Steinway Pianos, Part 2

My Steinway

The serial number in my Steinway upright piano (13175) dates it to 1866. In fact, the metal case found in this piano was patented on June 5th of that very year (according to the engraving on the plate). The patent reads:

Patent 55,385, William Steinway, dated June 5, 1866, Improvement in Piano-Fortes. This patent claims as new “The use in piano-fortes of a metal case cast in one solid piece, consisting of the plate a, braces b, rafters or brace-frame c, and a connecting piece or flange running round on three sides of the case and supporting the regulating apparatus, leaving one side open for the insertion of the sounding-board with its bars and bridges.”

Does this mean that the Steinway piano which has come to me was one of the first upright pianos with a cast iron frame? Wow! It’s certainly one of the heaviest of the 20+ pianos my sons and I have moved!

Another thing I recently learned is that Steinway began building pianos with 88 keys in 1868. I was curious, so I went back to my workshop immediately and counted—sure enough, my piano had only 85 keys, which was common in the 19th Century.

Steinway published their first illustrated catalog in 1865, just one year before my piano was built.

What I Did with It

When I had accumulated twelve pianos, I decided twelve was enough. I had more empty cases than I had room for, and enough action pieces to keep me going for years to come. But then someone approached me, saying, “I have an old Steinway. Someone started a restoration on it, but never finished, and now it’s too far gone. Would you be interested?” Would I be interested? Who can so no to a Steinway? A few days later my son and I showed up with a trailer, and we gladly took that rugged old piano off his hands. Incidentally, this man is now my choir director, and I enjoy keeping him apprized of what’s going on with his contribution.

When he said it was too far gone for restoration, he wasn’t kidding. The finish was very badly damaged and dried out; the veneer was peeling in several places; the action pieces were filthy dirty, and several were dry-rotted and broken; and the name had been removed from the fallboard when someone was preparing it to be stripped and refinished. Immediately I went online to see if I could find a replacement for the fallboard label. Indeed I found it. . .and paid $50 for it. Not long after that, I had cause to praise God for leading me to look for the label on that exact day; for the very next day Steinway revoked all rights to distributors to sell the labels. They didn’t want to the run the risk of people buying the labels and placing them on pianos not built by Steinway. I get that.

The label I purchased is still carefully preserved in the packaging, as I’ve still not gotten around to refinishing the fallboard. But when I do, it will become a wall-mounted shelf, and will be available for sale.

The keys were in pretty good shape. The wooden parts were original to the piano, but the ivory had all been replaced at some point. I have long since removed the action and keys and used them to make gifts for many of my customers. A few finished art pieces remain available for sale, and I still have some raw piano pieces waiting to be turned into their own forms of art.

Also, I’ve reserved the case, with the intention of turning it into a desk. Because of the engraving and the beautiful craftsmanship of the iron plate, I’ve left it inside the piano. The strings remain intact as well. The case is rather heavy, even without the moveable working parts, but it will receive a new set of casters, which will enable it to roll easily without marking the floor. In fact, I’ve borrowed a piano tilt from the same man who gave me the Steinway, to use in easily laying the piano down to do the repair underneath, then pick it up again. When I’m ready to begin the build, I’ll let you know, so that those of you who are interested may follow the process. But first, I want to practice on a lesser known model, since piano restoration and furniture building are new to me.

Other Events in 1866

My study of the history of the Steinway company piqued my curiosity about other events. Particularly, I wanted to know what was going on in the United States and in the world during the year when my Steinway was built. Here are some of the things I discovered:

In the United States

  • March 13 — The United States Congress (Republican majority) overwhelmingly passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, initiating protection of the rights of African-Americans; President Andrew Johnson (D) vetoed the bill on March 27, and Congress overrode his veto on April 9.
  • April 10 — The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York City by Henry Bergh.
  • May 16 — The U.S. Congress approved the minting of the nickel as a five-cent coin, and subsequently discontinuing the half-dime.
  • July 24 — Tennessee became the first U.S. State to be readmitted to the Union following the American Civil War.
  • July 25 — Ulysses S. Grant became the first man to hold the rank of General of the Army (now called five-star general).
  • Also in 1866, the Minneapolis Milling Company (now known as General Mills) built its own mills. The history of General Mills is a compelling read.

