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Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. #2810062
02/02/19 11:30 PM
02/02/19 11:30 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
M
MatVirani Offline OP
Junior Member
MatVirani  Offline OP
Junior Member
M

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
Hi all,
I am a professional pianist, looking to buy several pianos to practice on in Toronto. I came across a Willis piano with Louis XV art case today, beautiful case with wonderful tone. The piano plays well. It's a very small baby grand (the owner says he has measured 4'6", which sounds unusually small). It has been refurbished at some point in the 1990s, and the folks who refurbished it (I shall not name names), decided in their good judgement to paint over the serial number of the piano. But the owner claims they gave him the serial number - he passed it to me on a piece of paper, and it would put the piano at around 1950, which sounds about right judging by its look and condition.

The piano has a few cracks on its soundboard, most notably, there is a very large crack that extends all the way from front to back. This crack must have been there when they refurbished, as I could see traces of a few drops of glue around the crack here and there. Other than that, there is something grey under the piano that I have not seen before. It could be mold, dust, or residues of something a technician tried to apply there? I am posting pictures to hear your opinions on the crack and how damaging it may be to the sound or durability of the piano in the future. It is running parallel to the bridge over which the strings are secured. I am also hoping that the thing I see under the piano is not mold or termites. I'd appreciate your thoughts. They're asking 5000 for piano.
https://imgur.com/a/aVrghGb

Last edited by MatVirani; 02/02/19 11:33 PM.
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Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810085
02/03/19 01:08 AM
02/03/19 01:08 AM
Joined: Sep 2018
Posts: 510
Chernobieff Piano Offline
500 Post Club Member
Chernobieff Piano  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2018
Posts: 510
It doesn't look like a piano worth $5k to me. Signs of Amateurish soundboard repair work. When the soundboard shim is installed correctly, it can practically be invisible. With the shim separating like it is, this means that the shim was not dried out properly before install. Looks like they used fiberglass resin as a glue instead of a wood glue. Looks like resin drops to me. They didn't even clean that off. Then the screws were used to re-attach the panel to the rib stock, and they left those there too. Looks like rib damage in the pic, not sure.

If it was me and i liked the cabinet, I'd say $500 or goodbye.
-Good luck
-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
www.chernobieffpiano.com
grandpianoman@protonmail.com
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810099
02/03/19 02:09 AM
02/03/19 02:09 AM
Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 2,070
Michigan
K
kpembrook Offline
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kpembrook  Offline
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2000 Post Club Member
K

Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 2,070
Michigan
This is a symptom of people coming to believe that any answer can be found on the internet.

The best favor we can do for you is to let you know that the only valid source of information for consideration of particular pianos is to secure the services of a local competent piano technician who is not associated with the seller.

People from other areas will not know your market in terms of comparative value and neither is it really possible to offer anything other than a wild opinion about whether a particular instrument is a "diamond in the rough" or in the "do not pass Go, go straight to the landfill" category.

In this case, yes, it's ugly. But the question, "Does it matter in terms of performance?" can only be answered by a competent onsite technician.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: Chernobieff Piano] #2810100
02/03/19 02:17 AM
02/03/19 02:17 AM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
M
MatVirani Offline OP
Junior Member
MatVirani  Offline OP
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M

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
Thank you for that. It is very helpful.

Would you say the piano is worth as little as 500, even if it plays well? I assume you think the piano will not play well for much longer or hold tuning given the fundamental problems.

I saw the crack on the rib, but I wasn't sure how much of an issue that would be. I was furious to see that they painted over the serial number, and knew right away it must have been a careless rebuilding job. To me, that is comparable to a car that has had its odometer tampered with. I visited the place where the piano was rebuilt immediately after I saw the piano, and asked them why they would do such a thing. They said they would never paint over the serial number. So I walked over to a piano in their store, and showed them that they had painted over its serial number. The guy says "ah! yes, that's just cosmetic work to make the plate look nicer!"

