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#2025622 - 02/01/13 09:52 PM Project: 120-year-old 'free' Weber upright - lots of pics!
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Hi everyone,

I have the opportunity to receive my parent's piano for "free" - if I want to pay the transport costs to have it moved ~300 miles.



40 detailed pictures, outside and in: http://imgur.com/a/LD8xP

More pictures (with the action removed) & action detail: http://imgur.com/a/5bKiz

Pictures of the back side, frame, soundboard: http://imgur.com/a/suneG

I am wondering what you think regarding it as a candidate for restoration - worth it or not?

This piano has some sentimental value for me - I am not looking to make a quick buck selling it unrestored, or to make a profit from a restoration.

What I mean is: will I have a quality piano after restoration, something with a good tone (for an upright) to justify the cost of a restoration? That is, if I spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a restoration, will it sound and play as well as a new piano that costs as much? Or is that a fool's errand?

One very important question: does anyone have any real experience with these old 3/4 plate Webers? I have been told by a professional piano restorer that the 3/4 plate on the Weber is a very strong design because it fully supports the pin block in a different way than cheaper 3/4 plate pianos. But the whole 3/4 plate thing is still something of a concern for me. Thoughts?

Piano quick notes
Weber, Rochester NY
Full-size upright
Serial 38036, 1890s
tuned 1/4 tone low
3/4 plate
underdamper action
overstrung

1. What is the brand name on the piano?

Weber (Rochester, NY)

2. How tall is the upright piano from the floor to the top?

It's a full-size upright, 56" tall, 59" wide, 28" deep. The keyboard is 48" wide.

3. How old is the piano?

About 120 years. It was built between 1890 and 1895, probably in 1893 (according to the serial number #38036 and various online sources). It was bought used from a private party by my parents, and they have owned it for about 30 years.

4. Where has the piano been stored?

For at least the last 30 years, always indoors, away from the heater and windows.

5. When was it last tuned?

At least five years ago. The piano tuner did not want to "risk" trying to get it to concert pitch, so he tuned it 1/4 tone low. He offered to tune it to concert pitch, but said he was concerned due to the age of the instrument.

6. Has the piano had any major work?

For at least the last 30 years, only tunings.

7. Do all the keys work?

Yes. The foot pedals work as well. There are no "untoward or unexpected sounds" according to my dad. Only one of the white keys has a small chip in it, about 1/16" square. They are ebony and ivory, according to the piano tuner.

8. Describe the furniture. Style, Color, condition.

Pictures are included. Overall, it is in fairly good condition. There is no detectable peeling or warping veneer. Nothing visible is cracked.

9. How much will it have to be moved?

From the first floor of a house to the first floor of another house 300 miles away. Both houses have some porch steps, but otherwise, no stairs. The piano is on the heavy side at 800-1000 pounds.

Thank you!


Edited by fishbulb (03/04/13 12:55 PM)

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#2025644 - 02/01/13 11:00 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1881
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
It looks quite well preserved and little used for it's age. I do see cracks in the bass bridge at the bridge pins. The probable grain orientation of the bass bridge is a possible weakness. If you get work done get the bridges caped with quarter-sawn maple.
It would at least be worth having a good rebuilder who will do uprights look at it. You need one with the skills to recap bridges, replace pin-block along with the string replacement.

You will have more money in it than you can sell it for but if the piano means something to you and you can afford the work it could come out nicely.

(disclaimer) Any liability from this advice is limited to the price you paid for it! Photo evaluations are not binding!
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2025663 - 02/02/13 12:34 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
If you are you asking whether a $10k or $15k investment would bring that piano to a level which is comparable to a new piano of that price, I would say no, simply because today's designs are are optimized for the sound and feel that players expect today.

The Weber was arguably a state-of-the-art piano 120 years ago, and a large investment can bring it back to its original glory, but short of re-designing and re-manufacturing it, it will be true to its own design.

It looks like it should still play and be able to give good service. I suggest keeping it the way it is and spending your (or your parents') $15,000 on a nice new or new-ish grand piano.
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Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

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#2025708 - 02/02/13 02:46 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21285
Loc: Oakland
You can probably forego recapping the bridges and replacing the pin block. If the bridge only has those tiny cracks after 120 years, they are not likely to get worse soon. Replacing strings, springs, hammers, and other felts should get you a piano that you can use for at least another 20 years or longer for a price that would be far less than $10,000. (Refinishing might take a good chunk of change in addition.) The biggest problem would be finding someone who will do the work well.