In the World

  • May 10 — A London bank collapsed, precipitating The Panic of 1866.
  • June 14 — Austria and certain German states declared war on Prussia.
  • June 20 — Italy declared war on Austria.
  • August 23 — The Treaty of Prague ended the Austro-Prussian War.
  • October 12 — The Treaty of Vienna ended the war between Austria and Italy; Venetia was annexed by Italy.
  • Also in 1866, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in Germany. (With regret for creating an instrument of destruction, he later established the Nobel Peace Prize.)
  • Sweden initiated a series of progressive reforms for women’s rights with recommendations from the Girls’ School Committee of 1866.

In the World

  • May 10 — A London bank collapsed, precipitating The Panic of 1866.
  • June 14 — Austria and certain German states declared war on Prussia.
  • June 20 — Italy declared war on Austria.
  • August 23 — The Treaty of Prague ended the Austro-Prussian War.
  • October 12 — The Treaty of Vienna ended the war between Austria and Italy; Venetia was annexed by Italy.
  • Also in 1866, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in Germany. (With regret for creating an instrument of destruction, he later established the Nobel Peace Prize.)
  • Sweden initiated a series of progressive reforms for women’s rights with recommendations from the Girls’ School Committee of 1866.

In Music

  • March–December — Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams.”
  • May 30 — Bedrich Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride debuted at the Provisional Theatre in Prague.
  • November 3 — German composer Paul Lincke was born. He is considered the father of the Berlin operetta.
  • Also in 1866, Theodore Thomas conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the American premiere performance of the Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
  • The first Steinway Hall opened in New York, with a seating capacity of 2000 in the main auditorium.


Steinway Pianos, Part 1

“Today’s Steinway: We still make them like we used to… only better.” So states their official U.S. website. Steinway & Sons has been crafting superior pianos since 1853.

The Founder

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born February 15, 1797, in Wolfshagen, Germany. He served in the German Army from 1812 to 1822, then left the service and began work as a carpenter. While apprenticed to an organ maker, he discovered his love for music. He began making instruments of his own—first guitars and zithers, then gradually escalating to building pianos. In 1836, in the town of Seesen, Germany, he built his first grand piano in his kitchen, and gave it to his bride, Juliane, as a wedding gift. That same year Steinweg moved out of the kitchen and into a shop, where he built nearly 500 more pianos over the next decade—an average of one piano per week. Juliane bore him nine children, and when the family immigrated to the United States in 1850, two of his sons, C. F. Theodor and Wilhelm, remained in Germany to keep the piano shop in operation.

Soon after arriving in the U. S., the Steinweg family americanized their name to Steinway. At first Henry and his sons worked for other companies in the piano business, then on March 5, 1853, they opened Steinway & Sons.

In 1865, tragedy struck the Steinway family when two of the sons, Charles and Henry Jr., as well as the factory foreman Theodore Vogel, all died. In the same year, Albert enlisted in the Union Army (Civil War). With the loss of so much leadership in so short a time, C. F. Theodor sold his share of the German-based company and moved to New York to help keep his father’s company going. Henry Steinway, Sr., died February 7, 1871, just shy of his 74th birthday.

A few of the earliest pianos Henry made in Germany are still in existence. His first piano, nick-named “The Kitchen Piano,” still exists in its original condition. Depending on the source, you may read that it’s on display at the Musical Instrument Museum of Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Steinway & Sons factory in NY, or at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don’t think they’re inaccurate. Rather, I’m inclined to believe that the piano has been moved from time to time, and that it has indeed been at all these locations. Although I’m not sure of the date of publication for the various articles I read, I think perhaps today it is at Steinway & Sons. There is a Steinway piano located at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Built in 1868, this one is called the “Plain Grand Style 2,” although when you look at the photo, you’ll see that there’s nothing plain about this model! This was Steinway’s first piano built with 88 keys, and incidentally, the natural keys are black and the sharps are white. It is the prototype for the Steinway Grand Model D.

Early Growth and Continued Production

In just one year Steinway & Sons outgrew their first building and moved to 82 Walker Street. In 1860, just six years later, they constructed what is still today the world’s largest piano factory between 52nd and 53rd Streets, on what is now Park Avenue.

In the late nineteenth century, it was common for piano manufacturers to open their own concert hall in order to showcase the unique voice of their instruments. The first Steinway Hall opened in New York in 1866, with a seating capacity of 2,500, and was the premiere concert hall until the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891. Another Steinway Hall opened in London, England, in 1875; and in 1880, Steinway & Sons returned to their roots when they expanded the business to Hamburg, Germany. This plant was operated by Henry’s fourth son, William (Wilhelm). A second Steinway Hall in NY was built in 1925, when the first one was closed and the showroom relocated to West 57th Street.

