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Topic Options
#2292757 - 06/20/14 09:04 PM Mason and Hamlin
Jamie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 87
Loc: Mt. Pearl, NL, Ca
Looking at a rebuilt Mason and Hamlin, Model AA. Original date of construction is 1901. The piano does not have a "spider" typical of M and H, but rather has a "bell resonator" in the treble section of the soundboard. I'm told by the dealer the piano was aimed at competing with the S & S model A 1, so was fitted with competing "technology" at the time. I thought all M and H's had tension resonators. Also the piano has a single, not double bent rim. So I'm concerned if i am actually looking at the real deal, or a sheep in wolf's clothing. The piano looks and sounds great. Thoughts or experiances with turn of the century AA's welcome. Thanks.

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#2292769 - 06/20/14 09:55 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21928
Loc: Oakland
Mason & Hamlin pianos were always very high quality, but you should be evaluating this piano by how good it sounds to you and how it plays, as well as the quality of the work that was done on it, rather than comparing it with other Mason & Hamlin pianos. Those factors should tell you whether it is the piano for you.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2292926 - 06/21/14 10:41 AM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2423
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Wikipedia cites the Tension Resonator as being introduced in 1900. So this one could easily have been the prior model.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2293103 - 06/21/14 05:22 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: BDB]
Jamie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 87
Loc: Mt. Pearl, NL, Ca
BDB, thanks for the advice, but i've been around, and am no amateur. The piano sounds fantastic, and is being sold by one of the most reputable dealers in the country. I just haven't seen this feature on this brand before.
Btw, you can't say they were Always of the highest quality, as my experience with the 19
50's to 80's dates of manufacture showed.


Edited by Jamie (06/21/14 05:26 PM)

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#2293104 - 06/21/14 05:23 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Jamie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 87
Loc: Mt. Pearl, NL, Ca
Ed, thanks. This may explain things.

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#2293113 - 06/21/14 05:45 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21928
Loc: Oakland
The build quality of other pianos in the 1950s through 1980s or later was not real good, either.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2293223 - 06/21/14 11:17 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Chris Storch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 212
Loc: Massachusetts
Jamie,

This piano falls into what I'd call a "transitional period" for M&H. I define the transitional period as the date when the announcement came that they were moving away from the screwstringer tuning mechanism (1896), to the date when the tension resonator appeared (1905).

The piano you're investigating,dating from 1901, will not have a tension resonator because the device wasn't patented and installed on pianos until 1905.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/US783781.pdf

An announcement in the magazine Music Trade Review from 1896 indicates that M&H was going to start manufacturing tuning pin pianos alongside screwstringers, which I'd mark as the beginning of the transition period. I've also seen reports that Richard Gertz, the inventor of the tension resonator, started work in the M&H factory at around 1895. In this period, you might see screwstringers and tuning pin pianos with intermingled serial numbers up to about 1899. Then, from what I've been able to determine, it's all tuning piano pianos after that. (except maybe a few straggling 9 ft. screwstringers dating from about 1905.)

From what I've seen, M&H pianos with tuning pins have always had a bent rim. M&H pianos always had 88 keys. Only the earliest of grands had two pedals. Yours should have 3. I haven't seen a M&H tuning pin piano without three pedals. (Watch someone produce a picture of one, to make a fool out of me!)

I would advise you to ask the dealer to show you the sostenuto mechanism in your 1901 piano. Make sure it's standard or fairly standard. The reason I suggest this is because M&H appeared to be experimenting with funky sostenuto mechanisms during this time, (maybe to avoid patent infringement?), and I can't seem to determine when the whole sostenuto design settled down for M&H. The sostenuto in a 1901 is probably fairly standard, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

M&H serial numbers from 1900 to 1901 are telling. If the numbers are sequential, indicating how many instruments were manufactured that year, then they only produced 200 instruments. I think M&H was hanging on to business from a shoestring during this period, (confirmed by the all-to-gleeful diary entries of Mr. Steinway of the time). But things seem to have gotten better after that.

From 1905 onward, the M&H designs seemed to settle down, and one finds far fewer major design changes.

Good luck.

I hope I've helped,
_________________________
Chris Storch
Acoustician / Piano Technician

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#2293226 - 06/21/14 11:23 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Interesting post, Chris.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2293230 - 06/21/14 11:47 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2423
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Since Chris brought up M&H sostenutos-I have a 9' screwstringer that has the best sostenuto mechanism I have ever seen. It is still working perfectly and this piano has been played a lot. It is almost impossible for it to go out of adjustment and it IS impossible to combine use of the damper and sostenuto pedal and playing the notes-and get a clunking sound. It is the least noisy sostenuto mechanism I have ever seen.

