Partnering With The Ruthmere to Restore Local History
This historic Baldwin Model M Baby Grand Piano was fully rebuilt by Chupp’s Piano Service. Built in 1938 at the Cincinnati Baldwin piano factory, this grand piano was a family heirloom of the Deputy family, the last residents of the historic Ruthmere Mansion in Elkhart, Indiana. (In fact, one of their family portraits at the museum shows the family sitting around this very piano.) The piano is believed to have been moved out of the mansion in 1969. Recently, the Deputy family generously donated the Baldwin piano to the Ruthmere Museum, returning it to its former home. This is the story of a historic piano’s full restoration.
Four Pianos, Hundreds of Years of History
We recently had several pianos lined up in our Rebuilding Facility that spanned the near entirety of what is considered the golden age of Steinway & Sons Factory quality. When we saw what we had set up, we couldn’t help but snap some pictures to share! For lack of a better word, this was just plain cool! From the early days of modern piano building to the style of instrument most popular today, it’s all represented! Here is some detail regarding these fine grand pianos.
Steinway & Sons Model D #52626 was completed in early 1885. This means that construction of this piano began at the New York Steinway Factory in 1884. This is the first year that Steinway ever made what is now known as the king of concert grand pianos, the Model D! Veneered in a rich cut of rare Brazilian Rosewood and as one of the very first Model D Concert Grands ever built by Steinway, this piano marks the beginning of an era. It is a rare find indeed! The piano features a then typical round arm art case design with double narrow moldings around the case, a figured music desk with ‘old-style’ fretwork, hand-carved Victorian fluted flowerpot legs with hidden casters and a large box pedal lyre with carved pillars. This instrument was originally purchased for use at the DuPage County Library near Chicago, IL. This concert grand piano is currently located at our New Paris Rebuilding Facility and is available for selection and purchase.
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” Cover on Steinway B #231416
Piano Technician/Pianist Philip Balke performs ‘How Does a Moment Last Forever’ from the live action Disney film, ‘Beauty & The Beast’. Written by Tim Rice and Alan Menken. Performed on restored Steinway & Sons Model B Grand Piano #231416. This piano originally built in 1925 during the height of the piano industry’s golden age. Recorded at the Chupp’s Piano Showroom in Goshen, Indiana, video production by Benjamin Rogers.
“Wicked” Piano Cover on Steinway M #227953
Piano Technician/Pianist Philip Balke performs ‘I’m Not That Girl’ from the beloved Broadway musical, ‘Wicked’. Written by Stephen Schwartz, originally recorded by Idina Menzel (original song) and Kristin Chenoweth (reprise). Performed on restored Steinway & Sons Model M Grand Piano #227953. Recorded at the Chupp’s Piano Showroom in Goshen, Indiana, video production by Benjamin Rogers.
Teflon Bushings in Steinway Pianos– The Failed Experiment
If there was one quality that marked the early days of Steinway & Sons, it was the family company’s inherent desire to invent, tweak and improve the quality of their pianos. This led to famous innovations and improvements to grand piano design that continues to be standard a century later. Almost all of the company’s patents were filed during these first years. The study of the lineage of the modern grand piano is a fascinating one, filled with stories of both success and failure. The ‘Teflon Era’ will forever remain an infamous time for Steinway & Sons, but one that forced the industry to adapt around new ideas and parts.
Increased Competition – Attempted Innovation
During the early 1960s, work began on another project that company leadership hoped would again boost the company’s reputation as a world leading instrument. Continued pressure from less expensive yet high-quality pianos from Japanese makers like Yamaha and Kawai began to push Steinway from their position as the North American piano king. (This battle between the ‘east and the west’ wages on even today. ) A number of their major American competitors were either long gone or in decline. A document provided to Chupp’s Piano Service proves interesting. In a letter dated April 6th, 1979 to the late Ed Hendricks, a former Vice President of Marketing and owner of Hendricks’ Pianos in Chicago,….
Over the years, countless musicians have made the piano their primary musical instrument. Companies have fought tooth and nail to win the hearts (and wallets) of artists around the world. Today’s big players in the concert market include Steinway & Sons, Kawai, Yamaha and Fazioli continues to make inroads. Over the years, there have been many other companies who have made fine concert instruments that continue to be cherished by pianists. Click to view an infographic highlighting just a few of the artists who continue to make the piano come alive and learn what pianos they prefer to use on the concert stage.
The Sounds of History
A fully restored, vintage Steinway & Sons, Mason & Hamlin or other fine make of grand piano offers a great value. Although the lower price tag, when compared to a brand new, one is a component of that, this value goes far deeper.
During the height of the piano industry, craftsmanship in North American piano factories was at its peak. Hundreds of companies, thousands of pianos and countless man hours resulted in the refinement of the piano as a musical instrument. As the premier entertainment and luxury item available at that time, everyone just had to own a piano! Advancements in plate design, action geometry, rim pressing and more changes piled on top of each other. Out of the intensity of the ‘golden age’ of piano making came some of the finest instruments ever built.