Following the death of the founder in 1871, Steinway & Sons remained under family ownership for another 99 years. Henry Z. Steinway, great-grandson of the founder, was the last family member to participate in the making of Steinway pianos. Until his death in 2008 at the age of 93, he signed every custom-made limited edition piano.

The end of the family ownership was marked by a merger with CBS, Inc., in 1972, although Henry Z. remained president. Then in 1985, a group of Boston businessmen purchased the company and formed Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. This corporation merged with the Selmer Company in 1995, but both companies continued to operate independent of one another until Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. was taken public. John Paulson, of Paulson & Company, bought Steinway and privatized it again in 2013. The new showroom and music hall opened in 2015, at 1133 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), and the manufacturing plant remains in operation at #1 Steinway Place, Long Island City, NY.

Key to Success

The reason Steinway & Sons has stayed at the top echelon in the piano manufacturing industry is because they continually look for ways to improve the process. I recently took a virtual tour of the Steinway grand production house and was impressed by the number of times that the tour guide said that such-and-such a process only came into use a few years ago, or maybe a decade ago. This tells me that although they already produce one of the finest quality pianos, they never tire of looking for ways to improve. From forming the body of the piano, to outfitting its interior, to applying the finish, to fine-tuning the sound, to packaging the completed piano for shipment, the manufacturing of every individual piano is performed by a symbiosis of man and machine. The few steps done by machine ensure uniformity and precision in the workmanship, while the many steps done by the skilled hands of artisans provide each instrument with its own unique voice while still maintaining that characteristic Steinway look, feel, and sound.

Steinway Contributions to the Industry

Steinway & Sons is responsible for bringing to the industry many qualities and construction techniques that we now think of as standard:

  1. Overstrung grand piano (1859). This means they crossed the bass strings over the treble strings, the way we see them in pianos today. This allowed for longer strings, thus providing a deeper, richer tone.
  2. Iron plate (1866). We’re all familiar with that heavy plate inside the piano. (Some people call it a harp, or mistake it for the soundboard.) The iron plate replaced the wooden one and is able to hold significantly more tension and will not warp over time, as the old wooden plates did.
  3. Accelerated Action (1931). This improved the reaction time of the action pieces when the pianist struck the keys. Steinway pianos have a characteristic double action, which gives them a faster response time than any other piano in existence.
  4. Diaphragmatic soundboard (1936). Since the soundboard is constructed of many thin sheets of spruce, approximately 6 inches wide, glued side-to-side and cut on the diagonal, the addition of ribs on the back of the soundboard give it better durability and stability while still allowing it to vibrate freely with the sound.
  5. Hexagrip pin block (1963). The pinblock is located at the top of the soundboard and houses the tuning pins (220 of them on average) for the strings of the piano. Steinway strengthened the pin block by laminating seven layers of hardwood maple in a staggered grain formation. This innovation improves the overall quality of the sound and allows the piano to hold its tune longer.

The Making of a Steinway

There are more than 12,000 individual parts to a piano, more than half of which are in the action. (Based upon my experience in taking pianos apart, I estimate this number to be representative of all pianos, and not exclusive to the Steinway.) I recently took a virtual tour of the Steinway factory in NY, and I’ll have to say that as one who disassembles pianos, I was fascinated by the reverse process. It gave me a greater appreciation for some of the pieces for which I haven’t yet found a use, such as the bridge and its hitch pins. But, believe me, I will—especially after watching the fine craftsmanship that went into making them. Too much time and effort went into the construction of the various components of these (and other) pianos for me to simply throw away any part of them.

I now invite you to take the same virtual factory tour. This 42-minute tour will walk you through the entire process of the making of a modern-day Steinway grand piano. It truly is an amazing work of art!


Ashley, Larry E. pub. Pierce Piano Atlas. 70th Anniversary Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Luxurious Magazine

Acrosonic by Baldwin

Curbside Piano (01)

Do not disregard the Acrosonic piano as one of inferior quality, or a knock-off brand. According to Living Pianos, “Acrosonic is the biggest selling brand name in the piano industry of all time.” The name Acrosonic, coined from the Greek words akros (“supreme”) and sonus (“tone”), was trademarked and used by Baldwin specifically for their spinet and console pianos. Spinets and consoles are the shortest of the upright pianos, with the spinets measuring just 36-40 inches tall, and the consoles standing at 40-43 inches. This compact design was made possible by placing the action under the keys. Many people esteem the Acrosonic as the finest spinet piano ever built.

