What to do with old upright

Posted by: SHPiano

What to do with old upright - 10/20/07 11:17 PM

My "new" (1926) Bluthner arrives this week. I've already made room for it by moving my old upright into the family room. That leads me to my question. The upright is an 1880's B. Shoninger upright. It's a beautiful piano. However, it cannot hold A440 and according to the Rappaports never will.

So here's my question: Is there anything I can do to keep it as a musical instrument? For example--please forgive me if this is sacrilegious--can I replace the acoustic components and essentially convert it into a digital piano? I really would love to figure something out that makes sense.

Here are some pics.




Thanks.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/20/07 11:52 PM

How elegant! Such GORGEOUS veneer!

There have been references here (might be in the archives) about making it into a desk, a bar, or nicknack holder!

There is even a piano company that can use the frame for a new piano but that would be rather expensive. (I think it was Steingraeber that does this.)

Have you asked about it being redone/refurbished?

LL
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:05 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by lilylady:
How elegant! Such GORGEOUS vaneer!

Have you asked about it being redone/refurbished?

LL [/b]
Thanks LL.
The case is made from what I think is called "tiger-striped" walnut. You can probably see why I want to figure out a way to save it.

I've had Priscilla Rappaport take a look at it and she basically said it will never be able to stay in tune.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:33 AM

Is the plate cracked or something like that?
Not that it is worth rebuilding money wise it can be done. We put new soundboards and pinblocks in old uprights if it is wanted to be kept in the family.
Once again you spend way way more on the piano that it would be worth. But to some it is worth it.

That a great looking cabinet and it would be a shame just to junk it. Looks like it has a standard action.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:42 AM

[img]http://photos-a.ak.facebook.com/photos-ak-sctm/v98/171/94/682781582/n682781582_151840[/img]
Posted by: Zormpas

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 05:02 AM

"Never hold A-440..."

Nonsense. Never say never...

As Rod says, it can be rebuilt. As long as the plate isn't cracked at least. The pinblock can, at ultimate need, be replaced - although there are several options available to rejuvenate same if it isn't too far gone (read: majorly cracked). A squirt of "ca glue" (Superglue) beside each pin is well known to "permanently" fix a lot of pinblocks. Repinning the block with larger pins is another option; drilling out, replugging, and repinning with standard pins is yet another.

All assuming the pinblock isn't too far gone - otherwise it can be replaced - but be prepared to spend some money!

All this said, what's the condition of the action? That too can be rebuilt, but its expensive. I know of someone who had their old upright completely rebuilt/restored - cost 'em about $12K. Considering the prices of new pianos these days, that's not "TOO bad" - as long as you think of it in terms of uniqueness not available at any price as opposed to "what can I sell it for?".

Another approach would be to do some of the work yourself {*ducks*} as I have done - this is NOT for the faint at heart, and be prepared to make a lot of dumb mistakes! If this appeals, do your research - and its best to have a sympathetic tech to guide you and do some of the harder stuff.
Posted by: pianistical

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 06:55 AM

It think it would do well in a church or chapel for playing hymns.
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 08:56 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Rod Verhnjak:
Is the plate cracked or something like that?
Not that it is worth rebuilding money wise it can be done. We put new soundboards and pinblocks in old uprights if it is wanted to be kept in the family.
Once again you spend way way more on the piano that it would be worth. But to some it is worth it.

That a great looking cabinet and it would be a shame just to junk it. Looks like it has a standard action. [/b]
I agree it would be a crying shame to junk it.

Regarding the plate, I think that's the problem. It doesn't have a metal plate. It's wood. I think that's why Priscilla said it would never hold a tune. \:\(
Posted by: GoatRider

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 09:54 AM

I'd like to hear more about the option of frankensteining a digital into it. Has this ever been done?

I read all the time about people putting modern TV's into old TV cabinets. And putting radios or even mp3 players in old tube radio cases. Why can't we do the same thing here?
Posted by: John Delmore

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 10:15 AM

No plate, you say? Was it meant to be tuned to A440? Perhaps a lower pitch might be within it's 'holding range'?

