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#2035219 - 02/18/13 11:17 AM Dating of a Bluthner grand
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
We were called out to evaluate an old Bluthner grand the other day. The owner was under the impression that the piano dated from 1867 based on a medallion on the lid. The only number I could readily find was stamped into the belly rail.

55684

Michael's gives 1900 for the date.

It seems a simple piano, and could easily be much older than 1900. The New England winters are reputed to wreak havoc on these pianos, and the mildew is evidence that this piano has seen some uncomfortable days.

Any Bluthner eperts?

https://picasaweb.google.com/105412259108667869462/BluthnerGrand02
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2035224 - 02/18/13 11:24 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20748
Loc: Oakland
That serial number is in one of the places where Blüthner puts serial numbers, so I would say 1900. It looks like one of their less expensive models.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2035256 - 02/18/13 12:13 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Yes 53000 starts 1899 and 58000 starts 1900 if that is indeed the serial. Nice old square tail in rosewood. Looks like the Blüthner Patent action in that one.

Interesting to see how the bass strings are ending with the wrap over top of the end. We just had a thread where a German string maker posted about that style of winding.
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2035262 - 02/18/13 12:21 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
I was hoping someone would bring that up again. I know that the pictures are not very crisp, but if you look at the windings on the shortest section of bass strings, it seems that they managed to do that tucked in wrap on both ends. My guess is that they double wrapped the string, using that technique on each end in turn.
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2035298 - 02/18/13 02:06 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Yes, it is possible to do an underwrap on both ends of a wound string. It has nothing to do with being double wrapped. There is a trick that old sting winders use.

Wow, that piano has really been through the ringer. These can be amazingly sweet pianos when working and sounding as designed, but this one would need an incredible amount of work. I stock and supply all kinds of parts and materials specifically for those actions.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2035299 - 02/18/13 02:06 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

Hi Craig,

In the middle of this thread there is an explanation from Gregor Heller the owner of Hellerbass.

Forum thread
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2035782 - 02/19/13 10:58 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1680
Loc: London, England
Yes. Blüthnere patent action (standard on smaller grands until 1923 or so).

Be very careful with those damper carriages. They're vellum hinges back there and the flanges are glued on on some models (most likely yours as well).

That style of plate was called Russian model on the tuning cards when I worked for them. Didn't see many of them and none exactly like yours.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#2035795 - 02/19/13 11:08 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada


Vellum paper strips are still readily available if there is a problem with tearing.

Many restorers here in NA are updating the back action if continuity of originality is of no concern.
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2035956 - 02/19/13 04:04 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
Thanks all for the input.

1900 is probaby correct. Am I correct in guessing that Bluthner continued to make older style pianos even after they had designed newer? Are there end of production dates for things like open face pin blocks, and square tails, or are these the hallmarkes of their economy line?

Russian plate? Does that referr to the single hitch pin field in the bass and the passing through of the tennor wires through the bass bridge?

And the big question:
Is this piano worth the investment? It has sentimental value, but I need to be square about how my customer is spending their money.
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2036013 - 02/19/13 05:36 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Yes, they were building pianos with Patent actions and Erard actions at the same time, for around 30 years. Open face pin blocks and square tails were not uncommon nor "cheap" in Europe. Bösendorfer builds pianos with open face pin blocks to this day, and Blüthner has yet to build pianos with continuous rims.

I have never heard the term Russian model used, perhaps that is a British designation?

Investment? Pianos? Worth it? Judging by those pictures, it would take a lot more than a few thousand to rebuild that piano - it is a shame it was let go so badly. The rebuilding costs would surely go beyond what the piano could ever be sold for. But the same holds true for all but a few brands of pianos.

The client needs to know this, but they may still decide to go ahead because of the family/sentimental connection. Once brought back to playing and sounding like it should, I have no doubt anyone would not admire the instrument - it is not like rebuilding a no-name brand.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2036027 - 02/19/13 05:58 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
pianolive Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 319
Loc: Europe
Yes, they used both actions up to the early 1920
They were not made for a high pitch, 435 is normal
From your pictures, I would say let it be. There are times when a piano comes to the end of it's lifetime, and we must advice the customer to let it go. Even if investing a lot of work and a huge amount of money, the piano will not be the same.
If the piano had been in a much better shape it could have at least been made playable for a reasonable price.