Spinet and console pianos are quite useful in small rooms, where an instrument is desired, but space is at a premium. The Acrosonic pianos by Baldwin were both compact and elegant, being offered in a variety of different cabinet styles and finishes, from Louis XV to Danish mid-century modern. They also were, and still remain quite affordable, being valued at between $1000–$3000, depending on their condition; and there are several currently available on eBay, with prices ranging from $0.99 to $3,800. I even found one within 200 miles from home, so that I could spare the shipping charges and go pick it up. The price was right, and the piano was very lovely. It was tempting. But it still works, so I could not justify purchasing it to take it apart and make art from it, and I already have a piano in my home to play. So I resisted the temptation and left it to go to another home.

D. H. Baldwin

Dwight Hamilton Baldwin was a respected music teacher and church musician in Cincinnati in 1857. Over the next eight years, he transitioned out of teaching and into a position as a purchasing agent for Chickering & Sons with his own company, Baldwin Piano Company. He had a stock of pianos, but lost all but one in a fire in 1866. By 1871, he had moved his firm to 142 W. 4th Street in Cincinnati, and he remained there until 1955.

With the help of Baldwin’s shrewd bookkeeper, Lucien Wulsin, Baldwin became the largest piano and organ dealer in the western states, eventually opening additional stores in Louisville, Kentucky, and Indianapolis, Indiana. For several years, his primary focus was retail, dealing with the resale of Chickering and Steinway pianos. But in 1887, when Steinway decided not to renew their contract with Baldwin, he shifted his focus to the production of his own line of pianos. While he did make pianos with the name Baldwin on them, he produced instruments under other names as well, often to honor people whom he knew. For instance, he built reed organs under the names Hamilton and Monarch; he also built upright pianos under the names of Ellington, Valley Gem, Howard, and of course, Acrosonic, among others.

Because of the superior quality of his pianos, Baldwin enjoyed the sponsorship of several celebrities, including Liberace and The Lawrence Welk Show, who used Baldwin pianos exclusively. Baldwin’s success lasted into the 1990’s. During that decade the company was sold to Gibson Guitar Company; and thanks to Gibson, Baldwin pianos are still being produced.

My Acrosonic

The Acrosonic that came to me came because I do taxes. One of my tax clients saw it on the curb in their neighborhood and sent me a text with the address. I drove over there and took all the parts that I could remove—which was most of them—then left the heaviest pieces for the sanitation engineers to collect. So I didn’t keep the entire piano out of the landfill this time, but there wasn’t much waste. Since it was sitting on the street, it was easy for me to lay the piano down to remove the pedals and other pieces underneath, then stand it back up again, a testimony to the lightweight nature of this model, that I could do all that by myself.

By tracing the serial number, 512480, I found the piano to have been built in 1954. On the cast iron plate, below the serial number, is a stamp that reads in part: “Patented Full Blow Acrosonic Action Built Exclusively by Baldwin.” The words “Built by Baldwin” are also imprinted in the iron plate, and they appear on the fallboard as well. The keys were not genuine ivory, as the use of ivory had been discontinued by the 1950’s, but they were in very good condition. The cabinet, however, could have been cared for a little better. There was a ring from where someone had set down a cold beverage glass, and several scratches and nicks in the finish. Overall, however, I was thrilled to come across this piano, and even happier that everything I took off of it (barely) fit inside my Nissan Maxima.

Today I would like to offer you a special treat: a video demonstration of what an Acrosonic sounds like. It really does have a nice sound, as I think you will agree.

Not only am I impressed with the sound of this tiny instrument, but I’m impressed with how similar in style this particular model looks to my piano. The color is different, but that is just a matter of a paint job. The dealer pointed out the purpose of the style was to mimic the square grand. When he said that, I looked at it again and thought, “He’s right.” It does resemble a square grand, though understated. It’s just one more example of how great things can come in small packages.


Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008

Behning & Sons Piano Company

The Behning Piano Company, established in 1861 in New York, survived for nearly 100 years, and has a colorful history. I’ve decided to show its history in a time line format, as the ownership/management underwent several changes over the years.

