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Estonia Pianos
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#1683354 05/23/11 09:29 PM
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There is a 1928 Chas M. Stieff 6'1" grand piano advertized locally for $2500. It looks like it is in original shape.

I had never hear of them until now, and they aren't even mentioned in Larry Fine's book, so I did a bit of research. If you can believe what you read on the web they are a pretty good piano.

I've been saving up for a new or nearly new grand at least 6', and at this point have it narrowed down to Estonia, Petrof or Boston. But I'm probably at least 3 years away from that.

I have considered a older piano, possibly a fixer upper, and at this price I could start now.

This is my first post here, but I've been following this off and on for some time.

Any educated opinions? Thanks!


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
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In a piano of that vintage it always comes down to condition, however, Stieff was generally considered a very fine piano in its day. It had good build quality and materials, however, they never got the name recognition of their Baltimore competitor, Knabe.


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As a Baltimore dealer for many, many years, I have seen and sold a number of Stieffs. In good condition, they were a very fine piano. The problem is that few are still in good shape, most needing rebuilding. However, unless they are in an art case or have setimental value, rebuilding a Stieff isn't usually a financially sound idea as their lack of name recognition nationally reduces their resale value.

And, you never know how a rebuilt piano will perform until is is actually rebuilt.


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Thank you very much, this will help me make a better evaluation.

I plan to see the piano this Friday May 27. I'm curious to know how one of these made it to western Canada!


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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That's a nice sized piano. Chas M. Stieff (pronounced STEEF) was indeed a very well regarded piano maker. When you go see the piano be sure and find the serial number of the piano and report back to us.

Years ago, in Newport, Rhode Island, I met a man who was a member of the Stieff family, actually named Stieff. He asked if I'd heard of them? Yes, I had. He told me something like that his great grandfather had been THE Charles Stieff, that they had made some nice grand pianos that he thought compared to the best American made grand pianos, etc.

What Steve Cohen said bears repeating; you never know how a rebuilt piano will perform until is is actually rebuilt.

You can find yourself a nice basic piano to have rebuilt, a “core” as some call them. That's basically the case, the keyboard and the plate. That Stieff piano might or might not be a candidate. If any of those things has physical problems, especially the plate, it's a red flag and a no go. In a really old piano the rebuilder has the choice of replacing the action (not always possible) or modernizing it with replacement parts (not always so easy). And it will be expensive, at this point you can buy a new Chinese piano of the same size for less and believe me, you can buy quality from China these days. I've seen and played them.

Would I do something like this anyway? If money were no option, and if the case was an art case, maybe. But there's no guarantee how they will sound when they come back. You may or may not like the result even if the bare minimum requirements are met; that it looks, plays and sounds as if brand new.

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I agree with the other fine responses you have received here. I do have some thoughts keying in on another aspect of your post.

You say that you are 3 years away from your goal, but you don't say what you are playing now. If the Steiff is a pleasure to play, would it be helpful to your development as a pianist to own and play it for the next three years? If so, it's worth exploring further.

I have a 1911 Stieff in my living room that I enjoy playing everyday. I'm a piano technician, and someday, I'll take the time to do a full rebuild. But until that day, I enjoy it very much!

Before investing $2500 in an old piano, it would be wise to check it out with a technician, so you have more objective criteria about its condition. For instance, unless I'm planning an immediate full rebuild, (including pinblock replacement) I won't buy a piano which has less than 40 lb-in of tuning pin torque.

If you like the way the piano performs now, and your checkout shows that that value is there, then buy it, play it, and sell it for $2500 in three years. Enjoy the heck out of it!

But -- in reality -- to buy it, rebuild it, and expect it to be the equivalent of your Estonia, Petrof, or Boston goal -- no. You could reach the quality goal, but your investment would exceed the ultimate market value.



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Stief is a proud old Baltimore name. In addition to manufacturing pianos, they are famous for their sterling silver service.

Be sure to have this instrument thoroughly reviewed by a competent technician. My sister-in-law purchased a very old Stief baby grand (I'm not sure of the size) for about the same price that you mention. Her technician recommended it, and she loves it.

When I played it, I found the action to be very stiff and heavy, the tone washed out. In short, I didn't like it at all.

Still, she's happy, so all's fine. I'm happy too, because I bought a new Hailun 178, which has a smooth action and a super tone. She has never traveled to my state to play it, but I sort of dread that she will visit and play it. I just hope that she never realizes that she purchased a very inferior instrument. Even the best instruments wear out and age.

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Thank you again for those very helpful posts!

I saw the piano today. Sounds lovely, very nice and mellow like I like. I'm getting a technician to check it next week.

Case is what one would expect of a piano this age, lots of shallow scratches and a few minor chips. Definately would need refinishing if used in living room, but this would be going in my basement.

Soundboard has a few very small cracks.

Action is a bit tired but certainly playable.