I recently replaced the strings on a newer, but still old upright that was the family piano for a friend of mine. The hammers had previously been replaced, not a great job but passable. The piano is not up to new standards, but it sounds better than most new pianos.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2025934 - 02/02/13 02:30 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Thanks for the input so far everyone.

I have a good tech in mind for the job, who is experienced with antique uprights, thankfully.

I would pay for everything, including shipping. The piano plays quite well considering its age, with great deep resonating bass and surprisingly good action. Better than you would expect, certainly. It's not as bright as a fresh piano on the showroom floor though - the highs seem somewhat tinny or wimpy, probably due to the old strings. It is a bit out of tune of course.

Does anyone know more about the Webers from this era? My online research seems to indicate that they were a very high end brand and well-regarded, but being post-victorian, and after the death of Weber himself, I'm not as sure. It is well before the Aeolian acquisition though.

Does anyone know more about the 3/4 plate issue and if that's a legitimate concern?

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#2026073 - 02/02/13 10:13 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1881
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Only inspection by an experienced rebuilder who is well versed in piano woodworking protocols will be able to answer the 3/4 plate and other structural issues. Many piano technicians have very limited woodworking expertise. Some rebuilders who do not do pin-block, bridges and soundboard replacement, also lack the requisite woodworking knowledge to properly evaluate and plan a program of effective repair of a piano this old. Proper wood selection, grain orientation and bridge pin layout can do a lot to improve the wimpy treble.
Weber uprights from this era were on a par with other top makes of the time. Steinway also made some 3/4 plate uprights in the early years.
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In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2026090 - 02/02/13 11:03 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2691
Loc: Atlanta, GA
The skill is being lost in part by economics and by time. With fewer people able to justify this type of investment on antique instruments, this generation of rebuilders gets less experience with them. More and more are ravaged by time, and popular tastes have changed.

I don't see why it couldn't be a project funded by sentiment. It would not be my choice, but for most people, happiness is independent of reason. If a tech is eager for this project, that would worry me...not because it is too challenging, but because we usually talk customers out of getting so upside down on a piano. A few hire us to do the work AMA anyway.
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PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Weber & Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
Full Restoration Shop
www.PianoWorks.com
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#2026159 - 02/03/13 02:50 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I'm certainly no expert, but it looks like a great old piano to me smile But then again I like old pianos wink

I think it might be hard to justify putting $10-15k into it as it may never be worth more than a few $k no matter what you do, but as BDB indicated with a few $k put into new strings, hammers, and rebuilding the original action I'd think you'd have a piano that means a lot to you, plays well (though probably never as precise in action as a newer piano) and has a sound that would put many new pianos to shame.

I would definitely try to get the tech that you think would do the work out to evaluate it in person if possible before moving (or just take the risk of moving but have it fully evaluated before committing to rebuild), as the keys are likely to be the condition of the bridges, soundboard and pinblock. If any of those need major work, you'd probably have to put a lot of $$ into it. If it holds a tuning well (you might even want to go ahead and get it tuned now to see how tight and uniform the pins are) the existing pinblock would probably do fine with new oversized pins when restringing. If any soundboard/bridge issues are minor they can probably just be repaired in place and be fine for years.

If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend getting Larry Fine's Piano Book and Reblitz's Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding just to educate yourself on whats involved. I've found them both to be fascinating and enlightening as I start my own old piano adventure.

Best of luck,
Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2026265 - 02/03/13 11:02 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 1881
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
I have 40 years experience tuning and rebuilding pianos. Bridges with flat-sawn grain orientation do not sound good when they get old, even when the cracking is minimal. If memory and what I am seeing in the piano is as well preserved as the photo's indicate, you need to decide with your eyes wide open about going deep enough with the rebuild to bring the tone to a really good level. The bridges are more important than the soundboard to tone.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2026291 - 02/03/13 12:05 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21285
Loc: Oakland
There are a lot of theories about the effect of age on pianos, but few of them are actually tested. There are too many variables to be sorted out so that they can be tested individually, and besides, there is rarely, if ever, a reliable comparison with the same piano when it was new. To test a statement like "Bridges with flat-sawn grain orientation do not sound good when they get old, even when the cracking is minimal," one would have to find several old pianos with bridges like that, rebuild them without doing anything to the bridges, make detailed analyses of the sound, then rebuild them again after doing something to the bridges, and compare the analyses. You need to do several comparisons, because there are so many variables involved. All that would be very time consuming and expensive, so it is dubious whether anyone has actually done that.

