Steinway “A” Rebuilding Update

October 2, 2011

Steinway A Soundboard Final Finishing and Beginning Brass Polishing

July 25, 2011

Steinway A Plate Refinishing

July 4, 2011

Steinway A Pinblock Carving and Fitting

June 6, 2011

Steinway A Soundboard Restoration Part One

May 3, 2011

Properly rebuilding the soundboard and restoring its crown is essential. Replacing the board will ruin its tone quality, and is not necessary to begin with as the photos demonstrate.

Steinway A (c. 1930) – Installing New Anodized Aluminum Key Pins

May 1, 2011

Installing new Key Pins on a 1930 Steinway A. Manufactured by Wessell Nickel & Gross, part of the company that makes Mason & Hamlin Pianos, these key pins are anodized aluminum, which unlike nickel plated steel pins, will never tarnish or rust through the plating. Anodized aluminum is also super slick, and when polished or lubricated they will stay slick indefinitely, unlike nickel plated pins which begin to tarnish and cause friction almost immediately.

Hall of Shame #3

May 24, 2010

Damaged backchecks

Hammer tails

This is an older Steinway A, not only did the rebuilder ruin its tone quality by replacing its original soundboard, but the poor job they did of roughing the hammer tails has ruined several backchecks. Hammers tails are supposed to be roughed slightly so they catch on the backchecks, instead this master technician (HA!) has cut huge gouges into the hammer tails, which not only ruin backchecks, but also don’t even work properly. Almost none of this piano’s hammers were even checking at all, and had to be properly roughed on top of the damage just to function. I recently replaced two damaged backchecks and others had been replaced previously, but the only permanent solution will be to discard these hammers, which are worn out anyway. Again, the piano owner payed a tremendous amount of money to people who had no clue what they were doing. This really makes my blood boil!

Hall of Shame #2

May 24, 2010

Destroying new Steinway hammers

This may be a little hard to see, but check out this hammer in a Steinway concert grand. These hammers are less than 5 years old, and someone has mangled them by filing them. Instead of the surface of the hammer being perpendicular to its sides, this goes “downhill” from left to right. This puts stress on the flange and pin and could ruin the bushing or break the shank or flange. Not only that, but since one side of the hammer hits before the other, it doesn’t sound right, in fact this set of hammers has been so badly abused that the whole piano sounds awful. Needless to say, the owners of this piano paid a large sum of money to have this work done, poorly! Shame!!

Hall of Shame #1

May 24, 2010

"Doing Half a Job"

When it came time to replace the wippens in this console piano, the person who did the work simply put the parts in and did not even bother to regulate the new parts! It’s a miracle this piano even played at all. Look closely at the irregular alignment of the parts. Of course the customer had no idea what had happened, but her daughter thought the piano was not playing properly, which it wasn’t.

Rebuilding Your Steinway – Separating Fact from Fiction

March 19, 2010

I’m currently rebuilding a Steinway A. Since my customer was unsure what kind of finish to choose, I suggested they visit the local Steinway dealer and have a look at different kinds of finishes. Since my customers spend part of the year out of state, they instead needed to visit a Steinway dealer out of state. I was shocked when I received a call from them describing their visit. Seems this particular dealer didn’t like people coming into his store who were not going to be sending any money his way, and proceeded to lay into them with quite a dishonest routine. I did my best to reassure my customer, but the seeds of doubt had been planted by an unscrupulous salesman.

Dismayed, I decided to do a little digging. Imagine my chagrin to find out that Mr. Steinway Salesman was simply parroting propaganda originating directly from the mother ship. Indeed, some of the claims made by Steinway are so absurd, so ridiculous, I felt a need to write a rebuttal via my blog.

There are 12,116 genuine Steinway parts that make up a Steinway piano, and unfortunately for those who have their Steinway pianos restored outside of the Steinway Restoration Center, there are nearly as many imitation parts that are used in the name of cutting corners and saving money.

Wow. This is so misleading. I use parts that are the best available. “Cutting corners” is simply an insult. My whole approach is to avoid cutting corners. Being more expensive does not make Steinway parts better! If I could be convinced that Steinway parts were the best, I would not hesitate to use them. 15 years restoring pianos has led me to believe otherwise. In the past, a lot of technicians have avoided Steinway parts because of their inferiority. No one in their right mind would purposely buy a more expensive part that then needed extra work to overcome its deficiencies when they could buy a part from a manufacturer with better quality control that didn’t require extra “dressing.” This was especially true with hammers. Out of the box,  Steinway hammers would take hours of lacquering and needling to get them to sound right, whereas hammers from Abel or Imadegawa could be installed and sound spectacular with little or no additional labor. So this is a double-edged sword: not only are Steinway parts more expensive to begin with, they then may require additional labor cost to be up to the standards of parts that are better right out of the box. “Cutting corners” is never something I would do, but being conscientious with my customers’ money is a priority, and using parts that end up costing way more money simply to have the Steinway name is insane.

restoration companies will opt for cheaper imitation parts — often claiming that they are somehow superior to the genuine Steinway parts.