Last edited by MatVirani; 02/03/19 02:18 AM.
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: kpembrook] #2810101
02/03/19 02:29 AM
02/03/19 02:29 AM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
M
MatVirani Offline OP
Junior Member
MatVirani  Offline OP
Junior Member
M

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
kpembrook, I completely understand where you are coming from.

I have lived in 2 different Canadian provinces, and 2 different states, and have over the years, purchased close to a dozen pianos in different cities. The first three times I bought pianos, I hired the finest PTG-certified technicians in town to check them for me, each time a different technician.

To give you an example, the first one looked at two pianos I showed him to compare, and after being paid hundreds of dollars for his expertise, all he told me was: "what do you want me to tell you? This one is a couple years newer, I'd go for the newer one..." My next two experiences hiring technicians to check pianos were not much different. They could tell me nothing I didn't know. They didn't even inspect the piano with the same care that I usually do. It would be near impossible for me to find someone locally who could provide me with the same level of detailed response that Chernobieff was kind enough to provide.

Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810210
02/03/19 01:18 PM
02/03/19 01:18 PM
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 249
PA
J
jsilva Offline
Full Member
jsilva  Offline
Full Member
J

Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 249
PA
Those photos do seem concerning, but if it plays well and has a wonderful tone it’s hard to criticise. I don’t know your locale and conditions there nor do I know anything about Willis pianos, but I personally wouldn’t pay $5000 for it if I were interested in a piano that size. I’ve seen bigger pianos of decent brands going for less than that in my general area.

Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810212
02/03/19 01:21 PM
02/03/19 01:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 5,295
Seattle, WA USA
E
Ed McMorrow, RPT Online content
5000 Post Club Member
Ed McMorrow, RPT  Online Content
5000 Post Club Member
E

Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 5,295
Seattle, WA USA
In Seattle a little grand like that would almost be unsalable. That means it is worth $0.

The gray stuff looks like animal hair that got stuck on the still drying glue runoff. Mayber they raised dust from the floor when the time came for the annual shop floor sweep. Do they have a shop dog?


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2810221
02/03/19 01:54 PM
02/03/19 01:54 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
M
MatVirani Offline OP
Junior Member
MatVirani  Offline OP
Junior Member
M

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
Ed, they did have a dog, and that is a decent guess, but I don't think it looked like hair. It's not a shop, I am considering buying it from a private seller.

Toronto's used piano market is the most competitive I have ever seen. When I lived in NYC, I got a top-brand piano in much better condition than this for free; they begged me to take it or they would have to leave it on the side of the road. 80s and 90s Yamaha G2s one could find for 2000-3000 in NYC, which I consider a great bargain. In Toronto, there seems to be several piano dealers who are controlling the market by buying up anything valuable from private sellers, storing them somewhere (the grands stored vertically with legs off) until they have room in their showroom to put it on display. Then they do these cheap rebuilding jobs, focusing mostly on cabinets, erase the serial numbers, and present the piano to the customer as if it were new. The two piano stores/rebuilders I visited wouldn't disclose the exact age of the pianos they were advertising, neither do I think they knew the age, having removed the serial numbers. They would simply say "it's a used one" or "that's an older model." It's very frustrating!

Last edited by MatVirani; 02/03/19 01:58 PM.
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: kpembrook] #2810230
02/03/19 02:13 PM
02/03/19 02:13 PM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,646
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member
David Jenson  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,646
Strong, Maine
Originally Posted by kpembrook
This is a symptom of people coming to believe that any answer can be found on the internet.

The best favor we can do for you is to let you know that the only valid source of information for consideration of particular pianos is to secure the services of a local competent piano technician who is not associated with the seller.

People from other areas will not know your market in terms of comparative value and neither is it really possible to offer anything other than a wild opinion about whether a particular instrument is a "diamond in the rough" or in the "do not pass Go, go straight to the landfill" category.

In this case, yes, it's ugly. But the question, "Does it matter in terms of performance?" can only be answered by a competent onsite technician.


YES!!!


