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Hi everyone,

I have some questions about a grand piano restoration, I'm from Italy so I hope my english is not too bad and understandable.
I'm a pianist, not a technician, so I only want some advices to decide what to do (obviously I'll also call a technician to check the piano, but in the mean time I thougth it was a good idea to ask here). I have a grand piano in my parent's home, I don't study here normally but due to COVID situation I had to move there and study on a really old piano. The piano is a Rönisch, and by the serial number it seems that it has been built in 1870/1885. By accessing the action bay, the action itself has "Langer" carved on the front and by searching on the internet it seems to be a "simplex" spring & loop action.

The soundboard of the piano seems okay from top and bottom, without any cracks, by looking at it it seems too new for the piano's age, so I think that the piano was restored once, in fact on the bottom of the action there is another text carved that seems to report a date, but It's too messy to be read properly. The iron frame and the bridges seems also in perfect conditions.

The parts of the piano that seems to need some proper maintenance are:
- The action itself: the action is too noisy and light to the touch, maybe also because of the simplex action. My main question is, can the action be replaced with a roller action?
- The strings: they have some rust on them, they have german loops at the end (I don't know if this information is helpful)
- The wrest plank: it seems to have some small cracks (I can't see how deep they are, at a first glance they seem to be superficial scratches), not too major, but the piano can't be kept in tune for more then 2 months, so I think that this is the reason
- The piano legs: I don't think that they are the original legs, they are just too plain and modern, but they aren't stable enough for me, not too bad but also not good
- The sustain pedal: too noisy because the felt is totally flat and also sometimes it gets stuck

Also all the felts of the dumpers need to be changed.
I don't have any idea of how much a restoration of this kind can cost, so I'm asking this just to check if it is worth to just restore this piano or consider buying another one. I really like the sound of this piano, it has really bright highs and really deep lows, but I have to put the responsiveness of the keyboard first since I'm studying on it. The sound is a little bit muddy, but I think it's because of the action/rust problems, the hammers seems too soft.

If you need more informations about the piano I'll be happy to share them with you!

Thank you very much and have a nice day,
- Giuseppe

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Some photos would be helpful, I don't think many people here are familiar with Rönisch pianos that old, and I doubt it's that old, but if it is, and in the condition you describe, it's worth roughly nothing if not historically significant, so you'd be better off buying some newer (rebuilt 1920+) used piano for the price of a restoration. You also didn't say what size it is and how many keys it has.
And you say you like the sound of a neglected 150-year-old piano that doesn't even hold tuning, come on

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Originally Posted by ambrozy
Some photos would be helpful, I don't think many people here are familiar with Rönisch pianos that old, and I doubt it's that old, but if it is, and in the condition you describe, it's worth roughly nothing if not historically significant, so you'd be better off buying some newer (rebuilt 1920+) used piano for the price of a restoration. You also didn't say what size it is and how many keys it has.
And you say you like the sound of a neglected 150-year-old piano that doesn't even hold tuning, come on

Yeah I know, it's a little bit strange, but I'm giving this informations based on the informations I found about the piano, I don't know if there is something odd about this instrument. The serial number is carved on the inside of the piece of wood covering the front of the keyboard, and also on the two pieces of wood on the side of the keyboard. There aren't other numbers a part from the serial number of the action.

For the size I think it's a little bit bigger then a baby grand, but still a baby. It's 88 keys with two pedals, one for the una corda and one for the sustain.

The sound is not bad, you can hear that it is old and without proper maintenance, but I've heard a lot of old pianos with terrible sound. As I said, maybe it was just restored once.

I'll attach some photos here, I can't show you the action right now because it's a little bit late in the day, but if you want I can send some pictures of the inside tomorrow. Maybe you can help me understanding something more about this piano that I can't understand, as I said, I don't know if there is something odd and I'm used to work with newer pianos to be honest. Thank you very much for the fast answer by the way!

For the photos here is the link: Piano Photos

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Guiseppe, you have posted on the Tech Forum - I am a player and certainly not a tech, but I am perhaps somewhat qualified to answer your questions because I have a piano of similar age - a Bluthner grand of 1881. I would certainly not rush to condemn your piano simply on account of its age. My Bluthner is a wonderful instrument and I get great pleasure from it.

