What brands to consider to Restore?

Posted by: bob1957

What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 05:40 PM

Hello everyone, I'm new here so forgive me asking something that's most likely been addressed before but I am considering purchasing a Grand Piano with the intentions of doing a complete restoration.
Before I say to much more I'll point out that I am NOT a piano tech or re-builder nor do I have any knowledge in such a thing so Before I get hammered with 10,000 replies on how I cannot do this on my own I'll point out ahead of time that I do realize that at some point I'll be needing some expert help.

First of all a question I posed to a local dealer and tech wasn't very helpful in which brands to stick clear of but rather mentioned the brands I should consider such as Steinway, Mason & Hamlin & Baldwin 1 of which is going to be completely out of my price range. I'd like to know your thoughts on brands and which ones to steer clear of when considering a re-build for purposes of parts availability and overall cost.

A few of the brands I have been looking at and considering are Chickering, Sohmer, Ivers & Pond, Story & Clark and a few others.

For those of you who's wondering holy crap why is this idiot even considering rebuilding a piano with no experiance what so ever you would be much further ahead to just purchase one already finished or buy a new one my answer to that is because I want to have a part in the re-building and or re-furbishing of the Grand Piano that will someday sith in my home. Anyone can purchase a piano but not everyone gets to say I had a part in the build.

Thanks
Bob
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 05:45 PM

A bad idea on so many levels. It's like watching a car driving the wrong way up a one-way street.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:00 PM

Hi Bob - Welcome to Piano World!

Yep, 10,000 posts will be coming your way. It's time to duck.

Rather than thinking about the best "core" piano to start with, it might be a good idea to do some self teaching on a freebie little POS grand and destroy learn on a sacrificial instrument. That way, you won't feel bad when you screw up, and you will!

Have you amassed the reference books you will need? Important! There is a thread going on in the Tuner/Tech Forum which deals with the issue.

Good luck and keep us posted.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
A bad idea on so many levels. It's like watching a car driving the wrong way up a one-way street.


And yet not a single level was mentioned!

Steinway's biggest competitor is a used or refurbished Steinway...you sound like a New Steinway Dealer afraid of a little competition. smile
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:13 PM

Hello Marty and thanks for the reply even though it sounds a little negative. I'm wondering if people are actually reading the entire post before replying? I am a furniture builder, a home builder and furniture re-finsiher by trade, in my post I not one time mentioned I was actually doing the mechanics of the piano but rather asked which brands would you consider for rebuilding?

Thanks
Bob
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:32 PM

Bob,

I didn't mean it to sound negative, sorry. Your post seemed to indicate that you would be in on the process and we tend to think of mechanical rebuilding when these sorts of questions come up.

You have listed the primary choices for American Pianos. The Baldwins need to be built in the USA to be considered. Other considerations from pre-WWII would be Chickering & Knabe.

Are you considering European and Asian instruments also?

If you will be starting with a "core" piano, basically unplayable, your initial output for a top instrument will be ~$5-7K. That will buy you a "worth rebuilding" core.

You might do some searching for previous threads on the rebuilding process. The search feature is in the upper left corner of any forum page.

Good Luck and feel free to ask questions.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:52 PM

Originally Posted By: bob1957
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
A bad idea on so many levels. It's like watching a car driving the wrong way up a one-way street.


And yet not a single level was mentioned!

Steinway's biggest competitor is a used or refurbished Steinway...you sound like a New Steinway Dealer afraid of a little competition. smile


Actually Bob, there are many tasks involved in rebuilding a piano to a fine performance level. Much of this work depends more upon the skill and knowledge of the rebuilder than exactly what material is used or making sure pre-packaged parts are properly aligned.

I have seen piano technicians with years of experience in tuning and repair try their hand at their first rebuild and have a result that is just not satisfying.

Also, tasks that take an experienced technician 2 weeks to perform will take you waaayy longer to do (if you care at all about the final quality) - and you will likely have to redo several of them.

My first advice would be to tour a high quality rebuilding firm and ask questions. Perhaps you could "help" in some of the work, like refinishing, stripping the cabinet, removing the plate, etc. and more or less watch some of the more critical parts of the work performed.

As a home builder you may subcontract certain tasks to experts because of your concern for quality in the final product. In this sense, piano rebuilding is the same.

I hope that helps,
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 06:58 PM

Bob,

One other thought. If you are considering doing restoration work to a piano, why not spend some time reading, exploring, and attending PTG meetings to find out what makes a good design and what differences there are between even the better designs?

This way you can choose an instrument not on a relative quality opinion, but based on what you feel most comfortable with mechanically and may be most satisfied with when the work is done?

I wish you luck with your endeavor and, if you are on the East Coast, please feel free to visit Cunningham Piano Company. We have a crew of specialists. They will answer your questions (while they work) and you will walk away with a greater understanding of the process.

Cheers,
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 08:36 PM

Originally Posted By: bob1957
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
A bad idea on so many levels. It's like watching a car driving the wrong way up a one-way street.


And yet not a single level was mentioned!

Steinway's biggest competitor is a used or refurbished Steinway...you sound like a New Steinway Dealer afraid of a little competition. smile


You are mistaken, but i was unclear.

I have no problem with rebuilt pianos. I have 4 rebuilt Steinways and a Mason & Hamlin on my salesfloor.

It is the DIY aspected that is scary. Rebuilding a piano (and I've supervised many), is a task that requires years of experience. You have no such experienece. Perhaps you could consider doing the refinishing, as you have experience there. But most experienced piano technicians don't have the training to rebuild.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 10:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Bob,

I didn't mean it to sound negative, sorry. Your post seemed to indicate that you would be in on the process and we tend to think of mechanical rebuilding when these sorts of questions come up.

You have listed the primary choices for American Pianos. The Baldwins need to be built in the USA to be considered. Other considerations from pre-WWII would be Chickering & Knabe.

Are you considering European and Asian instruments also?

If you will be starting with a "core" piano, basically unplayable, your initial output for a top instrument will be ~$5-7K. That will buy you a "worth rebuilding" core.

You might do some searching for previous threads on the rebuilding process. The search feature is in the upper left corner of any forum page.

Good Luck and feel free to ask questions.


Ok let me rephrase what my intentions are in rebuilding a grand piano, what I intend and expect to be my part of the rebuild will consist of dismantling the instrument with guidance from either here and\or a local re-builder\tech. refinishing the cabinet, the harp, re-attaching gluing new ivories "Yes I've done that before"
I understand your concern but I am limiting my involvement to specific areas that I feel comfortable with performing. I will add though that I've already completly restored a 116 yr old chase upright with no help from anyone except for tuning the tech that came to tune the instrument asked who restored it for me my answer was me. The instrument not only looked good but played and sounded beautiful from the techs own mouth. Now i'm not tooting my own horn here perhaps I was just lucky or maybe I was very careful in dismantling and re-assembly or maybe it's just not as tough as people make it out to be but either way I know my limitations.

When it comes to bringing a Grand back to life I do plan on having a professional piano builder perform the mechanical portions of the build but when it comes to the cabinet that is my baby.

Knabe was one of the other brands I was considering as well just couldn't remember the name while I was typing. and to answer the question of European instruments yes I'd consider a Bosendorfer smile but I seriously doubt I'd find one at a bargin price to restore! tell you what, find me a Bosendorfer victorian heavily carved from the late 1800's or eairly 1900's (Yes I am only looking for an art case piano)for your $5000 core price and perhaps we can do business smile
Thanks
Bob
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 10:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
Bob,

One other thought. If you are considering doing restoration work to a piano, why not spend some time reading, exploring, and attending PTG meetings to find out what makes a good design and what differences there are between even the better designs?

This way you can choose an instrument not on a relative quality opinion, but based on what you feel most comfortable with mechanically and may be most satisfied with when the work is done?

I wish you luck with your endeavor and, if you are on the East Coast, please feel free to visit Cunningham Piano Company. We have a crew of specialists. They will answer your questions (while they work) and you will walk away with a greater understanding of the process.

Cheers,


Thanks for your reply, as stated in another post I am limiting my involvement to the cabinet at this time. If I ever decide to get into the piano restoration business I can see where knowing a great deal more about them would be helpful however at this time this will be a one time thing for me unless someone pushes me in another direction while I do think it would be fun to get into a different line of work one such as re-building pianos from home I think for the moment I'll keep my day job smile and by the way I'm still waiting on hearing the BRANDS to stay AWAY from :)I'm beginning to think this is sort of like the movie actors guild here unless you belong you wont get a job or in this case a straight answer to a question lol.

Regards
Bob
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 11:21 PM

The brands to stay away from are the run of the mill American piano makers such as Kimball, Wurlitzer, any run of the mill Aeoleans, any Asian pianos with the possible exception of Yamaha and Kawai, but if you are considering only an art case piano, those probably won't enter into the picture. Other European brands besides Bosendorfer would also be top notch candidates for a rebuild such as Feurich, older Hoffman, Broadwood, Pleyel, Erard, etc. I would stay away from any piano that had less than 88 keys, any piano that has non-traditional keys such as waterfall keys, pianos with unusual actions that are not modern in design, etc. Larry Fine has a list of well made and well regarded pianos from the 1910's through the 1940's. Most any other brand that is not on that list, unless there is something really special about it, would probably not be worth rebuilding. If you want something really kitchy rebuild a Rippen Alugrand.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 11:44 PM

Originally Posted By: Pianolance
The brands to stay away from are the run of the mill American piano makers such as Kimball, Wurlitzer, any run of the mill Aoleans, any Asian pianos with the possible exception of Yamaha and Kawai, but if you are considering only an art case piano, those probably won't enter into the picture. Other European brands besides Bosendorfer would also be top notch candidates for a rebuild such as Feurich, older Hoffman, Broadwood, Pleyel, Erard, etc. I would stay away from any piano that had less than 88 keys, any piano that has non-traditional keys such as waterfall keys, pianos with unusual actions that are not modern in design, etc. Larry Fine has a list of well made and well regarded pianos from the 1910's through the 1940's. Most any other brand that is not on that list, unless there is something really special about it, would probably not be worth rebuilding. If you want something really kitchy rebuild a Rippen Alugrand.


Thank you so much for a straight answer to a simple question, this has been the single most helpful answer that anyone has posted!

why everyone has to go off on a rant about something off topic is beyond me so I thank You so much for your time in helping me. Yes it's true I don't know jack about the process of the mechanics and for those who thought it helpful to remind me of what I already know or in this case don't know please take a lesson from Pianolance in how to properly respond to a question.

Thanks again!!!!
Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/24/13 11:50 PM

When looking at buying an older piano I found this list very helpful in narrowing the field. Granted there is a lot more to buying a rebuild core than just picking a "good" brand, but given the hundreds (thousands?) of piano makers back in this period it made sense to me to both weed out the known lesser quality brands, and find out about some of the lesser known quality brands that might just be a great sleeper rebuild on a more modest budget. Also noted that this is one persons opinion and far from all inclusive, but for the most part it seems to align with most of the comments I'd read elsewhere.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...ite_id/1#import

Sorry for the length of the following list, but I found it also useful as a reference to re-order this info by rating rather than just alphabetically. Hope its useful to someone else too smile

Along with the ones you've mentioned I've also read several folks who had very good results with restorations on AB Chase in particular, and then maybe Conover and Vose.

Rob

KNABE, * * * * * Baltimore, the third of the big three (Steinway, Chickering and Knabe) and the only make the Steinway family feared, founded a generation before Steinway by pioneer piano maker William Knabe and Henry Gaehle, Knabe had a couple sons who kept it going. There's a story in Dolge's book about how Knabe risked his company on a promotional tour during the Civil War that paid off. Excellent grands and big uprights.

MASON & HAMLIN, * * * * * Haverhill, MA, began as a reed organ maker late in the 19th century, then made pianos without pinblocks (screw-stringers). They tried many innovations. Everyone knows them now as the great sleeper of them all, perhaps the best piano scales ever designed. All are worth restoring and rebuilding except the screw stringers which many tuners can't seem to tune.

STEINWAY & SONS, * * * * * New York, of course, but don't bother with the long keyed former player pianos unless you intend on restoring the player mechanisms too.

CHICKERING, * * * * Boston, The oldest American piano make, named for Jonas Chickering, one of the pioneer names in American piano building, this firm was at the top of its game when Steinway started in 1853, that same year the first big Chickering factory in Boston burned down and was replaced by the building out of which has been carved a few nice condominiums. Chickering stuck to straight stringing their grands well into the 1870's. The ones to look for are the overstrung kind. Made pianos in Boston into the 1920's (best by some opinions), others made in Rochester, NY. are just as good in my opinion. For a time they also toyed with metal action parts which never worked well. If you run into one of these figure on replacing the action or most of it, which in most instances is a good idea as newer actions have more adjustment advances.

IVERS & POND, * * * * Boston, similar to Hallet & Davis, best between about 1890 and 1925, the usual suspects. Feature a heavy overbuilt style shared with many other good Boston makes. Also made Poole. I find this somewhat humorous and some have suggested that these pianos have some association with water. Another piano make not associated with I & P was Waters, no kidding.

BALDWIN, * * * Cincinnati, the only major name not associated with a piano designer, still among the top tier, artist grands only, models are numerous, some discontinued, more often found models include the D, F, L and R.

CHASE, A. B. * * * Ohio, another sleeper, excellent parlor grands.

CONOVER, * * * Oregon, IL, the only real standouts here are the grands made between 1890 and 1929 after the designs of Frank Conover and Hobart Cable. The big grands can be turned into fairly interesting pianos.
CUNNINGHAM, * * * Philadelphia, yep, the same outfit Rich Gallisini works for, made their own pianos until 1981! The ones that are candidates for rebuilding are their large old uprights and parlor grands.

DECKER BROS., * * * started in New York, moved to Chicago, great pianos before 1915, especially their grands.

FISCHER, J & C, * * * New York and Buffalo, Charles Fischer was the designer, excellent grands and large uprights between 1890 and as late as 1932, made a lot of pianos so there should be plenty still out there.

HALLET & DAVIS, * * * Boston, another very old name, best pianos between 1885 and 1930 but choose carefully, best are large uprights and parlor grands.

KRAKAUER BROS., * * * New York, This was a maker who stayed in business by concentrating on a producing a smaller quantity of well made pianos. Their parlor grands are quite good.

LYON & HEALY, * * * Chicago, more of a retailer than a maker but their reputation for what they chose to put their name on still stands in good stead by many. Their output was sporadic, grands made during the 1920's were by Schulz (Chicago area) and good solid Packard (Indiana) made their uprights. They are still in business but confine themselves exclusively to the making and distribution of harps.

MEHLIN, * * * New York, Paul Mehlin was of the generation of old Englehardt Steinway and did as well quality wise without Steinway's ambition, excellent grand pianos from 1900-1925 or so, some prior to this have gaudy art cases.

MILLER, HENRY F., * * * Boston, named for the founder, a great pioneer piano maker who influenced both Mason & Hamlin and Ivers & Pond, and no doubt influenced their quality caliber and standing as musical instruments. Excellent results with grands going back as far as 1875 but not later than about 1925. Some have gaudy art cases.

SCHOMACKER, * * * Philadelphia, another sleeper, made some excellent parlor grands, they limped along through the Depression until 1941 before going under but their best products were probably made between 1900 and 1929. The only maker I know of that featured gold plated strings!

SOHMER, * * * New York, just down the street from Steinway and there were a lot of cross influences, founded by pioneer maker Hugo Sohmer, many art cases made too, lower production, emphasized quality.

STIEFF, CHAS. M., * * * Baltimore, the other Knabe, and quite old too, went under the year I was born (1951), fairly good pianos from 1890 on, stick to grands only for best results.

WEBER & CO., * * * New York, founded by Albert Weber, whose grands rival the best of their period going back into the 1870's but no later than 1932. Albert Weber was a very talented and ambitious man who pitted his skills against Steinway and lost, virtually working himself to an early death. He left a wonderful legacy as some of his great grand pianos are still out there waiting to live and play again.

