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But I'm writing here to ask really just three specific questions. We finished our move successfully but I want to learn from what didn't go as smoothly, to do it better next time.
1. When moving this beast of a piano, we had the most trouble fighting gravity rolling down the 11ft ramp that went over 6 steps coming from the porch. We only controlled it by looping a rope around the keybed so it wouldn't run away. I'm worried about damage to the piano here, putting that much pressure in one spot. If there's not a better way to control it, in the future what I could do is brace a plank of wood there to distribute the pressure a little better. How do you like to do this part of the move?
2. Again, fighting gravity going UP the ramp into the high-roof cargo van (ford transit 250), we resorted to pushing with a pickup truck. Same question about damage to the piano, plus maybe there's some kind of winch we could have secured to the inside of the van (a rental, so we can't bolt anything down unfortunately)? how do you do this part?
Some of these problems are due to the sheer weight of an 1895 concert grand, plus my home-made skidboard was 150# itself, maybe a touch overbuilt haha.
3. The piano is temporarily in a climate-controlled storage unit, since I'm moving soon myself. The main difference I could see is that hte air conditioning in the store unit makes for slightly drier air. obviously, pianos survive winters just fine too though. Is it fine as is, or I was thinking of leaving a 5gal bucket of water next to the piano and throwing a plastic tarp over the whole thing to hold in some humidity, what do you think?
I’ve moved my own piano a number of times and each time I’ve gotten better. When I saw some professional movers move a Steinway B many years ago it completely changed my perspective. The first time I moved my former piano (Steinway L) I had 5 or 6 guys. Later on I was fine when there was just 2. When I moved my current piano, M&H BB (1000+lbs), I had 3 guys including me. It was tough but we managed.
A lot of it is avoiding the actual weight of the piano. For instance, instead of carrying the piano down from the seller’s porch we backed up the moving truck and put the ramp from the truck to the porch and just rolled it across on a dolly (that the ramp was rated for less than the weight of the piano was a tad concerning… ).
You can see in this video how they got a 9’ on the truck.
Great drawings! But the piano moving techniques are poor. I've used ramps on stairways before, it works, but the real problem is the swivel wheeled dolly as to why you lose control. I always used a 6 wheel pneumatic dolly for ultimate stability. When coming down steps, you should just come down sliding on the skid (grand) board. I had a waxed board at the bottom to slide on to create room to put the dolly back under. Regarding sliding a grand into the van, maybe you need stronger help, a roller, or a dowel rod. good luck! -chris
I don't mind the critique. It wasn't all smooth for us and I know there's things to do differently next time.
Would you be able to embellish on the waxed board, roller, or dowel rod? These terms are too general to just Google and get a sense for how you would use them.
Either sketches of your own, links to images of exactly what you're talking about, or a YouTube video showing them in action? I think dowel rod and I think 1/2" oak stick (for example), which I know isnt what you're recommending, but some other kind of dowel rod that I'm not picturing.
The 6 wheel dolly is specific and unique and I was able to find just fine on google-- I see how it's handy! The extra clearance means getting the piano up higher to get onto it, but seems quite stable once you do.
The two guys and the stairs do make me feel very lame haha. Time to lift weights... Hmm, clever idea about backing the truck to the stairs. The "1000#" harbor freight dolly snapped like a twig while the "1000#" new haven dolly held up well. Lesson learned there.
I agree with Chris on this one. Regarding the two guys carrying the concert grand, I think bringing the piano down on the skidboard would have been much safer. Best done keyboard end first, 2 guys at that end stabilizing and restraining it, with one guy at the top. they could have handled the speed safely, with the instrument much less tipsy.
My mover has a SUD (sport utility dolly) like Chris describes, The right ticket in a number of situations for sure.
Just because they can does not mean they should. Please note that the piano they are carrying weighs in the range of 1000 pounds. Keeping it stable was a bit tricky, given the weight. They clearly know what they are doing, but here is the thing: If the guy at the top trips on the blanket and everything goes south, they are both going to be in a bad way with the potential for serious injury to one or both of them. They are both strapped to the piano. They will get rag-dolled.
Movers know that there is a point of no return when a piano starts tipping. They quickly recognize that the only thing they can do is to get out of the way, it's going down whether or not you are along for the ride. Both of these movers have taken away that option for themselves.
When I had my piano store, we unloaded a lot of pianos from the Keyboard Carriage trucks as product came in. I constantly practiced safety, and I always instructed my employees to never be a hero. That is what insurance is for.
one thing I did pick up on from a KC driver was their johnny bar. A johnny bar has a 5' long wooden lever arm attached to a heavy steel arm about 6" long. They had taken one and welded a steel plate to it that added about 8" to that arm. The one that I made allowed me by myself to lever up one end of a concert grand on a skid board high enough that someone could set a wood block under the skidboard. Then go to the other end and repeat. The blocks were tall enough that you can roll the dolly right underneath it. Tip up the end about an inch with the johnny bar and set the skid board onto the dolly. Repeat at other end. Very safe and it saved a lot of wear and tear on bodies.
fine grand piano custom rebuilding, piano technician and tuner
To keep a piano from falling over, someone needs to watch the top all the time, to make sure that it remains vertical. The two guys carrying the piano down the stairs tends to do that automatically, since they are always carrying from above the center of gravity.
Hah! Funny story, I just yesterday bought a hand truck off Facebook marketplace from a fellow in PA. I hadn't seen your reply yet... It was a johnny bar! (Or nutting prybar). So now I have one. It's an antique with flathead screws, which seems appropriate for moving an antique piano.
The big move is waiting for me next months. I will be staying in a temporary apartment and would like to keep my piano in the storage meanwhile. Any recommendations? The public storage phone number is not answering so far.