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#2006311 - 12/30/12 01:10 AM Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Greetings all,

Wanted to say howdy and introduce myself. Seems like a great forum, and look forward to your insights / admonitions / diagnosis. After years of pining we finally have the room to have a piano in our lives again, and are on the hunt. Current circumstances dictate a budget of ~$500. I know that's a little crazy, but then we are little crazy.

We're not piano players, but are a musical family and are looking for an instrument rather than a shiny piano shaped piece of furniture. I have very fond memories of the hours spent plunking away on the family's old horribly out of tune baby grand at my grandmothers house (a 1910s Henry Miller I want to say), and would very much like for my boys (not to mention my wife and I) to have the same opportunity. I give that time and experience a lot of credit for my life long love of music, even if I never turned out to be much of a pianist.

We also have a bit of a problem with loving old broken down nice things, and I suspect I have a serious latent case of old piano lovers / collectors syndrome. My first car at age 18 in the early 90s was a 1973 Saab Sonnet III with a 65hp V4 that required a precarious dance between throttle, clutch and brake to keep it from stalling at traffic lights if that gives you some kind idea of what you're up against here. I'm also an engineer, and have always thought it would be great fun to learn how to tune and repair old pianos. As a teen I used to collect antique cameras and repair old tube radios, and resold them through my mums shop to sustain the habit. Hopeless, I know.

Phoenix feels like something of a black hole for old piano buying, but maybe its my imagination. Pianos that would be out on the front porch with a "free" sign where I grew up in Maine are listed here for $300-800. I came pretty close to buying a very worn 1938 Baldwin R in LA, but chickened out when the bidding got to $350. It sold for $358. Still kicking myself, but it was probably for the best wink Though I do have to admit that renting a truck and driving to LA to pickup a 650 lb 80 year old piano in relatively unknown condition doesn't sound terribly out of character...

From what I've read so far here and elsewhere, I'm guessing our best bet is likely going to be to find something like an Acrosonic Console, or maybe something like an older smaller Baldwin or Yamaha upright. I'm still tempted by some of the middle of the road 1920s-1940s American smallish (but not real small) grands, but not sure how much sense that really makes. I gather they can be easier to work on, but seems like they could easily turn into money pits without much hope for retaining the value of any repairs/improvements. Lots of points for character though smile Looked at ads recently for a Starr, a Lester and a Drachmann (with a colorful history) that were somewhat intriguing. I still dream of finding a Baldwin or better, but the odds seem slim on our budget wink

Anyway, that's my story smile Any thoughts appreciated.

Rob Smith
Phoenix, AZ
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2006317 - 12/30/12 01:39 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
tonedefreegan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/12
Posts: 45
Greetings, fellow Old Things Collector smile

Our story is almost identical to yours (I even have the engineer husband!). When it was time to move from digital to acoustic, we simply tried every freebie within 50km until we found one that was mechanically sound and sounded reasonable. Found an approx 1960 iron framed upright in very good shape musically. Got it shipped home for about $150, then serviced and tuned for another $200. Cheap piano, ultimately. Best bit is it turned out to be far better than some $1500 pianos we tried. Upshot, dont overlook the freebies. Especially those built after about 1950.

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#2006318 - 12/30/12 01:40 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
tonedefreegan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/12
Posts: 45
Forgot to add that we all play our piano, every day. kids and parents!

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#2006424 - 12/30/12 08:40 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Rob - Welcome to Piano World!

There are many members here who also suffer from the same disease and they seem to be surviving well even in stage IV of the condition. I'm sure that our revered monitor will have an encouraging prognosis.

Were it me, I would try a heavy infusion of Craigslist. Certainly an area as large as Phoenix would be able to provide the proper remediation of which you desire. I would surmise that the owners of such instruments might imbibe in a daily newspaper. You might place an add seeking just the very sort of situation you are seeking.

_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2006455 - 12/30/12 09:51 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8541
Loc: Georgia, USA
Hi Rob! Welcome to Piano World!