You would also have to have some idea what does or does not sound good. Even if someone had done that, you have to evaluate whether the difference is enough to merit spending the extra money involved. I doubt that it would for over 99% of piano owners.

You have to be wary of the claims of someone who has an interest in selling you an expensive job when a cheap one will suit your needs.
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Semipro Tech

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#2026386 - 02/03/13 03:42 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 555
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
BDB gives wise and practical advice on old pianos. I hope you can find a technician who will service your needs rather than their desires. An expensive restoration job may not be appropriate. Often a couple of thousand dollars only in repairs/ reconditioning will give maximum cost vs gain.

BTW, I also have an old Weber from my parents. It has similar bass bridge hairline cracks that have been there for many years and have not noticeable progressed.


Edited by Chris Leslie (02/03/13 03:44 PM)
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Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2026549 - 02/03/13 09:37 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: BDB]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Originally Posted By: BDB
You have to be wary of the claims of someone who has an interest in selling you an expensive job when a cheap one will suit your needs.


Good advice. The techs I have talked to so far have given me menu pricing based on what MAY need to be done (i.e. refinishing = x, soundboard = y, stings = z, etc.). I will probably forgo refinishing, as I like the look of it as is, and it is hard to justify the cost from the quotes I have received.

Instead, I will probably focus on what needs to be done to get the piano safely tuned up to concert pitch again. At minimum, this would be new strings, maybe a pin block, and probably new bridges. Also, new felt, but it seems like the action is fine otherwise, and, assuming the soundboard is undamaged, probably not much else would be needed. Hopefully...

Due to the relatively remote location of the piano right now, I haven't yet found an experienced piano rebuilder in the area to take a look at it before I ship it. If I do find a rebuilder locally, I should probably have someone move it away from the wall so that they can take a look at the soundboard too, right? Or can you inspect a soundboard from the front?

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#2026601 - 02/03/13 11:55 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21285
Loc: Oakland
Already you are talking about things that could take a $5,000 to a $10,000 without adding much improvement.

Are there any notes that sound wildly out of tune, like one string is a lot different from the rest? If not, the pin block is doing its job, and most likely can be reused with larger pins, or swabbed with epoxy as others have recommended. That saves several hundred right there. Bridges will work fine unless the cracks go from one pin to the next. Soundboards are almost always good, and really cannot be evaluated by any other means except by listening. If it sounds good, but someone says it looks bad, you would be better off putting money into the exterior finish, since you are going to look at that, and you are only going to listen to the soundboard.
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Semipro Tech

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#2026619 - 02/04/13 12:43 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I'm getting out of my league here, but I would suspect that the pinblock is likely the critical decision point.

A pinblock in a grand is a big enough job. A pinblock in an upright is as I understand it a much bigger job, and probably borders on being not feasible depending on the piano. The difference is that in an upright, and I would suspect even more so in a 3/4 plate upright such as this, the pinblock is often a part of the very structural integrity of the piano itself. Its often embedded directly into and is an integral part of the top structural beams of the piano. Often the only way to "remove" it is to destructively cut/route it out of the top beams. Creating a replacement that not only does the job of the pinblock in gripping the tuning pins but also re-integrates structurally into the top beams would seemlike a pretty big deal. I assume this work alone would cost thousands of dollars, which seems an unfortunate place to spend that kind of money as it really does nothing to enhance the tone quality or playability of the piano.

Unless it really needs it, in which case I think you'd have to seriously consider if its really wise to proceed, I would worry that "proactively" replacing the pinblock might do more to risk the long term health/stability of the piano than leaving the original in despite its age.

On a positive note, my understanding is that particularly in a high end 3/4 plate design, the pinblock was likely seriously over engineered so the chances of it being fundamentally sound are probably pretty good.

Rob


Edited by miscrms (02/04/13 12:45 AM)
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2027217 - 02/05/13 12:36 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: miscrms]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Originally Posted By: miscrms
If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend getting Larry Fine's Piano Book and Reblitz's Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding just to educate yourself on whats involved. I've found them both to be fascinating and enlightening as I start my own old piano adventure.


Thanks, I have those books on order; should be here later this week. I'm thinking about visiting the piano (and by proxy, my parents heh) this weekend and having a look myself with books in hand.