You have not mentioned the hammers. 20 years ago we had some restoration work done on the Bluthner, which included new strings and re-felting the hammers. This completely transformed the instrument - the tone became quite wonderful.

I am not convinced from what you say that you have serious problems with the wrest plank - you may do, but I would suspect that if that were the case your tuning would go off in days rather than months. With my Bluthner, where (due to excessive dryness) the piano eventually could not be tuned at all, the problem was cured by replacing the tuning pins with a larger size.

I have been advised that whereas a Bluthner "Patent" action of more recent date can be replaced with a modern action, this could not be done with my piano because of the locations of the action supports in the older instruments. I have no idea if your Roenisch might have similar difficulties.

I thought you might find my experience helpful, but obviously I can't tell you anything definite about your piano - you need to see what your technician is going to say. One thing I would suggest is to find a technician who is sympathetic towards older instruments. You need to find someone who thinks that such a piano might have potential.

Roenisch is a fine make, and I think that if your piano was restored it could be a magnificent piano. However, since you are a music student you will want a trusty and reliable instrument - and I suspect that for your Roenisch to become that, the restoration cost would be high. I hope that you will find a technician who can give you good advice. I suspect that you will end up buying another piano - but it would be wonderful if the Roenisch could be restored to its former glory. My best wishes whichever way it goes!

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Just seen your photos - the frame is gorgeous!! It would be great to see photos of the action. Also, if you could remove the music desk, it would be interesting to see a photo showing the complete frame and strings including the tuning pins. I thought I'd copy your picture of the plate here so it is preserved with this thread:

[Linked Image]

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I suspect this piano is newer than you think, and it has definitely been restored. It probably needs less work than you think.

If I were to guess, I would suspect it dates from 100 to 120 years old.


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It's small, probably below 170cm. If I had to guess, I'd say it is from 1895-1920 looking at that ornamented plate, but it looks also very small which is placing it more on 20th century. It looks like modern enough design to be useful as an instrument after restoration which apparently was done once. Plate looks like it was refinished with modern methods so I bet that restoration was done no earlier than 50 years ago. It's very strange that there are serious problems with action and pinblock if I'm right about date of restoration. Photos of action would be helpful and I'm prety sure that this is modern double repetition action, maybe just design you're not familiar with.

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Also, probably later than 1870-85 because of 88 keys.

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I encounter old Ronisch piano quite often, and have restored several. The plate does not look like a Ronisch, and never seen one with Langer on it, or with a simple spring and loop. If it was as old as you say then it could have "Carl Ronisch" on the fall board.


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Yes, I think that too. If it's pre World War One, and has had some restoration (which the appearance of the bass strings suggests) then I think the legs have been replaced too. They are not right for a piano of that age. I think it is more like 1920s or 1930s. My 1934 Weissbrod upright has a very ornate plate. I don't think plates of 1885 were made like that. Nothing about the appearance of that piano suggests such an early date, to me.

I also doubt that it has a D-Type Spring & Loop action. It is too big and too good a piano to have had one of those actions installed. Photos of the action would be great!

Welcome to this Forum, gseppe. We will be pleased to help if we can.

Sono un po 'italiano, perché due dei miei bisnonni vennero in Scozia dall'Italia intorno al 1880.

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Originally Posted by David-G
Just seen your photos - the frame is gorgeous!! It would be great to see photos of the action. Also, if you could remove the music desk, it would be interesting to see a photo showing the complete frame and strings including the tuning pins. I thought I'd copy your picture of the plate here so it is preserved with this thread:

Thank you very much for this and the previous post. I'll keep this in mind, I don't know if it's the same for you, but since I've been a pianist for so many years I just can't imagine a piano trashed, in my mind they just need to be restored and played forever, I know it's absurd and that it makes no sense, but when I see broken pianos it really hurts!! At the end of this post I'll attach also the photos of the complete frame without music desk.

Originally Posted by BDB
I suspect this piano is newer than you think, and it has definitely been restored. It probably needs less work than you think.

If I were to guess, I would suspect it dates from 100 to 120 years old.

I had this suspect too, but the thing that just doesn't make sense is the number printed on the inside of the piano, I'll attach some photos to show also that!

