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#1852759 - 02/27/12 08:53 PM Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand?
Sesshy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/20/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Denver, CO, US
I'm shopping craigslist for a piano because I'm tired of driving half an hour to my college campus for every practice session. My budget's about $2000, so almost any piano I get's going to be somewhat of a fixer-upper, but I wouldn't mind putting in the effort to learn to restore and maintain a piano myself.


So I came across this last night and ended up playing it today. It still has the original strings, so the tone's a little off, but otherwise it sounds quite nice. What I really wonder about is the action: the treble is still quite responsive albeit a little uneven, while the bass is far more uneven and somewhat heavier in touch than it should be. If I make the thing into a labor of love, what would it realistically cost me in parts to restore it to its former glory, if that's at all possible? Is it worth the asking price? I notice that Vose & Sons is one of the brands on Larry Fine's short list of worthwhile pianos from the 1900-1930 era.

Edited by Sesshy (02/27/12 08:55 PM)

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#1852793 - 02/27/12 09:49 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Sesshy]
Bob Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 4088
Without seeing the piano, it's impossible to tell it's mechanical condition. A piano that old is going to be fairly worn. You should have a re-builder check it out before you buy. You are in VA, and the piano is in Denver? Are you planing on paying movers to move it? Better price that move first as well.

#1852796 - 02/27/12 09:55 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Bob]
Sesshy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/20/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Denver, CO, US
Naah, I'm in Denver now. The owner is a technician himself, and he's including the move and a tuning after the piano acclimates as part of the purchase price. He says that he was going to restore it himself, but simply didn't have the time.

#1852814 - 02/27/12 10:28 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Sesshy]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3489
No. It costs thousands of dollars to make something that old an acceptable instrument, again, and it is not something that's suitable for a DIY. Piano restoration is labor intensive, expensive, and can be dangerous. It's not easy; don't do it!

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#1853306 - 02/28/12 06:59 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Sesshy]
charleslang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2099
It's hit and miss on those old ones; mostly miss, but sometimes hit. I have two grands (see signature) and the Hardman is the better of the two, even though the plain strings are original and piano is very old. That said, the bass strings are new and the action is new on that piano.

I think that as a non-technician, you just should not buy something that doesn't already sound and play pretty much like you hope it will sound and play.

Did this technician regulate the piano or voice it? If he did and it still isn't playing like you want, that means it needs serious work, which is very expensive.

#1853311 - 02/28/12 07:16 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Sesshy]
charleslang Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 2099
Originally Posted By: Sesshy
My budget's about $2000, so almost any piano I get's going to be somewhat of a fixer-upper,

I don't think that's necessarily true. You can get some brand new Chinese pianos for under $3k, if you're okay with a vertical. Also, if you keep looking at craigslist, I think you might find a grand that is satisfactory for that price.

The key is to get something that either already sounds and plays well, or something that will sound and play well just with a tuning and regulation. This means: no nasty old bass strings; no super-loose keys; hammers that have a good amount of felt on them.

Having a technician check out a piano before you buy is a huge help. If you're looking at lots of pianos it will get expensive, though. Try to find something that is good in the ways you can see on your own -- like those just mentioned -- and then call in a technician before the money changes hands.

#1853426 - 02/28/12 11:15 PM Re: Should I buy a 1918 Vose & Sons baby grand? [Re: Sesshy]
Bachsky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/01/03
Posts: 276
Loc: McFarland, WI 53558
In 1970 I bought a 1920 Vose and Sons grand for $400. Played it for six years, kept it tuned and had one voicing done (hammers needled) - sold it after six year for $500.

It was an okay piano and at that time im my life I wasn't able to devote time to study and performance like I do now, nor had I acquired a discerning ear regarding exceptional piano tone. If I owned that piano now I would consider having it rebuilt. Larry Fine's Piano Book has a list of about 20-30 quality manufacturers (out of over 300 consumer grade manufacturesrs) from the "golden age" of North American piano building (about 1890 - 1920) and he suggests that these particular brands may be worth investing in rebuilding. Vose and Sons is on that list and so is my Boston made Henry F. Miller.
1904 Henry F. Miller Concert Grand * 2002 Estonia 190 Satin Bubinga * 2008 Schulze-Pohlman vertical 125 polished cherrywood peacock design * 2008 Schoenhut minature grand (49 keys) * 2008 Roland Digital Harpsichord, 2010 Roland FP-4 (88 key slab).


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