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#1254871 - 08/24/09 12:08 AM When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore?  
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terminaldegree Offline
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Just a simple question for you folks who do this for a living...

I sometimes see rebuilds of pianos over 100 years old, and see pianos that have been rebuilt more than once. Of course I realize there are many pianos not really worth rebuilding too.

But when can a piano no longer be rebuilt?
Plate cracked?
Rim damaged?
Action missing?
Smoke/fire damage?
etc.

At what point is it just not worth the time, effort, and money to overcome damage? For the sake of argument, let's assume the "core" piano is something potentially valuable like a Steinway grand.


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#1254878 - 08/24/09 12:24 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: terminaldegree]  
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Rod Verhnjak Offline
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All the items you listed can be repaired except perhaps fire damage and the piano is basically a pile of metal.

A pianos worth can be measured in a few ways. To take a piano and make it an instrument again is a very rewarding endeavor.

To spend more on a piano that it would be worth just for the sake of selling it, is where most would draw the line.

Sometimes the family piano is rebuilt not for monetary value, but for sentimental reasons. And some of these pianos turn out to be better than some of the most famous brands.


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#1254897 - 08/24/09 01:33 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]  
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88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
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A few of my ideas of when a piano is no longer rebuildable include, but are not limited to:
Severe damage (fire, for example) such that you couldn't even recognize the individual portions of components that went into making the piano (for example, all wood turned to ash (fire damage), plate ground to powder, etc.
Cost to factory of naturally-occuring raw materials ((for example sheep/goat/etc wool for hammers/felt/etc, wood for other parts, iron ore, etc.) not factoring in cost of shipping materials to factory to make them into those parts, also not factoring in cost of labor to harvest the naturally-occuring raw materials), exceeds the cost of the undiscounted MSRP of the then-most-expensive equal-or-next-size-larger new piano.
Any other ideas? grin


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#1254903 - 08/24/09 02:29 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: 88Key_PianoPlayer]  
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pianobroker Offline
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Upon penciling out the parts,labour and vested time required to bring it back to an instrument WORTHY of one's efforts is the key and the first most ethical consideration.
To restore a core piano that one got for near nothing $ due to it's detrimental condition becomes strictly profit oriented. Knowing there is a hidden shortcoming is not my thing. Yhat's why I usually search out for the "all original" core pianos in pristine condition just worn out.

I could deal with a lost action stack,no problem but as for a cracked plate or a piano with Katrina in the same sentance ,Thanx but no thanx.

I bought a Steinway L a couple years back sight unseen in Ohio whereas the seller had it in her damp subasement for 40+ years. I really had no expectations as for anything but maybe parts. Upon getting it to Southern CA. the entire piano upon drying out literally fell apart with all of it's glue joints disapated throughout.I let a friend of mine use it for a PTG Steinway anatomy class. grin
If anyone has got a Steinway L with a cracked plate,I'd love to buy it( the piano that is) in that my plate is fine. In that Steinway being a totally hand made piano,I'd like to drop this in a different L
experimentation wise, of course with a new board smile

Last edited by pianobroker; 08/24/09 03:43 AM.

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#1254948 - 08/24/09 06:55 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: pianobroker]  
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John Pels Offline
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It would depend on whether you are challenge oriented or profit oriented, and there are also some moral issues along the way. For instance, I wouldn't think for a second of fixing and selling my hurricane Katrina piano. It would be too risky to warrant every glue joint to never fail, even after doing all of my due diligence. In truth I don't believe that anyone would actually take a risk on such an instrument knowing the reality of its condition anyway, and I couldn't sleep at night not disclosing such a history. Pianos with cracked plates is another nebulous situation. I am lucky to live in the Houston area where there are some incredible tradespeople that fear nothing and do amazing work. The second piano that I rebuilt (around 20 years ago) had a small crack in the plate that was easily repaired and totally unnoticeable. It has been a great piano with absolutely no issues since the rebuild. Given that it was a vintage Baldwin, I think that it would have been more unforgiveable not to fix it. My considerations though are a bit different because to me it is a hobby. No idiot in his right mind would go into a house full of mold and extract a submerged piano with legs facing three different directions and be thinking at all times of profit. I had hoped to find my Baldwin a mate after hurricane Ike, but wasn't so lucky. It is more like "wow, what a story if this thing ever plays again". If I came across one of those infamous vintage Bechsteins with a cracked plate and it was already owned and in the family for generations, it might be worth the risk of a rebuild, but only if the owner was willing to assume full responsibility for the repair, come what may. There is such a thing as ultimate risk, and calculated risk. I believe that just about anything is repairable in this best of all possible worlds, but inevitably a tech must stand behind his work. Investing an inordinate amount of time with the chance of incipient failure, isn't usually the best financial plan.

#1254971 - 08/24/09 08:05 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: John Pels]  
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Rank Piano Amateur Offline
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It is perhaps worth noting that a piano that is in the terrible condition described in various posts above will not really be a Steinway, or a Baldwin, or whatever, once it is rebuilt. It will be a new piano that will be as good as the rebuilder. It will probably cost close to what a used (or even new) Steinway, or Baldwin, or whatever, would have cost. In other words, is a piano a Brand Whatever if the only part of the original piano remaining is the rim? The plate? The pedals?

