Zorba, Male Belly Dancer

Henna Design Zorba's "Secret" Piano Page Henna Design

Hobart M. Cable logo

Hobart M. Cable logo from a period brochure.

The Pie-Anna!

I was a musician long before I was a dancer - I started with piano lessons as a small child, and graduated to the French Horn which I played for about 25 years. Now I play zills!

But the love of the piano never entirely went away, and started growing some years ago. With my wife playing classical guitar, she encouraged me to acquire a piano. This is the result - an ancient upright (ex-)player piano built in 1918 by the Hobart M. Cable Piano Company. We literally rescued it from the sledge hammer, and the best part of it was that it was free! This piano was called a "Style H".

I'm a romantic at heart. If this instrument could talk! It was six years old when my father was born, twelve when my mother was born, eighteen when the Queen Mary was launched. It was playing music throughout most of the twentieth century and the history that shaped our world today. The crash of '29, the wreck of the Hindenburg, the construction of the High School I attended (1920), the Apollo Moon landings, Pearl Harbor, the 60's, 9/11, the first days of radio and TV, etc., etc. Awesome...

The year it was built, 1918, was an "interesting" year. Not only did this year see the end of the first World War, it was also the year: the composer Debussey passed on (on Greek Independence day, yet); the infamous flu epidemic; the birth year of writers Philip José Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon; birth year of Ann Landers, Paul Harvey, and Nelson Mandela. It was the year Congress approved the idiotic idea of Daylight Savings Time; GM purchased Chevrolet; the RMS Carpathia, rescue ship of the Titanic is sunk off of Ireland by a German U-boat; the Bolsheviks seize control of Russia, and this piano was built.

The other banner year for this instrument (that I know about) was 1963 when it was moved to the house in Capitola where it would live for the next 42 years until my wife and I saw it there and decided to give it a new home. 1963 was the year my parents purchased the home where I'd spend my entire childhood (I turned 3 that year); also the year they purchased a brand new GMC 1-ton truck with the legendary V6 engine, for which I carry a torch to this very day!

There were a number of now defunct piano builders with the name "Cable" appearing in the name. The first was the Cable Piano Company was started by Herman D. Cable in 1880 when he assumed control of the Conover Piano company. The Cable Piano Company built pianos with several different brand names (Including Cable, Conover, Kingsbury and Wellington).

Herman D. Cable was joined by his two brothers, who learned their trade at The Cable company, then went on to establish piano companies of their own after Herman passed on in 1899. These companies were Hobart M. Cable, Fayette S. Cable and Cable Nelson. Cable Nelson was the result of a merger between Fayette S. Cable and the Nelson Piano Company. Hobart M. Cable founded his company in 1900, and it ceased operations in 1965. The Hobart M. Cable name has recently (2005) been revived by a Chinese piano conglomerate.

There was also a "Cable & Sons" piano company in Albany, NY which apparently had no relation/connection with the other companies Cable.

Getting it home required the hire of a professional piano mover. Once the mover, his assistant, and the piano arrived at our home; the fun began! It was hauled in a low-bed covered trailer. It could not be brought in the front door, due to a sharp turn at the top of the stairs. The stairs were removed, and the trailer was backed up to the front door with some difficulty with the idea of ramping the instrument into the house. By the time the trailer was aligned with the door, it was too close making the ramp too steep; moving the trailer away ruined the alignment, making this option unworkable.

So the piano was wheeled around to the back door, over the lawn, on successive plywood strips, walked up the the back stairs, and into the house. But it had to be turned on end before being brought into the house in order to negotiate a turn in the hallway! Aside from almost dumping the piano while transferring it from the lawn to the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs, it went smoothly; despite the mover grumbling about "you didn't tell me it was a solid oak player!". Hmmm. It isn't solid oak...

Once it was finally in place, I opened it and cleaned it out and inspected it to see what all was the matter with it. It turned out to be in far better shape than I had dared hope. One loose hammer, one loose jack (an action part), severe need of tuning, several keytops needed replacement, and one string had been missing for decades! The hammers needed voicing and things needed adjusting, but it was all there and in remarkable shape.