  • 1861 ~ Henry Behning establishes Behning Piano Company in New York City on East 128th Street
  • 1864 ~ Behning partners with Mr. Albrecht Klix, building pianos under the name of Behning & Klix
  • 1873 ~ Behning terminates partnership with Klix and continues building pianos under his own name
  • c.1875 ~ Behning partners with Mr. Diehl
  • 1878 ~ Behning terminates partnership with Mr. Diehl
  • 1881 ~ Behning partners with son Henry, and name changes to Behning & Son
  • 1920 ~ both sons, Henry and Gustave, take over the company and expand to East 133rd Street and Alexander; name changes to Behning & Sons
  • 1931 ~ Gustave runs the company on his own and moves it to West 51st Street
  • 1932 ~ Kohler & Campbell acquire the company
  • 1956 ~ production under Kohler & Campbell ceases

Pianos and The Great Depression

When you think of old pianos, do you think of ornate carvings? The fancy pianos are the ones made in the early 1900s and before. Behning & Sons certainly made some of the finest, most ornate pianos I have ever seen, according to photos I’ve come across on the Internet. The Behning & Sons piano that was given to me was marked with Serial #48409, indicating that it was manufactured in 1922, when the two sons were running the company. I don’t recall much about what this piano looked like, except that it was plain. This one came into existence right on the heels of the Great Depression. People did not have money for extravagance. Their lives had been stripped of frills and “extras.” They had no use for ornate things; now they wanted more practical items in their homes. This is why piano makers, including Behning & Sons, started producing the plain, boxy style cabinets for their upright pianos. Shorter pianos also became more popular because they took up less visual space in the room, as rooms were smaller than before. Grands and baby grands were still being produced, and the styles of their cases were also simplified.

Quality Pianos

Piano manufacturers also learned how to make “economy” pianos so that people could still enjoy music on a tighter budget. Sometimes the result meant a sacrifice in quality, but often it was more a sacrifice in aesthetics, with still a pleasing sound from the instrument. Behning & Sons did not sacrifice quality. In fact, they were known for producing high-quality, expensive pianos, and enjoyed a great deal of success. They even made the Wendland player piano during the years between 1910 and 1930. Perhaps it was their self-imposed standard of high quality that made it hard for them to survive the Great Depression, for not too long after that period, the younger son, Gustave, being left alone with the company, was compelled to sell it to Kohler & Campbell, who kept the name alive for nearly another quarter of a century. (I thought this was interesting, since I’ve also come across a 1915 Kohler & Campbell piano.)

My photos of this piano are not impressive, but are mostly “for the record.” Usually I take the entire piano away when I acquire one, but this was one of the rare occasions when I got to disassemble it on-site and take only what I could carry. With the seats all folded down in the minivan (not the van in the photo), we were able to take everything but what was firmly attached to the cast iron plate. In other words, I did not keep the strings or the soundboard, nor the side boards or back boards, but I kept everything else. I got good photos of the markings on the plate because I knew I would never see it again, and those markings are how I identify the piano.

Also in the photos you will see the son of the dear folks who gave me the piano, my son who helps me with most of the moves, and our indispensable Dolly.

If you own a Behning & Sons piano, you can be proud of the fine-quality, American-made musical instrument that graces your home, and I hope you will care for it and play it often.


Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008



A Brief Reign for the Royal Piano Company


The Royal Piano Company did not exist a long time, and information regarding their organization and operation is hard to find. But in their short span on the industrial scene, they produced some of the finest musical instruments America has ever seen. Royal was established around 1895 and manufactured fine quality pianos for about half a century, producing a full line of uprights, player pianos, and baby grands. They also built pump organs in the early years of the company’s existence.

Royal was originally a division of the Krell Piano Company, and it was bought out by Werner Industries of Cincinnati shortly before 1920. The Starr Piano Company purchased the Royal brand in 1927, and thus kept the Royal name alive during the Great Depression.

The last Royal piano was built in 1949. Today they are rare, but if you happen upon one, you will find it to be an example of quality workmanship.

The One I Acquired

Royal Cabinet Grand (1)

The Royal Cabinet Grand that came into my possession was not a gift, but was actually the only piano to date for which I have put down money (apart from moving expenses). I had been commissioned to make a headboard for a retired piano teacher who was confined to a hospital bed in her room. The former teacher’s daughter saw a coat rack that I had made from the music shelf of the Lyon & Healy, and she thought a headboard would be perfect for her mother, who had devoted her life to teaching others how to play the piano. How could I say no? I had several large pieces at hand, but none worthy of such an assignment. So I searched eBay, Craigslist, and other local listings until I found the perfect piano. It wasn’t free, but it was affordable.