What I like about Piano World is the diversity of folks here... there are members here who are professional pianists, technicians, dealers, etc... who own Steinways and Bosendorfers; there are also folks here (like me) who can't play worth a darn but love pianos anyway. smile

And, not having a lot of money to start with, I have come across a few pianos that were more or less in your price range that turned out to be good instruments (after a little TLC smile ). The key is to educate yourself on the history and inner workings of acoustic pianos.

The make or brand is a good place to start... some were better than others; there are also a few obscure and little known brands that were fine pianos (AB Chase for example). Also, if an old piano has been taken care of and housed in a friendly environment most of its life, that is another plus and you’ll have something to work with.

And, don’t forget the “fun factor”… old pianos can be a lot of fun. However, if you are not careful, you can sink a lot of money in a piano that you’ll never recover, unless you keep it and play the value out of it; and, you still have an old, warn-out piano. smile

Oh yea, another thing I’ve learned about pianos… newer is usually better, if you want a playable, musical instrument. smile

Good luck and keep us informed of your piano adventure (I’ve had a few memorable ones myself smile )!!

Rick

_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2006465 - 12/30/12 10:08 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1246
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
Here's one from Craigslist...found it 30 seconds after reading your story smile

http://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/msg/3508759351.html
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2006466 - 12/30/12 10:09 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3448
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
Spend $200 on a digital keyboard, so you have something to play as an instrument, and then pick up any free piano, and see if you can make it work. Tinkering with a piano is far different than tinkering with an antique radio. You need hundreds of dollars of specialized tools just to start, not to mention specialized parts. Did you know there are 4,000 moving parts in a piano?

Finding a $500 piano that is a musical instrument is like finding a reliable $500 used car: very rare. More importantly, any worn-out instrument will be a serious obstacle to any beginner. Imagine trying to learn to drive on your tricky Saab Sonnet!

A good piano taken care of can be in great shape after 20 years. Most pianos older than about 50 years have little life left, due to the natural deterioration of the wood, leather, and felt. So age is a big indicator of quality.

Start with the excellent website www.pianobuyer.com, and read all about used pianos. Get a cheap or free one, get the Reblitz book (not the one on player pianos), and have at it (see the book list under Resources at www.ptg.org). But seriously, get a cheap keyboard to play while you're figuring out how on earth to reinsert an upright hammer assembly, or to start the hammer flange screw when the jack is in front of it.

--Cy--
_________________________
Cy Shuster, RPT
505-265-4234
www.shusterpiano.com
www.facebook.com/shusterpiano
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Registered Piano Technician
Dampp-Chaser Certified Installer
PianoDisc Certified Service Technician

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#2006483 - 12/30/12 10:36 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
That Craigslist piano looks very interesting. Can't read the fallboard logo, but my guess is it would be an Acrosonic spinet from the late 50's-early 60's.. Very respectable pianos and about the only spinet worth considering. From the photos, it appears to be in decent shape. Take a look at it and judge for yourself.

One thing you can't ever believe is Rick's false modesty about his playing. He does a damn good job at the keyboard!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2006499 - 12/30/12 11:26 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Chopinlover49 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/11
Posts: 639
It is a matter of patience and luck looking for a playable old piano in the low $100s, but it can be done. Craigslist is about your only option for these as piano stores will price anything decent at much more, I would think. You will have to play a lot of pianos and ignore a lot of owner's stories to find a piano worth buying. Still, it can be fun searching if you take your time and don't buy the first one that has 88 working keys. Good luck! I have owned a lot of these old pianos myself and can say one or two actually weren't bad.

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#2006508 - 12/30/12 11:53 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21569
Loc: Oakland
The Acrosonic is from the late 60s or 70s, as it has wire lifters rather than wooden ones. This Kimball or this one with a Sherman Clay label may be better bets.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2006595 - 12/30/12 03:05 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: Eric Gloo]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6353
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: Eric Gloo
Here's one from Craigslist...found it 30 seconds after reading your story smile

http://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/msg/3508759351.html



Yup - and the posting has already been deleted by its author !! grin

That said - I peruse the Phoenix Craigslist piano listings on an almost daily basis - and there are plenty of interesting older instruments to be found there.
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2006755 - 12/30/12 09:03 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 996
Loc: California, USA
Hello. I'm also new to pianowold, BTW.

I think you can find a piano for less than $500 that is mechnically sound and pleasing to play. I've helped people (students) do this many times.

