Posted earlier here before looking for a good project piano. I found one! albeit, 330 miles away. Full 9' concert grand Knabe with late victorian carved legs and even some linear ornamental woodcarving inside the case, it's beautiful (to me: I would understand if some find it overstyled), but only just modern enough to have 88 keys and all three pedals.
The seller promised it had been restored by Beethoven Pianos in NYC 15 years prior. Maybe it was, but he has no records, and neither did Beethoven Pianos, I asked and they just don't keep records that long.
Every seller always says their piano is recently restored and the very best --I've been window showing for over a month-- so I didn't want to be rude but also I just couldn't know from photos and couldn't take him at his word, I have to assume it needs major work. But the price was right and I took a chance. I was pleasantly surprised; the case is in great shape, the keys are in great shape, the action is smooth and light, the tone is lovely without a hint of being 'tinny,' and the seller indeed kept it in tune. One key was sticky, one damper doesn't go down right, and the sostenuto pedal doesn't function. All in all, I'm very pleased. I was expecting a basketcase due to age and was pleasantly surprised.
We just finished the move this past Thursday, man this was a first for me.
I'm writing partly to document/diary my own experience for any other newbies considering orchestrating their own piano moves.
First, the move diary! There are so few pictures, because most of the time we were sweating, thinking, or even outright scared. Wasn't thinking about selfies while we were manhandling this beast.
This is the piano I bought (music stand is already removed here)
It is an 1895-1900 Knabe 9' concert grand, serial No. 38069.
I did test the waters to hire professional piano movers but they were booked into August or worse. End-to-end piano moving brokers had sweet sweet promises but too many bad stories with those middlemen, I didn't know who to trust.
One issue is that the seller couldn't wait for that because he is selling his whole home, and for different reasons, I couldn't wait until August+ either.
ended up going through the "brotherhood of movers" group on facebook to find good help at each end and securing pretty much all my own tools. Nothing but great things to say about the professionalism of the guys who helped me on each end, though. It was an all-hands-on-deck evolution to wrestle that beast down SIX stairs, plus up 30" into the cargo van. We're thinking it was 1200-1400# (counting the skidboard, which was 150+# solid oak).
Ultimately cost me $2500, even doing my own self-move, here's the break-down:
$500 labor in small town to load, hiring 2 guys for what ran up to 4 hours. I think I overpaid, but things are crazy right now and it was tough finding anyone.
$150 labor here to unload (MUCH easier: it went into a storage unit for now, which has a loading dock, quite the difference)
$600 high-capacity 11ft folding aluminum walkboard*
$500 truck rental. enterprise. $168/day + $.21/mi. Seems high, but was the lowest in town. Penske and Budget were $1.29 and $.99/mile, adds up FAST for 750 miles total.
$120 gas. ford transit 250 got 18.5mpg, better than my own car (2000 toyota sienna), impressive!
$300 10' skidboard**
$300 miscellaneous (food for the roadtrip, rope and clingwrap and moving blankets and dollies and stuff at home depot and harbor freight)
*I think I overpaid, but I learned too late that buying new ramps, NO ONE stocks them, not lowes, not tractor supply, not anyone. And they're all made-to-order on a 4-6week lead time. had to find a craigslist ramp that was appropriate for moving a piano, wasn't 100 miles away in the wrong direction, and I had to find it in two days. lots of really cheap ones in NJ and NYC but I wasn't going that direction... Had I scheduled 4-6 weeks in advance I could have been prepared, I just didn't know that ramps were made to order.
**piano skidboard was the same issue as the walkboard: there are prefab ones, but either shipping is $400 or they'll arrive in 6 weeks or both. I needed it within a week. So I made my own, solid oak was $200 from a mill in southern maryland, but he planed it for me too. plus plywood, carpeting, lag bolts, screws, glue. I'd do a couple things differently, namely, NOT solid oak but two beams to save weight. But it held up very well, and I daresay better than some of the commercial ones I read reviews on.
To anyone who replies here to say, "Well when I moved my piano, I rented a truck for $140.. .I found movers to load into my truck for $150..." either you're in a different year, or a different location, or both. I hear you and I agree, but for several reasons indirectly a result of covid, the market for hiring movers is a bit nuts exactly right now. Maybe if I move a piano in 2022 it'll be normalized.
For anyone who is considering moving their own piano, my final conclusion would be, well, I didn't save a lick of money, but I did get to keep my new used ramp, and I get to keep my skidboard and movers blankets and such for the next time; and for those who play computer games and will get the Entertainment Arts joke: I did come away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I'm being a bit sardonic, but I do mean it; it felt good to participate and accomplish what we did. We moved an *expletive* half-ton piano and sweated and succeeded without breaking the piano or ourselves. By orchestrating my own move, I was able to control the timing more specifically. Going through a third party broker means the pickup, warehousing, and delivery will all be on different schedules.