Originally Posted by ambrozy
It's small, probably below 170cm. If I had to guess, I'd say it is from 1895-1920 looking at that ornamented plate, but it looks also very small which is placing it more on 20th century. It looks like modern enough design to be useful as an instrument after restoration which apparently was done once. Plate looks like it was refinished with modern methods so I bet that restoration was done no earlier than 50 years ago. It's very strange that there are serious problems with action and pinblock if I'm right about date of restoration. Photos of action would be helpful and I'm prety sure that this is modern double repetition action, maybe just design you're not familiar with.

I'll attach some photos of the action and pinblock at the end of the post. About the wrest plank maybe it's just me, but I see like the holes for the pins are just too big for the pins itself in some points, maybe with the time and tension the holes got bigger and the piano needs some bigger size pins.

Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
I encounter old Ronisch piano quite often, and have restored several. The plate does not look like a Ronisch, and never seen one with Langer on it, or with a simple spring and loop. If it was as old as you say then it could have "Carl Ronisch" on the fall board.

Is it possible that someone just put the "Ronisch" writing on the fall board?

Originally Posted by David Boyce
Yes, I think that too. If it's pre World War One, and has had some restoration (which the appearance of the bass strings suggests) then I think the legs have been replaced too. They are not right for a piano of that age. I think it is more like 1920s or 1930s. My 1934 Weissbrod upright has a very ornate plate. I don't think plates of 1885 were made like that. Nothing about the appearance of that piano suggests such an early date, to me.

I also doubt that it has a D-Type Spring & Loop action. It is too big and too good a piano to have had one of those actions installed. Photos of the action would be great!

Welcome to this Forum, gseppe. We will be pleased to help if we can.

Sono un po 'italiano, perché due dei miei bisnonni vennero in Scozia dall'Italia intorno al 1880.

Grazie mille, David!

Yes, as I said the legs in my opinion have been replaced, I could be wrong obviously.

For the photos, I think that the photos can show the rust on the strings, on the pins and other parts of the piano. For the action it's surely not a roller action, because the jack just pushes on the hammer, there is no roller. As I said, I'm not a technician, maybe this is something I'm just not familiar with, I'm making assumptions based on my experience.

The piano was surely exposed by the previous owner to humidity and I think it has had moths because of the condition of the felts, I don't think the problem is still there since I don't see the classic evidence of moths right now, like wood dust or anything else. Sorry if some photos are not too good but I just didn't feel like taking off the action, I'm home alone right now!

Other photos of the piano: Piano Interior

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gseppe, you are right. It is a non-repetition action.

It looks like an earlier version of the D-Type Spring & Loop action later made in large quantities by Herrburger Brooks for fitting in small, cheap grands. Herrburger Brooks were two different companies until 1920. Langer was one of the brand names they owned, but Langer had been a separate company too.

It does seem a pity to lose a piano with such a beautiful plate. But You have to be realistic, I think, about the amount of work that is needed. It will not be possible to replace that spring & loop action with a modern repetition action, as there will not be enough room in the action cavity (and it is a very difficult thing to do, anyway).

The action will be capable of some regulation, but it will never play as precisely as a modern full repetition action.

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None of the numbers that were embossed on the action are likely to have been the serial number. The serial number was probably printed somewhere on the plate, and lost when the plate was repainted.


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Originally Posted by David Boyce
gseppe, you are right. It is a non-repetition action.

It looks like an earlier version of the D-Type Spring & Loop action later made in large quantities by Herrburger Brooks for fitting in small, cheap grands. Herrburger Brooks were two different companies until 1920. Langer was one of the brand names they owned, but Langer had been a separate company too.

It does seem a pity to lose a piano with such a beautiful plate. But You have to be realistic, I think, about the amount of work that is needed. It will not be possible to replace that spring & loop action with a modern repetition action, as there will not be enough room in the action cavity (and it is a very difficult thing to do, anyway).

The action will be capable of some regulation, but it will never play as precisely as a modern full repetition action.

Now I remembered, I found informations about the D-Type Spring & Loop grand action on your website by searching on google, so thank you very much also for that, it was really useful!

Indeed, it's a pity to give away an instrument with such a beautiful plate, but as you said I have to be realistic, I was really hoping that an action replacement was viable. The only issue is that I don't have the space, otherwise I would keep it as an "exposition piece" and maybe in the future trying regulating the action by myself as a hobby, I'm a curious pianist, in fact I'm the weird one who stares at the technician who work on my instrument to learn something, sorry for that!