The key is allowing enough time. Don't be in any hurry, and your piano will come along. As has already been mentioned, Craigslist is a great place to look.

I also suggest visiting your local piano dealer and playing some of their used instruments to get an idea of what a lower cost used instrument can sound like.



Edited by musicpassion (12/30/12 09:04 PM)
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2006773 - 12/30/12 09:36 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
MrMagic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/05
Posts: 371
Loc: Stettler AB Canada
I'll repeat and stress what has already been stated - to find a decent $500 piano will require lots of patience, don't be in a hurry. And expect to spend more than usual having them checked out by a tech. There is a reason there are pianos to give away.

Start out by reading Larry Fine's piano book. You will find it very useful and it's interesting reading. Check for brand names that have aged better than others.

In time you may find a jewel! I did!
_________________________
1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play

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#2006781 - 12/30/12 10:09 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Annitenth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/27/08
Posts: 462
Loc: Texas
There is a site called Piano Adoption which has free pianos in various states. www.pianoadoption.com
_________________________
Anne
Bsendorfer 225
Technics PCM Digital Ensemble PR307

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#2006782 - 12/30/12 10:12 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3907
Loc: Rockford, IL
Sent you a PM. Click "My Stuff" next to the flashing envelope.

--Andy
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2006792 - 12/30/12 10:31 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 384
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
It's not that difficult to find one if you are standing in a room full of 450 antique pianos, We haven't gotten to Hoarder Status yet. I've had recording artists come in and spend 7 - 10 hours just looking at inventory. I know there is a guy in sourthern California that does what we do and that is closer to you. I will try to find his name/location.

J.C
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
since 1918
Lascassas TN

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#2006815 - 12/30/12 11:52 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks all for your kind words and wisdom smile Will check out all your recommendations on books and websites.

We have an m-audio 88 key semi-weighted keyboard we currently use, but it just doesn't smell/feel/taste the same wink

Patience is likely to be the hard part, but I understand its importance. I've set an app up to monitor CL within a few hundred mile radius, so we'll see what turns up over time....

Its really nice to find a community that clearly loves these instruments, and has room for such a wide variety of forms of appreciation!

Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2006874 - 12/31/12 04:36 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Just ordered Reblitz and Fine's books, and found the latest supplement online. Looking forward to reading smile

So here's a potentially useless hypothetical question: based on what I've seen come by on CL/ebay in the past few weeks, how would you order the following potential standouts that have come in at least theoretical spitting distance of this price range. Again bearing in mind we're talking musical family / tinkerer / issues with loving romantic ruins piano, not so much serious student or pianist.

I realize its a pretty useless question as condition and abuse will factor heavily, and there's no substitute for getting out there and playing some pianos, and presumably better names dropping into this range will be more abused, but it still might be a fun game smile

- Really old (1870s-1910s) full upright: Steinway, M&H, Janssen, Howard, Baldwin, Chickering (Bros not Sons)...
- Old (say 30s-70s) Studio / Upright: Yamaha, Baldwin, Hardman, Hamilton, Howard, Kawai...
- Old (maybe 40s-80s?) Console/Spinet: Acrosonic/Baldwin, anything else even worth considering? seen Sohmer, George Steck, Ivers and Pond, Yamaha...
- Old (1910s-1940s) American Baby (pref 66"+) Grand: Baldwin (seems unlikely), Knabe, Sohmer, Conover, George Steck, Starr, Howard, Hardman, Kranich&Bach, Story&Clark, Ivers& Pond, Henry Miller, Lester, Drachmann...

Somewhere along the line Kimballs fell off the "worth considering" list, is that unfair? Am I inciting a holy war with that question?

At this kind of price I assume smaller will make more sense, but the lure of the "grand" siren song is hard to tune out... I suppose another factor is this likely won't be the last piano we ever buy, so something we either don't put vast sums of money into (say an acrosonic) or have a reasonable chance of recouping a fair amount of whatever is invested (does that ever happen) seems to make sense. In as much as any of this makes "sense" smile

More than understood if y'all don't want to waste your time playing that game laugh Just trying to start narrowing the focus before I start trekking all over creation. No doubt the above mentioned books will help in that aim as well.