“Imitation” parts, nice language. Other parts may be more consistent, need less work, and regulate more accurately, but no matter, since they don’t have the name they must be crap, “somehow”. Baloney.

If you restore your Steinway piano somewhere else because of a lower cost estimate, any savings realized initially through use of cheaper, non-Steinway parts will be lost due to the diminished long-term value of the instrument.

Again, this is baloney, pure and simple. Often older Steinways are advertised as specifically having parts from other manufacturers, why would they do this if it would decrease the value?

If it doesn’t have 12,116 genuine Steinway parts, it isn’t a Steinway

Really. As I understand it, at one point the quality of Steinway’s action parts was so bad, even THEY were forced to use Renner parts for a time. Does that mean that those new Steinways left the factory with a nameplate that read “68% Steinway”? Well, according to what they want you to swallow now, they should have! What about all those Hamburg Steinways with Renner actions? Guess those weren’t real Steinways either, but they sure weren’t sold as being inferior! This is dishonest rewriting of history.

we replace all of the hardware on the piano with genuine Steinway parts, whereas someone else might polish the existing hardware to look new

Here we are getting into the absurd. Old hinges and hardware can be polished to look like new, and often the originals fit better than new hardware. Chucking the old hardware into the trash is a complete waste of resources and the customer’s money. But with new hardware they can profit in two ways, by selling you something new you don’t need, and also by recycling the “scrap.” But according to them, if your lid hinges are not brand new, somehow your piano is inferior. Absolutely absurd!

The Steinway Restoration Center is the only authorized Steinway piano rebuilder in the world — and the only place where you are guaranteed that 100% genuine Steinway parts will be used to restore your Steinway Piano

Are we to believe that Steinway manufactures its own strings and tuning pins? Highly doubtful. And Steinway no longer manufactures their own plates, they get them from Kelley in Ohio the same as just about every other manufacturer, so what even constitutes a “genuine” Steinway part? Something they are selling apparently.

you’ll receive a dated certification record indicating that your piano has been restored by Steinway & Sons using 100% genuine Steinway parts.

Ooh. A certificate. I’m SO impressed!

Whether your cherished Steinway is in need of custom refinishing, or replacement of the action or soundboard, it couldn’t be in better hands — the hands that originally built it.

The hands that originally built it? Those must be some very old hands indeed. If the Steinway workers who originally built my customer’s piano are still working there, assuming they were at least 25 years old at the time, that would make them 105 at a minimum today. Amazing indeed! Everyone knows that Steinway has gone through ownership changes over the years, and while they may have the designs of the old pianos, much has changed. The Steinway of today is not the same as the Steinway of 100 years ago. While they have improved from what they were doing a few years ago, there have been plenty of stumbles and missteps. Remember the teflon action fiasco? And how about building uprights with a screwy design that can be nearly impossible to tune, and then blaming the tuner?!

Steinway NEVER sells its soundboards — so if you restore your piano somewhere else it may still have the Steinway & Sons trademark logo on it, but if it doesn’t have a genuine Steinway & Sons soundboard, it has lost the internal magic that makes it a Steinway.

Now this is absolutely true. While most tasks in piano rebuilding do not require a factory to be done properly, the soundboard seems to be an exception. The soundboard in a piano can almost always be rebuilt, and should be. In the extremely rare case that your Steinway would need a new soundboard, by all means, SEND IT TO THE FACTORY! In 15 years I have never once encountered a Steinway with a replaced soundboard that has not had its tone compromised severely. Not one single time. I can always spot them because they don’t have that signature sound. But again, soundboard replacement is almost never necessary, even though there is no shortage of technicians who will try to convince you otherwise. ($$$)

Steinway of course wants to sell their parts and rebuilding services, so keep this in mind when you encounter their hard sell. While you should definitely be concerned about the competence of your rebuilder, to claim that Steinway is perfect and everyone and everything else is “cheap” “imitation” “inferior” not “genuine” etc. is absolutely ridiculous.

(quoted text found at hxxp://