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Interesting Antique from about 1800

Astor and Company Full Open

The world has seen approximately 320 years of piano building.  The era of the modern piano began in about 1880.  This interesting antique is an “Astor & Company” square piano from about 1800.  Son Sherwin, also a piano technician, ran across this piece while doing some moving around the Portland, Maine area.  It’s obviously in need of restoration if one hoped to play it.  Design aspects of this instrument demonstrate one step in the evolution of modern pianos.  It notably lacks a cast iron plate, therefore the string tension would be much lower than we use today, affecting tone.  If only it could talk!  Imagine who might have played this 217 years ago…  

Astor and Company Full Open
Full view. Action on the left. The soundboard (central) with its bridge is smaller than a cello, so we can be sure that the tone was rather delicate compared to modern instruments.
Astor and Company Fallboard
Hand painted name board.
Astor and Company Tuning Pins
You can just see the letter names of the notes hand written on the pin block.
Astor and Company Action Detail
Action visible below the worn and missing strings. The dampers are off track and misshapen, but all the principles that define “piano”–or in this case “fortepiano”, are present.
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What I am working on this week.

This week I have been continuing work on the Chickering Quarter Grand.  Patching the plate finish is easier once a working color is applied; the minor defects are made more visible. The body of this beast is beginning to show its real beauty.  I now have the soundboard refinished, and about half of the exterior finish has been applied.  

Chickering Q. G. Plate
Temporary working color on the Chickering plate. This is not the final look.
Scraping old finish off the sound board.
Scraping old finish off the sound board.
Decal Applied.
Decal Applied.

I also just picked up this action from a friend and client who has asked me to make improvements to the touch and tone of his piano. It is getting new hammers, key bushings and the requisite regulation.