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1922 Mason AA inspection tips
#2982335 05/21/20 10:31 PM
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Hi guys. A friend of mine is selling his mom's 1922 Mason & Hamlin AA. If it sounds good, it may be a prospect for me. I've been looking for a project piano to eventually replace my baby grand. I can pretty much fix or replace anything to do with the action or strings, or any mechanical parts. The thing I can't do is replace a soundboard or pull the plate. If the piano sounds good, holds tune, and the ribs are tight to the soundboard, and everything else looks solid, what else should I be wary of in one of these old Masons?

Also, was 1922 a good year for them?

Thanks for any tips!

Last edited by Emery Wang; 05/21/20 10:34 PM.

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Re: 1922 Mason AA inspection tips
Emery Wang #2982628 05/22/20 08:52 PM
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Alright, false alarm. Both soundboards on the Mason AA and the Steinway M they had for sale sounded dead as doornails. I think I'm sticking with pianos 20 years old or less.


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Re: 1922 Mason AA inspection tips
Emery Wang #2982668 05/23/20 12:21 AM
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Emery,
I think you should reconsider if you are looking for a phenomenal piano. There are some pianos when rebuilt don't deliver and others that deliver big time. Mason and Hamlin AA is one of the best. Very well built. I delivered one of my rebuilds to a university a year ago, and was able to hear it again a year later. A real powerhouse. Very rich sounding piano especially after the breaking in period. The cracked soundboards are quite common in Mason and Hamlins due to the extra stiff rims and the fact that the Boston climate is Topsy Turvy. They come through my shop on a regular basis, so people respect the brand.[Linked Image]
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Re: 1922 Mason AA inspection tips
Emery Wang #2982736 05/23/20 09:16 AM
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To add to Chernobieff’s response, there could be other reasons they sound ‘dead as doornails’. I’ve played plenty of old M&H and Steinway pianos which sounded great, soundboard cracks and all. And I’ve played new ones and rebuilt ones which aren’t great. Even my own 1951 M&H sounded only ‘ok’ when I bought it—I didn’t imagine it was possible to get the profound improvement it had by replacing the hammers (the action had been well taken care of and previously had Steinway hammers on it with plenty of life).

The point is that there are multiple reasons for an unsatisfactory tone which may be addressable without replacing the soundboard.

Last edited by jsilva; 05/23/20 09:18 AM.
Re: 1922 Mason AA inspection tips
Emery Wang #2983695 Yesterday at 12:51 PM
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Thanks guys. I agree a Mason would be a great rebuild candidate if I had the ability to do a complete rebuild. I feel comfortable even up to removing the plate for re-guilding, but don't know that I have the ability to replace the soundboard. And I wouldn't want to hope the current soundboard is good, replace strings and do all the other work, only to find I need to remove everything again and replace the board.

As for the board sounding dead now: I have a 1927 Kurtzmann upright that someone gave me, and the reason I took it was that it sounded strong with no buzzing and good sustain despite its age and worn out hammers. This told me the soundboard was still good, and the strings even sound fine too. In this case, I'm confident just rebuilding the action and replacing hammers will make the piano sound pretty good.

If the Mason I just checked out had a good soundboard, I'd expect it to perform like the Kurtzmann did in testing. However, neither striking the keys nor plucking the strings gave a good resonant tone, so it made me think the soundboard would need replacement before anything else.


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Re: 1922 Mason AA inspection tips
Emery Wang #2983748 Yesterday at 01:51 PM
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Seems to me that if you have that much comfort even up to removing the plate that you could take the next step of replacing the soundboard smile Maybe you don’t trust yourself, but I know that people here would likely give you tips.


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