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#2036087 - 02/19/13 08:39 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

I have a small Challen grand from the sixties in my inventory that has an old style jack action. This one is really short, maybe four foot, six inch or something like that. I recall being surprised at the age because the action fooled me into presuming it was much older.

I had thought turn of the century to 1930 but the client informed me that the instrument was new in that time period, the sixties.
Next time I am there which will be in a few weeks I will take some photos and post them here.
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#2036188 - 02/20/13 01:28 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1680
Loc: London, England
Russian plate? Where did that come from? I only said Russian model as a description on some tuning record cards for a piano with that style of flat plate. . Nothing more. I also have not heard it before or since.

It was fashionable to replace the patent action, including total damper action, with a modern roller sction when rebuilding them but lately, there seems to be a movement towards to restoring the patent action. Not because it is any better or worse, but in the spirit of preservation.

I would replace the damper levers, as Dan suggests although I have seen vellum hinges in relatively stress free situations such as damper levers that seem to go on for ever if not stressed sideways which, as Dan also says, would tear them.

While it is entirely possible to replace the odd vellum hinge, there is the ever present danger of breaking more in the process. if one has broken, who knows how many others were stressed. Better replace the whole unit with modern in such a situation.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#2038584 - 02/24/13 05:28 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
Originally Posted By: Craig Hair
We were called out to evaluate an old Bluthner grand the other day. The owner was under the impression that the piano dated from 1867 based on a medallion on the lid. The only number I could readily find was stamped into the belly rail.

55684

Michael's gives 1900 for the date.

It seems a simple piano, and could easily be much older than 1900. The New England winters are reputed to wreak havoc on these pianos, and the mildew is evidence that this piano has seen some uncomfortable days.

Any Bluthner eperts?

https://picasaweb.google.com/105412259108667869462/BluthnerGrand02




Sorry, I have come to this thread rather late.

This piano is much older than 1900, and 55684 looks much too large to be the correct serial number. It is certainly earlier than 1880 (my Bluthner of 1881 is a newer style than this), and probably earlier than 1875. This style of music desk is found on Bluthners numbered lower than about 10000. Similarly, the brass medallion indicates an early instrument, with serial number lower than perhaps about 12000. I have photographs of number 6926 which looks very similar (perhaps identical) to this instrument.

On these early Bluthners you should look for the serial number in the following places.

EITHER on the soundboard, beneath the medallion-decal;

OR (on the earliest instruments) stamped into the wood (the pin block?) immediately below the leftmost string, just in front of the dampers;

OR between the two sets of tuning pins which hold respectively the bass strings angled to the right and the tenor/treble strings angled to the left.

You should also look at the back of the action cavity, on the right, where there is a paper label with the number; though I am not sure whether this was done for these early instruments.

And finally, you may find the number written by hand on the back or underside of separate wooden parts such as the music desk, the keyslip, the cheek blocks etc.

I am aware of one early Bluthner, number 8213, which was renumbered 57219. It is perhaps possible that this happened in the present case. But it is the original number that you need for the date, and I would expect that by looking in the above places you should be able to find it.


Edited by David-G (02/24/13 05:34 PM)

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#2038603 - 02/24/13 05:54 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: David-G]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
The medallion on this piano shows prizes awarded in Chemnitz in 1867 and in Paris also in 1867. The next prize award shown on these medallions was Cassel in 1870; so we may perhaps presume that this piano was made between 1867 and 1870.

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#2039292 - 02/25/13 09:08 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: David-G]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
David,
Thank you for responding. My own instincts told me, when I first saw the piano, that it just had to be older than 1900. But this was just based on the accumulated dust and he advanced oxidation of the exposed wood underneath. It was nothing I could hang a date on, but I had seen similar conditions only in the really old squares. So pre 1880 seemed a comfortable minimum. I just had to accept the 55684 as the date, not knowing an early Bluthner from a late.