Originally Posted By: miscrms

On a positive note, my understanding is that particularly in a high end 3/4 plate design, the pinblock was likely seriously over engineered so the chances of it being fundamentally sound are probably pretty good.


From looking at pictures of other piano frames and talking to the tech, it appears that the piano is actually NOT a '3/4 plate' upright, but a 'full perimeter plate' with an exposed pinblock. I really need to look at it to know more, but from what I can tell, the pinblock is not a structural component of the piano frame / case. You can see from the large bolts in the pictures that the pinblock is actually bolted to the plate at the top edge. So, I am wondering if the piano tuner who called it a '3/4 plate' piano was wrong? So little information out there on old pianos.

I will know more when I get a chance to check this thing out in person, do my own inspection, and play it again. Interesting stuff, so much to learn!

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#2027481 - 02/05/13 02:12 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Very interesting! It certainly could be as you describe. Note that our 1874 Steinway 3/4 plate does have similar bolts across the top, which help hold the pinblock rigidly to the structural beams and help keep it from rotating due to the string tension. There's a lot of force there, many tons. The date does seem pretty late for a 3/4 plate, but I don't know when other manufactures phased them out. It seems like Steinway started using full plates around 1878 and had phased out the last 3/4 plates by 1882.

If you remove the round nuts holding the action to the top action bolts you may be able to tip the action back and get a clearer view at the ends to see if it seems like the plate continues up beyond the bottom of the pinblock. You might also be able to see it from the back. Since I assume it would go up through the middle, it could be kind of tricky to tell.

Good luck with your trip!

rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2027507 - 02/05/13 02:53 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Tjpp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/31/12
Posts: 32
I cannot give you any technical advice, but we were recently given an old Weber upright and just today, we had an excellent tuner/tech here and he said it was one of the best old pianos he had ever seen. The condition was fantastic for its age, the pitch was good and was quite a surprise. I have some pictures on another post. We will see how the upcoming years go, but we are thankful to have a beautiful and good sounding piano in our family.

We had hoped it would be good, even for a little while for our son to use and see where he goes with his playing and what good news to hear it is in great shape! I guess you never know what you will find, but if it has sentimental value and sounds good currently, have someone inspect it and then I say go for it and decide down the road as to how far you want to restore it...but that is my non-technical opinion!

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#2031209 - 02/11/13 02:58 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Well, I made it back. I was able to remove the front panels like my dad did when he took the pictures, but also the fallboard and complete action assembly.

I went through the chapters in The Piano Book and in Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding about inspecting an old piano. Here's what I learned:

- Playing - the piano plays surprisingly well for the age. I'm not a master piano player by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a rich, full sound, plenty of volume, and a nice feel to the keyboard. Something I can definitely play and enjoy.

- Design - It's most likely a 3/4 plate design, with a "full perimeter" plate (vertical columns of iron on the left and right sides for a stronger plate), but it only goes up to the pinblock, which is bolted to the top of the wood frame, but not through the plate itself. Research I have done on uprights from this era (1893) indicates that most uprights were 3/4 plate, and that at the time people believed that full-plate uprights didn't sound as good. If the plate goes behind the pin block on this piano, I certainly can't see it, so I am assuming it's 3/4 plate.

- Plate - is intact, no rust or cracks. Case and wood frame components look good as well, no cracks or delamination.

- Soundboard - From what I can see with the action removed, it is completely intact. The piano is still against the wall and is far too heavy to move, but from what I can see from the front, the soundboard is in excellent condition. The piano is very resonant with the action removed - my voice echoes easily, and pretty loudly. There are no buzzing noises or "dead zones" of resonance (that I can find, anyway).

There is one area where two sections of the soundboard have started to come apart (where two pieces of wood were butted against each other in a 45 degree line), but I would say the gap is about 1/2 a millimeter, and it's a gap between planks, not a crack.

- Pin Block - appears to be three-ply maple, with each ply about 3/16" thick, as was common in this era. There is no evidence of chemical doping, and all of the pins are roughly uniform in how far they are sticking out. There are a couple that may have been hammered in the past, but there is still about the same size gap between the wound string and the wood block on all of the pins. I would say at most there are a couple of pins that have been hammered in about 1/6" from their normal position.

- Unisions - are all still in tune with each other (i.e. all three notes that a single hammer strikes are the same pitch). The last tuning was actually over ten years ago, but all of the unisons are remarkably stable. The overall piano is out of tune a bit though, but surprisingly playable. So, no signs of any slipped tuning pins.

