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Often the disasters I see are on pianos that never should have had the work done in the first place. But a couple of the pianos I have worked on recently have been a grand which had a fair amount of water damage, and a couple of the hammers had been replaced which were not a good match, and I think one was installed backwards. I was able to find reasonable matches. I also had to replace a bunch of knuckles that had been soaked, but I have a bunch left over from earlier knuckle replacement jobs—sets of 90 that had a couple left over. Then there was another that had new hammers that might have come from a couple of sets, and were in sort of random order, without a particularly straight hammer line. Neither of these pianos warranted rebuilding, or even redoing the work entirely, but I was able to sort them out well enough that it was worthwhile to the owners, neither of whom were high-level pianists. They both were pleased with the results.


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I vaguely remember Chris posting this story before, and I thought near the end of the video there was a clip of the father and sons helping break the piano down (for disposal?). But I didn't see that in this one. Perhaps it's a different piano. confused

Are you thinking of this clip? antique piano flop dismantling (YouTube link)


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Originally Posted by Ben_NZ
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I vaguely remember Chris posting this story before, and I thought near the end of the video there was a clip of the father and sons helping break the piano down (for disposal?). But I didn't see that in this one. Perhaps it's a different piano. confused

Are you thinking of this clip? antique piano flop dismantling (YouTube link)

Yes, that's the one!


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Originally Posted by Ben_NZ
I heard a second hand account of a disappointed rebuild customer from a new piano salesman - does that count? wink

The last time I went into one of the old school (expensive) glasses chain stores, I was frustrated by the pushy sales and said something like "at these prices I should consider lazer surgery instead." Well, the obviously commissioned sales lady launched into a soliloquy that would have me believe that society was full of people blinded by botched surgeries and/or who at best "still need glasses anyway." Her advice, IMO, bordered on practicing medicine w/o a license, but the over dramatization and excessive emphasis on the risks was clearly FUD.

My point is that anti-rebuild advice from someone who doesn't offer the service is dubious, IMO. wink


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Well, the thread has run for the better part of a week. A few industry folks have seen some issues, but I thought we'd hear about more catastrophes.

Has anyone else ever experienced this disappointment? Or know someone who has?


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Yes, the financial considerations on the "heirloom" path are different than someone who simply wants a nice like-new piano, but who might also like it to be vintage or historical, or just older. On the heirloom path, the financial constraints are simply these: can you afford it and is it worth it to you? (I think Peter Gray has expounded on this some recently.) For someone who just wants a nice piano, then already-rebuilt pianos factor into the equation like any other piano (what do you get for your money?).


Some people mix up "heirloom" with "old". I tend to find that these folks also are under the impression (as so many are) that a good piano will last a lifetime (in their mind it is their lifetime), when in fact the pianos lifetime (lifespan) is roughly 1/3-1/2 of that.

That said, I have no problem with restoring someone's emotionally connected family piece. I advise them that it is way beyond the "economic worth" of the piano, but if the emotional satisfaction is worth it to THEM, then it's worth it (as long as money is not an issue). I have personally witnessed the positive effect of this on several occasions). I personally would consider paying a significant sum (if necessary) to get back the Bechstein B that I learned to play piano on and learned to tune (provided of course th at it was still serviceable). Long story as to why I don't have it now.

I feel that prior to any rebuilding/restoration work, the person/firm being considered should be fully investigated with examples being tried (or at least discussed with present owners). I have learned too that if the present owner of the piano is inherently familiar with the pianos "sonic signature" by virtue of having known it for many years, I will do everything I can to PRESERVE that signature (if possible) in the restore process. (I have personally witnessed the effect of ignoring this important factor...fortunately I learn quick so as not to repeat major booboos).

Edit: Since I restore furniture too, this same issue comes up from time to time. I have had owners spend (happily) significantly more than the thing is worth to bring back a piece of furniture that is connected to a beloved family member.

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Last edited by P W Grey; 11/27/21 04:21 PM.

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My 2 cents here,

I have also come by some really beautiful pianos that might sell for what a family put into the restoration - or might not. For instance, a couple of years ago we rebuilt a gorgeous little Chickering that really turned out beautifully. I may have posted this video before because I personally loved this piano. Here it is:





I am not sure the family could sell this piano at a profit, but it certainly performs really beautifully for its size.

My 2 cents,


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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
My 2 cents here,

I have also come by some really beautiful pianos that might sell for what a family put into the restoration - or might not. For instance, a couple of years ago we rebuilt a gorgeous little Chickering that really turned out beautifully. I may have posted this video before because I personally loved this piano. Here it is:





I am not sure the family could sell this piano at a profit, but it certainly performs really beautifully for its size.

