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6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... #2211484
01/09/14 01:48 PM
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Frank K Offline OP
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So...

I went to see a piano today. A 6'2" Briggs piano in striped mahogany. Serial number 34981. I can't find the age, but it's at least 85 years old and hails from Boston. The piano is listed for $800.00

The soundboard is original, but flawless. No cracks, and all the ribs are firmly attached.

The bridges are also flawless, no cracks or signs of trouble.

The hammers have been replaced recently, and while the action is heavy (they obviously never regulated it after replacing the hammers) it is firm and has no "play" or sloppiness that I can feel. It has clearly had work done.

Despite what look like the original strings (no rust), the tone of the piano is surprisingly solid, with great sustain. The fundamentals are strong, and there is no sign of the percussive attack, quick fade, then low volume sustain that is associated with a failed soundboard. The upper treble and lower bass are quite good, actually. For $800, it can't be beat. I would be thrilled to own it...

The problem:

B2 and C3, and to a lesser extend two other keys, have some badly out of tune unisons, and there is evidence that some of the pins have been hammered in.

Am I fooling myself to think that this is anything but a failed pin block? Should I bother spending the money to have a tech look at it?

I assume the cost of a pinblock is at least $1000.00-$2000.00, would it be worth it to have it replaced in this piano, assuming everything else is fine? Could I get a decent 6' grand for less than the cost of this one and a pin block/strings?


I would be thrilled to own this piano, if it can be tuned.

Last edited by Frank K; 01/09/14 01:51 PM. Reason: Typos

1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211488
01/09/14 01:56 PM
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Did somebody mention bring a tech? wink If you really like it and there's no obvious other problems..


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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211492
01/09/14 02:03 PM
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Frank K Offline OP
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I'm debating whether it's even worth it to bring a tech: 85 year old piano, a good make but no name recognition; 95% probability that some sort of repair will be needed - at least larger pins (and then strings, of course), if not a whole new block.

Is a piano this age and brand worth repairing?


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211494
01/09/14 02:05 PM
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I should also mention, it will need refinishing. But I can handle that. I'm quite the re-finisher...


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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211496
01/09/14 02:09 PM
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Is it worth it as an investment? NO. Is it worth it for you? Only you can answer that.

I'm not a tech but new block, doesn't that in most cases also mean restringing?

Last edited by wimpiano; 01/09/14 02:10 PM.

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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211501
01/09/14 02:16 PM
01/09/14 02:16 PM
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Hi Frank,

Here is my meager .02...

$800 for a 6 footer that sounds good and plays pretty good is a really cheap price. You could easily blow that much on a weekend mini-vacation.

The loose tuning pins can be dealt with (if that is all it is and the pin block is not split or cracked) a couple of ways; The CA (super-glue) treatment works well, or at least it did for me on an old upright I fixed up. Also, you can go to a larger size tuning pin, most likely.

I agree that it would be worth it to have a tech check it out for you. As much as I like a bargain on a piano, you won't enjoy it if it won't hold a tuning for very long.

Good luck and keep us informed!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211504
01/09/14 02:22 PM
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Thanks, all!

Yes, wimpiano, the strings would have to be replaced if it was re-pinned or blocked.

Rickster: thanks for your $0.02. $800 is a good price, isn't it. Best case scenario, we're talking a CA treatment and regulation. I guess in that case, it would probably be worth it.

This would be an easier decision if the piano was in my tech's service area, but it's not. I trust my tech very much, but for this piano, I will have to blindly choose from the two or three people in the vicinity (Ormond Beach, FL).



1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211508
01/09/14 02:27 PM
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There are some other good deals around, too. For $1995.00 I can get a 5'2" 1913 Vose and Sons piano that has been restored, including: new pins, new strings, new hammers, new keytops, refinishing. But a 5'2" piano is a whole different - and inferior - animal than a 6'2"... I'm going to see it anyway. Maybe that will make the decision easier...


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211570
01/09/14 04:11 PM
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After bouncing things off the wall, and you all here, I called a tech. So I will have an update on my little piano adventure on the 14th.


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211611
01/09/14 04:49 PM
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Good call, Frank. It's worth having a tech look at it.

Good luck!


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211648
01/09/14 05:50 PM
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Thanks OperaTenor!


