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#2126249 - 08/01/13 05:26 AM Steinway M, 1923
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
I just purchased a Steinway M, made in 1923 for $12,600. The seller was a piano restorer who said he was helping a friend who's mother passed away, the original owner of the piano. The seller's main business is working on larger Steinways.

I'm just learning the piano and had planned to spend six months to a year trying different pianos before replacing an old Baldwin Acrosonic a friend gave me. I should have stayed away from Craigslist...

In my mind I had imagined a budget of $3,000 and I was looking at grey market Yamahas. Last weekend I played a wonderful new Whm. Steinberg upright, $18,000. I've spent a lot of time reading posts on this forum. I'm still convinced that over time which piano is best for me would have become clear.

Back to the Steinway M, I brought my wife with me hoping she would be the voice of reason. Instead, she fell in love with the piano. I have to admit for 90 years of age, it is in wonderful condition. Still has the original strings (I realize this is not good, but no evidence of rust), mint ivory key tops and original sound board intact.

I broke one of the highly recommended rules of buying a used piano, I did not bring along my own piano technician to check it out. I relied on the honesty of the seller. He took the piano apart, pulled out the keyboard assembly and went over everything, sound board, pin blocks, tuning pegs, bridges, and many parts I can't name. His partner had already replaced felts and bushings(?) under the keys. The hammers were replaced at some point with used Steinway hammers. The seller stated the hammers were in good shape and he had done some "minor" voicing to them. They looked good to my untrained eye.

I asked him straight out what he would replace. His main recommendation was to replace the whippers, but said I could get along for now as they are. He offered to do the work at his wholesale price; I pay for the parts and he would do the labor for $500. The parts were estimated at $1200 to $1500.

We went over other options and costs, like replacing just the base strings, all the strings, a new Renner action, etc. Again, he offered to deeply discount any work I might decide to have him do on the piano at a later date. He seemed knowledgeable, and trustworthy. The piano does sound beautiful. I bought it on the spot.

My main worry was the tuning. The piano was just moved a few days ago from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area and was tuned just after the move. A few of keys sounded out of tune. He assured me that he had not spent much time tuning it and what I was noticing was minor.

The piano is scheduled to be moved to my home today, Thursday. The seller has highly recommended a particular piano tuner which will be paid for by the reduced price I paid for the piano. I'm thinking of waiting three weeks before scheduling the piano tuner. I want to give the piano time to adapt to our home.

I'm quite taken by the piano, its sound and feel. However, I worry about it age.

I'm thinking I can go a long way with this piano as is and one day put another $5,000 into it as my own skills improve.

Any thoughts/suggestions from those that have experience with old Steinways?

Thanks - Rick
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2126266 - 08/01/13 06:48 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
Rich Galassini Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9404
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rick,

Any 90 year old piano is living on borrowed time from a design and expectation point of view.

In other words, the over whelming majority of Steinway pianos (or any other piano) need complete rebuilding by the time they reach 90. You may have found "the one" that is performing beautifully at this age and will not have to put more than $5000.00 into the piano as you improve.

However, it is possible that you will indeed need to deal with a new pinblock, other new action parts, dampers, bridges, and/or a soundboard. It is possible that there is verdigris (a chemical reaction in older bushings) that will make some of this work necessary almost immediately.

Without seeing the piano, it is impossible to tell what truly is happening with this piano. My advice is to call David Love, only because I know him and his reputation, and pay him to come out, tune the piano, and verify what you believe about this piano.

I sincerely hope he echoes what you have already been told.

God Luck,
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2126269 - 08/01/13 07:01 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1438
Yeah, the best thing to do is either enjoy the piano pretty much as it is and replace strings as they break etc, or have it assessed for a full rebuild. Soundboards usually, but don't always need replaced. Pinblocks almost certainly should be on a piano that old. If you do all this action work etc, and don't replace the actual tone producing parts of the piano, the piano will still sound tired.

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#2126274 - 08/01/13 07:32 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
Thanks Rich. I have sent David Love an email.

- Rick
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2126286 - 08/01/13 08:42 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1241
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: musicNow
I just purchased a Steinway M, made in 1923 for $12,600. The seller was a piano restorer who said he was helping a friend who's mother passed away, the original owner of the piano. The seller's main business is working on larger Steinways.

have to admit for 90 years of age, it is in wonderful condition. Still has the original strings (I realize this is not good, but no evidence of rust), mint ivory key tops and original sound board intact.

I relied on the honesty of the seller. <> His partner had already replaced felts and bushings(?) under the keys. The hammers were replaced at some point with used Steinway hammers.<> The seller stated the hammers were in good shape and he had done some "minor" voicing to them.
I<> He offered to do the work at his wholesale price; I pay for the parts and he would do the labor for $500. The parts were estimated at $1200 to $1500.

<>. Again, he offered to deeply discount any work I might decide to have him do on the piano at a later date. He seemed knowledgeable, and trustworthy. The piano does sound beautiful. I bought it on the spot.
<> He assured me that he had not spent much time tuning it and what I was noticing was minor.

<>The seller has highly recommended a particular piano tuner which will be paid for by the reduced price I paid for the piano.
Any thoughts/suggestions from those that have experience with old Steinways?