- Bridges - There are small cracks in all of the bridges, with the lower bass bridge being the worst. However, compared to the diagrams in The Piano Book, the damage is very minor and should be repairable with epoxy.

- Strings - are definitely not original (clipped ends in the pins are not uniform). Very, very little rust, only in a few places at the bottom of a couple strings. They may have been restrung in the 1960s when the action was refurbished. The bass is a little muddy but I've heard much, much worse. Highs are better than I remembered them sounding.

- Hammers - The hammers were either reshaped or replaced at some point - they are barely flattened at all, and all have the string marks properly aligned. There is some moth damage on the hammer felt, but nothing too bad. All of the hammers seem sturdy and intact. The hammer butt buckskin is worn, not too badly, but probably worth replacing if other action work is done.

- Action - has has definitely been refurbished at some point in the last 120 years. One tech I talked to believed in the 1960s due to the type of bridle straps that were used. In any case, the only action parts that are *obviously* worn are the catcher buckskin squares, as shown in the photos in the first post. The dampers are a bit out of alignment and need regulating, but the wedge felt is in decent condition. From what I can tell, there are no cracked or missing pieces of the action, and all the springs are accounted for as well. If any of the wood or metal parts of the action were replaced in the past, I can't tell.

- Keys - one chipped key as pictured. The felt key bushings allow too much side-to-side movement for the center keys and need to be replaced. The backrail cloth, sticker cloth, and rail punchings could also be replaced, but they are mostly OK. The height of the keys is a bit uneven and needs to be regulated, so new punchings would probably help there.

- Pedals - all work. The right is the usual damper-lifting sustain pedal. The left is the soft pedal, which moves the hammers closer to the strings. The center is a "practice pedal" which lowers a large strip of felt over the strings, so that the hammers hit the felt-covered strings instead of the bare strings. It makes the piano VERY quiet - you could probably play while someone was sleeping in the same room.

While I wish that the soft pedal had a lost motion compensator, and the center pedal was a sostenuto, at least everything works I guess. Since sostenuto was patented by Steinway in 1874, it was probably still legally protected (should have expired in 1894) so it is not surprising that the Weber lacks a sostenuto (also, it's an upright obviously).

So, I've made the decision to get it moved up to my house and get to refurbishing the action as needed. I've decided to do the work myself since (a) If I can rebuild a car engine and have it start on the first try, I can probably handle this and (b) The prices I have been quoted by local techs are far, far more than I am willing to pay.

So off I go on my own piano restoration adventure! I'll update this thread some time in the future with more information.


Edited by fishbulb (02/11/13 03:04 PM)

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#2031444 - 02/11/13 07:38 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Sounds pretty cool fish. I'd think hard about trying to DIY though. And I say that as a guy just launching into my own DIY project. It really depends on what you want out of it.

If your main interest is having a good playing instrument, I'd pay a pro to do the work. You just need to find the right tech who has the right skills and gets what you are trying to accomplish and wants be part of it. This is probably not the kind of project most want to take on, so they will probably bid it high and recommend lots of work to make it worth their while. I don't see that as dishonest, its a pain for them so they have to make it worth it to take it on. I've heard a number of rebuilders indicate a typical upright job is 2-3 times the work for about 1/2 the pay. Hopefully there is someone in your area that likes doing this kind of work, and doesn't need it to be a $15k rebuild with all the bells and whistles to make it palatable (who also happens to be really good at what they do).

If you are looking for a project, and want to spend a lot of time (100s if not a thousand or more man hours) learning and applying new skills and screwing it up and redoing it and that sounds like fun (as it does to me) then its maybe feasible to DIY. You just have to be realistic about what the quality of the end product is likely to be. At best it will probably be an ok average job at 10X the time and ~1/2 to 3/4 the cost. That's about what I'm striving for, and also while I'm planning to do it over a long time and will likely never really do a true rebuild/restore. We're not very serious players, and there are a lot of quirks and character we're willing to put up with. Your mechanical skills will likely be handy, but don't underestimate the complexity of a piano. An engine has maybe ~200 moving parts. An old upright piano might have 5-6,000. And most of them are made out of 100 year old wood smile My engine skills are pretty basic, but imagine an engine with 88 valves to adjust (each with its own independent timing), 88 pistons/rings to precisely bore out and fit, ~230 carbs to re-jet and tune, maybe a 1000 old gaskets to replace, hundreds of cams to balance, etc and again they're mostly made out of 100 year old wood wink

Good luck with whatever you decide, and look forward to seeing how it goes!

Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2031455 - 02/11/13 08:10 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
And oh yeah, since this engine is 100 years old replacement parts are long unavailable so you'll have to try and adapt modern parts to work, scrounge vintage replacements, or make your own. And then there's the thousands of dollars of unique tools, jigs, etc to acquire or try to do without.

smile

This still sounds like fun to me, but I've clearly contracted some kind of sickness that's clouding my judgement wink

Rob


Edited by miscrms (02/11/13 08:12 PM)
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2031471 - 02/11/13 08:42 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
newinstru? Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/12
Posts: 113
Loc: SoCal
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
The bridges are more important than the soundboard to tone.


Ed, if you're still around, would you mind explaining further??

Thanks,
Melly

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#2031509 - 02/11/13 10:32 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Went through the photos today. I've got a piano moving company that is going to pick it up in about 6 weeks and get it here. About $700 to move it 300 miles. Could have had it here sooner, but I would rather wait and get it here cheaper heh.

More pics here (with the action removed): http://imgur.com/a/5bKiz

.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Sounds pretty cool fish. I'd think hard about trying to DIY though. And I say that as a guy just launching into my own DIY project. It really depends on what you want out of it.

If your main interest is having a good playing instrument, I'd pay a pro to do the work. You just need to find the right tech who has the right skills and gets what you are trying to accomplish and wants be part of it. This is probably not the kind of project most want to take on, so they will probably bid it high and recommend lots of work to make it worth their while. I don't see that as dishonest, its a pain for them so they have to make it worth it to take it on. I've heard a number of rebuilders indicate a typical upright job is 2-3 times the work for about 1/2 the pay.


Yep, that's the experience that I had. The quotes I got for a "full rebuild", minus cabinet refinishing, ranged from $10,000 to $30,000 Add another $5,000 for a refinished cabinet. I just can't afford that, and I have no desire to go into debt to restore an old piano (or buy a new one). I envy the people who can pull that off financially. One piano store employee I talked to said every now and then people just walk in and drop $30k on a piano without even playing them for more than a few minutes. One person even bought a large grand for their kid's birthday present! Wow. It must be nice to be in the 1% heh.

Of course, "full rebuild" was different for different techs. At the $30,000 end, that meant a new soundboard, pin block, strings, and totally refurbished action. At the $10,000 end, that meant just strings, tuning and minimal action and regulating work to get it up to snuff. I did get quotes from a rebuilder who only does uprights, one who does mostly grands, and one who does both. Of course, the guy who rarely does uprights was the highest heh.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Hopefully there is someone in your area that likes doing this kind of work, and doesn't need it to be a $15k rebuild with all the bells and whistles to make it palatable (who also happens to be really good at what they do).


Heh, that would be nice. I have a feeling it falls under the old adage about contractors in general: "The good ones aren't cheap, and the cheap ones aren't good."

Originally Posted By: miscrms
If you are looking for a project, and want to spend a lot of time (100s if not a thousand or more man hours) learning and applying new skills and screwing it up and redoing it and that sounds like fun (as it does to me) then its maybe feasible to DIY.


Sounds fun to me. laugh I've got plenty of time to "read the manual" before the piano even gets here. I could use a project that doens't require digging with a shovel, getting covered with spiders in the crawlspace, or building a fence haha.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
You just have to be realistic about what the quality of the end product is likely to be. At best it will probably be an ok average job at 10X the time and ~1/2 to 3/4 the cost. That's about what I'm striving for, and also while I'm planning to do it over a long time and will likely never really do a true rebuild/restore. We're not very serious players, and there are a lot of quirks and character we're willing to put up with.


My plan is to approach it in stages. First off, get the piano in my house ($700). Second, refurbish the keybed (priced out less than $200 in parts and tools). Next, dampers (less than $100 for parts). Next, practice rail felt (about $10 counting glue). Next, buckskin replacement (about $50 in parts). Next, either restringing and bridge repair, or just tuning up what I've got. After all that's done I should be able to work on regulation ($250 for tools).