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2211806
01/09/14 09:52 PM
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You might invest in a pin gauge. That way you can check if larger pins are an option or whether it's already maxed out. It may also impress the seller with your expertise. ;-)


-- J.S.

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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: JohnSprung] #2211849
01/09/14 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
You might invest in a pin gauge. That way you can check if larger pins are an option or whether it's already maxed out. It may also impress the seller with your expertise. ;-)


Ha! Oh, I'm pretty sure I intimidated the sellers. I was looking at the piano with my brother (He also plays. Good to have two pairs of hands, ears, and eyes) and explained out loud the workings and condition of every part of the piano I was examining. The terminology was flying. By the time I got to talking bout the agraffes, the sellers, who were standing by listening, were practically shaking.

I've been following these forums for several years, waiting for this moment. What is it they say about a little bit of information?


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212018
01/10/14 09:19 AM
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Well, Frank, you and I might be in the same boat with the "little bit of knowledge" syndrome. Thing is, knowing a little bit about pianos is still a lot more than most people know. smile

Good luck!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212206
01/10/14 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank K
....The hammers have been replaced recently, and while the action is heavy (they obviously never regulated it after replacing the hammers) it is firm and has no "play" or sloppiness that I can feel...

Big warning signs here.
Hammers need to be carefully matched in size, weight and felt characteristics to each instrument. Otherwise, the touch and tone may never meet expectations. And playing piano is all about touch and tone.

Heavy touch after hammer replacement is a tell-tale sign of incorrect hammers with too much mass, and/or incorrect hammer shank geometry. Regulation will not help in this case. This is widely misunderstood issue. You cannot regulate away hammer mass or compensate for incorrect geometry. Things can get pretty involved and the problem needs to be properly diagnosed and fully understood.

A technician should take a close look at the action geometry and weights of the individual components.

Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212216
01/10/14 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank K
...there is evidence that some of the pins have been hammered in.


Sorry if this is dumb question, but in the interest of educating myself, what does is mean that the pins have been hammered in?

-Michael


Estonia L225 in April '14...
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: M_albert] #2212420
01/10/14 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by M_albert
Originally Posted by Frank K
...there is evidence that some of the pins have been hammered in.


Sorry if this is dumb question, but in the interest of educating myself, what does is mean that the pins have been hammered in?

-Michael


Take this with a grain of salt (I'm not a tech), but I'm 99.999% sure this is an accurate answer:

When a piano's tuning pins start to get a little loose, some techs attempt to fix the problem (or at least mitigate it) buy hammering the pins deeper into the pin block.

Last edited by Frank K; 01/10/14 08:49 PM. Reason: Clarity

1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Supply] #2212421
01/10/14 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Supply
Originally Posted by Frank K
....The hammers have been replaced recently, and while the action is heavy (they obviously never regulated it after replacing the hammers) it is firm and has no "play" or sloppiness that I can feel...

Big warning signs here.
Hammers need to be carefully matched in size, weight and felt characteristics to each instrument. Otherwise, the touch and tone may never meet expectations. And playing piano is all about touch and tone.

Heavy touch after hammer replacement is a tell-tale sign of incorrect hammers with too much mass, and/or incorrect hammer shank geometry. Regulation will not help in this case. This is widely misunderstood issue. You cannot regulate away hammer mass or compensate for incorrect geometry. Things can get pretty involved and the problem needs to be properly diagnosed and fully understood.

A technician should take a close look at the action geometry and weights of the individual components.


Thanks for this! I will add this to my notes.

I have a question, though. Forgive me if the answer is obvious. I know nothing about action geometry.

Will a tech be able to tell, without being able to see the original hammers/shanks, whether the new ones are correct? If not, I doubt any information will be readily available for a 80-90 year old Briggs. The company went out of business in 1929.



1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212437
01/10/14 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank K
Will a tech be able to tell, without being able to see the original hammers/shanks, whether the new ones are correct? If not, I doubt any information will be readily available for a 80-90 year old Briggs. The company went out of business in 1929.
Short answer - it is an investigative/diagnostic process. Not all tuners are up to this task.

At a certain point, it could become cost prohibitive on a no-name $800 piano, it depends on the situation.

