Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Restoration And Rebuilding #2



Sometimes one can come across an instrument that is unique in many ways. Here is a Canadian made grand piano with some unique cabinet and other features that I found in my travels.

In today’s world with restorative work on pianos and other vintage items being so expensive, most of the restorers are doing brand name instruments; Steinway, Bosendorfer, Heintzman, Bechstein, Bl├╝thner, these kinds of makers. Most of the instruments manufactured by the smaller makers are discarded; this is somewhat disappointing, but it is difficult to justify the cost of restoration if the instrument will not be recognized as having any financial value in the end. Sometimes though, if I discover an instrument that has some unique features, I try to purchase the instrument for restoration purposes.

Many of the Canadian piano makers were only popular in Canada. At the turn of 1900 we had 250 companies that were manufacturing pianos. Most of these were two or three man shops, making one or two instruments a day; since 1816 there have been better than 240 different brand name pianos made in more than 150 companies. At one time in Canada, almost every third house had a piano.

Mason & Risch:

In the 1860’sThomas Gabriel Mason was an accountant for the Nordheimer Piano Co. Together with the assistance of two friends, Vincent Risch and Octavious Newcombe, these three men opened the Mason & Risch Piano Co. in 1871.

Some of the early Mason & Risch instruments were of exceptional quality. Much of the technology from European makers of that time period is evident in their construction.

Of particular note is the fact that this instrument was constructed using the old style of pin block construction; the block is open on the front side where the tuning pins are located. This required an extra layer of veneer over this area because the pin block is visible. In modern construction the pin block is hidden by what is called a full plate design; the metal plate covers the wooden block as in today’s instruments. Full plate became quite popular by the turn of 1900, so this instrument constructed some years later using the old technology, makes this one somewhat interesting.

Canadian piano history and early development is littered with the history of European immigrants that brought all of their technical knowledge and supplier locations with them. Many of the Canadian pianos that I have restored have original German made parts. So one has to be careful of how and what parts to purchase.
While the sounding board and bridgework were all intact, the string, tuning pins, hammer set and most of the keyboard components were replaced; except the original ivories.

This instrument has a very interesting cabinet style in the leg and lyre; I have not been able to determine just what furniture style this is. Also this type of mahogany cut was covered over and could not be seen through the old finish.

Some of the history of this instrument is from 1989 when the owner called me for  tuning service  and subsequently became a permanent client. She had purchased this instrument for use in her ballet school.
About 1997 she retired and contacted me to see if I was interested in this one as a restorative project. I purchased the instrument and had it transported to my shop.

Just as another point of interest, the lady who purchased the restored instrument was, in her early years, a student of the very same ballet school. This came out in conversation while she was purchasing the instrument; I was asked if I knew any of the history.
 Please left click once on this link below and that will take you to the photo album location. Then once there left click once on the first photo, top left, and this will open up the album so that you can read the text below each frame.

Mason and Risch 




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