Vintage Art Case Grand Pianos – Video Demos
The piano has long been a striking combination between its function as a musical instrument and as a piece of visual art. This was especially true during the early ‘golden era’ of the piano manufacturing industry. Steinway & Sons was among the many companies battling for supremacy during these competitive years. Experienced craftsmen combined with easy access to the finest woods and other materials resulted in some of the finest playing – and looking pianos ever crafted. Although today’s new Steinways are rarely seen outside of their ‘traditional’ more modern design, expert restoration work allows musicians and appreciators of fine art the chance to experience the characteristics that have made vintage art case pianos so treasured. Below are several videos we have produced highlighting the work of the craftsmen and technicians here at Chupp’s Piano Service, Inc.
Steinway & Sons Model A-3 Grand Piano #188826 – Quarter Sawn Oak, Sketch 380 Cabinet.
Covered in a beautiful Quarter Sawn Oak veneer, this rare Steinway was built in 1917. Fully rebuilt by us this piano features a new solid spruce soundboard, new hard rock maple pinblock, a fully rebuilt action and much more. Quarter Sawn Oak was rarely utilized on Steinway grand pianos. This instrument is currently featured at our Goshen, IN. Piano Showroom alongside a number of other ‘Crown Jewel’ style grand pianos.
What’s the Difference: Tuning vs. Repair/Restoration
Question: “I am considering purchasing an old piano I found online. The owner says it is in good shape, but it needs tuned. Do you think it will need more than that, or by tuning do they mean restoration or repairs as well?”
This is a question we hear quite a bit from people who have questions regarding the purchase of a piano. The term ‘tuning’ seems to have become a catch-all definition for work done on a piano. It often gets confused with work that would fall under restoration, basic maintenance, or repairs. Often, pianos that ‘just need tuning’ require much more work than that to even make them playable. To understand the difference between tuning and piano repair/restoration it is good to know the definitions.
What is Piano Tuning?
Piano tuning describes the process of altering string tension in a piano to subtly adjust the sound wave’s frequency. The end result of tuning a piano is to create an optimal playing experience, ensure the piano is at the correct pitch and eliminates unwanted ‘waves’ in the tone.
The act of tuning a piano relies on making small adjustments to individual string tension. This allows the tuner to align the intervals between the tones. This is usually done around the universal pitch of A440. Utilizing a tuning wrench/hammer, a tuner skillfully adjusts each string. Attached to hitch pins near the tail of the piano and finely threaded tuning pins at the front, there are over 200 individually strung strings inside each grand piano. It is important to note that tuning a piano does not repair any mechanical or structural issues your piano may have, so if the piano refuses to stay in tune or there are other mechanical or structural issues, repair or restoration work would need to be done to correct that.
The number of times a piano should be tuned each year can vary on the amount the instrument is played and the environment the piano lives in. [Humidity control devices such as the Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System can extend the tuning stability of a piano.] The dawn of piano tuning as a career coincided with the increasing popularity of pianos during the mid-1800s. The ‘golden age’ of piano building saw the piano industry become one of the highest tech manufacturing industries in the world. [It is important to note that not every person who can tune, is qualified as a piano technician.]
Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano #21946 | Photos
Along with Steinway & Sons, the Mason & Hamlin piano company continues to be one of the few golden era piano makers still in the business today. New and used Mason & Hamlin instruments are favorites of many pianists and continue in popularity around the world. We recently rebuilt Mason & Hamlin Model A #21946 for a private client in Richmond, Indiana. Completed in 1913 at the Boston, MA factory, this piano is a great example of historic Mason & Hamlin quality. Historic Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Pianos measure 5’8″ in length and are considiered to be one of the finest pianos ever made under 6′. The client visited our shop and selected Model A #21946 for restoration.
The Restoration Process | Before & After
Once selected for restoration, our team of piano technicians and rebuilders went to work. The belly of the piano was fully restored. The cast iron plate’s original finish was removed and it was sanded, puttied and re-bronzed. Raised lettering on the plate was hand detailed. Made of solid spruce, the original soundboard and bridges were repaired and refinished and a new soundboard logo was affixed to the center. New copper wound bass strings along with high quality music wire was installed to new, blued tuning pins. Proper bearing was set which allows for optimum soundboard efficiency. A new custom fitted pinblock was fabricated and installed. Dozens of plate screws and bolts were re-plated and the aliquots were polished.
Steinway Model D Grand Piano #52626 | A Beautiful Past For A Beautiful Piano
There’s an old saying, “If these walls could talk, they’d tell you a story or two.” A concert grand piano from Steinway & Sons will last for generations and over time they accumulate a rich and beautiful history. As one of the greatest piano manufacturers in the world, Steinway pianos are used in venues and by musicians across the globe. Over time, these pianos will see their fair share of usage, and pass through many hands. At Chupp’s Piano Service, we specialize in restoring these beautiful pianos back to playing perfection, and today, we want to shine a little spotlight on a beautiful piano that we are proud to feature – Steinway Model D Grand Piano #52626.