Or you could buy the piano and simply live with the heavy action.

Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Supply] #2212440
01/10/14 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Supply
Short answer - it is an investigative/diagnostic process. Not all tuners are up to this task.

At a certain point, it could become cost prohibitive on a no-name $800 piano, it depends on the situation.

Or you could buy the piano and simply live with the heavy action.


Thanks! Let's see what he says. This is that moment when I wish my regular tech, in whom I have great confidence, would drive as far as the beach.



1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212441
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By the way, here is the piano. I'm surprised no one called me out for piano shopping without posting photos. Sorry for the quality. My phone is not a fan of back lighting.

[Linked Image]


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2212454
01/10/14 09:54 PM
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Have the key tops been replaced? If that's the original ivory, it's in amazing condition.


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: OperaTenor] #2212534
01/11/14 01:18 AM
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Originally Posted by OperaTenor
Have the key tops been replaced? If that's the original ivory, it's in amazing condition.


I'm 85% certain they had been replaced, but my memory of the key material is a little foggy. I'm pretty certain I would have remembered playing on ivory, though.


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2214766
01/14/14 07:52 PM
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So...I had the piano inspected today.

WE HAVE TORQUE!!!

The pin block is fine. No cracks or other issues, and it's got enough torque be tunable and stable. Some of the strings were replaced at some point recently (the past 30 years). Those same strings happen to be the ones that were horribly out of tune. Most of the other strings are significantly older. So I guess that answers that.

All the pins are original. The pins that were tapped in happen to be attached to the replaced strings. Preventative care, or whatever, they have the appropriate amount of torque.

The hammer replacement seems to have been done appropriately. And actually, the action is not as heavy as I remember. It's filthy in there, but all the bushings are in decent shape and everything is pretty tight. In fact, the keys have less side-to-side and front-to-back play than my Kawai upright, which is only about 22 years old.

I get the impression from playing the piano and watching the hammers move that the heaviness problem is less about adjustment and more about friction. Either way, the tech is confident that any issues can be solved with a thorough cleaning and regulation.

Last but not least. This piano, I learned, was manufactured in 1909. She's an old beast of a piano. Built like a tank.

So...I'm getting estimates from movers, and tomorrow I'm calling the owner with my offer. I have the distinct feeling she will not go below the $800 asking price. The owner has mentioned several times, and with emphasis, that she paid a lot more than she is asking.

The tech seems to think that $700 would be a good deal. So I'm probably not going to haggle much over $100.00. The owners have been very accommodating.




Last edited by Frank K; 01/14/14 08:14 PM.

1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2214841
01/14/14 10:13 PM
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Sounds like you're in for a real treat, Frank!

Well done!



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2214844
01/14/14 10:27 PM
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Frank,

Considering the beat to snot uprights I was able to find under 2k here, I think you've done very well to find such a serviceable 6'2" even if you do put another thou into refurb/recon.

Kurt


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Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2214877
01/14/14 11:10 PM
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Thanks all! Yes, I think I have done very well. The only comparable piano I have seen is a 6' Kawai that had the tar beat out of it. It was a church piano, and was for sale for $1800.00.



1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: OperaTenor] #2214879
01/14/14 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by OperaTenor
Have the key tops been replaced? If that's the original ivory, it's in amazing condition.


I verified that the keytops are original. Not ivory, though. They are the original celluloid. No chips, stains, or burns.

I'm fairly certain the piano saw very little use in it's life. I can't imagine a 100 year old keyboard and action being in this good condition unless it was used sparsely.


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2218859
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The Briggs arrived!!!

It is the first of my personal possessions to be moved into my house!!! It's also my first house, by the way.

I think I did pretty darn well for $800. There are a few scratches here and there, but I can take care of those easily.

[Linked Image]

I bought proper caster cups, but they have not arrived yet. So until then, strips of carpet will do.

The house is empty, so it is unbelievably reverberant in there. It still sounds pretty darn good though, and the treble does much better in my home than the previous owners'.

After the piano settles in and I have it tuned, I'll post some recordings. I think you'll be surprised at how this 105 year old piano sounds.


1909 Briggs 6'2" Grand
Re: 6' Briggs Piano Conundrum... [Re: Frank K] #2218865
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It Looks Great !!!


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