Since I purchased the piano with a particular project in mind—the headboard, the majority of my photos of this piano are focused on the music shelf. Evidently, I didn’t even think to take a photo of the serial number, which is something I ordinarily do with every piano. Or if I did, I didn’t file the photo correctly. Unfortunately, that number is long gone by now, so I’ll never be able to determine exactly when this piano was made.

But there is a silver lining, for maybe someday, in a bin in the garage, I’ll find the cast iron plate that bears the Royal name. For I noticed in one of the photos that I removed the plate before letting Bobby haul the frame to the scrap yard. And in my search for information about the Royal Piano Company, I found a similar plate on a estate sale website that sold for over $200. Wouldn’t that be nice…. ☺

It has been noted that Royal pianos are known for their fine craftsmanship. I can definitely attest to this. At this point, I don’t remember which hammers, whippens, or stickers in my bins came out of the Royal Cabinet Grand, but I do remember the wood case, that it was both beautiful and solid. When we were preparing to move, some of my pieces got rained on, and I was horrified to learn (when the pieces swelled) that two of the pianos were partially built with press board! I was shocked! Most of them were not, however, and the Royal is most certainly made of solid wood. I don’t know for sure what kind of wood it is, but it is a hardwood. My saw and drill can attest to that (and my tired arm). Yet the most impressive thing to me—especially after taking apart thirteen pianos thus far—is not the fact that the cabinet is solid, or that it is made of hardwood, but the thickness of the wood, especially on the sides of the cabinet. On every piano, the side arm (the part that often resembles a grand piano in its shape) is nearly two inches thick, but the side board (the board that covers the length of the piano) is usually less than one inch thick, though it may have some trim along the edge to give the appearance of extra thickness. On the Royal Cabinet Grand, the entire side board was as thick as the side arm—just under two inches. And the cabinet’s finish was a gorgeous red mahogany.


The wood of the side board was too thick to use in large pieces, but too nice not to use at all. So I cut the wood into blocks measuring 6″ x 7.5″ and made game boards out of them, using tuning pins as the playing pieces. The concept was fairly easy to devise, but the implementation turned out to be difficult with hand tools. I made five games last year. They were imperfect at best, but my husband was impressed enough to purchase a drill press and power sander for me so that my next batch of board games will come out a lot nicer. Isn’t he sweet! Royal Cabinet Grand (1)

Of the thirteen pianos I’ve disassembled so far, the Royal Cabinet Grand is the only one to give me good quality wood that I can use to make these board games. Hopefully I’ll come across more pianos built with this level of quality in the near future.

If you happen to have a Royal piano, by all means keep it and treasure it. Tune it. Play it. Enjoy it. Pass it down to your children and their children after them. Don’t let it go the Piano Lady to be cut up and made into headboards, games, and art—not unless it absolutely must be thrown away. In that case, do call me first (if you live within 200 miles of Pensacola, FL). But please know that I no longer purchase pianos. I will, however, thank you for your donation by making you a souvenir piece of art from your piano.


Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008

The Premier Estate Sale Marketplace



Recycled Piano Becomes Upcycled Workbench — Hackaday

Pianos are free, in case you’re not hip to the exciting world of musical instrument salvage. Yes, the home piano, once the pinnacle of upper middle class appreciation of the arts, is no longer. The piano your great aunt bought in 1963 is just taking up space, and it’s not …read more

via Recycled Piano Becomes Upcycled Workbench — Hackaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vertical

What I like most about things vertical is that they remind me to look up.

Luke 21:28b  Look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.

piano key extensions in an arrow formation

This week’s challenge is hosted by Travel with Intent, and the theme is VERTICAL. This is another no-brainer in the realm of old pianos, as an alternate way to describe upright pianos is to call them verticals.

However, since I’ve used a good many photos of my pianos already, I decided this week to show other examples of “vertical,” such as the arrangement of key extensions above. It’s been given a name, “Fermata,” although it only slightly bears a resemblance to the musical symbol. The only trouble with this piece is that it has yet to be finished. It’s only in the planning stage. Maybe someday…. One day I arranged the pieces on the table and took a picture of them, trying to decide if I actually wanted to create a work with this design. What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments or suggestions below.