The Origin of the Modern Concert Grand
In 1884, a major step forward occurred in the development of the mature concert grand piano- the Model D. The then new Model D was designed and created by incredibly talented craftsman C.F. Theodore Steinway. This new design was the first Steinway Grand to feature a double cupola plate. It featured a 20 note bass section, was overstrung, had a continuous soundboard bridge, and a bent rim case construction. These pianos featured agraffes from notes 1-35 and a capo d’astro bar from notes 36-88. Measuring 8’10” in length with 7 ¼ octaves, these pianos are an essential piece of the piano development puzzle.
“Style D has an entirely new interior construction with double cupola steel frame and continuous ring bridge. The improvement in power and sonority of tone is simply marvelous.” – William Steinway, September 1, 1884.
Refinished vs. Refurbished vs. Restored Pianos | What’s the Difference?
Question: “I am looking to purchase a piano. As I’ve gone through various websites I’ve noticed the terms ‘restored’, ‘refurbished’ and ‘refinished.’ What is the difference between these terms?”
With numerous individuals and businesses within the worldwide piano industry, the terms ‘restored’ or ‘refurbished’ gets thrown around quite a bit. This can lead to a bit of confusion over the actual condition of the piano in question and what each term actually means. We can’t speak for other businesses or piano technicians, however below you will find the definitions we use for these various terms.
Cosmetic Restoration: The refinishing of a piano is purely cosmetic. This is done to refresh the instrument and return a like new look and feel to the exterior of the piano cabinet. When we refinish a piano we utilize the finest materials and workmanship to ensure a premium, like new finish. We utilize closed pore, hand rubbed lacquer finishes over the quicker sprayed-only method. This ensures a finish with optimum clarity and one that is more easily repairable in the future.
[Read more about the piano refinishing process.]
Refinishing the piano cabinet is a normal part of our extensive piano restoration process. We may also refinish a piano that is in very good mechanical and interior condition but needs to be cosmetically refreshed to make it retail ready. Often refinishing will also be coupled with the refurbishing of a piano. Although it does not affect the actual mechanical function of the piano, obviously aesthetics count toward your overall enjoyment and the value of the piano.
Chupp’s Piano Service regularly gets the opportunity to work with top University music programs and faculty. We recently completed delivery of several premium, fully restored Steinway Grand Pianos to Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. This included a rare Steinway Model C, a Steinway Model L and a concert level Steinway Model D Grand Piano for the University’s performance hall. [Which appropriately enough, features a soundboard made of unique Western Red Cedar.]
Dr. John Mortensen oversees the over 60 pianos utilized by the music department. An incredibly accomplished pianist, academic and overall musician, Dr. Mortensen is also an official International Steinway Artist. His writings appear in International Piano, Clavier, College Music Symposium, Piano Pedagogy Forum, and American Music Teacher. He was kind enough to write the following testimonial about his experience working with us to secure top quality instruments for the university.
The Steinway is the finest piano in the world, deserving not only elite artists to play it but also elite technicians to care for it. Dennis Chupp is just such a craftsman. A Master Technician trained at the Steinway Factory in New York, he received personal coaching from former Steinway head Service Technician Fred Drasche and has collaborated with the nation’s leaders in the field of piano technology. His company, Chupp’s Piano Service, specializes in re-manufacturing and repair of vintage pianos, bringing glorious new life to instruments which had fallen silent through the ravages of age, damage and neglect.
Vintage Mason & Hamlin Grand Piano Rebuilding Project | Delaminated Pinblock
As you can see in the photo, it is time for a new pinblock. The original pinblock inside of this Mason & Hamlin Model AA Grand Piano has definitely seen better days. The wood lamimations have begun to separate and crack which results in very loose tuning pins and a lack of stability. The tuning pin holes have become enlarged from decades of stress. At this point, a new pinblock is very much needed. When this part of the piano restoration process is required, we custom fit the new pinblock to the specific piano. This is essential for both the structual and tuning stability of the instrument. The good news is that the piano overall is in very good condition and we look forward to completing this fine, golden era instrument. [Vintage Mason AA Grands measure 6’2″ in length and are considered some of the finest pianos under 7′ that were ever built.]
A Look At The Steinway Piano Rebuilding Process
A little over a year ago we released the short documentary “The Garage Piano: The Story of a Steinway.” Since then it has been viewed well over 10,000 times on Facebook and YouTube. This production details just some of the extensive work that goes into each one of our fully rebuilt Steinway pianos. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to take the time to learn a bit more about the piano rebuilding process.
This is the story of the restoration of a Steinway & Sons Grand Piano. This instrument was left alone and neglected in a garage for over 20 years. This short documentary follows the rebuilding process and tells the story of the piano’s full restoration and rebirth. From cosmetic details like replacing the keytops to extensively restoring the piano action and refinishing the satin ebony cabinet, this piano documentary shows the work that goes into returning a vintage New York Steinway to its former glory. The art of piano rebuilding is truly art you can feel!