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Used 1915 Steinway (Read 4177 times)

Offline anymouse

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Used 1915 Steinway
« on: February 03, 2003, 12:46:37 AM »
I'm looking at a used 1915 Steinway. I haven't been able to see it in person yet, but I was told the following by the current owner. I'm trying to arrange a time to go see it in the next couple of days, but would like some ideas on what would be an acceptable price. I'd also like some thoughts on whether it is even worth it.

It is totally original except for the finish, which was re-done twenty some years ago in a non-standard finish. He described it as a medium brown, 'pecan.' It needs $4,000 approximately in work done on it. The big thing sounds to be the pin-block, and he says the soundboard needs to be shimmed or something along those lines. He's only had one person look at it for the price estimate, and since I don't know the company, I'm very unsure about the estimate. Till I've seen it in person and played it some, I'm unsure about the situation.

Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

Offline rachfan

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Re: Used 1915 Steinway
«Reply #1 on: February 03, 2003, 02:45:22 AM »
If it's all "original" except for the finish, I'd be careful.  If dated 1915, the pinblock could definitely be problematic by now.  There are tricks you can do for a few loose pins.  For example, sandpaper can be placed into the drilled tuning pin hole to help the pin grab better.  Or, after that no longer works, an oversized pin can be inserted.  (The old chemical drops treatment for loose pins was not too successful.)  If there are a significant number of loose pins and tuning stability is poor, then you are looking at replacing the block.

Soundboard shims are applied for cracks.  Cracks are not the end of the world.  Sometimes they are innocuous, but you'd need to listen for buzzing noises.  

One thing I would advise you to beware of in Steinways from around the 20s is verdigris.  Ever notice how over time a copper statue turns green?  It's the same with some old Steinway actions.  There can be a chemical reaction between the copper center pin and the cloth bushing.  The green crud builds up slowly until it interferes with the movement of the action.  The only real solution is to replace the parts, which is expensive--then wait for other keys to develop the same failure.  Try the keys to see if any are slow to return to position.  If sluggish, verdigris might well be the culprit.  

Finally, the $4,000 estimate on needed reconditioning might be the (marketing) tip of the iceberg.  Best to have a technician do an examination and give you an appraisal on the condition of the instrument including an estimate of worth.  His fee could be quite small compared to what might be in store for you later.  Your negotiation of price (assuming you were still interested) would then be based objectively.  
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Used 1915 Steinway
«Reply #2 on: February 05, 2003, 08:43:55 AM »
RachFan is right.  I would consider this piano ONLY if you really like the idea of having an older Steinway, and you like the looks.  - this is because you are most likely looking at a full rebuild (and I mean REPLACEMENT rebuild) in any case.  The best I can figure (and the techs amongst us can speak better to this), is that pinblocks and soundboards equate to the engine blocks of cars.  If that's cracked, the car is basically junk.  Same is true on pianos.  Have a technician check it out to see what all needs to be replaced, and whether it's worth it.  I wouldn't necessarily give up on the idea of an older piano, but be prepared for an expensive project!

Could be cool if it works out!

Let us know whatcha think!
So much music, so little time........

Offline tosca1

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Re: Used 1915 Steinway
«Reply #3 on: February 05, 2003, 09:54:34 AM »
Dear Anymouse,
Could you give some more details about this piano. Presumably it is a grand, but what size grand piano?

The condition of the case and the inside should give you some  clues about the history of the piano and how it has been maintained and housed.

It could be a gem, but it could also be an old clanger that only a massive rebuild could improve.

With a piano of that age you must be cautious.  If the soundboard has lost its response and shape, no amount of shims will put that right and you would need to have the soundboard replaced which of course could compromise the original sound of the piano.  

The other replies have suggested caution.  Trying the piano, and listening carefully to its sound will give you some idea of its restorative potential.  

Best wishes for finding a good piano.
Robert.

Offline anymouse

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Re: Used 1915 Steinway
«Reply #4 on: February 05, 2003, 08:11:14 PM »
Thank you very much for the thoughtfull comments that have been posted so far.

I was able to see the piano today, and it's not in as bad shape as I expected. It's a 6' grand, that cosmetically is in practically perfect condition. It has a good action, a stiff pedal, and a few cracked ivories. Even in the case of needing a replacement pinblock, the tune isn't that bad. There are a couple of cracks in the sound board, but no buzzing or anything. The bass isn't in too bad a shape, but the treble rings. Thanks for all the comments of caution. I will admit I'm basically looking at this piano because my piano is also about 100 years old, and I like that sound better than a newer piano.

Again, thank you for all the comments that have been given. I don't know if the above information will help with some ideas any, but I hope it does.