This next photo is my piano moving team: Matthew, Bobby, and Dolly. Dolly does most of the heavy lifting, but she and I couldn’t do anything without Matthew and Bobby.

two young men standing on a piano dolly
workers at play

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.


Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #38: Weathered and Worn

1866 Steinway (4)
1866 Steinway

This week’s challenge was easy, as nearly every piano I’ve ever brought into the family has fit the description of “weathered and worn.”

Hughes 03
1902 Kohler & Campbell

While I love my mission of helping old pianos sing a new song, sometimes it can be quite a challenge due to the conditions from which they have been rescued. People “retire” their pianos to the garage or to a non-climate-controlled storage unit when they no longer have a use for them. Sometimes they move out of the family home, or pass away, and the piano, too heavy to move, is abandoned in the home. If the home sits vacant for any length of time, then both weather and critters take their toll on this once beautiful and fine instrument. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort was put into creating a piano. The highest quality piano ever produced is humbled to the level of the most affordable instrument fashioned for the humblest of homes when it is neglected for decades on end. But even these have a certain charm, you’ll have to admit.

pedals (2)
1895 Chas. M. Stieff

This week I am responding to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #38 — Weathered or Worn, hosted by Ann-Christine a.k.a Leya of I found this challenge on Cee Neuner’s website

Thanks, Cee, for this wonderful directory you’ve created: “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.


Kohler & Campbell: King of the Industry

Hughes 01

A Perfect Match

Charles Kohler was only twenty years old in 1894, when he and John Calvin Campbell united forces to establish Kohler & Campbell Industries, Inc., in New York City. Though a young man, Kohler was considered a genius as a businessman and factory superintendent. His partner, J. C. Campbell, was a machinist skilled in working with both wood and iron, and he used these skills to improve the manufacturing of pianos and earn Kohler & Campbell their reputation for offering “the best value for the dollar.” These two men were a perfect match in business, and their company grew to become one of the all-time giants in the piano manufacturing industry.

Bought and Sold

Campbell died unexpectedly in 1908, and Charles Kohler took control of the company. The business continued to expand, as they absorbed less successful names, such as Autopiano (ca. 1920), Waldorf (mid-1920s), Behning (1926), and Newton (ca. 1930). During the pre-Depression era, the Standard Pneumatic Action Company, a subsidiary of Kohler & Campbell, manufactured an impressive 50,000 player piano actions, and more, per year. Kohler & Campbell grands were made by Brambach in Granite Falls, NC, and in 1954, all production was moved to Granite Falls.

For 100 years the company thrived in the United States as a supplier to major retailers across the country. However, they hit hard times in 1985 and suspended manufacturing. After negotiations, Sherman Clay bought the Kohler & Campbell name and contracted Samick USA to build Kohler grand pianos for retail stores. Later, Samick USA bought the name from Sherman Clay and expanded distribution to South Korea.

Kohler pianos are still being produced today, and the line has now been expanded to include digital pianos in both baby grand and upright cabinet styles. Once the king of the industry, Kohler is still a major presence. If you own a Kohler piano, or a Kohler & Campbell, you may be proud of its amazing history.

The One I Acquired

The Kohler & Campbell piano that was given to me was an upright grand, serial number 163634, which dates to 1902, meaning this piano was built when the company was only eight years old, and it was 113 years old when it joined the Encore! family. Unfortunately, it suffered much water damage while in storage, but I was able to use the keys and the action. I still have many pieces of the case, but have not tried to restore them. Soon I will.

A friend and fellow choir member gave me the piano, so I thought it would be appropriate to use pieces from this piano to make Christmas gifts for the choir members. And that’s exactly what I did. The choir director got a Conductor made of whippen and sticker assemblies (technically not from this piano), and each choir member received an ornament for their Christmas tree. They were able to choose from a hammer ornament or a diamond-shaped ornament cut from the soundboard. This piano had a most unusual action piece that I had never seen anywhere else. It was shaped like a bell (see photos), and I used it to decorate a second set of soundboard ornaments which we gave to the members of my daughter’s handbell choir.

All the ornaments were personalized on the back with the year and the name of the choir. I still love pulling mine out each year and hanging it on the tree, even though we’ve since moved to another state and sing in another choir. When I look at that ornament, I’m reminded of the friends whose voices used to blend with mine in praise to God. I see their faces, and I smile. That, my friends, is why I make art from these old pianos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008