I don't think I'm good enough of a piano player to really 'deserve' a $30,000 restoration, but hopefully my piano skills will improve with my piano maintenance skills, so as I get better at playing, I can get better at regulating (and possibly tuning if I go down that road). This piano means a lot to me, and I'd rather it be "mine" than just something I threw a bunch of money at. Also, http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722

After that, tuning? New strings? Instead of paying out thousands of dollars up front, or a few thousand as each stage of restoration is completed, I only pay when I want to work on it, and the dollar amounts are an order of magnitude smaller. Sounds good to me wink

You are lucky to live somewhere where piano restoration is inexpensive and quick - all the well-known rebuilders in my city have a wait list, plus 3-6 months while they have your piano. It also seems they have much higher prices since there is no way I will be at 1/2 to 3/4 of the cost doing it myself, even with premium parts. Probably more in the 1/4 to 1/2 range. For example, just doing the minor action work the piano needs, and regulation afterward, will cost me less than $1,000 in parts and tools, versus the cheapest quote I got for that of $3,000 (new hammers not included in that either). :sigh: "If I were a rich man..."

Originally Posted By: miscrms
Your mechanical skills will likely be handy, but don't underestimate the complexity of a piano. An engine has maybe ~200 moving parts. An old upright piano might have 5-6,000. And most of them are made out of 100 year old wood smile My engine skills are pretty basic, but imagine an engine with 88 valves to adjust (each with its own independent timing), 88 pistons/rings to precisely bore out and fit, ~230 carbs to re-jet and tune, maybe a 1000 old gaskets to replace, hundreds of cams to balance, etc and again they're mostly made out of 100 year old wood wink


I chuckle when I see on piano tech's websites: "a piano has thousands of parts in it, you must hire a professional". Yes, there are obviously a lot of parts. But on an upright, you've got say 60 parts in the action of one key. Multiply that by 88 and you've got 5,000+ parts. Of course, "5,000 parts" sounds a lot scarier than "60 parts repeated 88 times." Obviously it's not going to be easy either, but that's what the books are for smile


Edited by fishbulb (02/11/13 10:39 PM)

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#2031587 - 02/12/13 12:46 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Well, it sounds like we're both in the same boat then. Best of luck to both of us wink

Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2031744 - 02/12/13 10:15 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1098
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
>>My plan is to approach it in stages. First off, get the piano in my house ($700). Second, refurbish the keybed (priced out less than $200 in parts and tools). Next, dampers (less than $100 for parts). Next, practice rail felt (about $10 counting glue). Next, buckskin replacement (about $50 in parts). Next, either restringing and bridge repair, or just tuning up what I've got. After all that's done I should be able to work on regulation ($250 for tools).
After that, tuning? New strings? Instead of paying out thousands of dollars up front, or a few thousand as each stage of restoration is completed, I only pay when I want to work on it, and the dollar amounts are an order of magnitude smaller. <<

Greetings,
This sounds like several situations I have seen over the years, and every one ended with a lot of expensive parts and tools in boxes next to an unfinished and damaged piano. I hope you can have better results, but don't expect it to progress smoothly, you will find anomalies and unexpected damage.
It is naive to think with $100 is all that the dampers will cost, and if the dampers are shot, so are the hammers,(usually). There is a lot of fragile wood, damper levers are quite thin, and springs are fragile. If you are going to replace hammers, you will need to learn to repin, and probably how to replace an upright shank. The keybed, if refurbished, might need new pins as well as bushings, punchings, and back rail felt. Repinning requiries a total respacing of the keys, too.
If you must go at this, plan on several hundred hours to overcome a learning curve that most experienced techs have had to go through to avoid doing more damage than good. This stuff looks pretty simple, but in practice, you are looking at a mechanism with tons of force behind it. A piano warps, swells, and changes, so quality piano repair is done by those that have some idea of what sort of tolerances are required for the piano to play year-round.
If the pinblock is cracked or falling apart, say goodbye to the piano or your wallet. There are very few techs out there that can successfully replace a pinblock in an upright. If considering having someone do this, make sure you talk to tuners that have tuned the pianos afterwards, (not the tech that did the work and does the tuning).
Regards,
Regards,

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#2031793 - 02/12/13 11:54 AM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: Ed Foote]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
I'm not an auto mechanic, but I rebuild a 1991 V-6 engine and it ran very well for several years before I sold it.
I'm not a plumber, but I fixed a leaking and clogged drain pipe.
I'm not an electrician, but I installed a new sub-panel and wired up a workshop in my garage.
I'm not a certified hardwood flooring installer, but I installed 2.25" red oak flooring in our house.
I'm not a house painter, but I painted the exterior of our home.

Point being that Fishbulb may not be a piano tech, but I bet if he can build a fence and get dirty in his crawl space then he can have some fun working on a piano that most think isn't worth it. It's good to be forewarned, but then a liberal dose of positive encouragement is in order. You can do it!

