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Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? #2921215 12/09/19 09:11 AM
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Varrin Swearingen Offline OP
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Y'all,

I've been lurking for some time and have read quite a lot here and elsewhere to try and educate myself, but registered so I could toss this situation out to the hive mind for feedback. I've had a regularly maintained but non-restored (maybe mostly or entirely original) early-40's (maybe 1941?) Knabe 5'3 grand for ~15 years. It was previously a church piano. When regularly tuned, it sounded nice (not excellent but pleasant enough) and everything worked (no sticky keys, etc). It wasn't a creampuff but it met my needs and I wasn't remotely considering replacing it until...

A couple months ago we had a plumbing/HVAC failure while on vacation which resulted in very high heat and humidity all through the house. The piano was damaged as a result. The damage was noticeably the finish (alas, the lid was open, so it's not uniform), and rust development on the strings and some other metal bits. The keys all still work. The soundboard, case, and harp are intact. I've gotten estimates for a full rebuild and damage-only repair at $20k and $10k respectively (pre-damage, the value estimate was $2500 which sounds plausible to me).

I'd like a piano to play on, so I have been biased towards replacing it since nobody in our area seems to have time to take on the project anytime soon. However, it seems like this could be a good candidate for some level of rebuilding. My instinct for myself would be to do the minimum necessary refinishing to preserve the cabinet and spend some money inside getting it to sound lovely and play well (I'm not primarily a pianist so the detailed intricacies of world-cllass action are less important to me than fantastic sound). My wife comments on the sentimental value, which, though not so high that it's a slam dunk, does seem to keep coming up (there's a story as to how we obtained the piano in the first place).

From an objective set of minds here, how does this vintage and size Knabe rank in terms of the preference for rebuilding or at least preserving? Seems if it was a Steinway or Mason, or even a pre~30's Knabe >5 1/2', it'd be a slam dunk. Given it's a later and smaller model, does that cross the line into "maybe pass"?

And with the right internal work, is it reasonable to assume it would sound better than ever before? (I presume so, but a second opinion might be useful here) I'm happy to spend some money on the project if it makes sense. The cost of replacements that I seem to gravitate towards start around $15k (used) and go up from there.

I guess I hate to see a potentially delightful piano go to the dump...

V-


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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921223 12/09/19 09:36 AM
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V - I just had a peek at Craiglist for Keene, NH, and... were I in your position, unless this Knabe is of extreme sentimental value and importance too you, I'd give it away.

There were several interesting possibilities listed around $8K. I noticed a Steinert that looked really nice (I've got a 6'10" one myself). They play and sound like NY Steinways, and they cost a lost less.

...and, there were other candidates as well.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921237 12/09/19 10:32 AM
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Hello, Varrin Swearingen! Welcome to Piano World!

I read your thread with interest. I've heard and read that the older Knabes do sound good, with a rich, mellow tone. I can understand your dilemma and mixed emotional feelings.

Here are a few thoughts from a non-pro, (AKA, backwoods, hillbilly piano player wannabe:-)... smile

It has been my experience that very high quality pianos can last a long time, even with frequent playing, if taken care of and housed in a good environment. They can last a long time even when not taken care of and housed in a harsh environment, to an extent. But there are limits to a pianos longevity based on what time and age itself can do to an acoustic piano. But you know that already... smile

As for me, I've had some older (upright) pianos that I have tinkered with and done some partial restoration of the insides and perhaps refinish the outside. I enjoyed working on them and enjoyed the fruit of my labors for a while. But after a time, I realized that I still had an old piano.

The same goes for the old pickup trucks, and old farm tractors that I have restored, completely, and from front to back on a couple of them. Again, I admired my work and I admired my old truck or old tractor. But after a while, I realized that I still had an old truck or an old tractor, although in excellent, restored condition.

For what it would cost you to have the Knabe completely rebuilt, or even just repair of the damage it incurred, you could likely find a very nice, newer, later model baby grand piano that would satisfy your hands and ears when you play, and your vision when you look at it. As much as I like old pianos, and still have a few, I have come to the conclusion that new/newer is better.