I generally don't pay a great deal of attention to awards mounted on the piano. They generally refer to a long past triumph, and give no real dating information. Unless there is a medal missing. Do you, indeed, know of a medallion that features a medal from Cassel in 1870? This would be fine proof of the age of the piano. I have not been able to find an image of such a medallion on the net, not that I hoped for much. If you can verify that Cassel medallions do exist, then I would feel confident in giving my customer the early dating.

Beyond that I intend to return and see if I cannot find a number in the other locations you suggest. Everything is covered in that type of dust that can't be blown away, so I may have to clean the inside of her piano for her a little if I want to see anything.

Is this an interesting piano? Is this a well documented period for Bluthner? The piano seems to be all original as far as that goes. Is there something that can be learned from it? I don't suppose that there is a data bank of Bluthner plate styles and string scales out there is there?

Thanks again.
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2039418 - 02/26/13 03:14 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
Craig, thanks for the interesting reply. I certainly do know a medallion which has a Cassel 1870 award - my own piano has one! But being a little later (1881), the medallion takes the form of a decal on the soundboard rather than a brass plaque.

I will respond in more detail, but it may take me a few days as things are rather busy right now.

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#2041570 - 03/01/13 07:23 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: David-G]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
Craig, this is Bluthner 6926, which seems very much like your client's piano.



Here is a medallion with a Cassel 1870 award at bottom left - this is on a later instrument, number 9105.



Number 6926 has the same medallion as your client's piano. However, just below the medallion is a decal with a clear date 1873! This shows that the medallions were not necessarily updated immediately when a new prize was awarded. But it does seem likely that your client's piano dates from the late 1860s or early 1870s.



On the soundboard, beneath the strings, all these Bluthners have a decal showing the prizes awarded. I expect you will find one if you do a little cleaning. This one is from 6906.



This is where I expect you will find the serial number, between the two sets of pins.



However, in the earliest Bluthners the number is located beneath the leftmost string.



And in later instruments (1880s and later) the serial number is located just below the soundboard decal. This is my own piano, number 16189.



And you can also find the number on a paper label at the rear right of the action cavity. However, I am not sure when Bluthner started doing this, or whether the 1870s pianos had such a label.



If you can find the serial number of the piano, you can look up the date in the age table on Bluthner UK's web site. However, this is not necessarily quite accurate; for my piano it indicates a date three years too early. It might incidentally be worth while for you to contact Bluthner in London; they do have a record of instruments imported to the UK.

I am not sure that any period for Bluthner is well documented, as I understand that the records were lost when the factory was destroyed in the War. I have been trying to establish a data base of Bluthner plate styles myself. If you could discover the serial number of your client's piano, this would therefore be of great interest to me. I would also be very interested to know the length of the piano.

You ask whether this is an interesting piano. I suppose it depends by what criteria one would make such a judgement, but these very early Bluthners are certainly quite rare. My own Bluthner has a warmth to the tone which is very delightful, and is quite different from the "classic Bluthner mellow tone" which came later. I am sure that Jurgen is correct when he says that these pianos can be amazingly sweet.

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#2041610 - 03/01/13 09:39 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: David-G]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
Thank you, this is more and better information than I had thought was available. The pictures are just what I need. I will contact the owner and ask to stop by. I will look again for a serial number. I'll let you know what I find.

Every extra decade makes a piano just that much more interesting. Grand pianos from this period are really rare in the US. I have a Chickering from 1867, and I have seen a few Steinways from this time. The Chickering has a strangely oblique structure to the sound board, the ribs and board running at off angles to the line of the bridge. The Steinways were practicing period bellying schemes as well. I find it interesting that the Bluthner displays a modern rib/board/bridge configuration so early.

I want to recrown the Chickering to hear what this strange bellying sounded like. I'd like to recrown this Bluthner because it would be the oldest board we have ever repressed, whose structure is clearly a forbear of modern practice. This piano just got a lot more interesting to me. Perhapse worth the extended effort to bring it back.

