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#1499231 - 08/19/10 11:19 AM Looking at used grand, when to call a tech?  
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JeanieA Offline
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Reno, Nevada
I KNOW this subject has been beaten to death, "If you're really interested in a piano, call a tech for inspection." Message received and understood. That being said, an interesting grand (listed as Chickering and Sons) appeared on our local craigslist yesterday, and I am going looking this morning.

[Linked Image]

The situation is thus: this piano has been donated to our local Boys and Girls club with the intent they sell it and consider the proceeds a donation. They wish to dispose of the piano ASAP, they want their storage space back. And they are willing to entertain almost any amount of cash, as little as $100. I have spoken to the 'owner' and was told a local guy I know of has already looked at this piano, told them he dates it to the 1960s, and since it has a (supposedly) cracked soundboard, he'll take it off their hands, along with a rather nice upright they also have, for $200. He plans on picking up both pianos on Tuesday, although no money has yet changed hands. This local guy is known to completely lowball and BS uninformed owners and (how shall I put this) take advantage of people's ignorance to 'steal' nice pianos to resell.

Ok, I am armed with a list of serial number production dates and the checklist from 'The Piano Book,' but the piano is on its side and I am not sure how to apply those inspection items to a piano that is not set up and playable.

I guess what I am really asking is: how do I know if this piano is worthwhile enough to spend the money for a tech especially within this short time frame as the local 'bottom-feeder' is already circling?



Collector of sheet music I can't play.
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#1499244 - 08/19/10 11:38 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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gnuboi Offline
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It's not worth any pre-purchase work. At $100, you may as well buy it, pay for moving, pay for fixing it up, etc. The inspection could be $100 itself. Why pay $100 without buying it?

On the other hand, you have to accept the risk that this $100 could be a total money sink smile

#1499250 - 08/19/10 11:44 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: gnuboi]  
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JeanieA Offline
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Yup, I know it could be a real disaster, and yet... who knows? It would be replacing a 50 year old spinet and may be a huge improvement for us, considering.

Maybe if it doesn't work out for us, I could turn around and sell it to the 'piano shark!'


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1499253 - 08/19/10 11:49 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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gnuboi Offline
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If you can get the inspection for cheap like $50, then perhaps that would be a good idea. Maybe set it up as a credit toward subsequent regulation and tuning with the same tech.

If the tech can do it, take it off the dolly so that you can lay it flat over makeshift legs (hopefully the Boys and Girls club has liability insurance :)). You really can't inspect it standing like that even if the lid can open.

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#1499288 - 08/19/10 12:48 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: gnuboi]  
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Even the "shark" is gambling that he can sell it for more than the cost of the necessary repairs. You should also expect it to have repairs. There may not be much point in paying for a pre-inspection at that price. Instead, pay for a lengthy first service and evaluation. Just know that the $100 is your donation, not the true purchase price.

If there are cracks in the board, you can probably see that from the underside. It may not tell you much, but if they are big and plentiful, you can walk away then. The upside is that it seems like a medium sized grand, not too small.

Are you a gambler? Do you have funds set aside to make it better? If not, let it pass.


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#1499294 - 08/19/10 12:54 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: PianoWorksATL]  
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casinitaly Offline

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If this is for the Boys and Girls club, perhaps a technician would do it for free?
Never hurts to ask.


[Linked Image]

Currently working on: Chopin Waltz in Amin (post), Chopin Nocturne in Cmin (post), McDowell To a Wild Rose
#1499301 - 08/19/10 01:01 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: casinitaly]  
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That looks much older than 1960s. You are correct. No one can do a good assessment of a piano when it is on its side.


Semipro Tech
#1499347 - 08/19/10 02:26 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: BDB]  
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I don't see that the seller being a Boys and Girls Club gives the purchaser any call to try to do the tech out of his fee--- a service which could save you some significant money (and aggravation) in a case like this.

In fact, I think it would be more fair to give the seller--- a charity--- the fair market price, which could be determined by an evaluation, along with an estimate for repairs. You can be sure there will be some.

This is the worst form of 'piano fever.' But good luck with it.


Clef

#1499348 - 08/19/10 02:26 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: BDB]  
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OK, just back from looking. Turns out you are correct, BDB, it appears to be much older. We found numbers 1 (big space) 79 stamped on the plate, and 'Chickering Quarter Grand' cast into the plate.

It looks just like this one: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubb.../topic/023292/Number/0/site_id/1#importt with the exception that this one has double legs, not the heavy single ones shown here. The finish is worn, but not gouged, with some sun bleaching and the obligatory water stain on the lid from the flower vase. It appears the key tops have been replaced, they are perfect, two-piece, bright white, but don't have the grain in them I would expect to see in ivory. We were able to open the lid, that's how we saw the plate, and there were no plate issues I could see, all the strings were in place and sounded good when strummed.

Looking at the underside, all the ribs were tight, we could see no light through any cracks, but what I did notice was that the soundboard had adjacent boards that were (I don't know how to describe this) offset? Not on the same plane? When you ran your finger over the boards you can feel that one board was slightly lower than the one next to it, not spread apart. When thumping on the sound board, the piano resonated very prettily, no dull 'thunk' noise there.

They have the matching bench, and will let me have it for $200, AND they offered to bring it to our house!

I am terribly, terribly tempted and need to give the seller an answer today. From what I have researched, this may be a screaming deal. If it can be made playable, I could save for a restore.

Help!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1499372 - 08/19/10 03:19 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Heck, you don't even have to pay moving costs? I say go for it. Your worst case scenario is that you lose out on the $200 (unlikely, as you probably could Craigslist the bench for something) and have to pay to move the piano to the dump. The potential upside, on the other hand, could be significant. Even if you end up having to do a full rebuild and replace the soundboard, $200 for a core piano is a pretty sweet deal. jmho.


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
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#1499384 - 08/19/10 03:40 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: Monica K.]  
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JeanieA Offline
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Arrrgh! May the piano gods smile upon the foolish: I bought the thing.

The way I look at it is that it's small enough that I have room to hang onto my spinet while work progresses on the grand and, as Monica suggests, if it turns out to be a total pile of ummmm, 'excrement,' I might still recoup a portion of the cost by parting it out. I did pay their full asking price of $300, since they offered to deliver it (and since the local moving company was going to charge me $250 for the 25 mile move anyway), I figured it was really the least I could do.

I will pay for the piano and set up the delivery time tomorrow morning. Although they will bring the piano to my home, they declined to bring it into the house and set it up because of liability issues. I can't fault the gentleman there; but will line up a moving crew on my own. Fortunately there is a straight shot into the house and only one step to deal with.

Let the adventure begin!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1499386 - 08/19/10 03:46 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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You'd want at least people experienced with assembling a piano. We've recently encountered stories of dropped pianos and movers with no clue which leg to attach first, etc.

You could easily sell this thing for more than $300 smile

Last edited by gnuboi; 08/19/10 03:46 PM.
#1499394 - 08/19/10 04:00 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: gnuboi]  
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JeanieA Offline
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gnuboi, you are so correct,and thanks for the suggestion. I do believe that the soundtrack of my nightmares is a recording of a grand piano being dropped!

I think I will arrange for a tech to be here when the piano comes to supervise assembly and give it a good check-out. Not to mention an estimate for whatever work it will need and arrange for that first (second, third...) tuning after it acclimatizes.

This is scary and exciting all at once, like being at the top of that first big drop of a roller coaster. I just hope there's a (reasonably) soft landing!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1499414 - 08/19/10 04:24 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Congratulations! I probably would have bought it, too. I can't wait to hear what your tech has to say about it. My fingers are crossed. (Of course, it's hard to play like that.)

Charles

#1499417 - 08/19/10 04:26 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: ChasT]  
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Congrats! You may actually come out fine on this. I paid $265 to have a "free" upright delivered 5 years ago. I knew it needed work, but I took the risk, and it actually has turned out to be a very nice instrument - with lots of work on my part and a helpful tuner.


-Zorba
"The Veiled Male"
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1918 Hobart M. Cable "H"
"No-one would knowingly provide Franz Liszt with a mediocre piano." -E. M. Good
#1499704 - 08/20/10 04:17 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: Jeff Clef]  
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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
I don't see that the seller being a Boys and Girls Club gives the purchaser any call to try to do the tech out of his fee--- a service which could save you some significant money (and aggravation) in a case like this.


My intention in making the suggestion was not to "do the tech out of his fee" and I'm really sorry if it came across that way!
I simply meant that many people will do something for free, or for a lower cost for a good cause. I've done it, and I have never been offended or upset by anyone asking. If I don't want to do it, I don't have to.

Last edited by casinitaly; 08/20/10 04:22 AM.

[Linked Image]

Currently working on: Chopin Waltz in Amin (post), Chopin Nocturne in Cmin (post), McDowell To a Wild Rose
#1499813 - 08/20/10 09:43 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Casinitaly, I understood your post, please don't feel badly.

However, I am buying the piano FROM the Boys and Girls Club for my use. As a private party I would never expect a tech to discount their services for me. But I am sure that if the piano was to be kept by them for use with the kids, there would very likely be a local tech willing to either donate their time, or reduce their fees, for such a worthy cause.

I did contact a tech last night about this poor old piano, I will post the results when he makes his inspection. His first suggestion was to set mousetraps around it...it's gonna be an interesting ride!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1499835 - 08/20/10 10:12 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Uh oh, you mean it comes with "squeaks"?

#1499846 - 08/20/10 10:29 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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"...if the piano was to be kept by them for use with the kids, there would very likely be a local tech willing to either donate their time, or reduce their fees..."

Yes, that's another story.

I'm glad you met their asking price--- it is a good cause, and they certainly got a better deal with you than they would with the 'shark.' I used to go to a club like that when I was a kid. Wonderfully dedicated people; the place probably kept a lot of kids out of some bad trouble. But they probably don't have the resources to bring back an old piano.

The tech could be right about the mousetraps... but you know, you do have a chance of bringing the instrument back to life. I hope the gamble pays off for you. After all, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." You've been pretty frank and honest about the whole affair, even with a little touch of 'the fever,' so I wish you well with it. And it is an interesting story.

If it turns out that it just isn't salvageable, I would imagine you might write the cost off as a donation to a very worthy cause... and still have a good story to tell.


Clef

#1499874 - 08/20/10 11:22 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: Jeff Clef]  
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JeanieA Offline
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I don't know about the 'squeaks,' but better safe than sorry, as it's just starting to edge into the fall nesting season for the critters. You just never know...

I am anxious to get it home, and actually see what we've got. The tech I contacted is an RPT, with loads of experience in restoring the innards of old pianos, and he's quoted me a very reasonable fee for an initial visit for inspection, cleaning, pin block treatment (if necessary) and the start of tuning (if possible). I haven't yet met the man in person, but it sounds like he's got a sense of humor, and is willing to give this a go. Now, I need to go and start pushing furniture around the living room to make room, trying to arrange delivery for Monday afternoon.


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1502689 - 08/24/10 10:05 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Ok, it's home and placed and nobody died or wound up with hernias. It's amazing how you can attract help with the offer of pizza and beer!

I have the tech scheduled for 9:30 am on Saturday; but the intial look over is encouraging. It does appear, to my non-expert, amateur eyes, that it was either 'rebuilt' or 'restored' sometime during its life, as the hammers are not grooved, the strings are barely tarnished, and the felt (is this right?) damper strips look relatively new. There are sticky keys and dampers, but that's to be expected after a move and with its age I suspect. The seller even still had the key to the fallboard lock! We still can't find a serial number but can feel one cast into the underside of the plate, but it appears to have been painted over, which it the main reason we suspect a rebuild. I have not seen this style legs elsewhere, but they are original as all the numbers stamped on all the parts match. Not 100% sure how to attach the lyre, so we're going to leave that for the tech to show us. The fallboard is off but just for us to peer inside, it's safe under the piano.

