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#144878 - 12/12/07 01:16 PM 1950's J & C Fischer baby grand advice
Gregginhnl Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 2
Loc: La Habra, CA
Aloha everyone. This is my first post on this forum but I have been reading the information on this site for days. It is wonderful and I have spent way too many hours into the wee hours of the morning reading what you folks have to say. I have learned a great deal but want to ask a specific question about an intrument I have located.

I play for my own enjoyment and do not put "pianist" my business card. I have advanced degrees in music but in other fields. I took lessons for about 11 years. My
home and budget will not accommodate a large grand piano. (Most of our money in Hawaii is eaten up quickly by housing costs). So, I was considering a small baby grand over an upright due to
the difference in the action and sound (I know some will recommend against this decision).

I searched Craigslist and visited a number of instruments and while most have been really disappointing I found one that
seemed interesting. It is a J & C Fischer baby grand (only 4'6") from around 1951. The serial number is 188343 (if you have
the Piano Atlas handy). I read where Fisher made some good instruments in their day but 1951 seems a bit past their prime.
It was completely restrung in 1993, new dampers installed, has a few new tunning pins, and has been maintained regularly
since then. I met the technician who takes care of it and
she said it is stable and holds its tune well. She said the technician who did the restringing worked hard to get the sound even
throughout the full range of the instrument. I thought he did a pretty good job for such a small instrument. The high notes
were bright but not tinny and the bass was not growly. The mid-range was rather nice with a warmth that seemed lacking in
many uprights I have played. There was a Kawai grand next to it so I took the liberty to compare the two. The bass on the
Kawai grand was impressive with a resonance that went right through the floor. But the smaller Fischer bass, while lacking the
depth of tone and resonance, was true to pitch and not muddy. The touch was nice and responsive, no sticky notes, not too
light either. The case is mahagonny and could use some work but is not beat up by any means.

The seller is asking $1,175 and is very anxious to move it out because he needs the space (would like it gone by the weekend). The seller runs a music studio so the instrument has been used regularly but it has also been well maintained. The technician says she has maintained it for some time. I was impressed that she knew so much about the work of the guy who refurbished it in 1993. It seems the instrument has had decent care over the years.

So, my question is, would a piano of this vintage and make be something to consider or run from at that price? I welcome your comments.

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#144879 - 12/12/07 02:36 PM Re: 1950's J & C Fischer baby grand advice
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24785
Loc: Oakland
If you like the Fischer, the price is low enough that it seems reasonable. It sounds like you know what you are getting into. If it suits your purposes, then you might as well take the leap.
Semipro Tech

#144880 - 12/12/07 03:19 PM Re: 1950's J & C Fischer baby grand advice
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1386
Loc: Maine, U.S.

Let me say at the outset, I am a pianist, not a tuner/tech (although I do most of my own piano regulation), but have a few thoughts on the Fischer baby grand. The good news: I am familiar with Fischer. My first teacher (when I was a kid in the 50s and early 60s, studying with her for 10 years) had a Steinway B in her studio, but at home two pianos--a Mason & Hamlin Model A and a Fischer baby grand, although I believe the latter was larger than the one you are considering. I got to play the Fischer quite often, as I lived within walking distance of her home. Overall, I thought it had a nice sounding tone and an even action for small grand. It certainly wasn't in the Steinway or Baldwin category, but a good, dependable piano nonetheless.

Some other thoughts: This piano of interest is about 57 years old now. Once a piano gets over 60 years old, it is beyond prime, especially lower tier brands. So the question would be, realistically, how much more "life" is left in it (i.e., the action, soundboard crown, etc.)? Of course, the price is fairly low, so there wouldn't be much financial risk in buying it. However, as you probably know, the general consensus on grands is that if you're going to buy one at all, it's best not to buy one that's smaller than 5'5". If you're looking at 4'6", there many uprights that would offer a far superior sound, as you already know.

