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Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? #2744027
06/13/18 12:54 AM
06/13/18 12:54 AM
Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 75
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schinl Offline OP
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First off, the serial number is 258600 which puts it at 1929 but some websites report that the Model S does not debut until 1936. However, the seller insists it is a Model S. And of course, I did not think to bring a tape measure to measure the piano cry So which should I trust, the serial number or the seller?

Anyway, the piano could be in better condition (there were literal cobwebs and insects in it!), but I just really love the sound. The room it was in was huge but it could fill it beautifully. I can just imagine it in my smaller, lower living room. The action is a little stiff for my taste, and the keys need some cleaning. However, it is still a vast improvement from my digital keyboard. My tech said the action could be lightened somewhat, is this true?

The piano has been in the same family since it was purchased in the 20s and it is currently in use by a piano teacher.

Tomorrow I have a tech going to look at it, but should I even be looking at a 89 year old piano as my first piano? The price is $10k, just about my limit, and I admit I am a little thrilled to have a Steinway in my living room. Still, a part of me wonders if I should just get a $15k new Kawai GL20 instead with a full warranty, or buy the used Boston 163 with a fantastic action I've had my eye on for $10k. If you have been following my long winded piano search adventures (headache) you'll see I have been on this hunt for quite a while.

Please let me know what you think! Am I wearing rose tinted glasses?

[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image] Oh yeah. WHAT is that hole in the bottom??

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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744030
06/13/18 01:31 AM
06/13/18 01:31 AM
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Ed A. Hall Offline
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The heavy action is a big red flag here. Do a Google search on "Steinway verdigris". If that's the case on this piano, expect to pay for an entire action rebuild.

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744031
06/13/18 01:39 AM
06/13/18 01:39 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 21,392
Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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To me, there are a few red flags about this piano in this account that would send me walking almost immediately, but it's your move and you are having a tech look at it before making any decisions.

A piano as old as this one could be a candidate for some costly repairs if not rebuilding, but let's hope that your tech will find out if there are any issues with it.

I think you might do better with your $10,000.00, but of course I don't know the condition of the instrument. Are the resident insects live or deceased? What kind of insects? How can a piano teacher use this instrument for teaching if it has evidence of insect infestation?

Don't be too enamored with the name on the fallboard; it reads as though that has some sway with you.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744033
06/13/18 02:06 AM
06/13/18 02:06 AM
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schinl Offline OP
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Ed: Wow, thanks for pointing it out. I wish I had known about it earlier so I could have really looked for it. It isn't 'unplayable', but certainly a heavier action. I'm sure my tech will mention it if he finds any tomorrow.

BruceD: Indeed my rose tinted glasses are very thick with this piano... so please tell me more about the red flags. My $10k doesn't go very far in my town to be honest, and I have looked at pianos in other states as well, both used and new. Unfortunately I am quite picky. The piano teacher doesn't actually own the piano, she only rents the house. Not sure of the full story here, but I guess the owner (her landlady) lets her use it for practice, and she probably teaches elsewhere. It doesn't have an infestation, the insects are dead, and there were lots of dust and cobwebs. I think it must have been in storage for quite some time.

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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744034
06/13/18 02:13 AM
06/13/18 02:13 AM
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joe80 Offline
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The piano looks like it's in poor condition. This is a piano I would describe as a core, that is to say it looks like it requires a total rebuild. From your description it sounds like the action needs rebuilt - and I mean new parts, which will most likely add another 10k to your cost anyway, and the strings are not exactly in optimal condition. Insects living inside the piano is never a good sign. The strings and action could well just be the start of your worries with a piano like that. It might need a new tuning plank, it might even need a new soundboard, and I've no idea what the bridges are like.

This isn't a piano I would buy expecting to spend only a few hundred to a couple of grand on after it was bought, this is a money pit. You'd be better to go to Steinways or any rebuilder and buy an already rebuilt one for quite a lot of money.

