At the corner of Ferris Avenue and Genesee Street in Syracuse sits a blue-shingled farm house. Two different friends told me on the same day that there was an old piano in front of it, so of course I went over and started harvesting. It is, without question, the strangest piano that I have yet disassembled. Obviously very old, and obviously assembled with hand tools primarily, it bore no manufacturer's mark and very few machine-made parts. It did not even have a harp, simply a big piece of steel plate that holds the loop end of the strings. The pins at the other end are driven right into the wrest plank.
As I was harvesting, the owner of the house came out and we were chatting. That house is the original Ferris Farm house, it was the house for the farm that is now neighborhoods. The piano had been in the basement when he bought the house, and he is only the fourth owner since the house was built in the early 1800's. That is, it was in the Ferris family for a long long time. He had no provenance on the piano other than it was there when they moved in.
It has all the hallmarks of being a kit that one might order and then give to the local cabinet maker so that they can build you a piano, which makes sense if you think about how relatively recently we have become able to do things like transport pianos great distances with ease.
The veneer is all a lovely walnut burl, and the wood is almost all walnut. I don't get to work with walnut very much these days, it is not a common salvage wood. What a treat. It has a very particular smell when it is worked, and it is lovely to bend and to carve. The result is a beautiful, mellow sounding instrument that is a joy to play. I ran some maple up the center of the neck, and reinforced it with a carbon-fiber rod.
The top is from the Shaw piano that I made #91 out of. Since that guitar is in our family and this one is going to stay in our family I positioned a hole that was in the sound board in a similar place, so that they recall each other.
It is my current go-to player, and since I put a K & K pickup in it, I have been using it to record some of my own songs recently. Here is the video: