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Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194555 03/26/08 11:54 AM
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marcusw Offline OP
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I am interested in people's thoughts on whether it is worth shipping and repairing my grandmother's old piano.

The piano is a 1937 Bluthner baby grand, 5ft I think. It is located in England, I would need to ship it to San Francisco.

The piano has been in my family since ~1950 and has been used only lightly since then. It was tuned annually until 1996 but not since. The casework is in good shape. The action is very uneven.

A rep from Bluthner UK looked at the instrument and said (a) the tuning plank is "slightly soft", and while not in immediate need of attention, it will need replacement sometime. (b) the whole keyboard needs to be rebushed. He also offered GBP 2000 for the instrument as is, indicating he would invest GBP 12,000 in rebulding it and then sell it in their London showroom for GBP 20,000

I expect to use the piano for me to fumble around on, and for my young daughters to take lessons and practice on. None of us have the discerning taste or technique that would warrant a high end instrument ( ... Not yet anyway :-) ).

I do value the family connection the piano brings. I don't have the money to do a full rebuild at the moment (I assume this is a GBP 10k or USD 20K undertaking) ... and question whether it would be worth spending that kind of money on this instrument.

I am interested in thoughts on the following:

- shipping ... costs, thoughts on what to look for and avoid in a shipper, whether time on boat will harm the instrument

- how desirable Bluthner is as a brand, and specifically how their baby grands from this period are perceived

- suggestions on appropriate repairs, questions I should be asking, whether there are any options for a "soft tuning plank" other than a rebuild.

Thanks in advance

Marcus

Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194556 03/26/08 12:15 PM
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The least expensive way to ship overseas is to fill a container. If you cannot fill one, then you need to find someone who has room in one coming here to Oakland. You should contact a shipping agent to get the information.

Blüthners are fine pianos. If the pins are not tight, that may mean that it needs tuning more often than if they were tighter. But a good tuner may be able to do a lot with what you have. Just keep in mind that the piano is 70 years old, which is a long time for a piano. But I regularly tune a Blüthner which is 40 years older, almost entirely original, and it stays in tune quite well. You seem to have a decent bill of health from the Blüthner representative.

Sentiment counts for a lot. I cannot advise you on that. But if you decide to bring it here, I could tell you a lot more if I saw it.


Semipro Tech
Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194557 03/26/08 12:28 PM
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Bluethners are excellent pianos.
But still, I don't think I'd ship a 5 foot one that needs rebuilding around the world.

Plus as pianos age how they were maintained, or not, becomes very important.

Next, if you do a major rebuild some would argue that it will be as much a Brand X as a Bluethner - X being the rebuilder's name, quality and reputation.

Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194558 03/26/08 01:47 PM
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On the other hand,

I ship pianos overseas on a fairly regular basis. Crated shipping in a humidity controlled space is possible and it is not terribly expensive. Crating ad getting it the ship and then to your home will probably be more expensive.

Check out www.schenker.com

Good luck with the decision.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila., Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194559 03/26/08 02:52 PM
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About 10 months ago we played such a Bluthner which was newly rebuilt. It was a very nice piano with a beautiful touch and sound. However it is not big enough to have a fine bass section. I see that it is still for sale and could easily be bought for $15,000 or less and shipped to you for less than $1,000. Here is the web site to view the piano.
http://atlanticpianorebuilders.com/restoredpianos_inventory.html
If the sentimential reason to own the piano is strong. Then you might hire Atlantic Piano Rebuilders, who have such a Bluthner, to have the piano shipped from Europe, which they have containers come from (and that reduces the cost very much) and have them repair and refinish the piano for you and then ship it to you. They could estimate the cost for you. Good luck.


Master of Music, School Teacher, Church Musician- See "Our Adventure to a New grand" thread... http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/18212.html
Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194560 03/26/08 04:17 PM
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Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194561 03/27/08 05:26 AM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

It was very helpful to see the USD 16K price on the Atlantic piano "Like New" which appears to be very similar in size and vintage.

This confirms what someone else has told me - that the market for my piano after a rebuild would support higher prices in Europe than in the US. Of course it's not only about the $$s though.

As I see it, my decision rests on whether and how long the piano will be usable without a rebuild, with the tuning plank (aka Pinblock ?) being the component which would drive the need for the rebuild. I am encouraged by the Bluthner guys comments that this is not in immediate need of attention. I am also encouraged by the postings I've see on the tech forum that there are ways to extend the life of a pinblock if you are a cash strapped philistine.

I think I am going to do this, and am investigating shipping options.

Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194562 04/04/08 06:40 PM
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You could send it to Leipzig, Germany to be rebuilt by the Blüthner family. I just visited the Blüthner factory last fall. They still build their pianos to a historical standard, and would especially handle the bellywork properly if it were needed. The Blüthner has a "cylindrical crown" soundboard design, among other unique elements that rebuilders have difficulty replicating.
In Seattle we had a 1899 style 8 Blüthner - all original. Yours may prove to have a magnificent voice, as this one did - even after sitting on its side in a storage unit for 10 years! They hold up exceptionally well.

Of course, it is a serious undertaking. You will need to have the instrument assessed and appraised in the UK first. There are some good folks in the UK who know those pianos well.

Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194563 04/04/08 07:13 PM
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Welcome to Pianoworld Kristina.

I am curious about Haessler pianos. Could you tell us about them?


Doug
Re: Should I ship and repair my Grandmother's old Bluthner ?
#194564 04/04/08 08:55 PM
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If it were me I would keep it and rebuild it correctly. There is a lot to be said for a family heirloom being used by a family that truly enjoys it. At the very least I hope you do the math and error at least a little on the side of sentiment. Who knows but maybe 30 years from now if your family uses this piano money spent now will have been totally insignificant.


"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

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