BENT, GEO. P., * * Chicago & Louisville, an important piano designer, some of his best work bears his name, most have the name CROWN. Avoid anything but parlor grands (usual size for these is 5'5" to 5'7") and nothing made after 1928.
CROWN, see BENT.

BLASIUS & SONS, * * Philadelphia, better reputation than Behning or Bjur, more standard action geometries, nice parlor grands and huge uprights are best candidates.

BOARDMAN & GRAY, * * Albany, NY, the standouts here are the huge uprights made around the turn of the last century (1890-1910).

BRIGGS, CHARLES C., * * Boston, an important piano designer, only parlor grands bearing his full name.

DAVIS, GEO. H., * * Boston, one of the principals of Hallet & Davis and a pioneer piano designer. A few grands bear his name, most are pre-1900.

DOLL, JACOB & SON., * * New York, another important designer, made grands in the 1920's that are acceptable for rebuilding.

ESTEY, * * New York, prime years are between about 1890 and 1925 with many nice parlor grands made.

HARDMAN, * * New York, another pioneer maker was Hugh Hardman, some are under Hardman & Peck, best are the usual suspects; big uprights and grands, some tell me that their products between about 1901 and the outbreak of WWI (1914) are better than the rest.

HAZELTON BROS., * * New York, an artisan family with high standards, their best products are uprights and parlor grands, after about 1890 but before 1920. Some of the gaudiest art cases were made by these folks.

JEWETT, * * Boston, in its various incarnations, based on the pioneer piano makers Wade Jewett and George Allen, the one's to look for are after about 1895, a Steinert by any other name, see STEINERT

KURTZMANN, * * Buffalo, NY, 1900-1925 is the best period.

BRAMBACH, * New York, a Kohler & Campbell precursor, mostly grands. Those that are too small or with odd action geometries must be excluded.

SCHULZ, OTTO, * * Chicago, made organs as well as pianos but was known for good workmanship, made grands for Lyon & Healy.

STECK, GEO. & CO., * * New York, founded by George Steck, best era is 1900-1929.

STEINERT, * * Boston, but started in Athens, Georgia! was sort of to Boston what Lyon & Healy was to Chicago, Onofrio to Denver or Sherman Clay to the West Coast (Cunningham in Philadelphia made their own); each had pianos made for them and put their name on them. But Steinerts, particularly their parlor grands from just after the end of World War I until Steinway made them stop making them, are sort of special, when and if you can find them.

VOSE & SONS, * * Boston, founded by James W. Vose. One finds some very striking modernistic cabinetry on some of these pianos, prefiguring Danish modern. They can be made into much more than they were when new if you choose the right one, grands only, as early as 1890 but no later than about 1925.

CABLE, HOBART M., * Indiana, only a few sturdy grands from the late 20's qualify.

CHRISTMAN, * New York, some people out there like these, nice parlor grands and larger are occasionally found.

LESTER, * Philadelphia, a vary large company that made a wide variety of pianos of various quality, made a few military pianos for service in the Far East, I've heard of parlor grands made during the 1920's producing surprising results.

McPHAIL, * Boston, another Kohler & Campbell precursor, good huge uprights.

BEHNING, New York, a Kohler & Campbell precursor, mostly big uprights but a few parlor grands may be out there, forget about their baby grands.

BJUR BROS., New York, aother Kohler & Campbell precursor, same cautions as for Behning.

EVERETT, Boston, not by any means all are worthwhile, some rebuilders have rebuilt small grands (not babies) to display their craft rather than how good the original piano was and only those made between 1900 and 1925 should be considered.

HADDORFF, Rockford, IL, made a lot of pianos under a score of stencil names, choose carefully, before about 1925, what I like about them is they were controlled during their formative period by a quality maker.

JANSSEN, Elkhart, IN, included for educational purposes only, the precursor to the present Charles R. Walter, but not with as good a reputation (though I still haven't seen or played any Walters), there is sort of a well constructed but limited musical capability with these. They tend to hold up pretty well, which probably accounts for their longevity as a company, but I wouldn't consider them as real good rebuild candidates. I've never run into a Janssen grand, don't think they ever made any.

KOHLER & CAMPBELL, New York and North Carolina, one of the first piano conglomerates (1896), choose VERY carefully.

MATHUSHEK, New Haven, CT, founded by a pioneer maker Frederick Mathushek. A true innovator in the manufacturing of pianos, some like the big uprights and the few grands that exist are often uncommon designs.

PACKARD, Indiana, made good solid strong uprights, best years 1900-1925.

SCHAAF, ADAM, Chicago, some think these are good.




Posted by: hootowl

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 06:04 AM

We purchased our new Kawai last Friday from Warner Piano in NJ. They are left over from the former Lester piano co. When Lester closed it's doors, these former employees opened up.
Posted by: Withindale

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 06:15 AM

Bob, you might do well to find a vertical or grand "project piano" in reasonable condition first to learn the ropes and give yourself time to look for a high quality grand to restore.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 07:45 AM

This is an incredibly useful list of piano makers! I thank you for taking the time to put this together.

One of the brands mentioned in there was AB Chase I'm curious is Chase and AB Chase one and the same or are they two different manufacturers? I currently own a Chase upright grand that I previously restored and was wondering if the two are made by the same company.

Thanks again for the very interesting and useful list of piano makers.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 08:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
Originally Posted By: bob1957
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
A bad idea on so many levels. It's like watching a car driving the wrong way up a one-way street.


And yet not a single level was mentioned!

Steinway's biggest competitor is a used or refurbished Steinway...you sound like a New Steinway Dealer afraid of a little competition. smile


You are mistaken, but i was unclear.

I have no problem with rebuilt pianos. I have 4 rebuilt Steinways and a Mason & Hamlin on my salesfloor.

It is the DIY aspected that is scary. Rebuilding a piano (and I've supervised many), is a task that requires years of experience. You have no such experienece. Perhaps you could consider doing the refinishing, as you have experience there. But most experienced piano technicians don't have the training to rebuild.


I prefer to say I once thought I was wrong but I was Mistaken smile and yes you were unclear grin I simply wanted to know from a professionals standpoint who has had experiance in rebuilding pianos what brands they would consider as a good candidate in my original post I never said I would be performing any of the work on the mechanics of the piano but perhaps I'm partly to blame for not pointing this out first.

Either way I do value your input and thank you for your time in responding sorry if I sounded a little short with you after your first reply but I figured a short reply with no useful information deserved a short reply back laugh
Posted by: BDB

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 11:44 AM

There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different brands out there. Some of them made better pianos at some times and worse pianos at others. A shopping list is impractical. I suggest that you do some reading and some examining of pianos so you can decide for yourself.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:09 PM

Originally Posted By: miscrms
When looking at buying an older piano I found this list very helpful in narrowing the field. Granted there is a lot more to buying a rebuild core than just picking a "good" brand, but given the hundreds (thousands?) of piano makers back in this period it made sense to me to both weed out the known lesser quality brands, and find out about some of the lesser known quality brands that might just be a great sleeper rebuild on a more modest budget. Also noted that this is one persons opinion and far from all inclusive, but for the most part it seems to align with most of the comments I'd read elsewhere.

** long list o' pianos **



Good advice. One point that you should gather from the descriptions of each brand is that most brands had good times and bad, so the quality depends on the year and piano model. So, it is really difficult to tell from brand alone. You need to be able to recognize the physical and aural features of a high-quality piano, regardless of the brand. You also need to be able to evaluate condition and look for big warning signs (mouse/termite/moth infestation, pinblock damage, cracked plate, etc.) Some brands like Steinway carry "brand cachet" and bring higher selling prices because of the name alone, but a famous name won't make a low-quality or badly worn piano worth restoring.

For example, consider three Weber pianos. One is an 1875 large grand, made during Albert Weber's lifetime. The next is a 1935 grand of the same size, made during the depression while the Weber brand was owned by Aeolian. Finally, a brand new Weber AW208, a 6'10" grand made by the Korean company Young Chang, which is owned by Samsung.