Despite these problems, it had a sweet sound. The guy who gave it to us told us that the player mechanism was "around here somewhere". Thank Goddess he didn't find it - those morphodite contraptions only worked by the grace of {insert your favorite deity here} when new, and they don't age well! If I really want it to be a player again, I'll get one of those modern computerized retrofit kits that works with solenoids and microprocessors - something I can understand! Frankly, I'd rather play it myself...

Thus, this little page which will hopefully tell its story - I'll add pictures as work progresses.

NOTE: Most of the earlier pictures were taken with a "Jam-C@m", and are of sub-optimal quality. Later pictures were taken with an Olympus digicam and are far better. As the Jam-C@m pix are now historical, they cannot be replaced and must suffice...

You can access each separate day's activities from here, or use the sequential "more" buttons at the bottom of each page to see it all.

Click on any Piano to return to this index page (and replay the annoying piano "crash"!). Enjoy!

These pages are presented as a record of what was done to this particular piano. They are NOT represented as the correct way to work on one. Indeed, some things had to be re-done, or were done backwards from recommended procedures. It was, and continues to be, a learning experience for the author! Work on your own piano at your own risk!

bullet 29 June 2005 Introducing the instrument and some cleaning.
bullet 3 July 2005 Regluing ivories and jack bracket repair.
bullet 4 July 2005 Hammer butt center pin re-insertion.
bullet 9 July 2005 Cabinet cleaning and keybed felt replacement.
bullet 10-11 July 2005 More ivory regluing and pedal polishing.
bullet 24 July 2005 eBay toolkit, installing new string, practice mute, brightening bass strings, etc.
bullet 30 July 2005 Nameboard felt, new rubber bumpers, more practice mute work.
bullet 31 July 2005 Pedal felt.
bullet 11 August 2005 Cleaning & polishing ivories.
bullet 21 August & 11 September 2005 New bass string and back rail felt.
bullet 9 October 2005 Brightening bass strings - the right way, stringing braid.
bullet 23 October 2005 Bridle strap replacement. part I.
bullet 18 November 2005 Bridle strap replacement. part II.
bullet 25 January 2006 Tuned at last! Possible pinblock problems.
bullet 12 February 2006 Building an action jig.
bullet 2 March 2006 Re-lacquering the sharps.
bullet 26 July 2006 The Tuner Returns!
bullet 17 August 2006 Fallboard hinge replacement.
bullet 26 August 2006 New lid prop sticks and tools for re-bushing.
bullet 30 September 2006 Key re-bushing begins - removing old felts.
bullet 8 October 2006 Ivory Bleaching.
bullet 14 October 2006 De-bushing complete. An update.
bullet 13 November 2006 Re-bushing half done. Miscellaneous updates.
bullet 19 November 2006 Re-bushing complete.
bullet 7 February 2007 Action Regulation.
bullet 4 April 2007, Part 1 Prepping for Damper Replacement.
bullet 4 April 2007, Part 2 Damper Replacement.
bullet 4 April 2007, Part 3 Treble Stringing Braid Replacement.
bullet 8 April 2007 Damper Alignment.
bullet 23 June 2007 Damper Pre-Regulation.
bullet 16 July 2007 Tuning and Over-Damper Retrofit.
bullet 23 July 2007 PAM Modification.
bullet 3 September 2007 Finish Rejuvenation.
bullet 1 January 2008 90th Birthday Present!
bullet 28 March 2008 page 1, Lacquer Application.
bullet 28 March 2008 page 2, Miscellaneous Repairs.
bullet 17 May 2008 Steam Voicing.
bullet 18 May 2008 Action Jig Mods.
bullet 18 July 2008 Annual Tuning.
bullet 15 November 2008 Fallboard Fix, Miscellaneous Repairs.
bullet 30 January 2009 page 1, Re-felting stickers.
bullet 30 January 2009 page 2, Re-regulation and voicing experiment.
bullet 7 July 2009 Annual Tuning.
bullet 20 September 2009 Toolz!
bullet 10 July 2010 Annual Tuning & Squeaky Key.
bullet 6 July 2011 Veneer Work and Annual Tuning.
bullet 8 August 2011, Part 1 MusicReader System.
bullet 8 August 2011, Part 2 Miscelany.
bullet 30 October 2011 Caster Replacement.
bullet 13 November 2011 Shimming the Casters.
bullet Piano Resources The "FaziSteinDorfer" and the Belly Dancer!



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