Yeah maybe with some regulation the action will be better, but I think that the keyboard is too light compared to more modern pianos. I'm used to play on heavier keyboards, in fact I think that in this period for me is like studying at half pace.

I'm still a little bit curious about the history of this piano, I really want to know if it's an original Rönisch, if the action inside of it was replaced or if it was only restored, the real age of this instrument, but I think that this questions will never see an answer.

I'm waiting for my trusted tuner (he is in another city) to come and see the instrument, maybe someone who like old pianos is interested in buying it while I'm searching for a replacement.

Thank you very much for your support, I really appreciated!

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Originally Posted by BDB
None of the numbers that were embossed on the action are likely to have been the serial number. The serial number was probably printed somewhere on the plate, and lost when the plate was repainted.

Is it possible that is printed behind the piece of wood with the lock? It's kept in place by a few screws and it covers the front of the plate, but I don't now if it's possible to have a serial number there.

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The serial number likely would have been someplace plainly evident. If it were embossed anywhere, it might be on the soundboard.


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Very occasionally, I've seen a serial number inside the action cavity.

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So, even if a new action would fit here, you will need a custom made brackets, rails and unfortunatelly whole keyframe and keys because leverage ratio of those keys will not work with standard double repetition action, so it's totally absurd.
If you would like to recondition this existing action, you would have to replace most of the parts, the condition of this action looks very bad and I wouldn't call it worth salvaging considering its low functional value.

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Re David Boyce's observation - all Bluthners (certainly the pre-war ones) have the serial number on a paper label at the back of the action cavity.

I thought I'd attach here the front view of your piano, so that any Ronisch-lovers in the future can see what we are talking about.

[Linked Image]

Here is a Roenisch I found for sale on the German ebay, supposedly from the 1850s-60s. What struck me is that the name on the fallboard looks more antique in its style than yours does.

[Linked Image]

Dating your piano is a puzzle. It certainly overall has the look of a 1920s-30s piano. I will just point out my tuppence-worth here. David Boyce suggests that the ornate plate is perhaps a 20c thing. However, the highly ornate Bluthner "Jubilee" plates first appeared about 1894 (the 40th anniversary I suppose). So perhaps the plate does not preclude quite an early date.

You mentioned that you found a number that might be the serial number on the reverse of the keyslip. My Bluthner has the serial number pencilled there.

Guiseppe, I wonder if you could post photos of the possible serial numbers that you found? I think that might be helpful?

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Originally Posted by ambrozy
So, even if a new action would fit here, you will need a custom made brackets, rails and unfortunatelly whole keyframe and keys because leverage ratio of those keys will not work with standard double repetition action, so it's totally absurd.
If you would like to recondition this existing action, you would have to replace most of the parts, the condition of this action looks very bad and I wouldn't call it worth salvaging considering its low functional value.

I can imagine how complex it would be, you all gave me the answers I was searching for, so thank you very much!

Originally Posted by David-G
Re David Boyce's observation - all Bluthners (certainly the pre-war ones) have the serial number on a paper label at the back of the action cavity.

I thought I'd attach here the front view of your piano, so that any Ronisch-lovers in the future can see what we are talking about.

Here is a Roenisch I found for sale on the German ebay, supposedly from the 1850s-60s. What struck me is that the name on the fallboard looks more antique in its style than yours does.

Dating your piano is a puzzle. It certainly overall has the look of a 1920s-30s piano. I will just point out my tuppence-worth here. David Boyce suggests that the ornate plate is perhaps a 20c thing. However, the highly ornate Bluthner "Jubilee" plates first appeared about 1894 (the 40th anniversary I suppose). So perhaps the plate does not preclude quite an early date.

You mentioned that you found a number that might be the serial number on the reverse of the keyslip. My Bluthner has the serial number pencilled there.

Guiseppe, I wonder if you could post photos of the possible serial numbers that you found? I think that might be helpful?

I posted all the photos of the numbers I found on one of my earlier replies to this post, I wasn't able to upload them directly on the forum because it sais that they are too big. I'll try to embed some of the images I uploaded on this reply, also I forgot to take a picture of the piece of wood covering the front of the keyboard, but the number is the same, 4029, and the same number is reported at the back of the action cavity if I remember correctly.

[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

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