Rob


Edited by miscrms (12/31/12 04:48 AM)
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2007090 - 12/31/12 02:31 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
MacDan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/06
Posts: 91
Loc: Tampa, FL
Originally Posted By: miscrms

I realize its a pretty useless question as condition and abuse will factor heavily, and there's no substitute for getting out there and playing some pianos, and presumably better names dropping into this range will be more abused, but it still might be a fun game smile

Somewhere along the line Kimballs fell off the "worth considering" list, is that unfair? Am I inciting a holy war with that question?

At this kind of price I assume smaller will make more sense, but the lure of the "grand" siren song is hard to tune out... I suppose another factor is this likely won't be the last piano we ever buy, so something we either don't put vast sums of money into (say an acrosonic) or have a reasonable chance of recouping a fair amount of whatever is invested (does that ever happen) seems to make sense. In as much as any of this makes "sense" smile

More than understood if y'all don't want to waste your time playing that game laugh Just trying to start narrowing the focus before I start trekking all over creation. No doubt the above mentioned books will help in that aim as well.

Rob


Rob,

While as I understand it, Kimball became more of a commodity than a piano in the 70s, the earlier models should not be ignored.

A few months ago I received a 1926 Kimball 5'7" baby grand from the grandson of its original owner for the cost of moving. It had not been tuned in a year or two, according to him, but otherwise was intact. I took it on the spot, as there were others waiting in line behind me, without having my tech inspect it. Foolish? Maybe - wait - yes, it was foolish of me. That being said, I went over it as well as I could with my knowledge from being a lurker here for almost 5 years and having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Reblitz piano book.

After it sat in my home for a few weeks I had my tech inspect and tune it. It held a tuning, and was, for the most part, in good shape. After he was done with it he suggested that I have him remove the action to have the key bushings replaced and the action regulated, which he will be doing on Wednesday this week. This will set me back a bit of $$, but in the grand scheme of things I'm still well ahead of what a lesser piano in better condition might have cost me.

Other than someone having applied what appears to be glycerine to the tuning pins to tighten them at some time in the past, the piano is in otherwise good, solid condition. Hammers are barely worn and my tech will be replacing or steaming felts when he works on the action this week and next.

I have no illusions of the value - I was seeking a good, solid instrument that I could begin my practice on for a few years until I am ready to make a serious investment in a newer and finer piano. When that time comes I plan on donating this piano to a worthy cause, possibly a small local church group or a school.

I had your misgivings about Kimball from reading here as well as my own perceptions, which mainly came from the post-70s pianos they made. After doing some research and inquiring amongst some of the respected professionals in the Piano Technician conference I was satisfied that I made a good decision.

Take what you read with a grain of salt - ask direct questions respectfully of trusted professionals who reside here and you'll be able to make the best decision regarding whatever you might come across.

Good luck,

Dan

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#2007980 - 01/02/13 01:28 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
JeanieA Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 507
Loc: Reno, Nevada
The sub-$500 Craigslist bargain does exist! I took a $300 chance on a 1920s Chickering Quarter Grand a couple years ago and have been trickling money into improving it. It's in excellent cosmetic condition, holds a tuning well, and I am saving for a full regulation and hammer reshaping to happen in the next couple of months. My tech says he can't believe he's actually recommending putting this kind of work into a piano this age, but this one is worth it! smile

I wish you luck and joy (and perseverance and patience!) in your search!
_________________________
Collector of sheet music I can't play.

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#2007989 - 01/02/13 01:46 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
Chickerings from the 1920's are worth it! Especially at your bargain price.

Have fun!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2008057 - 01/02/13 03:57 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: JeanieA]
MacDan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/06
Posts: 91
Loc: Tampa, FL
My tech (Bill McKaig) just left with my action to take it in for key bushings and regulation. No surprises other than the top set of hammers having been replaced at some time in the past, and whomever replaced them not tapering them....

If I total everything up including the cost to move it and the first tuning, I'll have a little over $1000 in this piano when I'm done with it, with the majority of that going towards the key bushings and regulation.

Based on what I see on our local Craigslist I would be hard pressed to find a grand of this size and condition for that kind of money - which would, most likely, be in need of some work as well.