Also, I've played some of the newer pianos and was impressed with the tone and touch. I've also played a few new/newer pianos that I was not at all impressed with. But my level of playing is mediocre at best, however, I do know what sounds good and plays good to me.

You could possibly find a newer, younger, pre-owned grand of a reputable brand that would meet your needs well, and perhaps for much less than the cost of a rebuild. And, even if you had the Knabe completely rebuilt, it might not sound exactly the way you remember it...

Sorry for rambling on, but it's early and my mind is going through the gears, with coffee as transmission fluid... smile

Good luck!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921278 12/09/19 12:51 PM
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Welcome to PW, Varrin Swearingen!

You said:

Quote
The cost of replacements that I seem to gravitate towards start around $15k (used) and go up from there.


Does this mean you've gone out and actually played some used pianos, and found that this is the price of the ones you like? If yes, then ignore this next comment. If no, then my advice (of course) is to go out and do some test-playing. I just purchased a 20 y/o Yamaha C2 (5'8") for a good bit less than that, and it sounds amazing. So I would imagine with a little patience, you should be able to find a replacement for your Knabe without breaking the bank. If after test-playing 10 or 15 pianos, you think none of them sound better than the potential you think your Knabe has, get the Knabe repaired. I suspect you'll find something you like as much or better though.

The other issue here is this: there are no guarantees in terms of the outcome of any repairs you have done to your current piano. It could come out sounding better than ever. Or not. You won't know until you have the work done. Given the outlay of money and time, IMO it's too risky. If you buy a used piano not in need of repairs, you pretty much know what you're getting. And you don't have a big stretch of time where you're waiting without an instrument.

A comment about sentimental value.... given that you didn't mention it and only said you've had the instrument for about 15 years, am I correct in assuming that this isn't a cherished family instrument that was passed down to you from a relative? If so, I don't get the sentimental attachment to an instrument that no longer sounds the way it once did and also doesn't look as nice. That might make me sound kind of cold, but my main priority with regard to pianos is function: does it sound good? does it look good? If the answer is no, it's time for a new one.

So count me as one of the naysayers who will recommend that you consider buying a good quality used instrument to replace the Knabe.

So to be so crabby! I think I need a snack! whome


Started piano June 1999.
Proud owner of a Yamaha C2

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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921292 12/09/19 01:11 PM
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My very personal opinion is to replace it too. I would not be able to justify to myself paying $10k for "damage-only" repairs to a piano that's worth $2,500. It doesn't make sense to my very objective mind.

HOWEVER, sentimental value is, of course, priceless...but OP says it used to be a church piano, so now I'm very curious to know the story behind the sentimental value. confused grin

Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: ShiroKuro] #2921465 12/09/19 10:39 PM
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Varrin Swearingen Offline OP
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Y'all,

Thank you so much for the feedback! smile

Originally Posted by Seeker
... unless this Knabe is of extreme sentimental value and importance too you, I'd give it away.


I wouldn't call the sentimental value extreme.

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
...but OP says it used to be a church piano, so now I'm very curious to know the story behind the sentimental value. confused grin


I'll try to be brief. The very first Sunday we visited the church from which the piano came, I wound up accidentally making the deal to acquire the piano. We wound up staying there and the topic comes up from time to time ("How's the old piano doing?" "Now, not so good..."). The deal was good for us and the church. In addition to continuing to attend, my wife now works there and I play drums there regularly (bass less often, and piano on rare occasion).

Originally Posted by Rickster
And, even if you had the Knabe completely rebuilt, it might not sound exactly the way you remember it...

... and...
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
The other issue here is this: there are no guarantees in terms of the outcome of any repairs you have done to your current piano.


This is a concern of mine. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the way it sounded, but (see the story above) its overall value was very good. If I'm going to spend a bunch of money, I'd be much more concerned about the sound when it's finished. The uncertainty there is definitely a consideration.

Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Does this mean you've gone out and actually played some used pianos, and found that this is the price of the ones you like?


