Cy Shuster, RPT]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1467
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Cy;
Have you ever worked or visited the west coast of the US. There are many examples of 50 year old pianos that show little use and no deterioration. When serviced properly then can easily perform equal to a new one. They might not have the polished appearance of a new piano, but the question of future durability is carried by many of the new pianos from asia.

I have been servicing pianos for 40 years and I have some clients with 40 YO pianos I have maintained all their life and they still perform as good as a new piano of comparable quality. They have had keys re-bushed and actions regulated as needed.

Piano value is manufacturing/design success; combined with condition, regulation, and tuning.

Your generalization is too simple and sweeping.

Leather wears and deteriorates from UV exposure, Polluted air exposure, and water exposure. Left in a benign environment it is indefinitely preserved; embalmed you might say.

Wool fibers are much the same as leather except that insects will eat them especially if they get vegetable or animal oils on them. When graves are opened hair, fingernails and bones are still intact.

Wood is much the same also except in the piano it must hold some of the string strain, and it can elastically deform from this. Bridges are stressed right at the strength limits of the wood, at the bridge pins.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2035226 - 02/18/13 11:25 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20757
Loc: Oakland
Organic materials can last a long time. I am made of them, and I have not fallen apart yet, although I am working at it.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2035410 - 02/18/13 05:54 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: kpembrook]
Pianolance Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 1178
Loc: Nashville, TN
Originally Posted By: kpembrook
At this point, who cares if Chickering was turning out 5 bad pianos out of 100 or 40 bad pianos out of 100? Your concern at the moment is not with some historic statistical factor but rather what is the condition of the particular instrument in question. If it's a good one, then how often Chickering made good ones is really irrelevant. If it's a bad one, then it doesn't matter if the rest of them they made that year were superb.


Actually, I am not so concerned if this one is a quote lemon or not or if Chickering turned out 5% bad pianos and 95% good pianos that year. I was more concerned about general build quality. The quality of the wood working, materials used, joinery, action parts, etc. I'm pretty sure that this one is a good sample of what Chickering turned out that year. Something like, "Chickering was known to use good materials and good construction techniques during that era" or "Chickering used inferior materials and joinery that is sub par". I know that earlier Chickerings are considered fine pianos, I was wondering if Chickerings well deserved reputation extends to the 60's era or not. Any insight here would be helpful. Perhaps a person who has rebuilt a similar Chickering that really knows the inner workings of the construction of this type instrument. I remember reading an essay of a rebuilder who was rebuilding a well made upright piano and as he was taking the piano apart he noted how well the original piano was made. He even said that the construction showed pride in a job well done by the workers. That's the kind of info I want here. Thanks.
_________________________
Knabe 5'2" Louis XV Walnut circa 1927
Very part time piano broker.

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#2035419 - 02/18/13 06:21 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20757
Loc: Oakland
There were a number of brands that were made at the Aeolian American plant then. Mason & Hamlin, Knabe and Chickering were the best of them, so they would have gotten better materials and refining than other pianos made there.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2035442 - 02/18/13 07:05 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1181
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
I believe a small Chickering grand from that era would be 5'1", and would have been the same design as the 5'1" Knabe grand. Both were built in East Rochester, NY at the Aeolian American factory. One thing I don't care for in just about any piano coming from Aeolian American at that point and beyond is the quality of the hammers.
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2035463 - 02/18/13 07:54 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3448
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
Ed, I respect your comments, and mine were definitely generalizations. Of course, parts that have been replaced (key bushings) are no longer 50 years old.

I lived 25 years in northern and southern California, and grew up in New Mexico, where I still live.

I guarantee that 50-year-old saddles and bridles show deterioration, without exposure to pollution. And I can guarantee that if you have an unused hammer that you purchased 40 years ago and never used, that I can distinguish it from a brand-new hammer.

There are certainly many half-century-old pianos in great shape. I recently serviced an 1894 upright (second owner!) that I thought for sure had been refinished, but wasn't!

In any case, another way to look at it is, what's the best piano you can get for $3K? I think there are better options. I wouldn't mind spending half that for a 1963 upright for a beginner.