There are bargains out there, but as with finding the "right" piano under any circumstances, you have to be patient in your search as well as engage the services of a skilled piano technician.

Dan

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#2008073 - 01/02/13 04:24 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks all!

My first report is that its really hard to say no to a piano wink

I've seen 5, and several very nearly followed me home. I'm a bit proud of myself that I don't have 3 in the garage already laugh

So far I've seen:

$299 1940s Hardman studio upright, sounded ok, action ok, numerous cracks in sound board.

$400 1964 Gulbransen studio upright (advertised as a baldwin), very worn church piano, pretty nice sound, no obvious cracks, pretty clean inside, lots of slow keys with lots of lateral movement observed. Free dolly included smile

~$600-700 Went to local reseller, only things close to price target were a beat up Estey and a Wurlitzer, both spinnets. Lets just say the Estey made the Wurlitzer sound good wink Need to see an Acrosonic, but starting to get why people dump on spinnets.

$100 pre-1900 Baldwin Full upright, appropriately worn, very pretty piano. Very dirty inside, many slow keys, sounded terrible with exception of pretty impressive base tone, couldn't view action well but could see a number of cracked damper blocks, sound board full of cracks, some open as much as 1/4".

If they come down on the price I might think about having a tech look over the Gulbransen wink

So the quest continues....

Rob


Edited by miscrms (01/02/13 04:25 PM)
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2009812 - 01/06/13 02:10 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Well, we might have found "it" smile

Somewhat ironically my copies of Reblitz and Fine's books just came in and last night I happened across the section that discusses mirror pianos. Basically it says to never buy one, and of course that's exactly what we were going to see the next day and have subsequently developed a bit of a crush on.

Specifically, its an 1874 Steinway 54" upright that was purchased by the current owners great grandmother in 1915. Sometime not too long after that it was chopped down and "deco-ized" giving it a very unique 20s-30s look. While its a little funky, we actually kind of like the look. More importantly, the piano seems to have been regularly used and cared for to some degree over its long life.

I don't know how much work has been done on its internals, but I was quite frankly shocked by how it sounded and played given the basket cases of this vintage I've seen. It has a few specific issues, two of three strings missing on one midrange note and one key (A6) that has become disconnected from the sticker but at least the rest of that keys action still seems functional. It was last tuned about 1-2 years ago, and while its certainly drifted a bit all the notes are still basically the right note. That seems encouraging with regard to the condition of the pin block.

I'm guessing the keytops are replaced, as they all look really good and while grained the grain seemed very regular. I didn't think to look to see if they were 3 piece or not. While the backchecks are a bit uneven, the keys and hammers all seem pretty even, and the hammers look really good to me if a bit grooved. I didn't detect any drying/cracking of the wooden components of the action. Some of the backcheck felts seemed pretty hardened, but at least half looked as though they had been replaced. I was surprised that the keys pretty uniformly felt responsive and repeated very quickly and consistently.

The sound board is a bit of a horror show, but maybe its not as bad as it looks to me. It has quite a few cracks, but it looks to me as though at some point they were cleaned out and the sound board painted maybe to stabilize? Didn't detect any buzzing through the full range. The tone really seemed quite good overall, which surprised me after looking at the soundboard. Much warmer and rounder than I expected for the vintage, I guess I expected tinny honky-tonk based on a lot of what I've seen so far.

The tech who did the last few tunings was very helpful over the phone, so we've asked him to evaluate it for us on Monday. Barring any major surprises, this might just be the one smile

Pictures of the piano and the top half of the action are attached. I'm sure its makeover has degraded its value and rebuild potential, but its probably part of the reason its entered our price range with an asking price of $500.

Fire away wink

Rob









Edited by miscrms (01/06/13 02:23 AM)
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1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2009926 - 01/06/13 10:25 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8541
Loc: Georgia, USA
Well, since I'm a softy for old pianos anyway, I think it's a great prospect for you.

I just sold an old 1909 Schiller upright that was also converted to the mirror style. I made a lot of money on that piano... I paid $75 and sold it for a $100 after a good cleaning and servicing. Plus, I had a lot of fun with the old Schiller (got a YT video with almost 100,000 views of me playing that piano). smile

I know the Steinway name is valuable, but I think I'd try to haggle some... it's still a very old piano, in spite of the work that may have been done to it over the years.