Yes... sort of. I've played new and used pianos that I've liked and not liked at a wide variety of price points. My most unexpected experience so far was playing two C3's side by side that sounded so different I couldn't believe they were the same model of piano! But I haven't played anything under $10k that I thought was worth paying that money for, and it's increasingly difficult for me to justify paying much more than $20k-ish if I can find a good sounding instrument for less, especially given it's not my primary instrument.

The $15k-$20k used Yamahas (mostly C1's and C3's) I've played have been hit and miss but some were very satisfying. There was a used Mason AA that was attractively priced and played well, but I think I liked the idea of the price/brand combo more than the actual piano, good though it was. I think I could find something in the teens that I'd like well enough to spend that amount on. I think there may even be a new piano or two under $20k that could be an enjoyable value. I'm not done looking yet. But I haven't found one yet at ~$10k or less that I thought was a winner. A C2 would be in the sweet spot for my room and budget if I could find a great one that doesn't sound Yamaha-harsh. Given I'll keep the piano in my studio, it seems like a newer used GC2 might really be a solid contender if I could find a good one around here...

Thank you all for your comments. I'll do more piano shopping tomorrow. Hopefully there'll be a "wow" moment at some point!

Oh, and I did just today get an offer from a rebuilder to take the Knabe as is for a rebuild-and-sell project so it sounds like the dumpster won't be its ultimate fate for now. Maybe knowing it might live on is enough sentimental satisfaction???

V-


Drums / Percussion, Piano, and Bass. 80's Yamaha C5
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921470 12/09/19 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Varrin Swearingen
I'll try to be brief. The very first Sunday we visited the church from which the piano came, I wound up accidentally making the deal to acquire the piano. We wound up staying there and the topic comes up from time to time ("How's the old piano doing?" "Now, not so good..."). The deal was good for us and the church. In addition to continuing to attend, my wife now works there and I play drums there regularly (bass less often, and piano on rare occasion).

Interesting. I too played the electric bass guitar for a semi-pro Gospel Singing group many years ago, when I was still in high school. Had a ball! smile

Thing is, playing the bass guitar was not musically challenging to me, though I enjoyed it. If we played a song I was unfamiliar with, I'd ask the piano player what key it was in, and it was like I had known the song all my life and was well rehearsed! I could pick up on the key/chord progression pretty quickly, and with a good degree of accuracy (don't mean to brag, but I was told once that if what you are saying is true, it is not bragging... smile ). Also, a piano, bass guitar and drums is quite a nice musical combo.

Fast forward about 40 years, and learning to play the piano has not been so easy. smile In fact, I seem to incorporate a lot of my bass guitar playing style into my left hand on my piano playing style, for better or worse. But learning to play the piano has been a huge musical challenge for me, which is a good thing. And I love it!

Wish I had started learning to play the piano way back when I was playing the bass guitar with the Gospel group, although I did learn a few basic chords on the piano way back then.

In regards to your piano search, you will indeed find that "wow" piano... I've found it more than once during my piano search adventures! smile

Good luck to you, my friend! And, keep us informed regarding your piano acquisition journey. smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Rickster] #2921519 12/10/19 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Rickster
Originally Posted by Varrin Swearingen
I'll try to be brief. The very first Sunday we visited the church from which the piano came, I wound up accidentally making the deal to acquire the piano. We wound up staying there and the topic comes up from time to time ("How's the old piano doing?" "Now, not so good..."). The deal was good for us and the church. In addition to continuing to attend, my wife now works there and I play drums there regularly (bass less often, and piano on rare occasion).

Interesting. I too played the electric bass guitar for a semi-pro Gospel Singing group many years ago, when I was still in high school. Had a ball! smile

Thing is, playing the bass guitar was not musically challenging to me, though I enjoyed it. If we played a song I was unfamiliar with, I'd ask the piano player what key it was in, and it was like I had known the song all my life and was well rehearsed! I could pick up on the key/chord progression pretty quickly, and with a good degree of accuracy (don't mean to brag, but I was told once that if what you are saying is true, it is not bragging... smile ). Also, a piano, bass guitar and drums is quite a nice musical combo.