Greetings,
I have no vested interest, What my intuition is telling me is that you need another perspective on this piano, and that means getting a totally outside opinion. Something about the deal, as described, is setting off my smoke alarms, (mirrors usually show up soon after).
Regards,

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#2126417 - 08/01/13 01:34 PM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
Good advice. In the last few hours I've learned a lot just talking with two shops that do Steinway restoration. Inevitably, this piano will need work on its action. Apparently the SF Bay area folks that work and sell these pianos tend to know each other.

It looks like I can expect to spend another $9,000 to $20,000 on this piano to modernize and bring to it's full potential. Not sure what direction I'll go, but I'm trying to arrange for another visit to go over the piano with an expert in restoration work. I'm getting an interesting education.

- Rick
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2126419 - 08/01/13 01:34 PM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
P.S. I now know what verdigris is.

- R
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2126461 - 08/01/13 02:35 PM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21923
Loc: Oakland
What wears out in the wippens are the springs. The wood is probably fine. The felt may or may not be. I have replaced the springs in my 1920 Steinway, and it feels similar to the 6 month old Steinway I tuned last week. They sound similar, too, although mine is an O and the other is a D.

There is a lot of mystique about how pianos age. There are two factors that affect pianos as they age: Stress and oxidation. Stress comes from putting tension on the strings and springs, as well the hammer felt as it is wrapped around the hammer core, and those are what age the most. The strings and the hammers also have the greatest affect on how the piano sounds.

Oxidation is rust, verdigris, the discoloration of the wood, and things like that. If the part is thick enough, the oxidation only affects the surface, which is the case with the wood parts and the plate and other metal parts. There is not enough that is affected to make much difference in them. It matters more with the strings and the hammer felt, because they are small compared to the surface area. (All of the hammer felt may not be, but the oxidation is on the fibers.) Oxidation occurs at different rates according to the environment of the piano, so each piano needs to be evaluated separately.

I have two pianos about the age of this one, the Steinway and a Mason & Hamlin A. I have replaced strings, hammers, felts, and refinished them, but otherwise they are pretty much original. I have replaced the springs on the Steinway, as those are readily available. That is not the case with the Mason & Hamlin, but they have adjusting screws. I may replace them eventually.

If you would like to try them, you could send me a private message.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2126745 - 08/02/13 02:02 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 594
Loc: CO, USA
Hello, musicNow -
You have advice and feedback of the best pros in the nation above, so all I have to offer is personal anecdote. When I first got my Heap, I was quite energetically thinking about all my upgrade options. On the other hand, just like Mr. BDB above, the two S&S-owning professional techs in my metro area that I consort with have pretty much original S&S pianos of such age range and so do I. While no one can comment with certainty on the state of the piano you just got sight unseen, there are plenty of pianos from the period that work just fine. It is OK to get a few opinions and move slowly with major upgrades.

best wishes -
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2126754 - 08/02/13 02:24 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1153
Loc: California, USA
Just a few words of encouragement to add to the discussion (although next time hire your own tech): you mention that it sounds good, and that could indicate that the belly is good. At the very least it means it's a sound you are happy with, and that is more than a lot of folks can say about their pianos.

If the belly (soundboard, ribs, etc.) are good then I think you did fine on the price.

One note about tuning: you are moving climates. Sacramento tends to be drier than San Francisco. Pianos can take a while to adjust to a new climate.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2127756 - 08/04/13 12:48 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicpassion]
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
Thanks for all the helpful comments. I did take Rich Galassini's advice and had the piano checked out by expert on Steinway.

I've been in silent mode for the last couple of days. At this point, I am no the longer the owner of the piano. In my trepidation it seems that the seller has sold it to another buyer.

I will supply more details later. It has been a roller coaster ride and a very fast education - not complete by any means. More credence to the axioms "try out many pianos before making a decision and make sure you know what you are buying"

- R
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2127770 - 08/04/13 01:17 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21923
Loc: Oakland
Forget about it. There are plenty more old Steinways around.
Here is one.
Here is another.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2128151 - 08/04/13 09:04 PM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
Rich Galassini Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9404
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Just remember - sometimes the BEST deal is the one you do NOT make.

There are other pianos. smile

Stay in touch.
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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#2128303 - 08/05/13 01:54 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
musicNow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 139
Loc: San Francisco, Bay Area
Thanks Rich and DBD.

David Love was not available for the assessment, but I was able to get John Callahan. I got to visit his restoration shop and watch him access another piano in storage. All very educational. My head is still spinning with so much new information. We are lucky to have so many resources when it comes to selecting a piano in the SF Bay Area.

- R
_________________________
Learning to play the piano and tweaking my 1907 Ivers Pond upright.

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#2128344 - 08/05/13 05:00 AM Re: Steinway M, 1923 [Re: musicNow]
Rich Galassini Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9404
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: musicNow
Thanks Rich and DBD.

David Love was not available for the assessment, but I was able to get John Callahan.


Oh yeah - Callahan's. Sorry I did not remember them. He is good too and had a good staff with him - at least a few years back.
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
www.cunninghampiano.com

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