These three pianos, in equivalent condition and roughly the same size, are completely different instruments. The 1875 is built during the height of Albert Weber's success and is likely an ornate, beautiful one-of-a-kind piano that cost as much as a large house at the time. The 1935 is a slim-and-trim, inexpensively manufactured depression-era Aeolian product. The new AW208 is a modern Young Chang design that shares very little with the others, and costs about $40,000 new.

Another thing to beware of are "forgeries" - e.g. "Stienway" pianos sold to people who thought they were buying a "Steinway", or even ones that spelled "Steinway" correctly but were not true Steinways.

There is a good list of books on piano restoration in the discussion here: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post2037079

I would also add, for piano purchasing and evaluation tips, The Piano Book, much of which is available on their website: http://www.pianobuyer.com/fall12/

For an interesting history of different brands, check out Palmieri's The Piano: An Encyclopedia. A few excerpts are available on Google Books, so you can read some history of a few of the brands and see how common it was for brands to go through major ownership changes and quality changes over time: http://books.google.com/books?id=wJikoOk...p;q&f=false
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:35 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different brands out there. Some of them made better pianos at some times and worse pianos at others. A shopping list is impractical. I suggest that you do some reading and some examining of pianos so you can decide for yourself.


I understand completely that not even 2 pianos from the same manufacturer are identical nor would each one be a good candidate to rebuild because of condition issues, in short I was more after a shopping list of pianos to help me narrow my search down since there are so many different brands out there many of which I have never heard of. By getting some sort of input from someone else with "Experiance" in rebuilding as I'm sure in their trade they know what works better and what may not and what brands have a higher or lesser quality.

My thought was that since there seems to be a general concensus that all Steinways would make an excellent candidate to re-build provided it hasnt been droped from a 5 story building that maybe it's possible to narrow down my search to a brand in which I won't have to take out a mortgage on. Just as with most products there are pro's and con's for each and every brand.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:42 PM

Originally Posted By: bob1957
Originally Posted By: Pianolance
The brands to stay away from are the run of the mill American piano makers such as Kimball, Wurlitzer, any run of the mill Aoleans, any Asian pianos with the possible exception of Yamaha and Kawai, but if you are considering only an art case piano, those probably won't enter into the picture. Other European brands besides Bosendorfer would also be top notch candidates for a rebuild such as Feurich, older Hoffman, Broadwood, Pleyel, Erard, etc. I would stay away from any piano that had less than 88 keys, any piano that has non-traditional keys such as waterfall keys, pianos with unusual actions that are not modern in design, etc. Larry Fine has a list of well made and well regarded pianos from the 1910's through the 1940's. Most any other brand that is not on that list, unless there is something really special about it, would probably not be worth rebuilding. If you want something really kitchy rebuild a Rippen Alugrand.


Thank you so much for a straight answer to a simple question, this has been the single most helpful answer that anyone has posted!

why everyone has to go off on a rant about something off topic is beyond me so I thank You so much for your time in helping me. Yes it's true I don't know jack about the process of the mechanics and for those who thought it helpful to remind me of what I already know or in this case don't know please take a lesson from Pianolance in how to properly respond to a question.

Thanks again!!!!


In the musical, "The Wiz," there's a song called "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News." It's a great song but a bad life motto.

Steve and Rich are two of the wisest, most respected, and most helpful people posting at this site. They're trying to help you, though obviously they're not telling you what you want to hear.

Good luck on your project.
Posted by: BDB

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:52 PM

If you want someone with experience, you should be willing to pay for their opinion.
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:52 PM

I couldn't agree more with you that in many cases there were good and bad times for companies. This is one of the major reasons I am looking for something pre 1930 back in a time where a person put his family name on a product and the end result mattered quality was always first before their bottom line.

It's sad that today so many companies mass produce their products just to meet the needs of their shareholders or investors, product quality suffers and so does the once great name behind the product.

Thanks for the links and sharing
Bob
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:53 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
If you want someone with experience, you should be willing to pay for their opinion.


People always get their money's worth.
Posted by: mahermusic

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 12:57 PM

Originally Posted By: bob1957


as stated in another post I am limiting my involvement to the cabinet at this time.


The confusion here is that, in your FIRST post, you stated the phrase "complete restoration", and you are now stating that that is not the case.

Most likely the reasoning for the "flavor" of the posts you're receiving...
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 01:17 PM

We are not mind readers.

You are caustic to replies which attempt to provide you with information pertinent to what you asked, not what you have imagined you asked.

Now, suddenly pre-1930 has come into play. Previously, an art case made an appearance. Figure out what you need to ask and post a clear and cogent request for information.

Those of us who have taken the time to answer your questions are put off by your attitude toward our replies. We should not have to play a twenty questions game to help you out and answer with an attempt to be helpful.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 01:33 PM

Originally Posted By: bob1957
This is an incredibly useful list of piano makers! I thank you for taking the time to put this together.

One of the brands mentioned in there was AB Chase I'm curious is Chase and AB Chase one and the same or are they two different manufacturers? I currently own a Chase upright grand that I previously restored and was wondering if the two are made by the same company.

Thanks again for the very interesting and useful list of piano makers.


As far as I can tell probably not. From the list of manufacturers below, there were several Chase's out there.

http://www.antiquepianoshop.com/online-museum/

If it just says Chase it seems likely to have been manufactured by one of Milo Chase's companies, Chase Piano (became Starr), Chase Brothers, or Chase-Hackney. A.B. Chase was started by Allen B. Chase and eventually sold to Aeolian.

This site claims 1922 as either when they sold, or at least when quality started to decline.

http://www.bluebookofpianos.com/kron3.htm

Rob
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 01:48 PM

Yeah that's another thing to look out for - there are lots of brands with the same, or very similar names.

Forgot this one - good reading on the fate of a lot of famous brands when they were combined/acquired in the first half of the 20th century:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/908653

(scroll down to 5th post)

Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 05:17 PM

That's a great writeup fish, thanks for digging it out! Interesting that he says AB Chase went to American rather than Aeolian. And just to confuse further, this site says it went to United Piano in 1922, the Lester in 1931, then finally Aeolian. At least the 1922 date seems consistent wink

http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/AB-Chase-Piano-Prices.html

Rob
Posted by: Rickster

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 07:52 PM

I've owned a couple of old, early 1900's, Conover uprights (have one now) and they are well built, superb sounding pianos. I wouldn't be afraid to invest some $ in an older Conover.

The thing about spending a lot of $ on an old piano is that you still have an old piano, after the fact. smile

Rick
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 08:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
We are not mind readers.

You are caustic to replies which attempt to provide you with information pertinent to what you asked, not what you have imagined you asked.

Now, suddenly pre-1930 has come into play. Previously, an art case made an appearance. Figure out what you need to ask and post a clear and cogent request for information.

Those of us who have taken the time to answer your questions are put off by your attitude toward our replies. We should not have to play a twenty questions game to help you out and answer with an attempt to be helpful.



Ok Marty, please allow me to start fresh before this heads off into a direction that will do neither myself or anyone of the other members any good.
I'm sorry if I came off a little harsh at first but please try to put yourself into my shoes (a person who don't know much about your industry and comes to a forum like this seeking professional or expert advice) only to have one of your most respected members reply to my inquiry with "this is wrong on so many levels"! now I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I felt that was completely uncalled for especially coming from one of the largest contributors on this site it was in no way shape or form helpful information in fact it felt like an attack on a question which was posted and ultimately set the caustic tone in motion.

I will however take part of the blame and apologize to anyone who may have been offended do to the fact that I failed to specifically state in my original post that I would have no part in the in the mechanical workings of re-building the instrument but rather only the cabinet.

Starting fresh here if I may?

Hello everyone, I'm new to your forum and have little to no experience in piano restoration however I am considering purchasing a Grand Piano for my own personal use and for the purposes or restoring it to it's original glory.
My involvement in the restoration will be limited to refinishing the cabinet only since I have experience in that field, the mechanical parts of the instrument will be done by a professional.
I would like to stick with an american made model however I would consider a european model, I would like to keep the model year before the 1930's (I was told the quality of most pianos was of a higher grade before this period) and am only interested in an art case piano. Since I am not aware if every piano company had made art case units or not I was hoping to get a little help or push in the right direction here.

