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#2180111 - 11/10/13 01:43 PM Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better?
Klavimaniac Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/27/13
Posts: 14
Loc: NY, Manhattan
I am probably not the first one to wonder if it is a good idea to buy a vintage piano from California and transport it to NYC. The general idea is that soundboards, bridges and pin blocks and some action parts age much more slowly (or not at all?) in the more stable humidity.
So I would like to sample as many first-hand experienced opinions as possible on the subject with the idea of a mini-survey.

A) How strong is this effect if it exists in your opinion? Could it be expressed in years of additional life time over a NY piano?

B) In which regions of the US is this true (e.g. also in other more humidity stable states like the other West coast states, (the Mid-West?) Florida, Nevada or Colorado?

C) How much is transport from California to NY and would it justify the approach if then the instrument would be kept at a stable humidity by means of humidity control devices?

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#2180146 - 11/10/13 03:04 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2194
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Any vintage piano from west of the Rocky mountains is likely to have fared much better than if it was housed for the same time in the mid-west or atlantic regions. This regional difference is less with newer pianos due to the prevalence of air-conditioning. Pianos near the ocean though can be very damaged from salt. My friend Mark Adams, RPT, says any grand piano west of I-5 in San Diego needs a string cover and damp chaser W/Humidistat.

All of my reconditioned pianos are Seattle residents and they are in extremely well preserved condition. I have a 1915 Steinway B with original board that has great dynamic range, color and sustain.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2180175 - 11/10/13 04:19 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2389
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
What Ed said.
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2180182 - 11/10/13 04:40 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
James Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/10
Posts: 440
Loc: new york city
Hi Klavimaniac,

I also agree with Ed's opinions.

If it makes you feel better, I moved my August Förster 190 to NYC from LA in 2004, and it hasn't degraded because of the change in climate. Then again, it is far away from the radiator, I keep the temp at 71 or below in the winter, it is always covered when not in use, it has a Dampp Chaser, and I always run the AC in the summer.

Indoor NYC humidity can range from 17% in the winter to 78% in summer, even in billionaire townhouses and apartments. Get a DC, get a cover, perhaps get a string cover, don't put it anywhere near a heat source, and try to control the room humidity as much as possible.

This advice applies to brand new pianos as well.
_________________________
Keyboardist & Composer, Piano Technician
www.jamescarney.net
http://jamescarneypianotuning.wordpress.com/

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#2180738 - 11/11/13 06:52 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: James Carney]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19472
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: James Carney

Indoor NYC humidity can range from 17% in the winter to 78% in summer, even in billionaire townhouses and apartments. Get a DC, get a cover, perhaps get a string cover, don't put it anywhere near a heat source, and try to control the room humidity as much as possible.
I have been quite successful at controlling the humidity in my NYC apartment by using just a room humidifier and air conditioner. In fact, my tech says my piano, a Mason BB, is so stable that I could choose to have the piano tuned only once a year although I do it twice per year. I also do not turn the heat on in the room with the piano during the winter.

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#2180801 - 11/11/13 10:48 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
Klavimaniac Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/27/13
Posts: 14
Loc: NY, Manhattan
Thank you for your contributions thus far but I was more interested in the original topic. So rather than a discussion of how to keep a piano happy in NY climate I am interested in buying a really well-kept vintage instrument from the best climate in the US. The soundboard especially would have to have maintained its crown. Thank you Ed for partially answering my original question!

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#2180804 - 11/11/13 10:54 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
Miguel Rey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 343
Either way you're going to have to have it checked out with a qualified tech. Also California has many different microclimates from the coast to inland you will see range of average humidity from 70% to 20% and as someone already mentioned there are other issues for coastal areas besides high humidity. I wouldn't focus so much on where the piano comes from so much as the actual condition. I would think New York would have more than enough pianos to choose from.
_________________________
Bechstein B c1905


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#2180837 - 11/12/13 01:34 AM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21671
Loc: Oakland
I have pianos from both coasts. I think they have all held up reasonably well.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2180905 - 11/12/13 07:18 AM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
David Jenson Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2143
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Klavimaniac
I am probably not the first one to wonder if it is a good idea to buy a vintage piano from California and transport it to NYC. The general idea is that soundboards, bridges and pin blocks and some action parts age much more slowly (or not at all?) in the more stable humidity.
So I would like to sample as many first-hand experienced opinions as possible on the subject with the idea of a mini-survey.

A) How strong is this effect if it exists in your opinion? Could it be expressed in years of additional life time over a NY piano?

B) In which regions of the US is this true (e.g. also in other more humidity stable states like the other West coast states, (the Mid-West?) Florida, Nevada or Colorado?

C) How much is transport from California to NY and would it justify the approach if then the instrument would be kept at a stable humidity by means of humidity control devices?


A) The difference would be minuscule to non-existant.

B) see answer under "A)"

C) Not justified

For a real bargain, look for a piano from a summer camp that has been stored in an unheated vermin-proof building.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2181090 - 11/12/13 01:47 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: David Jenson]
Klavimaniac Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/27/13
Posts: 14
Loc: NY, Manhattan
I apologize for not having fully explained my thinking.

Since I already own two fully restored vintage Steinway grands we don't really need another piano but lately I see more and more nice looking uprights offered for next to nothing. Many of these land on the trash since they just don't sell (that includes old Steinways).

So initially I intended to "rescue" one of these (sometimes beautiful pieces of Americana) and have it rebuilt to spec by really good experts. Without exception, however, all experts I have approached have warned me that the soundboards in these uprights have likely gone limp and that a full renovation including soundboard is done extremely rarely because the (labor)costs far outweigh the final market value. So typically dealers only restore the cabinet, the action and if absolutely necessary the pin block. Then they offer the "fully restored" upright for around 20-25K (see Lindeblad's web site). Now in many cases where the piano is primarily a show piece the actual sound quality is secondary. However my family has three passionate pianists, who would never be satisfied with dead-sounding piano but would be thrilled with a fully restored vintage piece.

So the next best option is to find an upright, which by some miracle has kept its crown over the last 100 or so years. Now these pianos are according to some are much easier to find in the better climate zones (Ed's answer would go into that direction as well). Then the easier work i.e. replacing or restoring the action could be performed by any number of people.

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#2181235 - 11/12/13 06:55 PM Re: Survey: Are Californian vintage pianos better? [Re: Klavimaniac]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Originally Posted By: Klavimaniac

So typically dealers only restore the cabinet, the action and if absolutely necessary the pin block. Then they offer the "fully restored" upright for around 20-25K (see Lindeblad's web site).



I find incredible uprights here on the West coast of Canada.
Similar climate to Seattle.
It is possible to restore a Vintage Upright with a new board
for 25K.
Most of the sound boards we replace are from pianos that came from other distant areas or have been "restored" before.
_________________________
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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