--Cy--
_________________________
Cy Shuster, RPT
505-265-4234
www.shusterpiano.com
www.facebook.com/shusterpiano
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Registered Piano Technician
Dampp-Chaser Certified Installer
PianoDisc Certified Service Technician

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#2035490 - 02/18/13 09:00 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20757
Loc: Oakland
There is only one place in most grands where leather is used, the backcheck, and that is usually good until it wears out. Replacing that leather is not a big deal.

Hammers do age, but with proper maintenance and barring wear, they can be usable for more than 50 years, although it depends on their initial quality and voicing.

50 years on a decent quality piano is not like 50 years on a lower quality one.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2035495 - 02/18/13 09:13 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Getting back to the question:
Originally Posted By: Pianolance
... I was more concerned about general build quality. The quality of the wood working, materials used, joinery, action parts, etc. .... Thanks.
The piano sounds very much identical to one in my clientele. I would not rate the quality of the parts or construction highly, and the touch and tone support this.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2035739 - 02/19/13 09:38 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: BDB]
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3448
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
Originally Posted By: BDB
There is only one place in most grands where leather is used, the backcheck, and that is usually good until it wears out.


Knuckle covers, a huge friction point?

Originally Posted By: BDB
Hammers do age, but with proper maintenance and barring wear, they can be usable for more than 50 years, although it depends on their initial quality and voicing.

50 years on a decent quality piano is not like 50 years on a lower quality one.


I quite agree.

It's just sad to me that, with new piano prices lower than I can ever remember, people are confidently shopping for 1960's used items, when they drop $2K on a new TV every few years.

--Cy--
_________________________
Cy Shuster, RPT
505-265-4234
www.shusterpiano.com
www.facebook.com/shusterpiano
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Registered Piano Technician
Dampp-Chaser Certified Installer
PianoDisc Certified Service Technician

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#2035771 - 02/19/13 10:47 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Supply]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1467
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Jurgen,
The design of the 501 Chickering/Knabe Aeolian is excellent IF you correct the strike line deeper in the lower treble. If you do a hybrid wire scale and shape the V-bar to a real V shape-they can sound fabulous. The build quality got progressively worse from mid 1960 to almost the end at Aeolian, (the short Peter Perez ownership period brought the build quality way up). I have one from 1952 in my shop that is a wonderful piano, Mahogany and perfect ivory. Soundboard, bridges, pin-block-that well-preserved lifetime Seattle piano. I do not like the 501's bigger brother the 509-the scale is unfixable.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2035814 - 02/19/13 11:32 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Ed: OK, so a scale re-design is in order and will make a big difference in tone. Now - what to do with the marginal quality keys, action, hammers etc?

The question was not: can this piano be re-built to a high level, the question was about the quality of the instrument leaving the factory. That is all I commented on. There seems to be quite a consensus on the reputation of Aeolian era piano quality. Things were not stellar.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2035820 - 02/19/13 11:45 AM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20757
Loc: Oakland
Most pianos are not stellar, and that period was not great for any of the best pianos made in the US. On the other hand, most pianists are not that great, either.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2035840 - 02/19/13 12:22 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8072
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: BDB
On the other hand, most pianists are not that great, either.

An understatement, to say the least… at least this is the category I'm in. smile

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2035848 - 02/19/13 12:42 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6091
Loc: Rochester MN
Rick,

You dad was an Aeolian? I have a lead on a 6'2" UFOenstein for you to try.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2035870 - 02/19/13 01:24 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Pianolance]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8072
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Rick,

You dad was an Aeolian? I have a lead on a 6'2" UFOenstein for you to try.

Well, I've come to the conclusion that a high quality piano makes a not-so-great pianist sound (and look) better... smile

On the other hand, a really great pianist can make a mediocre piano sound great! smile

It's a strange world...

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2035882 - 02/19/13 01:41 PM Re: Chickering Grand from the mid 60's [Re: Cy Shuster, RPT]
Pianolance Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 1178
Loc: Nashville, TN
Originally Posted By: Cy Shuster, RPT
It's just sad to me that, with new piano prices lower than I can ever remember, people are confidently shopping for 1960's used items, when they drop $2K on a new TV every few years.

--Cy--


Well, that might be true for some, but I have a $299 television that I bought 13 years ago and currently have no plans to replace. Any suggestions on a new baby grand piano for less than $3000? I'm all ears.
_________________________
Knabe 5'2" Louis XV Walnut circa 1927
Very part time piano broker.

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