A few of the brands I have considered are Sohmer, Chickering, Ivers & Pond and a few others, Steinways and perhaps Mason & Hamlin are going to be a little more then I'm willing to invest at this point so let's discount them for the time being. I would like to keep the budget under 10 Grand from start to finish. Please keep in mind you can deduct the cost of cabinet refinishing since I will be performing that part on my own and possibly dissassembly depending on the re-builders request. Are there any brands that you would not consider for a project like this? I know there are going to be a lot of variables here due to condition etc. I just wondered if there were any black sheep in the piano family that I should not consider purchasing and yet staying within my budget?.

Hopefully this clears up a little bit of the consusion from my original post and allows me to move forward in my quest in finding my perfect instrument.

Thanks ahead of time
Bob

PS. for those who understood my 1st question and responded with helpful information I thank you for your time for those who did not get the gist of the question at first let's try this from the start and just get along for the sake of everyone else on here there's nothing worse the listening to a bunch of BS going on between people over a silly misunderstanding. NUFF SAID smile
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 08:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
I've owned a couple of old, early 1900's, Conover uprights (have one now) and they are well built, superb sounding pianos. I wouldn't be afraid to invest some $ in an older Conover.

The thing about spending a lot of $ on an old piano is that you still have an old piano, after the fact. smile

Rick


But an "OLD" piano rich with history and hopefully a rich tone! smile
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 11:32 PM

$10 grand is about what you might expect to pay for a good, functioning ornate Victorian grand piano in unrestored condition. By art case, I am NOT assuming you mean an ornate, beautiful case that was the hallmark of the top-of-the-line pianos of the late 1800s. Those are rare and very expensive ... see the first one on this page: http://www.grandgrands.com/pianopg/soldartcase.html ... even unrestored that piano would be out of the 10k budget ... considerably so, I suspect.

However, you can probably find an ornate, but not super fancy, functioning, restorable instrument for much less. The key is to find something that DOESN'T need major work - something where the plate is uncracked, the case and frame are intact, the Soundboard and bridges are still good, all the keys work, and if possible, the pinblock doesn't need replacement (new strings can be put on using larger replacement tuning pins instead of making a new block). Get a piano like that for less than a grand (good luck) and refinish the case yourself, and you can probably get the action refreshed and the strings replaced for about the balance of that $10 grand. Maybe.

Because of stylistic changes, you are going to be looking at pre-1900 for sure, probably pre-1890, to find a Victorian 'art case' to your liking. However, if you go back too far, you get into straight - strung pianos, which you really don't want (not that they're that bad, but overstrung is better).

Oh yeah, and stay away from square grands of course.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/25/13 11:40 PM

Well now you know how Columbus felt when they all told him the world was flat. You probably won't get much inspiration anymore because after all, what would happen if you have no rebuilding experience but suddenly realize you are a pure genius and a natural at it.

Then... you will get the doomsayers and the purests who will tell you you need to be apprenticed by a 450 year old Monk who rebuilds pianos in some Cave in Tibet or you won't be any good at it.

I knew a guy once who had a thing for wooden boats so he just got some books and built a plank on frame boat from scratch with no experience. Now he has like 115 listed US patents that he draws income from and that boat that his peers told him was an impossiblity sold for like 120 grand.

So the moral is, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it because you have no experience at it.

J Christie
Nashville Piano Rescue
Since 1918
Nashville, Murfreesboro,
Lascassas, Springfield,
TN
Posted by: Rickster

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 08:10 AM

Originally Posted By: Nash.Piano Rescue
Well now you know how Columbus felt when they all told him the world was flat. You probably won't get much inspiration anymore because after all, what would happen if you have no rebuilding experience but suddenly realize you are a pure genius and a natural at it.

Then... you will get the doomsayers and the purests who will tell you you need to be apprenticed by a 450 year old Monk who rebuilds pianos in some Cave in Tibet or you won't be any good at it.

I knew a guy once who had a thing for wooden boats so he just got some books and built a plank on frame boat from scratch with no experience. Now he has like 115 listed US patents that he draws income from and that boat that his peers told him was an impossiblity sold for like 120 grand.

So the moral is, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it because you have no experience at it.

I’ve always avoided controversy and I honestly don’t like to argue… however, since many of the pros here seem to have a gross disdain for the DIYer, or anyone who decides to touch their piano, other than to play it, this post was indeed refreshing.

I think any piano enthusiast or hobbyist or DIYer, if I should use such a term, knows their limitations. No one will ever become proficient at anything if they are not willing to take risks and meet the challenge head on… smile

Rick
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: Nash. Piano Rescue


I knew a guy once who had a thing for wooden boats so he just got some books and built a plank on frame boat from scratch with no experience. Now he has like 115 listed US patents that he draws income from and that boat that his peers told him was an impossiblity sold for like 120 grand.

So the moral is, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it because you have no experience at it.
That sounds like the one in a thousand or one in ten thousand exception. Steve Cohen's original post(before the OP indicated it was only the case that he wanted to work on himself because he is highly experienced in furniture restoration)was the best and most appropriate advice at that point in the thread. When someone says they're going to restore a piano without any qualifications it's only logical to assume they mean all parts of the restoration.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 09:30 AM

Even with the assumption that only refinishing will be DIY, there are still problems with the logic.

Why rebuild a piano that will have a re-sale value well below the cost of rebuilding? This logic applies even if you don't plan on re-selling.

You should limit your brand choices to those that are rebuilt by those with deep experience in the field, as opposed to those who can list pianos that were in their day decent pianos. I would consider Steinway, M&H, an artcase Chickering or Knabe, and any of the well known and well rated Europian brands. If the cost of acquisition were very low, I would also consider a Baldwin, although rebuilt Baldwins are a tough sale in the home market.

Another factor that seems to be pushed under the rug is that even when rebuilding a Steinway, an experienced rebuildwer cannot predict how well they will perform. I suggest buying a piano that has already been rebuilt. That way you know the end result.

And is that what really matters.
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 11:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
Originally Posted By: Nash.Piano Rescue
Well now you know how Columbus felt when they all told him the world was flat. You probably won't get much inspiration anymore because after all, what would happen if you have no rebuilding experience but suddenly realize you are a pure genius and a natural at it.

Then... you will get the doomsayers and the purests who will tell you you need to be apprenticed by a 450 year old Monk who rebuilds pianos in some Cave in Tibet or you won't be any good at it.

I knew a guy once who had a thing for wooden boats so he just got some books and built a plank on frame boat from scratch with no experience. Now he has like 115 listed US patents that he draws income from and that boat that his peers told him was an impossiblity sold for like 120 grand.

So the moral is, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it because you have no experience at it.

I’ve always avoided controversy and I honestly don’t like to argue… however, since many of the pros here seem to have a gross disdain for the DIYer, or anyone who decides to touch their piano, other than to play it, this post was indeed refreshing.

I think any piano enthusiast or hobbyist or DIYer, if I should use such a term, knows their limitations. No one will ever become proficient at anything if they are not willing to take risks and meet the challenge head on… smile

Rick


+1

Besides, he didn't ask if anyone thought he should do it. He asked for opinions on brands.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 12:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Rickster
I think any piano enthusiast or hobbyist or DIYer, if I should use such a term, knows their limitations. No one will ever become proficient at anything if they are not willing to take risks and meet the challenge head on…
I think most of those who become proficient at any aspect of piano care whether tuning, voicing, rebuilding. etc. did it by learning, practicing, and studying under the guidance of those with much knowledge in these areas. "Taking risks and meeting the challenge head on" may sound good but without the training and experience I think it's more like taking absurd risks with little chance of success and attempting things they were totally unqualified to do with usually disastrous results. Of course, if someone wants to practice on a worthless old piano that's different from attempting something on a valuable of potentially valuable instrument.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 12:37 PM

Originally Posted By: Pianoloverus
I think most of those who become proficient at any aspect of piano care whether tuning, voicing, rebuilding. etc. did it by learning, practicing, and studying under the guidance of those with much knowledge in these areas. "Taking risks and meeting the challenge head on" may sound good but without the training and experience I think it's more like taking absurd risks with little chance of success and attempting things they were totally unqualified to do with usually disastrous results. Of course, if someone wants to practice on a worthless old piano that's different from attempting something on a valuable of potentially valuable instrument.

