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I'm looking for a good upright piano that I can bring home, tune and be happy with. I saw a listing for an1917 Elburn (J.W. Music Co.) piano for $550 near me. It looks to have been kept up well and gone through some sort of restoration process at some point, although I have yet to see the innards. The listing provided info that I'll paste below and I'll upload a few pictures. What I am NOT interested in is being sold a piano that upon getting tuned will require additional projects/repairs and restoration work BUT on the other hand if it is in fact in good working order (I should be going to see it soon to find out) I am very interested but want to make a good decision. It's a heavy thing to bring home and I hate to bring home bad news...

While I can't post pictures in these threads here is the link to the post:

LINK TO POST

Here's the listing post:


Used (normal wear)
Elburn 25623
Full Upright 52”+
Manufactured Especially for J.W. Jenkins’ Sons Music Company
Kansas City, MO
Tiger Striped Oak
For sale by owner, Full upright Elburn piano, serial #25623, made in 1917. Dark tiger-stripe oak cabinet.
All original parts in operational condition.
No cracks or splits in the soundboard or bridges. Soundboard is pristine, with a good coat of lacquer on top.
Pinblock is perfectly tight and will hold any tuning given.
Piano was tuned to non-standard pitch in preparation for this sale by a Registered Piano Technician who is available to answer any mechanical questions about the piano you may have.

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If you think you like it once you go and see/play it, hire a piano technician to check it for you. In the photo, there appears to be a hammer missing in the bass section. In the description it says, "Piano was tuned to non-standard pitch in preparation for this sale..." If it's not at A-440 standard pitch, you should find out what pitch it's at and why. Was the tuning floated high due to the time of year, or is it 1/2 step or more low in pitch?


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Like Eric, I noticed the hammer missing in the second octave or so. It is not necessarily unusual to tune a piano to itself, (below or above A-440) but could also indicate tuning pin issues, or a high risk of string breakage to bring up to pitch.

The description sounds upbeat and optimistic, but I wonder why they didn't mention the missing hammer head?

It is not a bad looking old upright, and the keytops look good, but I don't think I'd pay much for it, if anything. It depends on how much you like it when you look at it in person.

Good luck!

Rick


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Agreed with the experienced posters, above.
If you’re not looking for a project, a 100+ year old vertical piano in largely original condition (mechanically) is not where I’d typically advise a person to start.


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Absolutely not. There are better pianos available on Craigslist in the Austin area for less. (Not including the Mason & Hamlin BB in the nearby Free Stuff, which is probably a scam.)


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Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
If you think you like it once you go and see/play it, hire a piano technician to check it for you. In the photo, there appears to be a hammer missing in the bass section. In the description it says, "Piano was tuned to non-standard pitch in preparation for this sale..." If it's not at A-440 standard pitch, you should find out what pitch it's at and why. Was the tuning floated high due to the time of year, or is it 1/2 step or more low in pitch?
Definitely talk to the Registered Piano Tuner mentioned in the ad.

I checked the Austin Craigslist and found a 1966 Baldwin Acrosonic for $500 and a Baldwin Hamlton upright for $600. Either of these would be a better bet than a 103 year old antique - plus they would be easier to move.


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A 100 year old piano is going to be a project beyond just tuning. Unless it has had major maintenance and then it would be more than $550.

Hammers and dampers would need replacement. Plain and wound strings need replacement and the keys will need rebushing. This is a minimum. Also hammer butt flanges could need rebushing/pinning and wippen jacks would need new springs and possibly bushings as well.

It’s great if you want to, and are prepared to, spend the time, cost and work to bring it up.

But - unless the seller can prove that all those things have been done - don’t expect to drag it home, tune it and be done.


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Originally Posted by WBLynch
A 100 year old piano is going to be a project beyond just tuning. Unless it has had major maintenance and then it would be more than $550.

Hammers and dampers would need replacement. Plain and wound strings need replacement and the keys will need rebushing. This is a minimum. Also hammer butt flanges could need rebushing/pinning and wippen jacks would need new springs and possibly bushings as well.

It’s great if you want to, and are prepared to, spend the time, cost and work to bring it up.

But - unless the seller can prove that all those things have been done - don’t expect to drag it home, tune it and be done.

I have a different philosophy regarding old upright (or grand) pianos. My philosophy is, if you want a new/newer piano, buy a new/newer piano with all new/newer parts, and this is not what you will get in a 100 year old piano, most likely, unless it has had some rebuilding or restoration done in the past.

On the other hand, I believe many older upright pianos from yesteryear still have some musical life left in them, as is, to an extent. Sure, there are likely some things than need immediate repair to be playable to begin with. It depends entirely on the individual old upright piano, and its current condition, which can vary a lot from one old piano to another.

On the other, other hand( smile )if you want to rebuild a warn-out 100 year old upright piano, that is perfectly fine as well. If you pay a rebuilder to do the work, you would never recoup your investment, (which would be substantial) most likely, unless you kept the piano and played it and enjoyed it from now on.

Again, this is just my own opinion regarding old upright pianos, which I happen to like a lot... smile

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I agree. I adore the early 20th century uprights. I’m not talking about a full rebuild (gosh I hate that concept and prefer restoration). But there are lots of things that need attention, beyond tuning, just to make it playable.


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Remember that the thing designed to last about 40 years before serious work needed. Too many are brainwashed to believe that pianos are built to last a "lifetime". Pure BALONEY.

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OP has mentioned that he/she is not interested in a project piano. A vast majority of old uprights fit in a category of project pianos, just like this one. However, unlike piano connoisseur or those in piano industry, an average shopper is looking for a piano, as long as all keys make some sound and keys don’t stick, the piano is considered playable. Pianos for public placement such as train stations come to my mind. Still, those public pianos need some repairs before the placement, In any case, if I’m looking for a piano in $500-$1000 range, I’d wait for a decent studio size piano from the 70s instead.

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Thank you so much everyone for the incredible wisdom and support in steering me in the right direction. From what I’ve gathered, this is most likely a project piano and not just a case of mere tuning. I went and checked it out today and it was interesting to say the least. The missing hammer was replaced. Evidently their tuner did some minor repairs but according to them everything is original.. hammers and hardware. It sounded beautiful but out of tune. It’s a beast! I can see it being a money pit. On top of that, from what I’ve read up on this particular piano from Kansas City- its not worth restoring and there’s many of these guys laying around. I took some audio of what it sounded like plunking around on it if anyone wants to hear. The wife of the seller was also very strange and socially awkward. I was sitting at piano playing around and she suddenly felt the need to go into a 10 minute bunny trail about how her front tooth is not real...somehow this was in relation to a joke I made about how the keys were in need of Crest White Strips due to their discoloration but I digress...

I’ll likely heed your great advice and steer away from the costly move and inevitable repairs (not to mention the keys were falling apart and hastily glued with imprecise glue globs. Ugh!)

I’m now looking at a Baldwin I saw in my area for $1000. Baldwin ad

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“Worth restoring” is something in the eye of the beholder. People do things out of enjoyment or love of the project and the reward is saving something or bringing it back to life.

In your case, though, I think the Baldwin is a much better choice. It looks very nice.


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That Baldwin seems tall enough to have a console action which is much preferred than a shorter spinet. I think it’s worth checking it out.


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