and

MAX KEENLYSIDE

PIANIST  and  COMPOSER

the Great George Hotel
Henry F. Miller (1882) Piano Restoration

There are a vast array of things I could write about the illustrious Henry F. Miller company, but the folks over at the Antique Piano Shop have already articulated it superbly:

 

Very few piano makers contributed to the American piano industry at large as much as the renowned Henry F. Miller Piano Company. Established in 1863, Henry F. Miller built high quality, expensive pianos in Boston for well over a century. In the 19th Century, Boston was home to a large population of old world craftsmen who had immigrated to the United States from the old country. These craftsmen possessed amazing skill in woodworking and piano building, and Henry F. Miller was in a position to take full advantage of this amazingly skilled workforce. Like most other Boston firms, Henry F. Miller enjoyed a reputation for building truly exceptional pianos. In the early years, Miller produced a full line of uprights, squares, and grand pianos.

 

The piano I have restored at the Great George was built in 1882, as shown by an internal inscription by H. Vinnicombe, probably a factory employee:

A contemporary catalogue tells us that Henry F. Miller offered three different sizes and four different models of square pianos: Styles 1, C, F, and G.  The piano in the Great George is a carefully-preserved Style 1, but with slightly different cabinetry; the catalog illustration was probably subject to some creative liberty:

Here is a "Before" video that I recorded before I did any work on the piano:

As most 19th-century pianos are, this one was very dusty, and needed a thorough cleaning.  You can also see how the dampers had gone out of alignment.  This piano was slated for a reconditioning, rather than a rebuilding; in this particular case, I opted to preserve as many of the original felts as possible  The only new felt was added to the "mute rail"--a pedal-operated tone modifier.
Click a photo to enlarge:

First, careful measures were taken to carefully clean the piano and the individual action components.  A foam-based shaving cream is used instead of water, which is potentially harmful to the wood.  As pictured on the left, you can see the new red felt I put on for the mute rail.

The key-frame felts were dusty and moth-eaten, but still very usable.  I carefully cleaned, flipped, and re-glued them to the frame.

I turned the guide pins that the keys sit on; this eliminates any side-to-side wobble in the keys.  I then leveled the height of each individual key to a tolerance a hundredth of an inch.  The original ivories were retained.

I filed the compressed felt hammers to remove dust and restore their rounded striking surface.  I also replaced the buckskin and felt on the hammer butts.  Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the new felt:

This piano may well have been signed by the elder Henry F. Miller, the company's founder, who passed away in 1884.  Subsequently, his sons inherited the company and further established their reputation for fine craftsmanship.

After these repairs, I set about completing three time-intensive final steps:


    • Treating the pinblock so it will hold the tuning pins more tightly
    • Regulating the action; this is needed because of the decades of wear and the new internal components
    • Pitch-raising, and then final tuning
Here are some "After" photos:

And here is a video taken immediately after the first pitch-raise tuning:

The magnificent Great George hotel can be found at  58 Great George St, Charlottetown, PE.   (902) 892-0606

To arrange for me to work on your piano, or to get a quote on the work, please get in touch through the Contact page!

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