I do have an immediate question, though: does synthetic ivory have the 'woodgrain' look to it? These keytops are perfect, bright white and not a chip to be found. They are definitely not plastic, bone maybe? How would I know?

I can't wait till Saturday!

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1502759 - 08/25/10 12:18 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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gnuboi Offline
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Sounds very promising!

#1502927 - 08/25/10 09:44 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: gnuboi]  
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Wow, Jeanie, that has got to be the prettiest $300 grand I've ever seen! The initial reports are very promising. Please do let us know what the tech says.

p.s. Wouldn't those numbers on the legs etc. be the serial number of the piano? I think with my piano at least the serial number was stamped on all major parts. Another place to look is on the action.


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image]
#1502936 - 08/25/10 10:05 AM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: Monica K.]  
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The numbers on the legs are likely to be case id numbers, different from a serial number. Confusing, isn't it? smile

Looking forward to hearing the tech's report. Congratulations, Jeanie!


Nancy Fanzlaw
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#1503154 - 08/25/10 05:22 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: M.O.P.]  
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This has been a great story so far.
Let us know all the details that the tech discovers.
No matter what, you did good.

#1504996 - 08/28/10 06:27 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: Sparky McBiff]  
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JeanieA Offline
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The tech just left and . . IT LIVES!

Nothing was broken, or broke, during the work. He pulled the action and took it all apart, pulling the action stacks all the way down to removing each key, cleaning the key bushings and balancing each one. I guess that these old Chickerings have, well he put it politely, interesting actions. There's apparently a lot of reasons that they don't build them this way anymore; although Bob was experienced with rebuilds, it took him quite a long time to get things reassembled and I could tell he was getting distressed. So, even though we had been conversing as he worked, it was a very nice time for me to go and fold some laundry, till I heard the sigh of relief from the living room!

It does appear the hammers have been replaced sometime in its life, and likely the strings as well.

He managed to pull up the tuning to A440 with nary a broken string, something we were worried about. The dampers are worn, however, so we're going to set another appointment in a couple of months for those to be addressed. Once I save up a few more dollars and Bob recovers. grin I'm quite sure we'll need a retune by then as well, although the pinblock was tight, we don't have any idea how long it's been since it was last tuned and how well it will hold a tuning.

We never did find a serial number so we won't be able to stick a firm date on it, but on close inspection last night I found the name Chas. Lawson stamped into the treble bridge. Some intensive Googling discovered that Mr. Lawson was involved in a labor dispute with Steinway in 1903, and apparently started his own piano company under his name in 1906 and folded due to the Depression, in 1929. So, we're dating it to around 1900 to 1906.

All in all I can say I'm pretty pleased with the situation, the piano seem to be in savable shape and is now quite playable, I found a wonderful, patient (I asked a lot of questions about all those parts and how they work) unbelievably reasonably cost RPT, and made a donation to a very worthy cause as well. YAY!

Now, off to play! Thank you for the words of encouragement. I think my first practice piece will be Castle's Half and Half; written during the same time period this old piano was built!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1505029 - 08/28/10 07:50 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Congrats, and great story! keep us posted on its progress, please! It's a really pretty piano.

Sophia

#1505043 - 08/28/10 08:09 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: sophial]  
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I've been following this story.. looks like it is unfolding nicely.

it's very exciting JeanieA and I wish you great luck.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#1505047 - 08/28/10 08:14 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: sophial]  
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Kinda cool as well: when we had the action out we found some signatures on the keybed. Two of three signatures we can read are Richard Arlen and Mary Brian and the words "The Virginian." Turns out that was a 1929 movie starring Gary Cooper. We need to take a much closer look at that third signature!


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1505095 - 08/28/10 10:24 PM Re: Looking at used grand, when to call a tech? [Re: JeanieA]  
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What a terrific piano story this is! You must be thrilled. smile How's the tone of the piano? Any chance you can upload a recording soon?


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image]
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Middle keys don't play on Kawai CN43
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