Also, if you're moving a 5' baby grand, you'll have an easier time I think haha. My mistake for grabbing the harder project for the first time.
Here we are with everything loaded into the ford transit. Giant oak skidboard, half a mile of cling wrap just in case, two duffels of mover's blankets (we used them all), tape, different tape, drill with cobalt drill bits and impact driver just in case, rope, knife, dollies, three types of hammers, clothes in case we had to stay overnight in Syracuse, snacks for the road... we came almost completely prepared.
We drove up to Cazenovia NY near Syracuse to pick it up, beautiful drive, and the weather was PERFECT.
The seller's son was there to greet us, and said we picked a perfect day: a break in the heavy rain they'd been getting for a solid week. The town was also quaint and lovely, reminded me of Harbor Springs Michigan where my grandmother resided before passing: older, little artsy shops and cafes, attention to the landscaping throughout.
OKAY so here's where there were zero selfies because we were too indisposed sweating and being stressed out to think about photo diaries. I drew out how we did it, mainly to ask what we could have done better.
The piano was in the living room of an older 1920s-era home, which opened with double doors into a moderate sized foyer and out onto a porch with 6 stairs down to a brick sidewalk, and the driveway was adjacent to that.
Things went smoothly up to getting the piano onto the skidboard. You can watch the youtube videos when you search "how to move a grand piano."
Remove the lid, wrap it up and set it aside. One hinge had stuck screws: the drill and bits came in handy and we drilled out the two flathead screws that wouldn't come free.
Remove the one leg (this vintage, there was a single screw and then steel dovetail wedges, give it a tap with a deadblow).
Lower the left front corner down onto the skidboard, then flip the whole thing over. The four of us managed it handily.
The slots I had cut in my homemade skidboard didn't have much spare room so we asked the seller's son for a wire clothes hanger which we straightened out and used to fish the straps through the slots, minor issue overcome. Avoidable if we'd run the straps through before putting the piano onto the skidboard, lol.
Now, we tried to lift the piano up and on to the dolly. Umm, we simply just couldn't. too heavy. heaved, pulled, and.... nothing, nada, didn't budge against gravity.
Ended up borrowing a hand truck from the owner's son and using it as a prybar basically, and then borrowing scrapwood too, playing jenga inch by inch to get it up to an angle where the final pull got us onto the dolly.
Next came the seriously scary bit. move this beast out onto the porch, and like the top of a rollercoaster, prepare for gravity.
We were about to just do it too, but the problem is only one guy fits in front of it. We picked the guy with life insurance (and muscle).
The rest of us could help, but didn't have good positioning to fight gravity. I could grab a strap from the edge, so could my friend. but the force we could exert on these was not confidence-inspiring. We chose to loop two 40-foot lengths of rope around the porch columns, doing a double-loop for some added friction, and holding onto those ropes while stabilizing the piano side-to-side, we guided it safely down the 11ft ramp over the 6 stairs. We high-fived at the bottom.
But not every house will have handy porch columns there, and, I'm really not comfortable with having the front of the keyboard bear so much weight. We didn't hear any wood cracking, we had two layers of mover's blankets, but I haven't inspect for damage yet (I'm not sure I want to know).
Roll it across to the driveway easy-peasy, now we have to get it back UP into the truck. Same issue in reverse. We didn't have a lift gate and I'm not even sure it would help: the piano is 9ft long, the skidboard is 10ft, so how are you going to lift it up while balanced on a 2x5' liftgate?
Ultimately we resorted to using the pickup truck to nudge the piano up the ramp as far as it could, then he-man it over the lip and into the van.
Again, I have this fear that we put too much force on the front of the keyboard, and so again I'd be interested to know how else it could/should have been done. Maybe, some kind of winch on the inside? and a longer nose on the skidboard with reinforced eyelets for a rope to pass through.
Safely secured in the ford transit, we now felt safe to do a group photo, the four of us who got this thing moved!
Exhuasted from our 4am-to-4pm day (don't forget the driving time), we rewarded ourselves with a beer at a local brewery:
Wanting to get it just done, we drove back that very night, getting in at midnight.
The next morning we hired one dude (making three of us) and got the piano into a storage unit for the time being. I'm moving myself in a few months so it seemed silly to move into my house just to re-move again. The storage unit had a loading dock. It wasn't easy, but it was far far easier. The gap from the van to the loading dock still had to be overcome, and we played "Jenga" once again to get the piano out.