Do you own anything that is 100 years old? Last week, our upright piano was serviced by Daryl Frank, piano technician, and he confirmed that it was crafted at the turn of the century. This was not a complete surprise since I know it originally belonged to my maternal great-grandfather Clem. My mother inherited it, and the piano lived with one of my sisters for a time until I adopted it.
But Daryl was a veritable font of information, confirming some points I already knew, while adding facts about the piano that were news to me.
ONE: The piano is made from quarter sawn oak. This corroborated an assessment by our good friend Neal, the general contractor for our house who knows a lot about carpentry. Uprights made from quarter sawn oak were the most expensive uprights you could buy.
TWO: The piano was originally stained and shellacked a dark, almost black, color, as can be seen on the inside of the lid of the piano. This was news (I am not sure I ever knew you could open the lid!)
THREE: Later, someone stained and lacquered the entire piano a cherry color, which still remains on some of the inside sections of the piano. I remember this color - it was the shade I first recall on the piano, that is until my Mother decided to remove it in the late 1970s, revealing the marvelous oak grain underneath. (She applied a protective coat of polyurethane to all the surfaces.) Daryl and his wife Connie, who together run Daryl Frank Piano Services, remarked on the professional work of my Mother, to remove all trace of that cherry from even the intricate sections of the piano.
FOUR: Quarter sawn oak is also referred to as Chatter Oak, because of the way the saw leaves a 'chatter' pattern on the oak. This was a new term for me; when I looked it up on the Web, most of what I found described how to eliminate chatter!!!
FIVE: The piano contains a serial number, which will allow Daryl and Connie to identify exactly when this piano was built, even though Price and Teeple has been out of business for decades. Of course I had noticed this number in the metal frame of the piano, but I didn't realize it could be used for anything as important as this!
SIX: Daryl estimated that Great-Grandfather Clem paid $275 to acquire this piano. In today's dollars, that equates to roughly $8,000. I had no idea!
|Detail stripped by my Mother
|Detail stripped by my Mother
NINE: The "action" on our piano will need repair. The bridal tape, a component that moves the hammer back and forth to strike the strings, is made of leather. After 100 years, those skinny bits of leather have started to deteriorate. Also, the felt on many of the hammers (especially for those keys used frequently) has been crushed and will not be effective. The good news? Daryl can simply remove the action and take it to his shop, rather than have to move this massive instrument. He plans to do this in the spring, after or as part of the next tuning.
TEN: Piano craftsmen often put pennies inside the instruments for good luck. Another novel fact. But, no, we are not going to tear it appart to see if we have one of those lucky pennies!
ELEVEN: Daryl pointed out the scrollwork inside the piano, which I had taken for granted. Apparently, the decorations were hand-painted onto the metal frame. The painter must have had a steady hand!
TWELVE: While packing his tools to leave, Daryl asked if we had any trouble getting the piano across the state border. Spousal Unit and I exchanged puzzled looks, and he explained that some states are starting to explore legislation prohibiting the import of ivory, regardless of its age or source. Oh my goodness - after all the trouble we had getting the piano into position (see previous post), I can't imagine what I would have done if someone wanted to strip the keys off the instrument!!!
THIRTEEN: It's irreplaceable. Yep, I think I knew that.
(Although a physical item like this cannot be replaced, it is some consolation to receive monetary compensation from your insurance company if the item is destroyed, as in a fire. Make sure you work with a specialist and your insurance company to document the value of such a specimen!!!)