Fast forward about 40 years, and learning to play the piano has not been so easy. smile In fact, I seem to incorporate a lot of my bass guitar playing style into my left hand on my piano playing style, for better or worse. But learning to play the piano has been a huge musical challenge for me, which is a good thing. And I love it!

Wish I had started learning to play the piano way back when I was playing the bass guitar with the Gospel group, although I did learn a few basic chords on the piano way back then.

In regards to your piano search, you will indeed find that "wow" piano... I've found it more than once during my piano search adventures! smile

Good luck to you, my friend! And, keep us informed regarding your piano acquisition journey. smile

Rick


+1 Keep searching and "your" wow piano will find you.



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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921738 12/10/19 09:51 PM
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Varrin Swearingen Offline OP
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I do think I'll take some lessons and do a 'lil woodshedding. I ought to develop my skill if I'm gonna have a fabulous piano. Hopefully I'm not too old to learn! smile

And it appears we found two options that are contenders on our all-day piano shopping trip today. One is above our target price range but seems like a remarkably good deal and is brand new (Kawai GX5). The other is in our range, 80's-used, but shockingly good (Yamaha C5). Tough call. I had that 'moment' with both of them.... and with the concert grand Bosendorfer, but... you know... smile

In other words, feeling a lot better about the situation now!

V-


Drums / Percussion, Piano, and Bass. 80's Yamaha C5
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921740 12/10/19 10:02 PM
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I agree, let go of the old piano. Hope that helps.


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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921744 12/10/19 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Varrin Swearingen
And it appears we found two options that are contenders on our all-day piano shopping trip today. One is above our target price range but seems like a remarkably good deal and is brand new (Kawai GX5). The other is in our range, 80's-used, but shockingly good (Yamaha C5). Tough call. I had that 'moment' with both of them.... and with the concert grand Bosendorfer, but... you know... smile

In other words, feeling a lot better about the situation now!

V-


Wow, you looked at two, "WOW" pianos! Sounds like either would serve you very well. smile Glad you're feeling better about things...

Keep us posted!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2921752 12/10/19 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Varrin Swearingen
I do think I'll take some lessons and do a 'lil woodshedding. I ought to develop my skill if I'm gonna have a fabulous piano. Hopefully I'm not too old to learn! smile

And it appears we found two options that are contenders on our all-day piano shopping trip today. One is above our target price range but seems like a remarkably good deal and is brand new (Kawai GX5). The other is in our range, 80's-used, but shockingly good (Yamaha C5). Tough call. I had that 'moment' with both of them.... and with the concert grand Bosendorfer, but... you know... smile

In other words, feeling a lot better about the situation now!

V-

Based on your previous posts on this thread, I get the impression that the new Kawai GX5 would be way above your target price range, even if substantially discounted. BUT - if you can swing it - and love it - go for it !! thumb


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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2925249 12/20/19 09:58 PM
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The GX5 was, indeed, above our price range, but it was darn lovely! The place with the C5 came down a little so that wound up being the winner. Won't have it until January due to issues moving it back into the house, but I'm excited to bring it home.

I did find a guy who would take the Knabe. I asked him if he'd let me know when he's done with it so I can come play on it one last time before it goes to its new home. He said that'd be fine. All's well that ends well! smile

Thank you all again for your feedback!

V-


Drums / Percussion, Piano, and Bass. 80's Yamaha C5
Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2925253 12/20/19 10:10 PM
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Oh wow, a C5, that’s wonderful!!!
Congratulations!!

Don’t forget to share photos when it gets delivered!!


Started piano June 1999.
Proud owner of a Yamaha C2

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Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2925258 12/20/19 10:25 PM
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The C5 is a lovely piano! Congratulations! You won't be disappointed. I played a lovely used C6 today that was very nice. Now the excitement and waiting begins! wink

Re: Early-40's Knabe 5'3" - repair or replace? [Re: Varrin Swearingen] #2925368 12/21/19 11:28 AM
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Congratulations-you will love the piano.



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