Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

Moderators: Feg, Gill the Piano, Melodytune

Post Reply
nuttysmallholder
New Member
New Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 13 Oct 2015, 10:39

Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by nuttysmallholder » 13 Oct 2015, 11:05

Hi All,
I am considering purchasing an old small grand piano. I'm getting back to playing after ~30 years gap and I was a pretty indifferent player at my best. So I don't want to spend a small fortune. Budget is around £6000, but I can push a bit more for the right instrument - which means one that is a good investment (will hold its value), has a mellow tone and a light action.

Question: I have come across an early (1862) Bluthner Boudoir for £7900 (6'3"). It has been 'fully restored' 12 years ago. Clearly, I will have it professionally inspected before committing myself. But if it is everything that it appears to be, is it likely to hold its value well? Or is it too early an example from the maker?

I've been hovering between this and a 1913 Rosewood Chappell (5'4") at £2500.

Many thanks for your comments.

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 13 Oct 2015, 17:44

Welcome to the forum.
Just some general comments....
I think the Bluthner may be under-priced if it has been fully restored? I would expect around the £12K - £15K mark.... depends on the following......
"Fully restored" (these days) does not always constitute to as it is described. Depends on where you have seen the piano.... dealer/ shop/ auction/private sale? .... so I would be cautious about that claim.

A full restoration for an instrument about 100 years old would entail new hammers & shanks & flanges/ refurbished materials on the levers & abstracts (if a Patent action).... full keyboard rebushing/ original ivories in good condition and not replaced for plastic tops/ full re-string & re-gilding of the cast frame (including the 4th string if Aliquot stringing?) / pedal lyre refurbished and casework generally clean & tidy.

Now then.... for an instrument of that age, if the wording is correct, then I would always check to see if the wrest plank has been replaced.... it may be that new strings & dampers/ tuning pins were driven back into the old original wrest plank.... so you must check that out, and only accept genuine paperwork/ invoices/ workshop schedules showing the detail done. The soundboard & bridges are sometimes replaced, but very expensive.... and a new wrest plank + soundboard + bridges would cost in the region of well over £20K alone.... so the asking price may not reflect in that. Ask your technician to check the underside of the wrest plank, and note if the top plank brass plates have been removed, they should have been re-polished and lacquered - all four of them.

You may also need to select the right technician for the job.... I recommend Barrie (website moderator).
A good piano tuner/ technician may not be up to date with the Patent action - if fitted.

The Chappell......

Check the action to see if it is the 'Simplex' type - spring & loop action. These are long costa springs (about 7cm in length) that hook onto a loop cord. They should ALL be replaced.... springs and loops.... a job that can be done later, but time consuming. There also seems to be a big price drop between the 2 pianos.... the Bluthner will have a better bass.... but having said that, even 12 year old bass strings are near the end of their life if exposed too much.

Finally, get your tuner to check the action frames.... probably wooden. Can cause problems regulating. If the Chappell has alloy action brackets (on a wooden key frame).... should be fine.

First and foremost.... check tuning stability/ pin torque/ wrest plank condition.

All pianos depreciate in value, like cars, but the Bluthner will hold some of its value if the ivories are spot on, and all original. There are a few other issues such as damper wire to lever locations/ rust issues? / hammer refacing/ bang on concert pitch.... but your tuner should be able to assess this during the visit. A proper assessment should take about 2 hours, and you are recommended to be there face to face the whole time. If you have not seen, played or heard either piano.... risky!

Hope that helps
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

vernon
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1407
Joined: 12 Mar 2008, 10:29
Location: N.E.Scotland
Contact:

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by vernon » 13 Oct 2015, 18:41

Without seeing either of the pianos on offer,my first thought is that the Bluthner,whatever the work done on it is grossly overpriced. If it has had all the work recommended by Colin then it is now hardly a "Bluthner!"
For a good Chappell of the age mentioned I would think £1500 would do nicely.

All subject to a proper technician's appraisal of course.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

nuttysmallholder
New Member
New Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 13 Oct 2015, 10:39

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by nuttysmallholder » 14 Oct 2015, 08:57

Thanks Colin,
The list of work done on the Bluthner doesn't sound as extensive as you recommend... Restringing, regilding of frame, new felts and new dampers. Inspection and repair where needed of hammers and action plus a repolish. Does the fact that the frame was regilded imply that it was pretty much taken apart and put back together again? Assuming this was done by a competent restorer (which I can check), then I'd expect that anything that needed repair/replacement at that time was done...

I'm probably with Vernon in terms of preference for the extent of replacement versus repair. And not on the basis of cost... but philosophically I'd prefer conservation of something this age, rather than wholesale replacement. Feel free to tell me that's not possible/advisable for some elements of the mechanism...

Both the Bluthner and the Chappell are being sold through dealers. (I think dealers rather than restorers).

To add further complexity, I now have a third option - a 1900 Broadwood Barless 5ft 6in (unrestored) for £1400 (from a very reputable restorer). I don't have an estimate for the work needed on this yet. Assuming this was restored to a good playable state (probably to Vernon's standard rather than Colin's) and repolished, how would it compare against the Bluthner?

I will get a technicians appraisal - but given that the instruments are geographically dispersed across the country, I'd like to get my list down to a single preferred option.

Thanks for your help.

