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#2157236 - 09/25/13 03:50 AM Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it?
poodle Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/24/13
Posts: 1
Hello, would love to pick everyone's brain about a little project I have in mind. I bought a 1875 Victorian upright steinway (55 inch tall) for about $500. The mechanism in the higher 2 octaves needs work (it's hard to make those top notes sing or even play loud enough to compare to the rest of the instrument, which plays relatively well). The previous owner had left the piano outside on a covered garage in California, so no rain or water exposure, just dust and heat. The inside shows its age (specially the hammers) but overall playable. The cabinet needs refinishing. Since we bought it rather cheap, this was all fine. But now my husband and I are debating whether we should recondition / refinish this piano or save our money for a different instrument. Has anyone had any experience in trying to spruce up old upright steinways? Is this venture a money pit? Any recommendations of places we should consider doing this work in Los Angeles? Thanks again for your comments / insights. This is quite an instrument and we would love to bring it back to it's former glory, we are just concerned and restricted in terms of budget.

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#2157238 - 09/25/13 04:11 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21448
Loc: Oakland
Without seeing the piano, it is difficult to say exactly what needs to be done, but I would guess that you could buy a pretty good new piano for what you would have to pay to refinish this piano, replace the hammers, dampers, and strings, and do anything else it might need. That much work could reach into 5 figures.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2157271 - 09/25/13 07:02 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: BDB]
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9200
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted By: BDB
Without seeing the piano, it is difficult to say exactly what needs to be done, but I would guess that you could buy a pretty good new piano for what you would have to pay to refinish this piano, replace the hammers, dampers, and strings, and do anything else it might need. That much work could reach into 5 figures.


Total truth!

I will say that we regularly recommend against doing this kind of work, however we had a client who simply loved her upright piano. It was a Dunham and she said her grandfather built it.

We rebuilt the upright piano for her - telling her the whole time that she should not put this kind of money into an upright. In fact, she could have rebuilt a grand piano for this money.

When it was done though, it was a truly beautiful instrument. The customer cried when she played it.

So it may be possible to bring this piano back - but it is not something that can be done cheaply, particularly if it has spent time in a barn.
_________________________
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Dir. Line (215) 991-0834
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Get Cunningham Piano Email Updates

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#2157409 - 09/25/13 11:51 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21448
Loc: Oakland
A piano that has been in a garage in California is not necessarily a problem. I bought a Steinway V from a garage many years ago and it ended up a really nice piano. Of course, it was not as old as this piano, and things were cheaper then.

It might not be such a difficult undertaking if it were not a Steinway. Steinway uprights are difficult and expensive to deal with compared to more conventional pianos. There are lots of old uprights that can be made quite good for a lot less.

If you decide to go ahead with this, you should spend more time searching for the person to do the work than you spent searching for the piano. Look for samples of previous work on uprights. I think more people concentrate on grands these days, and are careless with uprights.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2157973 - 09/26/13 11:31 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: Rich Galassini]
Matt C Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/10/13
Posts: 16
Loc: Cincinnati, OH
"We rebuilt the upright piano for her - telling her the whole time that she should not put this kind of money into an upright. In fact, she could have rebuilt a grand piano for this money.

When it was done though, it was a truly beautiful instrument. The customer cried when she played it."

---

Her money was well spent. A piano is a emotional thing too. You spend alot of time with it.

A friend of mine has an old Kingsburry piano that has been in her family for years. Cash value it probably isn't worth a thing. I got the Riblitz book and an old Kingsburry upright to learn on. I'm planning on doing what it takes to make hers playable.

I think the problem is that alot of the work associated with reconditioning a piano is simply tedious and time consuming. Paying $100/hr for it can quickly add up. Hopefully I can do as much as I can on my own and call in a pro as needed. My tech is a good guy.

I'll let you all know how it goes.
_________________________
Yamaha C3 Grand
Kingsbury Upright Grand - 1890s
(Re-build project)
Yamaha P105 Digital Piano

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#2157982 - 09/26/13 11:58 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7303
Loc: Rochester MN
Have fun, Matt C. Let us know how it all goes.