Thanks again.
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2042509 - 03/03/13 07:15 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
I thought a few more photos might help to set the context. These two pictures show my piano, no. 16189 dated 1881. You might call this the "second generaton"; this sort of design was standard for Bluthner for serial numbers from about 10000 to about 30000 (i.e. from about 1875 to 1890). Almost everything is different from your client's "first generation" Bluthner; the music desk, the legs, the plate, the profile of the plate bars, the stringing. Note the separate tenor bridge and the virtually straight-strung bass.





These two pictures show the "third generation", which spanned serial numbers from about 30000 to about 110000 (1890 to 1925 approximately). These are the well known classic Bluthners with a "mellow tone". This is no. 45591.





Most of the old Bluthners that one comes across are of the above type. It is rarer to see a "second generation" instrument like mine. The "first generation" ones seem rarer still. I have never seen one myself other than in photographs. To encourage you, here is a picture of a restored one (no. 5649).


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#2043010 - 03/04/13 07:56 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1227
Loc: London
It is interesting that the felt on this piano is blue. While blue is the standard Bluthner felt colour, this came in later. On these early Bluthners the felt was usually red. I would be surprised if this blue felt is original. Maybe the piano was restrung at some time?

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#2043249 - 03/05/13 08:40 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: David-G]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 153
Loc: Holyoke, MA
David,
Thank you for all the clarity. Bluthner really does seem to be right there at the heart of the development of the modern grand, as witnessed by your plate photos.

This Hilltown Bluthner, the ribs, board, and bridge are set up in pretty much the standard modern configuration. Was Bluthner early to this, or was this common practice in Europe by then. Was this piano groundbreaking for its time?

I'm crushed by the felt. I thought I had actual 1860's German wire in its original context. Do you think that the blue felt rules them out as original?

Craig
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

Either do something worth the writing,
or write something worth the reading.
S. Clemens

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#2077610 - 05/05/13 11:31 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
joe80 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 952
I think this piano should be saved for historical interest. If you don't want to spend the money on it yourself, why don't you contact Bluthner (or a Bluthner dealer who has contact with the factory) and see if they want to buy it for their collection? I feel, that even though the piano is in terrible condition just now, it would be a shame to allow it to go to the dump and it could be hugely useful for determining what kind of sound pallette was available in the later-mid 19th Century.

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#2077655 - 05/05/13 01:05 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David Boyce Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 264
Loc: Scotland
Quote:
I have a small Challen grand from the sixties in my inventory that has an old style jack action. This one is really short, maybe four foot, six inch or something like that. I recall being surprised at the age because the action fooled me into presuming it was much older.


Dan I wonder if you mean the D-Type Spring and Loop action? I have a pic on my Faceboom Page at http://www.facebook.com/DavidBoycePiano#!/photo.php?fbid=470016356397030&set=a.470016316397034.1073741828.244714395593895&type=1&theater

I didn't know these were used as late as the 1960s. They were fitted to a lot of the very short and cheaper English grands around the 1930s. Cheaper actions, fewer parts, and shorter, so easier to incorporate into a short piano. It might have been that there was a pre-war stock of thes actions still lying around in the 1960s and Challen bought them cheap and used them up! I doubt if Herrburger Brooks manufactured any after the second world war. But you never know....

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#2077673 - 05/05/13 02:00 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
joe80 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 952
Hi David,

Nice to find a fellow Scot on here, although I'm no tech, I'm a pianist, so take what I say with a pinch of salt!

I read somewhere that Brookes made the spring and loop action up until 1967? So I guess pianos made for a couple of years after that may still feature the mechanism?

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#2077786 - 05/05/13 05:10 PM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
David Boyce Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 264
Loc: Scotland
Hi Joe,

That's very interesting. I didn't realise those cut-down actions were made as late as that, but it kinda makes sense. If there was a demand, Herrburger Brooks would make them. And by that time the UK piano industry would probably be making more smaller rather than larger grands.

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#2078223 - 05/06/13 10:06 AM Re: Dating of a Bluthner grand [Re: Craig Hair]
joe80 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 952
Yeah I think they made lots of baby grands for people to put in the bay window of terraced houses and small flats. Musically they were pretty useless but they looked nice with a lace throw over them and a vase on top (most of them seem to have the veneer peeling off in the middle where someone has obviously spilled the flower vase....)

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