Incidentally, if I were buying a piano whose plate had been repaired, I would want a warranty on the plate specifically. When the plate cracked on a piano I had many years ago (around 30), the wonderful rebuilder replaced it, as he could not guarantee it would not crack again, and the consequences of a plate cracking can be catastrophic. He basically said it was not possible to re-weld cast iron, at least not to his satisfaction.

#1255038 - 08/24/09 10:58 AM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: Rank Piano Amateur]  
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John Pels Offline
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RPA, I think that making some preposterous claim that the instrument will not be a Steinway, Baldwin or whatever does no one any service. The piano will be as good as the sum of its parts and their proper care in installation. The same could be said for original factory parts, and I have seen some that weren't so great as well, along with their installation. I built a Steinway M from parts, though I rebuilt the original soundboard. It was removed from the instrument, rebuilt and reinstalled. It sounded fabulous and for years I got thank-you cards routinely from the folks that I sold it to.There are a handful of soundboard makers that make soundboard copies of the original. Wood is wood. Admittedly everything contributes, but as I have opined before, hammers, regulating and voicing have a helluva lot to do with the final sound of the instrument.

As to the welding, well...like I said, it all depends on who is doing the welding. There are plenty of competent folks that make a living from re-welding cast iron. I have also seen techs that insisted that plates not be welded and went on to try and effect a repair using bolted together pieces of angle iron and JB Weld. Many folks involved in the piano rebuilding business have rather narrow frames of reference, most of it working with wood. I have many hobbies outside of and totally unrelated to pianos or rebuilding. It just depends on what you are comfortable with. Just because a rebuilder is "wonderful" doesn't necessarily mean much when he gets outside the box. I am not advising that folks go out and buy pianos with cracked plates thinking that I have the holy grail for same. Like I said, if someone had something that has been in the family for years and wants to take a chance on a repair rather than deep-sixing the piano, there are likely folks that can deal with that.

#1255148 - 08/24/09 01:23 PM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: Rank Piano Amateur]  
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pianobroker Offline
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Originally Posted by Rank Piano Amateur
It is perhaps worth noting that a piano that is in the terrible condition described in various posts above will not really be a Steinway, or a Baldwin, or whatever, once it is rebuilt. It will be a new piano that will be as good as the rebuilder. It will probably cost close to what a used (or even new) Steinway, or Baldwin, or whatever, would have cost. In other words, is a piano a Brand Whatever if the only part of the original piano remaining is the rim? The plate? The pedals?

Incidentally, if I were buying a piano whose plate had been repaired, I would want a warranty on the plate specifically. When the plate cracked on a piano I had many years ago (around 30), the wonderful rebuilder replaced it, as he could not guarantee it would not crack again, and the consequences of a plate cracking can be catastrophic. He basically said it was not possible to re-weld cast iron, at least not to his satisfaction.
If all that remains original is the rim and plate upon remanufacture it is most definitely still a Steinway,Baldwin,Mason....Kimball,Brambach or whatever it was and still is. grin

Here's an awkward predictament!
Years back,a reputable tech in our venue called me to see if I wanted a 7'6" vintage Bluthner for "free" in that the upper plate strut was ctacked.I took it in that the price was right.My rebuilder took upon the task as it was gonna be his own personal piano. Needless to say he fixed it,If you get to the point whereas it will hold upon bringing it up to pitch,you are home free.
Upon fixing it, the original owner wanted to know if they could pay for the restoration and get it back.
There is an inherent risk involved,if the rebuilder rebuilds the top end to that point and possibly it doesn't hold.
"Human nature" If it didn't hold you would have heard"Boy,that was stupid of you trying to fix the unfixable" But if it did hold "Uh can I have the piano back" If one isn't willing to take the $ risk than you can always buy it back. grin wink

Last edited by pianobroker; 08/24/09 01:25 PM.

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#1255186 - 08/24/09 02:14 PM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: pianobroker]  
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John Pels: as I have repeatedly said elsewhere in this forum, a rebuilt piano is only as good as the rebuilder. In the case of the rebuilds with which I have become familiar, that is very very good indeed. I think we are in agreement about this. A completely and beautifully rebuilt piano is not a factory-made Steinway (or whatever) any more, it is a handmade new piano, and may even be better than it was when it was rolled out of the factory. It will certainly be as good--if it was rebuilt by someone wonderful.

#1255258 - 08/24/09 03:25 PM Re: When is a "core" piano not rebuildable anymore? [Re: Rank Piano Amateur]  
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terminaldegree Offline
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RPA,

The never-ending and marketing-driven argument about whether a rebuild is an authentic brand "XYZ" piano is not relevant to the original question. Most pianists I know care if it says "Steinway" on the front, but don't care if it's a rebuild or if all the parts are "genuine". They just care how the instrument plays and feels (though I admit there is a brand bias among many of us).


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