Restoring a Relic from 1894, Chickering and Sons Model 67BB

I recently acquired a Chickering and Sons model 67BB piano that dates to 1894. I am going to ATTEMPT to restore it. It is so old and needs so much work that it will be necessary to completely disassemble the piano and rebuild it. Doing this will definitely be a challenge, as the entire instrument needs attention in some form.

Chickering and Sons model 67BB ca. 1894

The cabinet is weathered and most of the finish is off, however, the wood is straight and not warped. The cabinet is made of African Mahogany (now an endangered species). The wood and veneers are quarter sawn and show beautiful ribbon stripe figure. All joints in the cabinet are solid except for one leg in the front, which will have to be reglued. I plan of finishing this cabinet with hand rubbed nitrocellulose lacquer. It will be stunning finished like that.

In keeping with the piano's age, the white keys are made of elephant ivory. The sharps are ebony. You don't see either of those things these days. If I am able to find a few scrap pieces of ivory, I will be able to repair the few broken keytops that are on the piano. I can tell by the slow return of most of the keys that they are going to need to be totally rebushed.

The action of the piano is not in good condition.

Action and plate

There are several hammers missing. The hammers that are on the instrument are all heavily worn and have hardened over the years so now the piano sounds very thin and bright. New hammers will be in order. The action parts are in need of a lot of attention. Many of the key actions are sluggish, or have broken and missing parts. I will be making at least a few parts from scratch since factory replacement parts are history. I anticipate that all the pin bushings for flanges need to be replaced. All of the felts and buckskins need to be replaced. Two damper felt mounting blocks are missing so replacements will have to be fabricated, probably of aluminum.

The strings on the piano appear to be original, so they will have to be replaced. I broke several trying to tune it. There are quite a few loose pins in the pinblock, but the pinblock itself is free of cracks or delaminations, so I think it is salvageable.

One of the biggest challenges of this project will be removing and refinishing the plate. You will notice from the pictures that at some point in the past, some corrosive liquid dripped on the metal and ate the paint off. Getting that plate out of the cabinet for refinishing will be a chore because I think it weighs several hundred pounds. Another complication is that this piano's plate is fastened to the frame with long bolts and not wood screws. These bolts have a strange socket in the head of the bolt that does not fit any commonly found tool today. I will probably have to go to a machine shop and have a tool made that will allow me to remove the plate bolts.

One great (and uncommon) thing about this piano is that the soundboard is in perfect condition. At this age, they are usually split and cracked badly. The piano makes no buzzes or extraneous sounds when played.

As you can see, this instrument needs a lot of work. I am not rebuilding this for resale. I hope to keep it for myself, so the amount of work to restore it is irrelevant to me. If you are new to pianos, I am sure that some of the discussion above sounds like Greek to you, but rest assured that my future posts, which will cover restoration in detail, will provide enough background information to at least be educational to those who aren't piano technicians.

Thank you for looking. If you want to keep abreast of this project, consider following Kenspianos on social media. I will be announcing new posts there first.

Thanks for reading!

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