Much of the cost is labor. Ask about the cost to spray on a new finish if you've done all of the work to get down to bare wood. I bet it is far more affordable.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2031822 - 02/12/13 12:43 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
This sounds like several situations I have seen over the years, and every one ended with a lot of expensive parts and tools in boxes next to an unfinished and damaged piano. I hope you can have better results, but don't expect it to progress smoothly, you will find anomalies and unexpected damage.
It is naive to think with $100 is all that the dampers will cost, and if the dampers are shot, so are the hammers,(usually). There is a lot of fragile wood, damper levers are quite thin, and springs are fragile.


Thanks for the advice. It is interesting that you mention this, as I've read that in other places, but with few details. Do you have any more examples of what are the common things that inexperienced people break when working on a piano the first time? Rookie mistakes? Do they snap of hammers, damper levers, and springs, or is there something else...??? I understand if you don't want to give away trade secrets though smile

I must have done the math wrong when planning my order for the dampers. I'll have to measure again. From what I can tell, the hammers are usable (for a novice piano player like myself anyway) although the dampers don't perform well and certainly don't look too good. So, I don't plan on replacing the hammers any time soon. For the rest (key pins, respacing, etc.) I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
If the pinblock is cracked or falling apart, say goodbye to the piano or your wallet. There are very few techs out there that can successfully replace a pinblock in an upright. If considering having someone do this, make sure you talk to tuners that have tuned the pianos afterwards, (not the tech that did the work and does the tuning).


Yes that is why I have been obsessing about the pinblock. From my analysis and pictures (above), it seems usable. None of the big red flags like doping stains, cracks, warping, delamination, hammered-in pins, or seriously out-of-tune single strings. The unisons were all in tune with themselves, amazingly. To my ear anyway.

Originally Posted By: SteveM732
I'm not an auto mechanic, but I rebuild a 1991 V-6 engine and it ran very well for several years before I sold it.
I'm not a plumber, but I fixed a leaking and clogged drain pipe.
I'm not an electrician, but I installed a new sub-panel and wired up a workshop in my garage.
I'm not a certified hardwood flooring installer, but I installed 2.25" red oak flooring in our house.
I'm not a house painter, but I painted the exterior of our home.

Point being that Fishbulb may not be a piano tech, but I bet if he can build a fence and get dirty in his crawl space then he can have some fun working on a piano that most think isn't worth it. It's good to be forewarned, but then a liberal dose of positive encouragement is in order. You can do it!


Hear hear! Far too few do-it-yourselfers in this day and age. I've done the hardwood flooring thing too, all sorts of weird car things over the years, electrical work (both home and auto), home appliance repair, and a lot of custom computer and electronics building (talk about fragile components!).

Maybe I'll break something. But if you go through life being paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, you never learn any valuable skills. And as we know... "Nunchaku skills... bowhunting skills... computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!" laugh


Edited by fishbulb (02/12/13 12:44 PM)

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#2031854 - 02/12/13 01:25 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
Withindale Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 1921
Loc: Suffolk, England
It's surprising how much you can improve a piano in reasonable condition with a few basic tools and without replacing anything at all. Taking time to make the most of what you've got could well be the best approach. It would certainly avoid the pitfalls Ed Foote rightly mentions, and it will be an education.

The keys on the 110 year old piano I have at the moment could do with rebushing, and maybe some of the centres need loosening up, but compressed air, tightening loose screws and bolts, setting the treble strings, adjusting dampers, and regulating the action have made a huge difference. The instrument has gone from one that was almost unplayable to one that is a pleasure to play.
_________________________
Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 55" upright
Ibach, 1922 49" upright (project piano)

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#2041964 - 03/02/13 05:33 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
fishbulb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 50
The piano is on the truck, coming in a few days!

Soundboard looks pretty good for 120 years old!

Detailed pictures of the back side: http://imgur.com/a/suneG


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#2041966 - 03/02/13 05:43 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21285
Loc: Oakland
I do not know whether your tech carries them, but I carry replacement casters. It does not take long to replace them if one has access to the bottom of the piano and one knows what one is doing. So you might ask if your tech can replace that broken one when the piano comes. It can be more difficult later.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2042060 - 03/02/13 10:51 PM Re: Worth restoring? 120-year-old 'free' Weber - lots of pics! [Re: fishbulb]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Very nice, wish mine looked that good wink

Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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