With your budget as described in your original post, I feel you'd be better with the Kawai or the Boston. Both are fine pianos. Musically over the long term you'd be better with the newer piano. Steinways are good pianos, but any instrument at 90 years old can be a minefield of problems.

In your other post about long-winded piano searching, you mention a Kawai K.500, again this is an excellent piano. I really love Kawai uprights. Musically it will be better than an unrestored 90 year old Steinway baby grand, by a long shot.


You might want to look at some higher spec digitals like the new Yamaha Clavinova CLP series, the Kawai CA series, or the Roland HP, or even look at some Hybrids like the Yamaha AvantGrand, the Kawai Novus, or the Roland GP609. The sound and touch on new high-end digital pianos is very different to the entry level instruments, and very different to the high-end instruments of even 5 years ago.

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744039
06/13/18 02:52 AM
06/13/18 02:52 AM
Joined: Oct 2017
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schinl Offline OP
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schinl  Offline OP
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Thank you so much for your reply joe80. I was speaking with another tech over the phone who had the same thoughts as you do. I did wonder if I am over my head with this 89 year old antique, but the sound really is so beautiful I thought I should give it a shot. Also just to be clear, there weren’t any insects living in it. Just dead old insects, like normal debris.

Yes, I really love the Neotex keys in the K500! Unfortunately as an upright it doesn’t sound as beautiful as i would like for the price. Even with the top open I can’t get over it. A GL10 was kind of meh and the next step up (and a little out of budget at $15k) is the GL20, which I do like. But perhaps it is worth the extra for the warranty and newness.

I have a digital keyboard right now and would prefer an acoustic, no matter how advanced the hybrid. I simply love an acoustic grand piano’s blooming bass. I had the pleasure of trying a Novus10 a couple weeks ago and was very excited as I know how hyped and popular it is. Unfortunately the sound just did not live up to my expectations.

Nevertheless, I will report back with my tech’s findings tomorrow. Maybe against all odds he would give it a thumbs up? <:)

Last edited by schinl; 06/13/18 02:57 AM.
Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744042
06/13/18 02:57 AM
06/13/18 02:57 AM
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Oakland
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BDB Offline
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It is an M. An S has more wound strings in the tenor. The hole in the bottom is for the missing lyre brace. Steinway sells replacements, and there is another company who makes the ones with the two dados in the middle, if you insist on that.

It is very difficult for someone to evaluate an old action that probably has not been regulated since the piano was new. After 90 years, the wippen springs begin to go. I have had good results just from replacing those, and a good regulation. The worst aspects of verdigris can be checked by playing notes, and watching the hammers fall back. If some of them fall back slower than others, that is caused by verdigris. I have had good results mitigating that by soaking the joints in orange oil thinner. I do not know how long it might last, but it could be long enough to last until you can recover your finances enough to replace action parts. The thinner does not seem to affect the other parts, including the felt and leather knuckles.

You do not need to offer what they are asking. That is the maximum that they will take.

What is really important is how good a tech you have. A good tech, one who does the basic work well, can make a big difference.


Semipro Tech
Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744075
06/13/18 07:16 AM
06/13/18 07:16 AM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 1,799
Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Tennessee
Greetings,

The piano is worth $3K around here. It looks like the tuning pins have been driven, and perhaps doped. Expect to restring with a new block. I haven't seen an original action in a Steinway this old that didn't have verdigris, and if so, you replace it or have a mediocre action.

All told, you might need to spend $15,000 or more to make this piano play like it was designed to play. And that assumes the soundboard still has some response left in it.
Regards,

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744087
06/13/18 08:47 AM
06/13/18 08:47 AM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 4,537
Georgia, USA
terminaldegree Offline
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Zooming in on a smartphone, the soundboard looks like Swiss cheese. The hole in the bottom is a missing support for the pedals. Cobwebs, insects, chipped ivories, heavy action...nope! Don’t do it.