Taking on a project for which one is totally unqualified and inexperienced and experiencing disastrous results in the process is a great way to learn; especially when you are working on your own stuff! smile

Who in their right mind would do something without at least some prerequisite knowledge or familiarization about what they were doing?

See, this is what bothers me so much… some here think that any DIYer is a dumb idiot to even try. I disagree. So, why even debate the matter… well, sometimes I feel a little feisty. smile

Oh yea, one more thing… anything man-made can be fixed or replaced.

I learned a long time ago that you learn by listening and watching and hanging out with those who are smarter and wiser. Why do you think I hang out here so much? smile

Rick
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 01:16 PM

I seem to remember a post about a year or two ago about a 16 year old kid who built his own "monster grand piano" in his barn. The piano was something like 20' long and he had a youtube video of him playing it. If a 16 year old kid can do it, I think anyone with reasonable diy skills and some ambition, willingness to learn, proper tools and patience should give it a try. There are no guarantees in life, but there are plenty of learning opportunities. I agree that the claws really come out at the very mention of a DIY'er taking on a project. All one has to do mention that they want to "move a grand piano" or "tune their own piano" or "restring their piano" etc and they get pounced on like a duck on a junebug. Can a DIY'er mess things up? Of course, not only can they, but they are almost guaranteed to, but that's how you learn. I just replaced the window washer pump on my car. I'm not a mechanic and had never done that sort of thing before. Most people would have gone to a mechanic and payed shop rates for that job. I professional mechanic would have had it done in 15 minutes or less and charged $50 plus parts. I got it done in two hours and only paid for the pump, not expensive. Plus, now, every time I wash the windshield on my car I smile knowing that I tackled that project and got it done. We could use more "can do" attitude and less "you'll never make it unless your a professional". Of course caution should be exercised, and one should go into a project with their eyes wide open, but I think a lot of the brave soul who will tackle a big job and see it through to the end.

PS I did a search and found the thread on the monster piano. It can be found here: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1178607.html
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 03:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Pianolance
I seem to remember a post about a year or two ago about a 16 year old kid who built his own "monster grand piano" in his barn. The piano was something like 20' long and he had a youtube video of him playing it. If a 16 year old kid can do it, I think anyone with reasonable diy skills and some ambition, willingness to learn, proper tools and patience should give it a try. There are no guarantees in life, but there are plenty of learning opportunities. I agree that the claws really come out at the very mention of a DIY'er taking on a project. All one has to do mention that they want to "move a grand piano" or "tune their own piano" or "restring their piano" etc and they get pounced on like a duck on a junebug. Can a DIY'er mess things up? Of course, not only can they, but they are almost guaranteed to, but that's how you learn. I just replaced the window washer pump on my car. I'm not a mechanic and had never done that sort of thing before. Most people would have gone to a mechanic and payed shop rates for that job. I professional mechanic would have had it done in 15 minutes or less and charged $50 plus parts. I got it done in two hours and only paid for the pump, not expensive. Plus, now, every time I wash the windshield on my car I smile knowing that I tackled that project and got it done. We could use more "can do" attitude and less "you'll never make it unless your a professional". Of course caution should be exercised, and one should go into a project with their eyes wide open, but I think a lot of the brave soul who will tackle a big job and see it through to the end.

PS I did a search and found the thread on the monster piano. It can be found here: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1178607.html
But the kid who built the monster piano was undoubtedly not the average DIY...probably more like genius level.

Even on something as "simple" as a tuning one often hears that it takes 1000 tunings to become good and that's with training. How well can some DIYer with little formal training hope to tune a piano even if they've done it 50 times(which I'd guess few have)? I don't think anyone is against taking an old junker piano and playing around with it, but I find the idea of taking a high quality piano or an old piano that one is trying to make into a good instrument into a DIY project a no brainer(in the sense it makes no sense to do it).

I don't know anything about the car repair you mentioned but if a mechanic can do it in 15 minutes it's got to be much simpler than rebuilding a piano.
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 03:56 PM

I agree that the kid who made that piano is exceptional, but I taught myself to tune my piano with a book and by observing professional piano tuners and asking a lot of questions, and it didn't take me 1000 tunings to put a reasonably good tuning on my instrument. I'm not as good as a professional piano tuner but I can tell you that when I tune my piano it sounds much better than before I started and it holds its tuning for a good few months. I certainly have a lot more to learn about tuning pianos, but I'm happy with my tunings and I have saved hundreds of dollars and learned a lot along the way.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 04:25 PM

While I am somewhat sceptical about DIY tuning and less concerned about DIY touch-up to tuning, when it comes to action regulation and voicing, there is no way an amateur should attempt it on a quality piano.

Like others have said, if you want to try it out as a hobby, practice on a junker.
Posted by: S. Phillips

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 04:48 PM

Just thought I'd add a few thoughts to this, Bob. It is not impossible for a first timer to rebuild a piano. Unfortunately the results aren't likely to be great. The discouraging problem that you have with your concept is that if you try to partner with a tech to rebuild a grand, your budget is too small for the tech to really do a complete rebuild job for $10,000. The other issue is that most core instruments that would be worth rebuilding are almost that much. Almost anything that you do to try to assist the tech would be more trouble for the rebuilder because even the tear down process should be done by someone who can note very precise positions of the plate and other details, like the string scale.

Doing the tear down yourself, especially on an older off brand would create huge issues for the rebuilder trying to reassemble. Core instruments of a lower quality that would be affordable for you are much more difficult to rebuild than a Steinway or Mason because of the availability of parts and idiosyncratic issues particular to the brand.

While the case refinishing is a big part of the job, it's a piece of cake compared to the pinblock replacement, stringing, soundboard repair and bridge duplication, scaling, action installation and regulation.

This is not meant to discourage you but grands are much more tricky than verticals because of the design of the action having to be underneath the pinblock. One can make much larger mistakes with an old upright and still have something that works after a fashion.

The only techs that would be willing to take on a partnership of rebuilding a no name grand with help from an inexperienced owner is probably someone who has never done much rebuilding either so I'm imagining it would be more like the blind leading the blind.

However that all being said, I think the best pianos of decent quality that are the least expensive and don't have some really funky bizarre issues to crop up in the rebuilding process are Baldwins from the early part of the century. Look for one of the grands made before 1930 and it will probably be pretty cheap and replacement parts are available (not from Baldwin) that will work without having to completely redesign the way the action works.

You can always go cheaper but if you do start with a little bit better quality of instrument, you will end up with a better end product. Be prepared to pay at least $15,000 to $20,000 for new pinblock, strings, action, dampers, keytops, soundboard, bridgecaps, trapwork restoration, replating and buffing hardware, etc.
Make sure you play a completed example of the technician's work before hiring them and expect that they will take the piano, tear it down, and send it back to you for refinishing, so you'll have at least four moves involved at whatever rates are local.

The logistics are such that if you do your own plate refinishing you can save money but you'll have to move that separately from the piano as well several times, so it will probably be cheaper to let the tech who is replacing the pinblock and doing the bellywork do that.

Everyone starts somewhere but it used to be that most rebuilders started working in someone else's shop and learned their craft under the guidance of someone who really knew what they were doing before they tried it on their own. Those large shops are mostly gone so the independent rebuilder can hardly afford to work for years on pianos that won't bring them any profit just for the heck of it. Most qualified rebulders as a result won't take jobs on no name instruments. So we don't mean to sound discouraging but though your idea sounds like it should work, it is unlikely to be possible on your stated budget.

The other scenario that might work is if you can find a decent piano in already good shape that just need refinishing, but not rebuilding that can simply be tuned and regulated by a tech. Find a good tech and let them know what you are looking for and they might know of someone in their clientele that has something that fills this bill. Maybe something that they restrung 10 - 15 years ago that is still in good shape.