Definately a beutiful piece of history. It'd be a shame to 're-egineer' it and lose the historical documentation. There was a great article in the last PTG Journal about how such instruments can be treated--from "do nothing" to "conservation" to "rebuilding". All have their place, but certainly result in different outcomes. (PTG has a museum, if you can't come to some other 'ideal' disposition...)
Posted by: Zormpas

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 11:34 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by SHPiano:
Regarding the plate, I think that's the problem. It doesn't have a metal plate. It's wood. I think that's why Priscilla said it would never hold a tune. \:\( [/b]
Isn't *THAT* interesting! Any chance of some pictures if the insides?
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 11:45 AM

What a unique and gorgeous old piano. fwiw, here's what I would do: Keep it in your family room as furniture. Then take $2K or so and buy yourself a decent digital if you want something else to play besides your Bluthner. That would probably be the cheapest and easiest solution all around.
Posted by: mdsdurango

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 11:53 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
here's what I would do: Keep it in your family room as furniture.[/b]
But what is the point of having an old (albeit beautiful) piano as furniture - *UNLESS* you convert it to a BAR!
\:D

Mike
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:01 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
What a unique and gorgeous old piano. fwiw, here's what I would do: Keep it in your family room as furniture. Then take $2K or so and buy yourself a decent digital if you want something else to play besides your Bluthner. That would probably be the cheapest and easiest solution all around. [/b]
I've got a little Yamaha digital (that's a great little device with MIDI and all that). That's what my kids and I have been practicing on--insofar as I didn't want the kids to develop a bad sense of pitch on the upright.

I'm almost certainly going to keep it, but I just can't bring myself to turn it into a bar.
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:15 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Zormpas:
 Quote:
Originally posted by SHPiano:
Regarding the plate, I think that's the problem. It doesn't have a metal plate. It's wood. I think that's why Priscilla said it would never hold a tune. \:\( [/b]
Isn't *THAT* interesting! Any chance of some pictures if the insides? [/b]
Stand by. I've just taken some and will upload in a bit.
Posted by: DragonPianoPlayer

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:17 PM

How about adding a Moog pianobar?

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Moog-PB-001-PianoBar-709312-i1155213.gc

Not sure how best to silence the action. You would really want to feel the action.

Rich
Posted by: BradKY

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:24 PM

I like that piano .. I can see why you don't wanna give it up, I mean who would?
Posted by: crusadar

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:26 PM

Vale Pianos, a company near Evesham in the UK do Digital Conversions, maybe available in the USA.

http://www.valepianos.co.uk/

Go to Digital Conversions on the left hand list.
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:29 PM

Gorgeous.

I've got a beautiful non-playable piano too that isn't worth restoring. It's taking up a lot of room in my house. I can't bring myself to make it into a desk or digital.

So it sits by the playable upright piano, holding photos.

If I ever have the money to upgrade to a grand, I will need the space. I sometimes think about donating it to a house museum.

Thanks for sharing the pictures. It's stunning.
Posted by: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:44 PM

It would be a travesty to gut your piano to create a bar, desk, digital, or anything else. There are museums that are interested in unique old pianos in original condition. Let's have a look inside. If tuning is the issue, CA glue may very well be the solution that gives your piano a new lease on live while preserving it's integrity (and any present or future antique value).
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:44 PM

OK. I just shot some photos. I'm glad I did. I'd never taken a really close look at the insides. I think it does have a metal frame of some sort.
But look at the bridges and the horrible stringing job!




Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 12:55 PM

This is a good example of differing tastes. While it is certainly unique and the cabinet woodwork looks excellent, in my opinion it is horrendously ugly. I would not want it near my house even if the innards wire in good condition which they apparently are not.

I'd put it in a landfill and hug my new piano.
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 01:38 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Roger Ransom:
This is a good example of differing tastes. While it is certainly unique and the cabinet woodwork looks excellent, in my opinion it is horrendously ugly. I would not want it near my house even if the innards wire in good condition which they apparently are not.