Welcome to Piano World!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2158011 - 09/26/13 12:38 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
anrpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/04
Posts: 174
Loc: Chicago
You should be aware that the hammer butts and damper flanges are not "modern". They are different enough that you cannot without serious and expensive modification use currently available parts. There are a few shops out there who will make the parts for you, but it is not cheap. So handle the action with care!
_________________________
Andrew Remillard
http://www.ANRPiano.com
http://www.AndrewRemillard.com
Downers Grove, IL 60515

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#2158075 - 09/26/13 02:36 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: anrpiano]
Robert 45 Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1222
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
It is a difficult question to answer definitively. It could be a family heirloom or a person could be passionate about the restoration of very old pianos. If money is not an issue and someone wants to invest significantly in an instrument by a distinguished maker and I am sure that most of us would agree that rejuvenating an ancient, neglected piano is a laudable thing to do.
On a practical level, personally, I would look for a vertical piano that is more modern and requires less radical re-building. A thorough rebuilding process on the Victorian vertical Steinway will be very costly, time consuming and difficult. It may suit an avid collector or Steinway afficionado, but it is not a sensible option for most of us.
Robert.

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#2158225 - 09/26/13 07:58 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21448
Loc: Oakland
I have experience with both makes. A good rebuilder could get almost as good results from the Kingsbury with a lot less expense and trouble than if the starting point were a Steinway.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2158311 - 09/26/13 10:54 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: BDB]
Matt C Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/10/13
Posts: 16
Loc: Cincinnati, OH
Actually I haven't received the learner Kingsbury yet (Craigslist deal) so I can't compare serial numbers but the learner and my friends Kingsbury look very similar. Would it be wrong to hope two Kingsburys from the same era would use the same hammer butts and things like that? I'm hoping that I'm getting a huge supply of spare parts even after some learner breakage.
_________________________
Yamaha C3 Grand
Kingsbury Upright Grand - 1890s
(Re-build project)
Yamaha P105 Digital Piano

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#2158326 - 09/26/13 11:26 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
I delivered a rebuilt Victorian Steinway this summer to a client that looked at many new pianos. They decided to have us rebuild one for them. I had a 5 year old Steinway K52 beside it. The owner of the newer K52 liked the action, tone and cabinet of the vintage one better.
The Victorian one cost my client $15,000 less than a new one.
The 5 year old K52 has depresiated more than $15,000.
The vintage one I believe was a better choice.
But what do I know.
_________________________
Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

Exclusive Dealer For Charles R. Walter Pianos
www.pianoman.ca
Verhnjak Pianos Facebook


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#2158580 - 09/27/13 12:33 PM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
martin snow Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/11
Posts: 9
Loc: Boston MA
Gosh,1875 vintage may have a fabulous cabinet, but if this is intended as a long term piano for your family, I would recommend investing the monies in a slightly newer Steinway upright or preferably grand.We have restored many of these Steinway upright pianos from the 1890's and early 1900's with good results, but have never been totally satisfied with the fit and finish of new parts in upright pianos from the earlier years..
_________________________
Head Piano Technician and Restorer at Boston University School of Music since 1986.
Piano store in Marshfield MA selling Factory reconditioned Yamaha and Kawai, upright and grands and Restored Steinways, Mason and Hamlin, and Baldwin grands.
www.martinsnowpianos.com

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#2166029 - 10/14/13 11:50 AM Re: Reconditioning Victorian Upright Steinway, is it worth it? [Re: poodle]
Matt C Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/10/13
Posts: 16
Loc: Cincinnati, OH
I got the Kingsbury on Saturday. There are a lot of key tops missing and the sound isn't great. But the basic elements seem to be good. All of the keys work,the sound board seems in good shape, and the pins do not appear to have been driven in badly.
_________________________
Yamaha C3 Grand
Kingsbury Upright Grand - 1890s
(Re-build project)
Yamaha P105 Digital Piano

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