1884 Chickering Square Grand Piano


This lovely old Checkering came to us in deplorable condition. The interior is worn and deteriorated, rendering the instrument completely unusable. The legs were brittle and too weak to hold the instrument safely so it required metal shop legs to be set up. The old deteriorated finish had chemically broken down and turned almost black over the years. This instrument will certainly present quite a challenge to restore!


Professional restoration brings this beautiful piano back to life! The old brittle legs have been restored and reinforced to give the piano the stability it needs. The beautifully restored cabinet and finish once again showcases the amazing Brazilian Rosewood grain like it did when it was new! The video below will give you a rare opportunity to hear the soft, sweet tone that made these instruments so popular with our ancestors.

Scroll down to see the piano restoration process!

About this piano:  This beautiful Chickering square grand piano was built in Boston in 1884, a time when more square grand pianos were being built in America than both upright and grand pianos combined!  This piano is made of Brazilian Rosewood, now an endangered species, and is of the carved Rococo Victorian style.  It is fascinating to think that with the endangered rosewood and the endangered ivory keys, this piano could not be built today!

It is important to understand that the interior mechanisms of square pianos are very different from baby grand and upright pianos.  Parts are not readily available for them through common piano supply companies, and many less experienced piano tuners may discourage their restoration and preservation.  Here at The Antique Piano Shop, we are set up to manufacture all of the obscure parts for square grand pianos  on a case-by-case basis, giving us the ability to do a complete and historically correct restoration on square pianos like this one.

The owner of this piano decided to have his heirloom square piano restored in conjunction with a home renovation, having the piano removed from him house while the renovations took place.  For decades, the instrument had sat unused and neglected as a piece of furniture, but the importance of the piece to the family’s history kept the instrument from being destroyed with hopes of having it restored one day.  The old finish was never meant to look so black, and the owner was stunned to see what beautiful wood was hidden underneath decades of dirt and deterioration!  Note the owner had the back of the piano custom finished to match the parquet pattern on his hardwood floors, as the back of this piano was facing the front entrance to his home.

Square grand pianos like this one have a softer, more "harp-like" sound quality than modern pianos.  It is fascinating to consider that when this instrument was built, there was no artificially amplified sound and the hustle and bustle of the industrial revolution was just beginning.  The sound of nature or perhaps the a steam locomotive would have been the loudest noise one would have ever heard.  Because their ears were accustom to the solace of very little noise, our ancestors considered the soft, "harp-like" sound quality of the square piano to be very desirable.

Scroll down to see the piano restoration process!

Piano Restoration Process:

Assessment & Disassembly

Prior to restoration, the piano was in dirty, unusable condition resulting from years of neglect.  The massive rosewood legs are weak and brittle, requiring reinforcement to make them strong enough to hold the weight of the instrument.  The piano is disassembled and each individual piece is carefully removed, labeled and recorded.  The beautiful gold script CHICKERING BOSTON decals are copied and recorded so that exact duplicates can be made and applied with historical accuracy.  The instrument is assessed for obscure and unusual parts which are not readily available from common suppliers and must be fabricated in our shop.

Piano Restoration Process:

Cabinet Repair & Refinishing

The old dark finish is carefully removed from he case and broken and missing pieces are made and repaired.  Once the old finish is removed and parts are repaired, every piece of the piano is carefully hand-sanded to ensure a smooth foundation for a perfect finish.  Multiple coats of stain, sealer and lacquer is applied, each coat sanded slick, to ensure the finest clarify and lusture of the rosewood finish.

Piano Restoration Process:

Soundboard Repair & Re-Stringing

The old worn strings are so weak and brittle they are no longer able to be tuned.  The strings are removed from the instrument with each individual string painstakingly measured and recorded in order to regenerate an accurate stringing scale.  The gold harp is removed from the case exposing the old-growth wood soundboard.  Multiple cracks and splits in the soundboard are repaired and the bridges are repaired and partially re-capped where needed.  Thread is used to mimic the strings as the proper amount of down-bearing is achieved.

The soundboard is then stained and finished back to its original golden spruce color.  The cast iron harp is stripped, sanded, and re-gilded with brilliant gold lacquer.  All patent decals and serial numbers are replaced with historical accuracy.  A new pin block is custom made for long-term tuning stability.  Finally, the new strings are installed in the piano.

Piano Restoration Process:

Action & Keyboard Restoration

The original ivory and ebony keys are very restorable and turn out very nice.  Chips in the ivory are filled, then the ivory is treated with peroxide and UV light then polished.  The mechanical action of the piano is moth eaten and dry-rotted which will present a challenge to restore.  Because the parts for this instrument are obscure and not readily available, we specialize in making all of our parts "in house" on a case-by-case basis.  Our amazing action team was able to duplicate every last part of this square grand piano action both by hand and with the help of CNC machines.



Its hard to believe this is the same piano that came to us in such terrible condition!  After professional restoration, the Brazilian Rosewood is brilliant and the beautiful grain shines through with clarify.  The interior mechanisms again function and sound like the did when the piano was built nearly 140 years ago!

Note the owner of the piano had the back of the instrument custom finished to match the parquet pattern on his hardwood floors because the back of this piano is seen from the main entrance of the home.


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