Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos!

This is a website for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, possibly to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update 15th March

 

Piano Auctions Sale April 4th

 

An Exceptional Broadwood 1812 For Sale

 

CITES and Brexit -

Is This a Good Time to Buy a Square Piano?

 

De-Ivorising (2)

Piano Auctions Sale April 4th

As well as the 1776 Pohlman, there is a Henry Tull spinet, and a c.1805 Webley square piano.  Please see the Auction Page for more pictures and details.

 

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos

Because the sale occurs the week before 'Chelveston 2019'  we are not planning our usual gathering at Conway Hall as such, but two or three of us will be there on the viewing day, April 3rd, around lunchtime.  We will either be in Conway Hall itself, or in the café in Red Lion Square.  

An Exceptional Broadwood 1812 For Sale

This is a rare example of Broadwood's early six-octave squares with a compass descending to CC.  It is in exceptional condition, professionally restored, and ready to play.  A sound-clip is avaialble.  

Please see the Sale Page for details.

Tomkison c. 1837 For Sale

  Please see the Sale Page for details of this piano by the important

  Royal Maker.

Matthew & William Stodart Square Piano 

at Gardiner Houlgate

  In the first of this year's musical instrument sales, Gardiner Houlgate hade a fine-looking square piano by Matthew and William Stodart.  This one was beautifully restored by Jean Maurer, and came with a full report dated December 2017.  

 

  Please see the Auction Page for more pictures and details.

CITES and Brexit -

Is This a Good Time to Buy a Square Piano?

 

  I think it’s fair to say that none of us has the least idea what’s going to happen on March 29th.  But since well over half of the pianos that appear on the Sale Page of this website go from the UK to other countries in mainland Europe, it’s perhaps wise to think of the implications.

  In general, international trade involving the movement of an antique square piano with an ivory keyboard, or containing any of the Dalbergia species (rosewood, kingwood, etc.) requires certification to comply with CITES*.  The Ganer piano in the picture above has ivory keys, and tulipwood (Dalbergia frutescens) edge-banding on the nameboard.  Between countries within the EC, no certification is necessary, as the EC is a single signatory to the Convention.  (The UK is also a signatory in its own right)  

  However, the UK is scheduled to leave the EC on March 29th.  If there is a ‘deal’, then it is possible that under transitional arrangements free movement might continue for a limited time (although I do not know this for sure).  But there is a possibility that the UK might simply leave under WTO rules.  In this event, all CITES affected species would require certification, as they do currently for export anywhere outside the EU. 

  The official PDF (see below) gives more detail.  There should be no prevention of trade of an antique item containing ivory, but the procedure is somewhat complicated, and is perhaps best entrusted to a professional agent.  There is in any case a cost involved; if it is a simple case of re-export ** from the UK, the fee is currently £37.  The same permit might be accepted by the port of entry to the EC, but I do not know this for sure. 

  It is also worth noting that import and export would only be allowed through certain designated ports, and significantly these do NOT include Dover and Eurotunnel. 

  So if any Friends in ‘The Remaining 27’ are considering buying a piano from the UK, perhaps it would be simpler to complete the deal (including shipment) before the end of March?

 

*The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

** It counts as a re-export, because the ivory was imported to the UK in the first place.

 

The above notes are my own understanding of a complex situation, and although offered in good faith, have no legal standing.  It is the responsibility of sellers and buyers to comply with the law, and in case of any doubt to seek legal advice or the help of a competent agent.

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De-Ivorising

  It's always fun to invent a new word: although we won't find

'de-ivorising' in the dictionary, we know exactly what it means.

  With the approach of the UK restrictions on the sale of ivory (see the Ivory Page for details) we might consider the implications for each of us personally.  We will soon be able to register our old instruments, which will mean that they can be sold legally after the regulations come into force, later this year.  But the exemption from the ban applies to musical instruments made before 1975, and many of us have instruments made after this date by Morley and other professional makers, or indeed by ourselves, which have ivory keys.  Even if they were made a few years earlier than this, it might be difficult to prove. We should note that the age of the ivory itself has no bearing on the case; no doubt partly because of the difficulty of proving its age, I see no mention in the Bill allowing for the use of antique ivory.  There are also considerations of CITES, and so we should be actively considering replacing the ivory on our modern instruments with an accceptable substitute.  

  The second of my instruments to receive attention has been a spinet made in 2006.  This origially had boxwood sharps with thin ivory slips (recycled from old uprights) on top, as seen in the upper notes in the picture above.  For the update, I decided to make 'skunktail' sharps, as favoured by Thomas Hitchcock in particular.  These are sandwiches of Eforyn and ebony, prepared on the bandsaw, and finished by sanding. 

 

 I am very pleased with the result, which looks and feels better than the original.  Making the sharps was simple enough, but I should make two observations:  As I noticed with making the sharps for the replica Blunt spinet, the Elforyn has a severe blunting effect on bandsaw blades, which will not cut wood afterwards!  I believe that this is due to the fine mineral filler in the resin.  Also noticeable was a very fine white dust (probably the same filler) which got everywhere, and clogged the filter on the vacuum-extractor.  The bandsaw was directly connected to the extractor, but use of a belt-sander was more of a problem.  We all know that we should wear proper masks for dusty operations, but in view of the very fine nature of this powder, I suggest that it is particularly important in this case.  

Broadwood 1790 For Sale

  Regular visitors to this site will know that these 'first generation' Broadwood pianos are my favourites, especially the standard model with its understated elegance and trestle stand.  The heading picture on this page shows Tommy sitting on my own 1787 example.

  Occasionally one comes up for sale;  this one is the finest I have seen.  It is the property Douglas Hollick, who has an international reputation as an organist, haprsichordist, and scholar.  Please see the Sale Page for details of this, and other pianos for sale.

Chelveston 2019

We enjoyed a successful Friends of Square Pianos party in my home village of Chelveston in April last year, and planning is well under way for Saturday April 13th 2019.

As before, there will be at least a dozen pianos, spinets, and harpsichords there, and the theme will be 'Owners, Restorers, and Makers'.  The picture above shows about half of the instruments that we brought together in the hall in 2018.

 

Details are on the Chelveston 2019 page of the website.  Numbers will be limited to about 40 to ensure a good social occasion, and we now provisionally have a Full House.  But please get in touch if you would like to join the reserve list.

Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have been following the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in Scotland; a second replica has joined the Carolina Music Museum.   Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

The Spinet Page

  We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

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© David Hackett