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810563
02/04/19 01:17 PM
02/04/19 01:17 PM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 774
Zichron Yaacov, Israel
S
Steve Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member
Steve Jackson  Offline
500 Post Club Member
S

Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 774
Zichron Yaacov, Israel
Originally Posted by MatVirani
Ed, they did have a dog, and that is a decent guess, but I don't think it looked like hair. It's not a shop, I am considering buying it from a private seller.

Toronto's used piano market is the most competitive I have ever seen. When I lived in NYC, I got a top-brand piano in much better condition than this for free; they begged me to take it or they would have to leave it on the side of the road. 80s and 90s Yamaha G2s one could find for 2000-3000 in NYC, which I consider a great bargain. In Toronto, there seems to be several piano dealers who are controlling the market by buying up anything valuable from private sellers, storing them somewhere (the grands stored vertically with legs off) until they have room in their showroom to put it on display. Then they do these cheap rebuilding jobs, focusing mostly on cabinets, erase the serial numbers, and present the piano to the customer as if it were new. The two piano stores/rebuilders I visited wouldn't disclose the exact age of the pianos they were advertising, neither do I think they knew the age, having removed the serial numbers. They would simply say "it's a used one" or "that's an older model." It's very frustrating!

Although I am no longer in Toronto, I can say with complete authority that what you say is no where near the truth of the matter. Most dealers there are sending used pianos to the dump due to lack of a market. I sent two Steinway uprights to the dump in Toronto a few years ago.

Steve

Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: MatVirani] #2810727
02/04/19 07:09 PM
02/04/19 07:09 PM
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 135
E
edferris Offline
Full Member
edferris  Offline
Full Member
E

Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 135
Wasn't Willis a stencil brand made for Willis Music in Cincinnati? If so, how did it get to Toronto?
It is impossible for a 4-6 grand to have a "wonderful tone". Try playing a Rachmaninoff prelude on it.
$500 is a fair price for a baby grand in playable condition. One with a soundboard crack should be $0.

Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: edferris] #2810741
02/04/19 07:36 PM
02/04/19 07:36 PM
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 478
Montreal
P
pyropaul Offline
Full Member
pyropaul  Offline
Full Member
P

Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 478
Montreal
Originally Posted by edferris
Wasn't Willis a stencil brand made for Willis Music in Cincinnati? If so, how did it get to Toronto?
It is impossible for a 4-6 grand to have a "wonderful tone". Try playing a Rachmaninoff prelude on it.
$500 is a fair price for a baby grand in playable condition. One with a soundboard crack should be $0.



No, Willis was a pure Canadian manufacturer (and also they did Steinway restorations in the 1950s or so).

See Willis Piano Company History

Paul

Re: Opinions needed on piano crack - Willis and Co. [Re: Steve Jackson] #2811058
02/05/19 04:24 PM
02/05/19 04:24 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
M
MatVirani Offline OP
Junior Member
MatVirani  Offline OP
Junior Member
M

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 8
Steve, can I get some of those Steinway uprights that you are about to send to the dump? There was one posted on Facebook Marketplace last week for $1000 (piano was at a church, so likely, not excellent condition). It was a very small upright, the size of those Wurlitzer consoles or Baldwin Acrosonics. I arranged to go see it 1 hour after it was posted. They told me someone is coming to pick it up the next day. You can't arrange for movers that quickly. Whoever offered to pick it up the next day 1 hour after posting, was either a piano shop that knew they could restore and sell that upright north of 10k (and that is the pricing I see for Steinway uprights at the stores here), or it was someone with a pickup truck who thought they could do the move themselves. I am not sure, but either way, old Steinway didn't last a day at 1,000.

I have now looked at more than a dozen privately-listed pianos in Toronto, focusing mostly on North American or European built pianos. Every single one of them has had a soundboard crack, some much more serious humidity damage. Not all cracks were as severe as the Willis pictures I posted, but they do all have soundboard cracks of some sort. I think it has something to do with severe temprature/humidity fluctuations between summer/winter here. I wish I could buy pianos elsewhere and ship them over, but I can't commit to buying a piano without trying it.

Last edited by MatVirani; 02/05/19 04:29 PM.

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