I recently found this beautiful antique upright piano that I’ve decided to take on as a personal rebuild project. This Mason & Hamlin upright was built in 1892. It is a relatively rare piano because of the way it is tuned. Modern pianos are typically built with steel tuning pins driven into laminated layers of wood. The tight grip of the wood on the pin creates the tension needed to keep the piano in tune. This antique piano I found has a screw mechanism instead of the typical wood pinblock.
This type of tuning system was an invention of the Mason & Hamlin piano company and, at the time, was considered by many to be superior to the pinblock method. These type of pianos have been known to hold their pitch for years, as opposed to months with the more traditional tuning system. Unfortunately, the screw stringing system was abandoned after resistance from the buying public.
I look forward to beginning this rebuild project and learning about this amazing type of tuning system that appeared to be far ahead of its time. Check back often for progress updates on this beautiful antique.
Just curious, I had one identical to this is picked up from a house sale because of a divorce for couple hundred bucks delivered. I had 4 keys that didn’t work anymore but still the sound from it was amazing especially since the last tuning record I found was in 1946 and it was then 2004.
I had a retired piano tech come down expecting just a tune up and maybe look at those 4 keys, instead he came with a trailer and a fully rebuilt Emerson upright. He pulled up swaped mine for his and that was it. I asked if I owed him anything he said we’ll call it even.
My question is what would something like this be worth. I know it had a cracked sound board but was all original and good shape for it’s age?
Thank you for your time.
Wow. You had a Mason & Hamlin screwstringer and a retired tech showed up with a fully rebuilt piano and swapped them out? That’s an incredible story by itself. I’m very curious as the motive of this technician? He must have felt that your piano was worth at least as much as the piano he was swapping it for. As for its monetary value? That is a very difficult thing to assess. While this particular type of piano is relatively rare, that doesn’t always mean they are necessarily valuable. The one you are looking at on my page was given to me. The lady just wanted it out of her house. Granted, it does have many issues that make it unplayable in its current condition. This one has massive cracks in the soundboard and bridges, making it unable to be tuned. Once fully restored, I have seen these offered for sale and sold anywhere between $4-12,000. The used piano market is flooded with pianos right now because of the various online ways of selling or giving away pianos. Even if 90% of those pianos wouldn’t even compare to the build quality of an M&H screwstringer, it does seem to depress the value somewhat of quality pianos.
I’m sure all that information makes it clear as mud. Thanks for the great comment though and the visit to our site.
I have the same piano in rougher shape. Any progress to report? I’m debating whether to drag it down the alley or try to make it functional again. Mine is a model 10 (A or H) 7474, 1892.
How did your rebuild go? I’m looking for a string hook for mine. I also need 3 bass strings. Our pianos are the same age and look, other than my front panels have cut-outs.
This piano is still in storage awaiting rebuild. Too many other projects have pushed it down the list of priorities. If you are on Facebook, there is a FB group of owners of Mason & Hamlin screwstringers. Most of us are piano technicians as well. The name of the group is “Mason & Hamlin Screwstringer Repair/Rebuilding.” It was started so that we could network and exchange information about working on these unique pianos and also to have a resource for parts that are salvaged from pianos that won’t be rebuilt. You may find someone that has the string hook you are looking for. As for the bass strings, A reputable string maker can duplicate those for you. If you have the originals, you can send them to the string manufacturer. If not, you can send measurements and the string can be made from those.
Thank you for your comments and questions. Please let me know if we can further help in any way.
Our family has a 1892 Mason & Hamlin Screw Stringer Piano that was purchased by my Grandparents for my Mother when she was very young maybe around 7-10 so that she could learn to play. My mother recently passed and our family was assessing what to do. We had a tuner come tube it up and states the piano is in great shape – all intact – a couple hammers could be replaced but she was – saying we should keep it.
So after looking on the web and finding another model like ours and her assessment of it. We will continue to pass it on. It’s rich, warm sound is quite stunning for 131 years old.
We have a friend that has Mason & Hamlin piano. His deceased wife inherited it from her parents. It was purchased by the parents in 1933 from the Worlds Fair in Chicago Illinois. He is wanting to sell it as he is moving from a very large home to an appointment. Where would be a good place to list it? It is in excellent working condition and plays beautifully.
Hi, Sandra. I would try listing the piano on FB marketplace and Craigslist. Mason & Hamlin pianos from the 1930 are highly regarded musical instruments. There should be enough interest out there that your piano should sell if you have it reasonably priced and it is in good, playable condition. You may even get some interest beyond your local market as many technicians like myself have an affinity for Mason & Hamlin pianos and like to see them restored and placed with people that will play and care for them for years to come.
I worked as a piano technician for over ten years, mostly in Vermont. One early evening, I had the luck of having a Mason and Hamlin upright “strew stringer” piano to tune for an organization similar to the American Legion. Awesome piano. It was a bit tough to get some of the strings set right but when they were set, they were set. It seemed to hold a tuning better than regular pin block type pianos right after I test played it. The toughest part (which is normally the toughest part with tuning ANY piano) was when I had a string pop, and had to replace it. It takes some getting used to when replacing strings on a screw stringer, but after time, one will likely get broken right in with replacing strings and with tuning screw stringers just as easy as regular pianos. So, after replacing a string and getting that piano fine tuned, I had a bit of free time on my hands. What a blessing. Oh my God ! ! That was the most fantastic upright piano I EVER PLAYED ALL MY LIFE ! ! Oh boy! That thing was fantastic. Worth a trillion. Yes, I am a very self styled piano player as well as well as a technician. Have you ever had the luck of playing a Steinway “D” concert grand?? I loved the incredible sound of that concert grand and also the awesome playing action with that so-called “accelerated action” and the weighted long keys.
I have never had the luck of playing a Bosendorfer Imperial model 290, but, by Jesus, I DID have the great and surprising luck of being able to reeeeeeally wail out some symphonic joyous loud music to the point of releasing powerful inner emotions, with the most fantastic upright piano in the world, the Mason and Hamlin screw stringer upright. Gosh that thing sounded like a freaking concert grand, I even left them a note telling them to “please always take great care of this, you have a truly incredible piano here, as well as tuning, I have played thousands of pianos but FEW sound as great as this one, I could bravely call this a CONCERT UPRIGHT, and dont EVER let this thing leave here with out a huge sum of cash!” Many years later, I still remember playing that darn wonderful thing. As far as I am concerned, the Mason and Hamlin screw stringer upright IS THE MOST FANTASTIC UPRIGHT PIANO IN THE WORLD. If you simply can not get ahold of a Bozendorfer grand or a Steinway “D”, . . . . . . . . . . you could settle for an upright, a Mason and Hamlin screw stringer. That piano could easily crank out good old country music, or even jazz, that thing can play sweet and mellow, more than a cello, or it can merely blow your house down. As you can see, I loved that piano!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Philip. There is a small but growing number of technicians that are committed to saving these beautiful, historic musical instruments for the next generation of pianists. Experiences like yours will help us grow the community of passionate enthusiasts.