Good luck.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 04:55 PM

Honestly, despite being a DIY wannabe I can sympathize with both sides of this age old argument. As Bob said above, its frustrating to show up as a newbie looking for help and get more harassment than advice. On the other hand, I'm sure its frustrating to have devoted a significant portion of your life to developing skills and knowledge that you are proud of and reliant on for your livelihood, and have every Tom, Dick and Harry want to pick your brain but do the work themselves, "'cause how hard can it be." I don't blame them for at times being a bit ornery, if not down right insulted by some of that.

In the end, I am grateful that there are many on this site who take the time to answer questions and share the benefits of their vast knowledge. I believe they do so because in the end they love these instruments, enjoy talking about them, and see the potential benefits to the entire piano industry/community to having more people interested in them. IMHO, I think some of the "harassment" comes from the same place. Trying to prevent someone from making a big mistake that will sour their piano experience and lead them to give up or *gasp* buy a digital piano can be just as helpful as assisting a DIY enthusiast.

All I can say in the end is that the value of the generous advice I have received here on PW far outweighs any razzing I've had to put up with, and if that's the only cost to me I consider it a real bargain wink I'm not much of a "pay your dues" type, but working through the corrections, warnings and admonitions is just as valuable a learning experience as anything else in terms of clarifying what you are trying to accomplish and being realistic about the likely outcomes of various paths. My only advice would be to try and just have a thick skin about it. Sure, maybe people could say things nicer sometimes, but in the end what they have to contribute benefits me much more than it does them. Taking it personally just makes it less likely that I'll have the benefit of their experience.

Hope that makes some sense, and good luck with your project! smile

Rob
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 05:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Pianolance
I agree that the kid who made that piano is exceptional, but I taught myself to tune my piano with a book and by observing professional piano tuners and asking a lot of questions, and it didn't take me 1000 tunings to put a reasonably good tuning on my instrument. I'm not as good as a professional piano tuner but I can tell you that when I tune my piano it sounds much better than before I started and it holds its tuning for a good few months. I certainly have a lot more to learn about tuning pianos, but I'm happy with my tunings and I have saved hundreds of dollars and learned a lot along the way.
Anything is possible, but my feeling is few amateur tuners can do a job close to a good professional tuner. Whether they think their tunings are close to a pro tuner's results may be different from whether they actually are.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 05:43 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Even on something as "simple" as a tuning one often hears that it takes 1000 tunings to become good and that's with training. How well can some DIYer with little formal training hope to tune a piano even if they've done it 50 times(which I'd guess few have)?


What I find interesting about the oft-repeated "1000 tunings" idea is that it suggests that only piano tuners who've tuned a 1000 or more pianos should be hired, and the rest avoided.

So what does a novice piano tuner do if they want to hone their skills? Tune their own piano up and down 1000 times? Repeat their tuning classes over and over? Seems silly.

We all know it doesn't REALLY take 1000 times to learn how to do most things decently -- even brain surgery or building a skyscraper. It takes learning from experts, either directly or indirectly, and applying what you've learned. Standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were.

Conversely, if you do it 1000 times, and you've been doing it the wrong way the whole time, it doesn't matter because you're still doing it wrong. I'd rather hire the engineer who studied at Cal Poly but has only designed 5 bridges in school classes, than the acid casualty who's lived under 1000 bridges and has designed scores of them during his acid flashbacks.

Originally Posted By: miscrms
As Bob said above, its frustrating to show up as a newbie looking for help and get more harassment than advice. On the other hand, I'm sure its frustrating to have devoted a significant portion of your life to developing skills and knowledge that you are proud of and reliant on for your livelihood, and have every Tom, Dick and Harry want to pick your brain but do the work themselves, "'cause how hard can it be."


Indeed. That's true in any profession. People want to fix their own cars, not pay mechanics. People want to plug in their own cable modem, not pay a technician from the cable company. People want to pick their own investments, not hire professional investment advisors and research analysts. People want to cook their own food, not go out to restaurants every night.

But different professions react differently depending on how necessary their services really are - how hard is it to DIY? If it's easy, the professional has a great racket going, and the last thing they want is for people to start DIY-ing things.

Likewise, the more a professional rails against a DIY'er doing something, the more the DIY'er is going to suspect that it IS a racket, and they really CAN do it themselves easily.

Ask your dentist about whether you should take care of your kid's fillings yourself. He'll laugh and say, "well if you really WANT to hahahahaha."

Then ask your travel agent why you shouldn't book your own travel online... he'll get very angry and defensive about it (does anyone even still have a travel agent?).
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 06:04 PM

Originally Posted By: fishbulb

What I find interesting about the oft-repeated "1000 tunings" idea is that it suggests that only piano tuners who've tuned a 1000 or more pianos should be hired, and the rest avoided.

So what does a novice piano tuner do if they want to hone their skills? Tune their own piano up and down 1000 times? Repeat their tuning classes over and over? Seems silly.
I don't think it necessarily suggests only those with 1000 tunings should be hired, but simply that a great deal of experience is generally necessary to do really excellent tunings. How many tunings are necessary(after excellent training)to be good certainly depends on the individual and one's definition of "good". I'd guess many techs would tune 1000 pianos in a couple of years so if one looks at it that way it doesn't sound like so much experience. But my main point with the 1000 figure was to contrast it with what I'd guess is the experience of many amateur techs who may have tuned their piano 10 times and additionally don't have anywhere near the training of a professional tech.

I wonder how many experienced and excellent techs think their tunings were excellent after one year's experience? Yet I think that experience would typically be far greater than most amateur tech's experience.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 06:32 PM

I think part of the challenge in any of these discussions is also just acknowledging the great diversity of perspectives and desires that seem particularly present in a large community like this. For a serious pianist focused primarily on the performance of the instrument, the question might be what's the very best piano I can get in my budget? Even then its a complicated question given the variety of preferences for sound, feel, importance of long term value etc. Someone in that position might follow a train of thought that maybe they can get a better instrument for a given budget by rebuilding an old piano, and maybe even doing some of the work themselves. That may or may not be a reasonable approach, and it seems like some of the standard comments (some of which have been repeated in this thread), caution about the risks of the unpredictability of the final product and the potential sacrifices in quality that can arise from any non-professional or less than complete work more or less assume this perspective.

What I hear in Bob's questions are quite a different perspective. Someone who places value not just on the quality of the final product, but on the experience of being part of creating something and having a personal connection to his piano. I believe I can identify with that perspective to a large degree, though maybe its not as familiar (or perhaps even seems less valid) to some of those who dedicate themselves to producing/maintaining top quality instruments for those that demand them. Don't get me wrong, I care how my piano sounds and plays, but I also know that I have a fairly uneducated "palate" and am probably a lot less picky about the finer points than a more "serious" pianist would be.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of knowing that the work I have put into it is part of why it sounds and plays as good as it does, and is part of the reason its still alive and in daily use after 140 years instead of sitting neglected or worse headed to the dump. The flip side is also true. We've owned a keyboard for about 5 years, and probably played it 10 times. Despite all its warts and modest price tag, my wife and I are each now playing almost daily. Neither of us will be playing Carnegie Hall anytime soon, but we're really enjoying it. I also tend to see all its flaws as future projects that I look forward to deriving further enjoyment from. Someday I hope to be doing exactly what Bob seems to be considering, rescuing some great old lesser known grand and giving it a new life not just by investing money but investing my own time and sweat, and in the end having something that sounds and plays well enough, but that I have real pride and joy in owning and playing.

I'd like to think that there is plenty of room for all of us in this community, and that people being excited about pianos in all different ways has something to benefit the long term prospects of the piano continuing as an instrument lots of people can enjoy playing rather than becoming just another thing we go hear/see professionals do.

Rob
Posted by: AJB

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 06:57 PM

What a weird debate. The OP asked about good candidates for a rebuild. He plans to keep it, not sell it, so the only person who stands to gain or suffer from the outcome is him.

If I were in the US and fancied this project I would go for either Steinway or Mason & Hamlin. Both reputable brands that will give some pride of ownership. Good core carcass.