It has a felted cam and this works against a sort of felted up-stop rail by pinching a bridle tape like strip that is mounted between a post on the under-lever just behind the top flange-and the under-lever flange. The cam is mounted behind the top-flange and above the under-levers.

I have never seen another one like it.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2293232 - 06/21/14 11:55 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Chris Storch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 212
Loc: Massachusetts
_________________________
Chris Storch
Acoustician / Piano Technician

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#2293236 - 06/22/14 12:06 AM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2423
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Chris,
Very similar but mine seems simpler in the cam mounting and the whole cam is felted. I don't have pictures. I seem to have a antipathy towards pictures because I rarely take them.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2293446 - 06/22/14 03:11 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Jamie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 87
Loc: Mt. Pearl, NL, Ca
Chris,
Very interesting and informative.

The piano is a tuning pin piano, three pedal. Sostenueto function worked well, and did not appear to be out of the ordinary. Btw, S N is 12620, which seems correct for circa 1901.

So what's the story on the "bell resonator" fitted to the rim under the treble end of the of the soundboard? A precursor to the tension system?

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#2293454 - 06/22/14 03:40 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
Chris,
Very similar but mine seems simpler in the cam mounting and the whole cam is felted. I don't have pictures. I seem to have a antipathy towards pictures because I rarely take them.


If only you would not have also for recordings I would be so pleased to listen to one of your nicer sounding scales.

And abstraction can be made of MP3 stuff, compression, etc. the tone shape is yet saying a lot on quality.
WHile of course uploading some wav file recording would be more appreciated.

Regards



Edited by Olek (06/22/14 03:41 PM)
_________________________
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#2293564 - 06/22/14 09:05 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Chris Storch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 212
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Jamie
So what's the story on the "bell resonator" fitted to the rim under the treble end of the of the soundboard? A precursor to the tension system?


Jamie,

Until you mentioned it, I didn't know that M&H had manufactured a piano that included a treble bell. Maybe someone else on the forum with more experience than I has seen one.

Steinway invented the treble bell device around 1885, well before Gertz introduced the tension resonator:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/US314740.pdf

The claims of the acoustic value of the treble bell appear to be debatable. Plate support and damping appear to be the most likely function of the device.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/301474/Steinway%20treble%20bell.html
http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-63311.html
_________________________
Chris Storch
Acoustician / Piano Technician

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#2293776 - 06/23/14 08:50 AM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Jamie]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 210
Loc: Holyoke, MA
When it comes to these "transitional" Masons, there is another beast in the woods. Starting near the turn of the 20th century, Morris Steinert purchased custom made pianos from the Mason & Hamlin Co. They had his "Steinertone" brand cast into the plate, and his logo on the fallboard. Other than these changes, they seem to be stock instruments of the day. They were produced without actions, as Mr. Steinert was trying to popularize his own revolutionary action. Almost every one has since been replaced with a proper W,N,&G action. It seems to have been very common to grind the name on the plate off, and redo the plate and fallboard to both read M&H. Not really dishonest, as they are made by Mason. The tell is usually that the plate does not have raised letters. Also, Steinertones seem to be fitted with plate bolts and washers rather than oval head screws.

They are not exactly wolves in sheeps' clothing. We recently finished a 1900 wide-body BB of this make, and it is one powerful piano. Mr. Steinert seems to have purchased quality pianos from a number of makers for his vanity project, though M&H is the only positive confirmation. Morris Steinert is best known as the founder of M. Steinert & Sons; once the most successful and wide spread piano dealership on the east coast. He was rich enough and important enough to the trade that when Mr. Steinert said that he wanted BBs with his name on them, he got them. He is less well known, but more importantly, he was a collector of antique musical instruments. His collection forms the backbone of Yale's musical instrument museum.

Craig
_________________________
Craig Hair
Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

If I seem slow, I simply must be stopped

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#2293862 - 06/23/14 12:44 PM Re: Mason and Hamlin [Re: Chris Storch]
Jamie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 87
Loc: Mt. Pearl, NL, Ca
Originally Posted By: Chris Storch
Originally Posted By: Jamie
So what's the story on the "bell resonator" fitted to the rim under the treble end of the of the soundboard? A precursor to the tension system?


Jamie,

Until you mentioned it, I didn't know that M&H had manufactured a piano that included a treble bell. Maybe someone else on the forum with more experience than I has seen one.

Steinway invented the treble bell device around 1885, well before Gertz introduced the tension resonator:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/US314740.pdf

The claims of the acoustic value of the treble bell appear to be debatable. Plate support and damping appear to be the most likely function of the device.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/301474/Steinway%20treble%20bell.html
http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-63311.html





Thank you, so it seems the dealer's impression that it was something to match what Steinway was selling and doing at the time seems plausible.

Made an offer on the piano. Looks like I will own an interesting little piece of history.

Thanks for your help.

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