My 2 cents,

What a delightful piano. What year was it built? I love the legs and the carved lyres. The instrument looks so light, like it is floating on air. How long is it?

To me, the decision to restore a piano would depend on the quality of the instrument when it was originally built. If it was a cheap, low quality piano when it was built, I would not restore it, no matter the perceived sentimental value.

I have found that doing the best thing, the right thing, often runs counter to earning a profit. I learned this firsthand when restoring my one hundred year old house. But, in the end, I got the house looking the way I think it should look, no matter that I will never make a dollar on it.

Last edited by LarryK; 11/28/21 04:27 PM.
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
My 2 cents here,

I have also come by some really beautiful pianos that might sell for what a family put into the restoration - or might not. For instance, a couple of years ago we rebuilt a gorgeous little Chickering that really turned out beautifully. I may have posted this video before because I personally loved this piano. Here it is:





I am not sure the family could sell this piano at a profit, but it certainly performs really beautifully for its size.

My 2 cents,

That piano was being worked on when we were at Cunninghams, five years ago, as I recall. To the right buyer, the case would probably make the restoration worthwhile.


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
A few industry folks have seen some issues, but I thought we'd hear about more catastrophes.
Has anyone else ever experienced this disappointment? Or know someone who has?

I think people are, as with the occasional new piano, or used piano purchase (particularly those that contradict good advice given on the forum grin), sometimes embarrassed to mention when they're disappointed with rebuilding results, or to get into specifics on a public forum. I'll sometimes hear about issues (particularly negative things) via PM instead of on the open forum.

I have seen/played/serviced a couple Steinways recently that were "completely rebuilt" where I don't think they tuned up or held their tuning particularly well for a performance. Whether that is a matter of how the pin block was drilled or fastened, issues with the capo bar or agraffes, or how the bridges were notched, if they were exposed to extreme humidity, or whether it's my tuning technique...is hard to say. All I know was I was disappointed with the outcome, considering the placement and intended usage of the pianos; but these weren't pianos that I own, and I don't know what was spent on the work.

There are a lot of rebuilds out there that look good, but don't perform particularly well. Most of their owners don't seem to care (so no harm, no foul)! Heck, we even see and hear videos like this here, but if the owner is happy, why should I say anything at all?


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Originally Posted by LarryK
What a delightful piano. What year was it built? I love the legs and the carved lyres.

I generally don't like double legs, but I like this one too. Nice case.


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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Yes, the financial considerations on the "heirloom" path are different than someone who simply wants a nice like-new piano, but who might also like it to be vintage or historical, or just older. On the heirloom path, the financial constraints are simply these: can you afford it and is it worth it to you? (I think Peter Gray has expounded on this some recently.) For someone who just wants a nice piano, then already-rebuilt pianos factor into the equation like any other piano (what do you get for your money?).


Some people mix up "heirloom" with "old". I tend to find that these folks also are under the impression (as so many are) that a good piano will last a lifetime (in their mind it is their lifetime), when in fact the pianos lifetime (lifespan) is roughly 1/3-1/2 of that.

That said, I have no problem with restoring someone's emotionally connected family piece. I advise them that it is way beyond the "economic worth" of the piano, but if the emotional satisfaction is worth it to THEM, then it's worth it (as long as money is not an issue). I have personally witnessed the positive effect of this on several occasions). I personally would consider paying a significant sum (if necessary) to get back the Bechstein B that I learned to play piano on and learned to tune (provided of course th at it was still serviceable). Long story as to why I don't have it now.

I feel that prior to any rebuilding/restoration work, the person/firm being considered should be fully investigated with examples being tried (or at least discussed with present owners). I have learned too that if the present owner of the piano is inherently familiar with the pianos "sonic signature" by virtue of having known it for many years, I will do everything I can to PRESERVE that signature (if possible) in the restore process. (I have personally witnessed the effect of ignoring this important factor...fortunately I learn quick so as not to repeat major booboos).

Edit: Since I restore furniture too, this same issue comes up from time to time. I have had owners spend (happily) significantly more than the thing is worth to bring back a piece of furniture that is connected to a beloved family member.

Current .02

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Thanks for expounding a bit more, Peter. Sorry your name got spellchecked above!


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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
I think people are, as with the occasional new piano, or used piano purchase (particularly those that contradict good advice given on the forum grin), sometimes embarrassed to mention when they're disappointed with rebuilding results, or to get into specifics on a public forum.

You may be right about that.


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As I often tell piano buyers. If you want an investment, talk to your broker, not your piano dealer.

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