RWAS
Regular Poster
Regular Poster
Posts: 36
Joined: 07 Jun 2007, 07:00
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by RWAS » 24 Nov 2015, 18:26

Instinctively, I would balk at purchasing any 153 year old piano. It would be painstakingly difficult to restore completely any piano of that age to its original condition because of the unavailability of parts and its obsolete technology.
Of course, there are piano restorers who can achieve miracles in their work, but the pricing of the instrument in question suggests that the rebuilding word was not extensive.
Despite my own feelings of nostalgia for those old "character" instruments, my common sense dictates that newer pianos are better in every way.

Kind regards,

Robert
I love the piano and its music.

vernon
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1407
Joined: 12 Mar 2008, 10:29
Location: N.E.Scotland
Contact:

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by vernon » 25 Nov 2015, 22:14

roger to that good sense
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

Model V
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 156
Joined: 09 Nov 2008, 11:28

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by Model V » 29 Nov 2015, 20:46

As for the Bluthner: Seriously, if Schubert had lived to a ripe old age, he could have been the original owner. I.e.forget it. It's only fit for gracing a 2nd rate stately home, not as a musical instrument. Similarly old English grands are invariably 2nd rate (if I'm being generous).

For £6000 you have the pick of many new/modern pianos which will give you excellent service as musical instruments. Or take a tech to an auction with your 6k and bag something magnificent if you fancy getting a piano to do up.

A 150-odd year old German piano or a 100 year old English one with introduce you to a whole world of pain and/or expense.

MV.

vernon
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1407
Joined: 12 Mar 2008, 10:29
Location: N.E.Scotland
Contact:

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by vernon » 29 Nov 2015, 23:07

I really hope people listen to this sort of practical advice from technicians with years of experience between us.
One can counteract the ravages of time on any old piano if no expense is spared but the result will be nothing like the original except in cosmetic appearance.
Sure, we still have an old gluepot to boil up skin glue for delicate REPAIRS to venerable instruments but not for restorations.
If you are skilled enough you could restore every bit of an old Austin seven to it's absolute original condition but it will never do 60 up the M1
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

joseph
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
Posts: 740
Joined: 08 Apr 2008, 23:34
Location: Norwich

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by joseph » 19 Dec 2015, 19:29

Hello everyone, long time no see....

I'm going to chip in about the Blüthner.

It's true that there are Blüthners from the later part of the 19th C, up to the 1930s that make good candidates for a full restoration. This is because these Blüthners follow a largely conventional design, perhaps you could say modern design. The actions can be restored or changed out for a new action and keyboard, and the results, in the hands of the right restorer, are generally excellent. They do sound like Blüthners.

However in 1862 the pianos were kind of prototypes of the modern instruments. There were various versions of the overstrung scale, different plate designs, actions that would be recognised as Blüthner Patent Actions but that are quite different to the common types on the pianos built in the early 20th Century, and it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to get a modern action to fit such a piano. It might well be a good piano of its type, but at this stage, it is a historical instrument in design. There could well be musical interest in these instruments in that you can preserve the instrument, or restore it in some form and have a window into the past (not necessarily an accurate window into the past), and for some collectors this is all very interesting.

Although it is a Blüthner, and it's from an interesting period because it must be one of the earliest grands of theirs in existence today, it won't ever perform as a modern instrument, and it would be a mistake for you to buy it and use it as your main piano unless that is your area of interest. It's the type of piano you could pour money into and never be happy with. I think that the price is too high, and you'd be better to save up a little more and get a half decent Yamaha. Or, you could find a later Blüthner already restored (and I mean, new plank, new soundboard, restored or replaced action) that is being sold second hand - it does happen from time to time.

Chappell grands are pretty mediocre pianos, these days they're all very old and they don't make good candidates for restoration in financial terms. Perhaps you could get good musical results from one, and if it isn't played out and you're not a serious player then perhaps picking up one for £1500 (as vernon suggests the price should be) would be OK, but my first choice would still be going much newer, and Japanese in your budget.

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 20 Dec 2015, 07:47

Good to hear from you.
Yes, I remember this post about 2 months ago.... some of it sketchy.
I received a PM from 'Nuttysmallholder' shortly after, (sounded a very nice person) and was informed the Bluthner was within striking distance from my area. I saw the video of the piano being played (something like Elton John style music) .... and the piano was VERY badly out of tune. I advised the member to check about the validity of the "full restoration" .... and it was replied by the retailers that a "German restorer" restored the piano. They would also try to find the restoration notes (if any) from this guy.... this tells me.... there wasn't any! There were the usual "showroom" shots - but I suspect this piano was refurbished, but may have not lived up to the advert.
I offered a quote to visit the retailers and inspect the piano fully, but it never happened.

The Bluthner then went cold. When the Broadwood was mentioned.... too far away from me.... and I believe the piano was part X. It had mainly spent months on its side with the legs & lyre removed waiting for a potential buyer. When the piano was assembled, only to send the member photos of it, when I saw them, it was as though the photographer was on some kind of carousel. No detailed photos of the action, strings, wrest pins, wrest plank area etc.... just a few shots of the sides with dual legs.... so in the end, we may never know which piano the member went for :)

Don't know if the Chappell was investigated.
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Jonathan the 2nd
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 254
Joined: 09 Dec 2011, 16:37

Re: Early Bluthner Boudoir - a good purchase?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 01 Jun 2016, 19:51

An old black grand piano showed up on e bay a few days ago . I could not resist sending in a question about a patch of heavily damaged lacquer on the casing. It was hard to work out which part of the piano it was. The seller seemed confused about the damage but there it was clearly in the photos. Then he admitted that it was owned by a concert pianist with a large dog that used to chew the piano as he played . This may be a bad time to mention that . I doubt if it sold quicker because of the dog .

Post Reply