I'd put it in a landfill and hug my new piano. [/b]
Gee, Roger, thanks for sharing.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 02:02 PM

Forget Roger...he obviously likes new pianos. ;-)

Many of us love it! And to many of us, a shiny black polyester box just doesn't do it for a quality upright. (broken record here)

W.Scott - I agree, it would be a shame and thanks for the alternatives.

I would suggest several things that modern mfg could look into from your piano:

Quality of cabinet workmanship

Quality of veneer and its placement

Open fretwork in front - both at the pianist's ear level AND beneath - allowing the pianist to 'hear' what is being played instead of the current 'it is inside the box' sound

Music desk which comes out and is slanted to further the sound coming to the pianist and large enough to hold two page music

Beauty

Besides the PTech musuem, there are other piano museums that might be interested. For example here in Mass, there is the Frederick Museum (do a search above for info)

LL
Posted by: pianobroker

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 02:30 PM

I would just rebuild it to the point where it just plays if possible. None of the old uprts. can be tuned to A440.Maybe you can do minimal action work and repin it with oversized pins if the pinblock is not damaged to the point where that is not possible. Why did they say why it would not stay in tune to the point of not just restringing it. If the pinblock is history as for
pin holes or structurally,you could possibly reinforce it and than drill and dowel the pin holes and than redrill for smaller sized pins.
Rod will probably tell you changing a pinblock or soundboard in an uprt is more work than one would want to do Good luck!

Sorry,didn't read or see pics in all the prior posts. Questions kinda anwsered
Posted by: David-G

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 02:32 PM

If you have the space, I would keep it as a beautiful piece of furniture, as Monica suggests. And then enquire exactly what work would be needed to enable it to hold its tune, and how much that would cost. Then at some point in the future you could get the work done and have a fabulous second piano.
Posted by: BradKY

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 03:12 PM

Yep I agree David .. I think its the most beautiful piano i've saw.
Posted by: Supply

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 03:14 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Roger Ransom:
This is a good example of differing tastes. ... snip....
I'd put it in a landfill[/b] and hug my new piano.
--------------------
Piano player and part time land-fill piano tuner [/b]
Well Roger, sounds exactly like the piano for you doesn't it?

Gotcha \:D
Posted by: Supply

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 03:23 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by SHPiano:
I'd never taken a really close look at the insides. I think it does have a metal frame of some sort.
I knew it had to have a plate (just didn't get around to posting before the interior pics showed up). There were no American pianos built in the 1880s (probably not even later than the 50s) that didn't have a plate of some kind. Yours has a 3/4 plate. Nothing wrong with that.

The Rappaports are top notch technicians. I am sure when they said it would never hold a tuning, they meant that before a whole lot of work would be done on it, surpassing the value of the musical instrument by far, that it could not be expected to hold the tuning.
Posted by: SHPiano

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 05:06 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by David Glynn:
If you have the space, I would keep it as a beautiful piece of furniture, as Monica suggests. And then enquire exactly what work would be needed to enable it to hold its tune, and how much that would cost. Then at some point in the future you could get the work done and have a fabulous second piano. [/b]
At this point I have to agree with y'all. I'll keep it and try to investigate more about what exactly can and cannot be done (and for how much).
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: What to do with old upright - 10/21/07 06:28 PM

 Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by Roger Ransom:
This is a good example of differing tastes. ... snip....
I'd put it in a landfill and hug my new piano.
--------------------
Piano player and part time land-fill piano tuner
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well Roger, sounds exactly like the piano for you doesn't it?

Gotcha
I do a lot of tuning of old pianos for people who cannot afford a regular tuner. Many of them are bad enough that tuners have refused to tune them. I don't charge much and tune them as good as they can be tuned so at least they have a piano. hence the 'tuner of land fill pianos. \:\)

I didn't intend the comment as an insult, just an interesting observation.

And, in truth, I do prefer new pianos although I am none too excited by the ultra shiny black. There are a lot of options between the 2 though.