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Joined: Mar 2018
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oldMH Offline OP
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Hello,

I have received an estimate for restoration/rebuilding on a turn of the (previous) century instrument. What I don't know about piano restoration would fill a library full of books so I thought I would check with you experts. Our goal is to understand the work required to make the piano as mechanically good as it can be - realize its full potential, equal or exceed the original spec.

First, does anyone have general advice on how to proceed off an appraisal to ensure clarity on the scope and quality and ensure no surprises at the end? The bid I have is generally comprehensive and breaks down by case, action and guts. When you have restored or rebuilt pianos, what have been the issues or dramas which could have been ameliorated with more discussion up front?

Second, does anyone have a detailed list of all the potential work to a grand piano for me to cross-check anything which might have been omitted (or is intentionally out of scope) so I can ask about it? It would be nice to have a checklist of every possible part of the job and agree which will be in scope, out of scope and contingent.

Third, when it comes to the action, we have a proposal to mostly restore/rebuild as opposed to replace with new. This is based on both the original quality (high) and current condition (fair) of the parts. I know some people pull most or all of the action out of a piano and replace it with a modern one (e.g. Renner). I'm guessing no action builder supplies a drop-in action which would fit this piano, thus it is better to work off the existing one and replace worn parts. This will maintain originality but potentially not achieve modern high performance. Thoughts?

Fourth, ivory keys are in rough shape. How much restoration is possible on these without replacing them? Will they look "like new" or just polished up a bit in the end? Do you prefer to replace with vinyl?

Thanks

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At the end of this article is a list of potential work in rebuilding a piano. I am not sure if it includes everything possible but my guess is it's pretty complete:
https://www.pianobuyer.com/article/buying-a-used-or-restored-piano-buying-a-restored-piano/

What make piano is being restored? What is its year of manufacture? Have you checked with other potential rebuilders about the possibility of replacing the action? I am not sure, but I think the M&H WNG action parts can be ordered in any size necessary. Some other PW posters can verify if this is true.

If you can post a picture of the ivory keys some dealers/rebuilders will be able to tell you how good they will look if they are repaired.

I also suggest posting some pictures of the piano's interior and exterior and a list of the proposed restoration steps. Then some posters more knowledgeable than me will be able to help you evaluate the proposed work.

If you cross post this on the Piano Forum you will probably get some additional useful replies.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/11/19 08:27 AM.
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If you have to ask these types of questions after receiving an estimate from your rebuilder, then he didn't do a good job in informing you of the process.

When I give an estimate for rebuilding, i do an in depth evaluation of the piano. Then I open my little kit of new parts, and i show the customer a side by side comparison of each part that needs to be replaced or repaired. I even have a soundboard they can listen to! After i'm done the customer know exactly what i'm going to do and the price.
-chris


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Your rebuilder should have available examples of his work that you can see and play.


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Ahhhh, we could write a BOOK!

Do you have the book, "Pianos Inside and Out?"

You should. In it is a pretty good estimator sheet, also. As extensive as that book is, ...

IT. DON'T. NEARLY. COVER. IT. ALL.

In spite of the fact that you are a customer, not a technician, if you are about to foot the **bill for a full restoration of an "Old Mason & Hamlin" done right, it would be well worth the cost of that book to get your bearings.

** In my neck of the woods, that bill could be $22-25K and in some more expensive cost-of-living-zones, could be 40% higher.


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RestorerPhil is "right on the money".

Assuming your restorer already has an excellent reputation in your area, you should have confidence in him.

Have you tried any of his work, or spoken to anyone who has had him restore their piano?

Pwg


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You really would want to be sure that an expenditure of this magnitude is going to be worth it in terms of a) the potential the piano has to be good, with work done well and b) the ability of the rebuilder to do the work optimally.

Otherwise, for the money involved, buying another, younger (or even new) piano must be an option.

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oldMH Offline OP
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I have enormous confidence in the rebuilder. I just wanted to ensure we had as comprehensive a written scope document as possible to ensure there were no surprises later about what was included or not. Your suggestions have been excellent, especially the pianobuyer link. I have a paper copy somewhere around here. I'll check back in 12-18 months and let you all know how it turned out.


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