The full restringing and replacement of dampers were good moves. But what about the hammers? For a piano that old, I would have thought the hammers (and maybe shanks and flanges) would have been at the top of the list. Also, over time, the fact that just a "few" of the tuning pins were replaced could become problematic. Usually, for a complete restringing ALL the tuning pins are replaced. This is not only because of increased looseness naturally resulting from decades of tunings. As importantly, when the original pins are all removed as part of restringing (either by reverse drilling action or by hand-cranking them out), there is a LOT of heat generated in the pin block holes from the friction of metal against wood (a bit less when removed manually). I took many out myself when my 1984 Baldwin was being partially rebuilt, and can tell you that you don't want a freshly removed pin in your palm until it cools down a bit! That heat unavoidably sears the wood causing the pin block holes to further enlarge. Usually all pins are replaced one size greater than the originals for proper fit. I do hear your tuner saying that the Fischer's tuning is stable at present--great, but for how much longer?

But a practical point: My sense is that because of the depreciated value of the very small, aging Fischer grand, the person reconditioning it wisely avoided full materials replacement and the attendant extra labor costs, thus making some realistic and necessary compromises in the scope of the project. Obviously, it would have been imprudent to have costs overrun the likely resale value of an older and small consumer grade grand piano in a competitive market for used pianos. That was probably a sound decision.

My guess is that you could probably take a chance on this piano being reliable, given the price. But where you seem to be a serious amateur pianist, only you can judge whether this instrument will really suit and satisfy your musical needs. If instead you are a casual player only, well, why not then? Still, I tend to believe that there is a better and still affordable piano out there somewhere for you. Good luck on this!

#144881 - 12/27/07 06:57 AM Re: 1950's J & C Fischer baby grand advice
Gregginhnl Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 2
Loc: La Habra, CA
Thanks for your responses and especially to RichFan for so much detail. Here is the follow-up on this Fischer piano.

Using the information provided by RichFan I was able to go to the seller and explain that this piano was nearing the end of its useful life and it would need some attention, etc., etc., then made an offer of $875.00 ($300 below the asking price). He accepted and I had the piano movers bring it to my house. Today the piano technician arrived to tune it and his opinion was that I got a great deal.

Regarding the condition of the restringing, more was done than I was led to believe. There were all new strings, a new pin block and all new pins added in 1993. The tech was pleased with the work that was done. He will come back and reshape and voice the hammers and adjust the keys to fix a few that are sitting a little lower than the rest. He will also add a Dampp-chaser to ward off some of our Hawaii humidity. After that he said it should be in very good shape.

I plan to refinish the mahagony case. All the veneer is in great shape but the finish has worn in a number of spots but should finish up nicely. I have refinished a number of antiques over the years and done a old upright before, but this is my first baby grand. The piano tech gave me some advice on taking off all the parts that will come off to make the refinishing a bit easier. After removing the existing lacquer finish I plan to apply a KTM-9 satin finish. I have read about this product here and on other instrument websites (guitar mostly). Since the product is water based it is non-toxic, non-flammable, and easy to clean up. These are advantages that I find appealing. The comments I have read say it produces excellent results. I will start on the piano bench just to make sure. If anyone has any advice on this finish or on what is best to remove the old finish (lacquer thinner, paint remover, etc.), let me know.

All in all, I am very happy with my J & C Fischer baby grand piano. I play it everyday and it gives me great enjoyment. The tone is really pleasant, the action works great and I think the technician needs to only do some fine adjustments to bring it up to speed. I am very pleased to find such a nice instrument at such a reasonable price. My hope is that with the improvements I am making I could sell it in a few years and move up to a larger grand if I want. Considering my initial investment is so low I figure I can't go too far wrong. I am a music librarian at the University here in Hawaii and that career takes up much of my time, so spending a small fortune on a piano is disproportionate to the time and talent that I can bring to it.

This is a teriffic web forum and I have learned a great deal in a short time. You folks even got me to go out and get a copy of Larry Fine's Piano Book to learn even more. I hope to post a picture of the finished job in a few months. Thanks again for all the help! Aloha.


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#144882 - 06/02/08 04:15 PM Re: 1950's J & C Fischer baby grand advice
MAJR Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/30/08
Posts: 4

This was the only string I found about a Fischer Baby Grand...and from Hawaii to boot! I also have a Fischer Baby Grand in Hawaii, and am trying to figure out how old it is. Can anyone advise me on where to find the serial number? I found four different codes on the underside, so I don't know which one it is. Three of them are stamped into the wood and are 4 digits, one of which has been crossed out! The last is a three letter code. Any ideas out there?



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