Good luck and keep us informed!


Rick
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Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2010265 - 01/06/13 09:26 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 996
Loc: California, USA
It will be interesting to see what the tech says.

My main two concerns would be the soundboard (since you described it as horror show), and why the two strings are missing. It's not a huge deal to replace two strings, but sometimes the strings start breaking because of rust/corrosion or because the hammers have become extremly hard. And sometimes a string just breaks.

Look forward to hearing about it.
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#2010581 - 01/07/13 12:55 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks all! If Rickster likes it, I should probably be afraid lol wink Just kidding BTW, I really dig what you do for old pianos smile

Well, no surprises from the tech. He agreed the action and sound are really good for the age, the pin block seems to be in very good shape (which I gather is extra important for these old exposed pin block designs), and he wasn't particularly concerned about the condition of the sound board. His opinion was the soundboard was typical for the age, and there are no major issues as all the ribs are either still well connected or previously repaired in the vicinity of cracks. My assessment of "horror show" was probably exaggerated, there are quite a few cracks, but its not falling apart. The strings seem to be in good shape, no signs of rust or corrosion, which does make me wonder if it was restrung at some point or just never subjected to poor conditions. He didn't see any issues with replacing the missing strings, but did note that the location would probably require removing the action which would add some to the labor cost. Might be time to break into Reblitz and learn how to replace a string wink It is worth noting that the piano is not tuned to 440, its on the low side, and while he said it could probably be tuned up its always a bit risky on a piano of this age.

Overall he felt the piano was a good candidate for our intentions, and we shouldn't have trouble getting at least the upfront cost back out of it in the future when/if we decide to upgrade.

I agree its probably a little overpriced, but I think we're up against sentimentality and for the difference of $100-200 we'll probably just go ahead but I'll certainly try and get them down if I can. I think they're really happy to see it going to a family to be used and loved, and not chopped up for parts so that may help.

Will let you know how things turn out smile

Rob
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1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2012840 - 01/11/13 02:06 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Well, moving this beast was a bit of an adventure, but we got it home safe! Wife and kids are already enjoying, and it seems to fit right in its new home. Will start a new thread soon with pics and details as I get ready to do my first tuning and repairs smile I've been very much been enjoying reading Reblitz, thanks for the recommendations. About 2/3 through my first reading.

Based on the height, serial number dating to 1874, 3/4 plate, 7 1/4 octave range, and use of Agraffes in the mid and upper range, I think we're dealing with an "Early Large Scale" (model G predecessor, upright 1b) based on the info in "The Official Guide to Steinway Pianos" linked below.
http://books.google.com/books?id=w-HMAVCGbHgC&pg=PA16#v=onepage&q&f=false

Checked the pitch this morning and A4 is a little over 420Hz, so about 80 cents low. Will plan on leaving it there and tuning relative, then maybe we'll see about a gradual raise over time. Need to replace the missing string first (actually two strings of trichord, but assuming its one string looped back around the hitch).

Did find two keys in the bass (B1, Bb1) that sound noticeably "tubbier" than the others which I don't remember hearing before. Will have to take a look at the bridge etc to see if something shifted or separated during the move.

Thanks again for all your support / feedback / enabling wink

Rob


Edited by miscrms (01/11/13 02:21 PM)
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1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2012984 - 01/11/13 05:42 PM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6353
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Rob -

Hope you and your family enjoy your "new" Steinway !!!!!! grin

I can only hope that our 1974 Everett studio upright will be in as good shape in another 100 years!!


Edited by carey (01/11/13 05:45 PM)
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#2018321 - 01/21/13 11:15 AM Re: Quest for the <$500 piano / old piano lovers disease stage 1 [Re: miscrms]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 357
Loc: UK
If you can overhaul a motorcar's engine, and have a book on piano repair you'l have no trouble in sorting out the action of any piano. Apart from a tuning hammer you can make most of the tools - if you have a metal lathe and plenty of time on your hands!
However, when it comes to replacing a sound board - forget it that is a factory job.

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