Despite dealer protestations I am not persuaded that pianos are some amazingly intricate black art piece of kit that no one should touch unless they are super qualified tech. In essence we have wires stretched over a metal frame, being hit by hammers released by a lever. It is neither rocket science nor watchmaking and most things can be fixed. Maybe not perfectly, but who says the OP is after perfection? Part of the fun is the project itself.

Good luck I say. Enjoy finding a candidate and enjoy repairing it. If you buy a good brand that has name cachet you will limit your losses pretty much whatever you do as long as the refinish looks pretty.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 08:10 PM

Originally Posted By: AJB
Despite dealer protestations I am not persuaded that pianos are some amazingly intricate black art piece of kit that no one should touch unless they are super qualified tech. In essence we have wires stretched over a metal frame, being hit by hammers released by a lever. It is neither rocket science nor watchmaking and most things can be fixed.
Anything can be described in a single sentence but that doesn't mean it's simple.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 08:37 PM

Look into my background. Now look at the experience of Rich Galassini and Sally Phillips. I started working with my father rebuilding pianos at age 7. I've stayed in the business and am now 64 (OMG!!). Rich maanages one of the finest piano rebuilding operation in the US. Sally is the "go to" technician and troubleshooter for C. Bechstein and many other manufacturers who need expert help. She frequenly lectures to PTG chapters and teaches seminar on regulation and voicing.

None of us have any stake in the OP's situation and we all have made every effort to explain the truth of the situation.
But then again...what would we know???

And AJB's comment
Quote:
In essence we have wires stretched over a metal frame, being hit by hammers released by a lever. It is neither rocket science nor watchmaking and most things can be fixed.
is particularly uninformed in that the relationship of the 5000+ moving parts in a piano are far from being "wires stretched over a metal frame being hit by a hammer" (unless ballpeen).
Posted by: bob1957

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 09:27 PM

Thanks to everyone that has posted in my defense!

I find it rather humorous that something so petty can create such a stir but trust me I do get it, just a little bit about myself is that I wear many hats in possibly hundreds of professions my main trade is the residential house building industry I call it my main trade because it's the one trade I've stuck with over the past 40 yrs but out of that came cabinet building, electrical, plumbing, roofing, siding, and countless other aspects directly connected with that industry.

During that period I got involved in racing learned to weld, build high quality engines, learned to dismantle repair and re-assemble transmissions. I've built custom street rods and done every aspect of that including custom painting this is just a short list of the many trades or hobbies I have done in the past or still involved in, now here’s the real killer.....not one single thing mentioned above or for the many I have not even listed have I ever had formal training for and not only am I proficient in but exceed many of my competitors in quality & workmanship.

I don't know I sometimes call it a curse others call it a blessing as my wife does, every morning I'm asked so dear what hat are you wearing today? Trust me when I say I get the fact that people in a specialized field get a little upset or even to the degree of being pissed off because they have spent countless hours in a formal training environment just to have someone like myself come along and perform the tasks flawlessly with no training that have taken them years to perfect (Perhaps that's the real curse).

Here's the thing though I come seeking advice on BRANDS nothing more nothing less how that original post came to a heavily debated should he or shouldn’t he re-build his own piano action is beyond my comprehension the term “re-build my own action” never came into play.

Final mention for this post I suppose since one of you mentioned the aspect of quality of my finished product the answer is yes. I do wish to have an end result with quality but with that being said I am a self taught piano player (Who'd have thunk it :)) I have near perfect pitch so says the instructor who tried to teach me but I couldn't grasp reading music I think I was attempting to play a one fingered rendition of Mary had a little lamb from some beginners book as she left for the rest room boooooooooring so I closed the book and started to play Beethoven's Pathatique forgive the spelling one of the first songs I taught myself to play she came back in total amazement then really blew a cork when she asked me to play that again someone may have to help me here since I don't know the technical jargon associated with music but I played it in several different keys I think she called it transposing? She asked how do I do that!! I dunno was my reply, it just seemed logical to my fingers I guess. My point is I do want to have some sort of quality to the musical aspect of the instrument however I don't plan on performing for an audience nor professionally in this lifetime I just enjoy the rich sound of a live piano.

Keep up the great discussion though it make for an interesting story for a newcomer!! smile
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 10:14 PM

Now that I am clear on your history and how you boh learn and how you view the task ahead , I think I can definatively answer the brand question in your OP.

You mentioned the perfect brand in that OP.

The best piano to serve your purposes is Story & Clark.
Posted by: fishbulb

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/26/13 10:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen

And AJB's comment
Quote:
In essence we have wires stretched over a metal frame, being hit by hammers released by a lever. It is neither rocket science nor watchmaking and most things can be fixed.
is particularly uninformed in that the relationship of the 5000+ moving parts in a piano are far from being "wires stretched over a metal frame being hit by a hammer" (unless ballpeen).


Welllll.... 5000+ moving parts, with about 98% of them coming in sets of 88... there is a reason the action models for the PTG/RPT exams only have three keys ;-)
Posted by: S. Phillips

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/27/13 11:53 AM

Fish,
Sadly, your comment about 98% of the parts coming in sets of 88 demonstrates the vast gulf of misinformation about how pianos are assembled. To the uninitiated the uniformity of the parts of a well regulated piano makes the installation of these parts seem simple. It is the effort on the part of a really top tech PRIOR to the installation and PRIOR to the regulation that makes all the difference between a touch and sound that is ultimately controllable for the pianist and one that is a nightmare to play.

An even touch and seamless voicing starts with the painstaking process of correcting friction, alignment, and analysis of action geometry issues before mounting the parts. Boring hammers, shaping moldings and tails, meticulous measurements of the bore distance, strike distances and hanging the set at the perfect position all come into play. Setting up the dimensions correctly BEFORE any parts are regulated is the difficult part.

Piano regulation is the art of making keys of different lengths, hammers of different sizes, shanks of different thicknesses and notes with and without damper actions feel exactly the same.
Posted by: miscrms

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/27/13 01:18 PM

So to attempt to bring this back around to the original question, it seems to me there are basically two paths one can follow when rebuilding an old piano.

1) If you are rebuilding a piano to resell, or perhaps to enjoy for a period of time but eventually sell, then it really only makes sense to focus on brands that are well recognized and command a good resale price. Steinway, M&H, maybe Baldwin, maybe maybe Chickering or Knabe might fall into this category along with maybe a few European makes. Buying a core from time periods commonly recognized to be "good" for each manufacturer is also probably wise. The quality and completeness of the work are key factors, as is the reputation of the rebuilder in trying to ensure that the money invested may be (mostly) recouped when the day comes to sell.

2) If you are building a piano for yourself (not necessarily doing it yourself), there are a lot more variables to consider. How much do you care about the name on the fallboard? How much are you willing to spend without an assumption of ever getting it back? Are you trying to build a piano to last for a decade or a century? In this case buying a good example of a lesser known brand with a good reputation to those "in the know" (many of which have been brought up already in this thread) might get you a much better starting point for less money compared to a top tier brand. If you hunt long enough you might find one with a good sound board that can just be refinished, a pinblock that is sound and can just be repinned, etc. Action parts are less likely to be available, so you'd ideally need to find one that's in good enough shape to be re-useable for rebuilding rather than a full replacement.

I believe this second path can produce a good sounding, good playing piano for a lot less money than a fully rebuilt Steinway. It will just never be worth nearly as much as a rebuilt Steinway, and most likely will never be worth anything near what it cost to build. It will also have an inherent lifespan disadvantage, as much of it will still be based on old parts in the action, soundboard etc that will not last as long as they would have if all replaced as in a full rebuild.

Probably a vast oversimplification, but does that make any sense?

As nice as it is when everyone gets along and sings kum-ba-yah around the professionally rebuild Steinway grand, I think its great to see so many passionate/knowledgeable/enthusiastic/inquisitive people participating in a spiritted discussion about something that matters to them smile

Rob
Posted by: jinorden

Re: What brands to consider to Restore? - 02/27/13 02:26 PM

He he, I have a Bösendorfer! Viennese action. Not sure if artcase or victorian, but it has round legs and carved things. Unfortunately it's in Europe, but not in Sweden. Of course, not trying to land a sale, I just thought it's funny. Good luck!