Two spliced bass strings, several newer bass strings, one missing treble string. 4 or five new pins.

Two missing hammers A7 & C8, way up there!

Apparently tuned last Sept, but a few strings are slightly flat, suggesting some loose pins.


I played several Hailun and a few Petrof pianos today. Definately spoiled me a bit for an 83 year old piano, however the 83 yo does have it's charm!

I still prefer the Petrof sound and action over the Hailun, but the Hailun is a very nice piano, especially for the price. I could definately live with one!

If I'm patient and focused I could probably own one in 2-3 years. Even tho I'm kinda charmed by the Stieff, the Hailun probably makes more sense. I gotta learn more about these.

Better quit now!

Last edited by MrMagic; 05/29/11 09:17 AM.

1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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One of the "charms" of owing a late 19th, early 20th century piano is realizing that it was built when Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Granados and many others (feel free to add!) were composing. But still a "mostly" modern instrument. I like to think there is some of those composer's DNA in that period's instruments (ridiculous, I know but that's how I feel when playing mine).

And, at my age. it's nice to know there is something around that is older than you! grin

Last edited by Bart Kinlein; 05/28/11 06:29 AM.

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Originally Posted by Bart Kinlein
One of the "charms" of owing a late 19th, early 20th century piano is realizing that it was built when Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Granados and many others (feel free to add!) were composing. But still a "mostly" modern instrument. I like to think there is some of those composer's DNA in that period's instruments (ridiculous, I know but that's how I feel when playing mine).

And, at my age. it's nice to know there is something around that is older than you! grin


I hadn't thought about that kind of charm but yes, I suppose you are right.

I was also charmed by the new pianos, but in a different way. And that is what makes me aware of the charm of older things, in that they can please us without being new and modern.

And you can't put a dollar value on charm.


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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I had the privilege of playing a rebuilt Chas M. Stieff from the vintage you describe and close to the same size. The rebuilder talked the institution (owner) of the old piano, out of buying a new instrument (he sold new and does re-building) The Chas M. Stieff was delightful to play and I look forward to making a trip back to the city where it is located to play it again. I would not make the trip just to see and play a new instrument.

Keep in mind that the rebuild probably cost the same as buying a new piano of similar size. However, the unique and charming voice of the old Chas M. Stieff will be a fond memory for me for a long time.


1904 Henry F. Miller Concert Grand * 2002 Estonia 190 Satin Bubinga * 2008 Schulze-Pohlman vertical 125 polished cherrywood peacock design * 2008 Schoenhut minature grand (49 keys) * 2008 Roland Digital Harpsichord, 2010 Roland FP-4 (88 key slab).
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Of course, the problem with this brand is that the action was known to be rather .... stieff.

[Linked Image]

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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is that with a Scottish or French accent??

Last edited by MrMagic; 05/28/11 02:52 PM.

1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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By your own assessment of its condition the piano is already a maintenance problem. I would a avoid it.


Amanda Reckonwith
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"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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Thank you rXd, I have the feeling the tech report will confirm that. frown

My plan is to see if it is worth restoring to the point that it played and sounded well. I don't need it to look good at this point as it will be going into my basement. There is already an old upright and Hammond organ upstairs!

Last edited by MrMagic; 05/29/11 11:23 AM.

1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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Well I've made a deal on the piano! Had a very experienced rebuilder check it out. He reminded me to keep in mind that it is an old piano and has been well used, but nothing seriously wrong.

After the current owner is finished teaching on it in two weeks it's going directly to the rebuilder's shop for a new bridge, strings, tuning pins, and some work on the action for now. No missing or chipped keytops, so the cosmetic stuff can wait.


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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New pinblock, too (I hope)?


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No, I asked about that but they are just putting in oversize pins. They can repair any pin holes that are oversize.


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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I finished the deal on the piano and is now at the rebuilder's shop. I had a chance to play it again and I still love it!

So now I am the happy new owner of a 1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" grand piano!

It's apparent that some work has been done on it in the past.

Considering the cost of refinishing the cabinet and the real value of the piano, I am researching the possibility of doing it myself. I will seek some feedback and experiences in a new post.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]
Unfortunately the room it was in was quite small with a window directly behind it so photography was difficult.


1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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Went to visit my grandbaby today, looks great but sounds terrible! Just finished stringing and first tuning last week. Many more tunings to come before it's ready.
[Linked Image]
Notice the split treble bridge?

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IMG_2067 Small.jpg
Last edited by MrMagic; 08/23/11 01:08 AM.

1928 Chas. M. Stieff 6'1" Grand. Major rebuild 2011
1920 Mason & Risch Upright (actually my mother's)
1971 Hammond R-100
Roland KR577
Roland VK-8M Tonewheel organ module
GigaStudio GS3 Ensemble (Bosendorfer & Estonia piano samples)
Roland E20, JV30 (retired)
An old concertina which I can't play
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