1901 Chappell upright

Posted by: BenP

1901 Chappell upright - 10/02/12 07:50 PM

I have a customer with a beautiful-on-the-outside Chappell upright piano, 1901, the 85-key model (stops at an A7 at the top). There's not too much rust inside, and considering its age, it could be in much worse condition. As far as I could tell all the strings and action were original. I don't think much work has been done on the inside during its lifetime. It has three broken hammer butts and two broken wippens.

The customer does not want to do a complete restoration of the action, but they would like to fix the broken parts and get it reasonably in tune so that it's usable. They like the piano even if it's not a valuable antique. I'm putting together a quote to fix the broken parts, but have already warned them the piano is on a short fuse for lots of other problems.

Any thoughts about this? I know some would not consider doing anything to a piano of this age unless it was a complete restoration. I try to work with people as much as I can, but I also don't like the liability of fixing a few parts and potentially breaking others in the process (or while tuning it). As a young tuner, I have not worked on many pianos of this age.

And another thing that's driving me crazy about the Chappell - is the accent on the first or second syllable?
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 09:45 AM



I presume that the broken parts would be flanges? These kinds of repairs usually can be completed without the risk of breaking other parts.

On the quotation I would recommend a disclaimer something like;
“All work completed at owners risk” and the further “this quotation does not include the cost of hidden damage”

If asked the explanation would be: “when working on an old mechanism, at times dismantle and re-assemble can break parts or create other mechanical problems. These are not covered by the quote to repair the already malfunctioning parts”……

Chappell is pronounced chapel here in my shop. Some might pronounce the Ch soft as in Shappell or some may accent the last part ChaPPELL.
Posted by: BenP

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 05:38 PM

Dan, thanks for the advice. Yes, I believe all the broken parts had broken at the flange. I'm not too concerned about breaking other parts doing the repairs, but wouldn't be surprised at a couple broken strings while tuning it. That, and other action parts may be on the verge of breakage as they start actually playing it again. But then I suppose that pretty much comes with the territory on that age of piano.

Any thoughts about the piano's value? It's had a very nice outside refinishing job at some point I think - but the removable wooden parts feel very light, and look like composite. Was that common practice at the turn of the century?
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 05:56 PM

Well, for sure one of the techs from Britain would be more familiar with this brand than I am but I don’t believe composites were used back then.

Probably the instrument has dried out so much over time that all of the boards have little in the way of weight to them. What indicates this as a possibility is the fact that wooden parts are smashing and one of the causes of that is also dryness of wooden parts, along with other factors such as out of adjustment/ regulation, hard use, abuse, etc etc…

Because of the short keyboard in today’s world it will not have much in the way of financial value. It will have some value as a historical vintage piece, and value musically for play but those things do not translate into increased financial values.

That is what I meant about the disclaimer. The client needs to understand that all work is to be done at the owner’s risk. This especially includes strings that pop when you are tuning.

Remember to inform the client that the wire in a piano is only pulled to 2/3 of its tensile strength, so if wire will not hold 60% of its breaking strength then the wire should not be in the piano in the first place.

Maybe not worded that bluntly but you get the idea….
Posted by: BDB

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 05:56 PM

Old vertical pianos have little or no value, except some of the top makes. Chappell was a British manufacturer, not often seen or heard of in the US, and although the sheet music publisher is still very important, there would not be any special demand for the pianos.

I do not know what wood they would have used for the action. Maple action parts, most common among US makers, become brittle if the wood turns reddish. Yellow is okay. Many European actions were made of hornbeam, a type of beech, which remains white and strong, at least to my limited experience.

If you are lacking confidence to do this job, perhaps you should pass it along to someone else.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 06:29 PM

Originally Posted By: BenP
but have already warned them the piano is on a short fuse for lots of other problems.


I'm curious. Specifics?

I say as long as the customer understands they'll likely never see the money they spend on it again, and are happy with that, and that you're confident of doing a good job, go for it.
Posted by: Supply

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/03/12 07:15 PM

1901 is not a particularly old piano. The age itself should not be a determining factor in parts breaking - we service many pianos of that age which stand up just fine for home use.

Regarding value: with an upright, an 85 note piano will not have a lesser value than an 88 note piano. 85 note pianos were built into the 1980s - nothing wrong with them. But that is a different discussion...
Posted by: BenP

Re: 1901 Chappell upright - 10/05/12 10:59 AM

Thanks for the responses - sorry I haven't been around the last couple days. I'll let you know what happens with the piano. Got some good information here; mostly confirming my own thoughts.

Originally Posted By: BDB
If you are lacking confidence to do this job, perhaps you should pass it along to someone else.


That thought has crossed my mind. I'm fine with doing the repairs, as long as I can get the appropriate parts, but I have already mentioned the name of another reputable establishment in the area if they were to do a complete restoration. I don't have the time, tools, or skill for that.

OperaTenor, by short fuse I guess I'm just referring mainly to the action. I assume that if five action parts have already broken, many others could be very weak. But who knows, they may have broken as the result of isolated incidents or damage from moving.

Should be a fun project!