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MMD > Archives > May 1998 > 1998.05.18 > 08Prev  Next

What is Original?
By D. L. Bullock

Response to Andy Taylor

Without meaning to, I have caused some strong opinions to be expressed.
Below is my response to Andy's responses sent to me.  While it should
perhaps go to him personally, I have gotten so many and such varied
responses that there is some very definite interest in the subject.

I think the problem is that I have a higher threshold for trash when
it comes to pianos.  I have seen only one piano in my thirty years that
I could not restore, and its whole action was made of non-standard
snap-together plastic with no screws.  It was a small cheaply made
case and back that did not warrant the thousands that it would take
to put a real action into it.

Thank you all for your kind words and chastisement.  But let us all
remember: whatever we read on MMD is just one  person's opinion.  I did
not mean to be hateful and there were several people who posted to me
on the positive side.  It is running about 50/50 at this time.

To Andy Taylor:

See?!  You took it exactly the wrong way.  That was not an attempt
to step on your toes as I noted in the first lines.  It was merely an
answer to your "Original" question.  I do not verbally attack people
as it is not in my nature.  It was certainly not my intention to imply
that you were in some way lazy as your industrious nature shows.

However, I do feel that mixing and altering is not what we should
prefer as restorers and collectors.  I do have pianos in as bad and
probably worse shape than the ones you had.  I do plan to restore them
because they are rare or in some way special.  The only reason they
have not been done is time and money--- both not being available at
the same time.

I, too take the junk that others throw out and make them new.  I am
well accustomed to being laughed at for that ... until they see the
finished product..

> Wood deteriorates like anything else.  It must be replaced if it
> reaches a certain point, particularly in the area that bears tension.
> I have absolutely no desire to risk having a badly rotted strung-
> back pull apart and seriously injure Chris or I while chipping.

Of course restoration sometimes includes dismantling the timbers,
soundboard, etc. and cleaning all old glue off and regluing it all
with new glue.  Wood that has deteriorated is replaced with new.
I have had to replace timbers, bottom blocks, pin blocks, bridges hitch
pins, soundboards.  In fact the only thing that would make me toss a
piano is if the plate is broken and in rare instances that, too can be
repaired.  If I tossed out pianos with badly rotten timbers in the back
I would have had to turn down half of the instruments we have restored.
We are constantly aware that we are dealing with 30 tons of pressure on
the back of many pianos.

> Then again, you have to consider what the piano will be worth.
> Do you think a restored upright would sell for $15-thousand?

Yes, it will if it is nice enough!  We have one now listed at $22,000.00
We will tell you what it actually brings when it sells.  I hear you
snickering.  I have sold them for up to $12,000.00.  (Upright players,

> Both of these pianos had major problems.  Neither of them had enough
> to rebuild both, not even close.  Nor would I rob a restorable unit
> of parts either.

Once again, I maintain, that they are ALL restorable units.

> 2-5 years????  It will last the rest of my lifetime.  Sometimes we
> have to look about us and face economic realities, but the end
> result will be the same.  It will be a fine piano.  It will sound
> like it should and play as good as any other Ampico A out there.

If the parts you assembled are original it is just a matter of time
before the hammers get so loud that you can't stand them.  The action
begins to throw jacks, springs, buckskin.  I hope you have a long life
that will allow you to enjoy your piano for the next 50-100 years.
I intend such for myself.  But all original parts on a piano will not
be listenable for more than a few more years

I have some pianos that I restored over 20 years ago.  These pianos
were in great shape back then and needed only player restoration.  And
back then I did not know how, nor need to replace as much piano action
as I do regularly now.  The families have used the pianos to raise now-
grown children.

I went to one of these instruments to tune it a while back.  The player
still played like a son-of-a-gun, but the piano barely made a tune.
The pins were all loose, the piano action was mere shards of wood with
next to no leather or felt still attached.  Some notes just made clunks
because all 3 strings were missing.  Needless to say the piano was not
tunable and will need a complete piano restoration as soon as they are
ready to spend the money.  All players will be just like that unless we
replace as much in the piano as we now do in the player system.

I apologize to you, Andy, for making you think I was in some way
putting you down.  That was never my intention.  On the other hand
I was trying to challenge you to expand your horizons and not consider
anything unrestorable.  When you see something you might consider
unrestorable, instead think "How should I do it?"

For everyone in the list, consider this: No matter how bad it looks,
*it _is_ restorable!*  Just figure out how to do it, get help if
needed, and go to it.  They are not making any more 1920's player
pianos, but they are making more people to enjoy the dwindling number
of restored ones.

D.L. Bullock -- Piano World  -- St. Louis
Found on our flyers and business cards:  "Restoring the Unrestorable"

 [ D.L., with your skills and enthusiasm you should be restoring old
 [ cars for those collections in Las Vegas!  But, just as with cars,
 [ doesn't it depend upon what the customers are willing to pay for?
 [ Just think of all the cars at the automobile junkyards, waiting to
 [ be restored.  I'm afraid that the same economic laws hold true at
 [ the Piano Junkyard !
 [ I'm pleased that you and Andy are still on speaking terms, and you
 [ have clarified your positions.  Thanks to both of you for seeing
 [ the matter through.  We've all learned something from your letters.
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Mon 18 May 1998, 19:33:43 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  is, Original, What

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