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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744138
06/13/18 12:13 PM
06/13/18 12:13 PM
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Posts: 2,833
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joe80 Offline
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No trouble Schinl!

I do understand the allure of old grands, and many of them do have a beautiful sound - but as soon as you start practising on them the deterioration is very rapid, and it has myriad problems.

I would say that the GL20 is probably the best choice for you if you can afford it. The GL10 might leave me, personally, wanting a large K series upright.

Alternatively, sometimes you can find a Kawai from the 70s or 80s, in good domestic condition, with a lot of life left in them, for not very much money. So long as there are no major problems by then they've aged just enough to have character but not enough to cause problems, and usually just require a clean-out, regulation, voicing, and are ready to go. Sometimes they can be a bit on the heavy side, but sometimes they're very good.

Remember I'm saying this as someone who lives in Scotland, where the humidity is actually fairly constant all year round. Even our old pianos are often to be found in good playing condition!

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744150
06/13/18 02:06 PM
06/13/18 02:06 PM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 8,833
Phoenix, Arizona
Carey Online content
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Carey  Online Content
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Phoenix, Arizona
Schinl -

Just sent you a Private Message smile

Carey (Phil)


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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: BruceD] #2744169
06/13/18 03:25 PM
06/13/18 03:25 PM
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New York City
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Are the resident insects live or deceased?
HAHAHA

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744198
06/13/18 05:05 PM
06/13/18 05:05 PM
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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744221
06/13/18 06:56 PM
06/13/18 06:56 PM
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Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744279
06/14/18 12:15 AM
06/14/18 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by schinl
Tomorrow I have a tech going to look at it

If the piano interests you, then this is the right approach.

It's one thing for people to speculate about it, but it's an altogether different thing for someone to actually inspect it. If the speculation is correct, then no harm done, other than the cost of the inspection. If the speculation is wrong, perhaps you end up with a nice piano.

See what the tech has to say about it's condition and any work that it might require, and proceed accordingly.


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744404
06/14/18 01:09 PM
06/14/18 01:09 PM
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schinl Offline OP
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Thank you all for your thoughts, I really really appreciate it. I had a couple nights to think about this and to talk to piano friends, and decided I should not buy this piano. The main reason is the heavier action which I think in the long run will affect my practice. One of the reasons I am looking to buy a grand is to improve on musicality and touch, and I think this piano's action does not make that path easier for me. In addition to its age, the work it would need and high maintenance, so despite its beautiful sound, I don't think it is the right piano for me!

Surprisingly, however, my tech gave it the all-clear. His first thought was that the tuning was too sharp. He determined that it hasn't been tuned in ages. The action 'needs alignment of jacks to hammer knuckles' (not sure what that means) but is otherwise fine and free of verdigris. He did recommend that eventually the hammers need to be replaced, but not the action. He says the bass strings were newer and has little rust. The dampers are okay, and soundboard looks fine. The keys look fine, and the 'lyre support is not connected' but it can be installed later. He did appraise it at half of what the seller was asking, but said if I bought it, he will fix all the above for less than $1k. The one thing I did not agree with him was that he said the piano was very clean. He must have missed all the cobwebs, dust and dead bugs!

So that threw me off a little! However, Carey sent me a message saying that he found a 2001 Kawai RX2 in Arizona that was available at my budget, and I had actually played that same piano some months ago and loved it, but assumed it had been sold. So compared to the older Steinway and taking the advice on here, I think I should refocus my attention to newer pianos. After all I am buying a piano for pleasure, and a 89 year old unrestored antique might be inviting trouble. Sigh!!!!

Re: Thoughts on this 1929 Steinway S/M? [Re: schinl] #2744483
06/14/18 05:48 PM
06/14/18 05:48 PM
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A fellow I studied with back in the day had this wit of bizdom: If some of these housewives knew how dirty pianos get on the inside, they would not let them into their houses!


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