Posted on

Steinway & Sons Fit & Finish Improvements since 2013 – a photo essay

The first group of improvements concern measures that affect performance, or reduce the amount of musical preparation the pianos need after production — in the factory, by the dealer, or in the field:

Double-pounding
Double-“pounding” to develop hammer tone without lacquer

Problem: New hammers are relatively soft and required saturating with lacquer to harden them before they could be voiced. The use of lacquer in large quantity makes voicing more difficult and the results less predictable.

Solution: Although actions always went through a “pounding” by machine to settle cloth and felt parts, they now go through a second, more forceful pounding to naturally harden the hammer felt before voicing so that little hardening with lacquer is needed. The pianos come out of the factory closer to their final voice, and need less voicing by the technician in the field; and, for the end user, the voicing is more stable over time.

Individual hammer gluing
Individual hammer gluing

Problem: Using a special fixture, hammers were glued to the shanks in groups. This was fast and efficient in the short term, but because hammers slightly shift position as the glue dries, they required a lot of adjusting later on. The twisting and bending of the shanks during this adjustment put potentially damaging pressure on the action parts.

Solution: Hammers are installed individually, just as they would be in a rebuilding shop. This is much more labor-intensive in the short term, but is more accurate and eliminates most of the need for later adjusting.

Institute measures to reduce incidence of sticking dampers
Institute measures to reduce incidence of sticking dampers

Problem: Stainless-steel damper wires sometimes wouldn’t slide freely in the damper guide-rail bushings; dampers would stick in the up position, causing notes to sustain.

Solution: Damper wires are now made of nickel silver, which takes a higher polish than stainless steel, and is more malleable for easier adjustment. They are polished in an ultrasonic cleaner (shown), and the damper guide-rail bushings are impregnated with Teflon powder, which reduces friction to near zero.

Scale-indexed action-part mounting system
Scale-indexed action-part mounting system

Problem: Action parts were screwed to the action frame by hand, resulting in slight variations in the positions of parts on the frame from instrument to instrument. These variations then had to be eliminated by careful adjustment in the factory or the field.

Solution: Action parts and screws are inserted by a machine indexed to the scale of the piano. Installation is uniform and exact, so there is little or no need for adjustment later.

Improved hammer skiving
Improved hammer skiving

Problem: Strips of felt that are to become hammers must first be “skived,” or trimmed, into a pre-hammer shape so that when the strips are bent in the hammer-making molds, the resulting hammers will be of the correct size and shape. This used to be done using unstable wooden fixtures, and resulted in hammer sizes and shapes that varied from instrument to instrument, which required that more hammer filing be done before voicing in the factory or in the field.

Solution: A proprietary skiving machine (not shown) uses CNC technology to shape the felt strips to the exact specifications originally developed for each piano model so that the hammers turn out the same every time. Very little hammer filing is then needed prior to voicing.

Thin high-treble hammershanks
Thin high-treble hammershanks

Problem: Steinway wanted to enhance the tonal sustain in the high treble.

Solution: Thinning the hammershanks of the highest 20 notes to reduce their mass and increase their flexibility allows those hammers to rebound from the strings faster, which increases the volume level of their tonal sustain.

Climate-control action department
Climate-control action department

Problem: Action specifications such as the tightness of action centers and the dimensions of action parts vary slightly with changes in humidity. This contributed to a lack of uniformity among instruments, as well as the need for greater adjustment in the field.

Solution: Humidity control was integrated into the action department’s closed-loop dust-collecting system.

Replace buckskin with Ecsaine
Replace buckskin with Ecsaine

Problem: Buckskin, a natural suede-finished leather made from the hides of deer or sheep, was used in several places in the action where a tough, smooth material is needed, but it varied in thickness and quality from skin to skin. These variations affected critical action dimensions and made a consistent action regulation more difficult.

Solution: Buckskin has been replaced by Ecsaine, a synthetic material with the same tough, suede-like, low-friction properties as buckskin, but which is uniform from batch to batch. Shown here, covered in Ecsaine, are the hammershank knuckles. A side benefit of the change has been reduced action noise.

CNC-machined keybed
CNC-machined keybed

Problem: Although it appears flat to the naked eye, the keybed is actually very slightly curved to optimally fit the key frame, on which the keys move. Planing and sanding the keybed to produce this curvature was done by eye, with much variation from piano to piano. This resulted in additional adjustments in the factory and in the field to properly “bed,” or fit, the key frame to the keybed, and to adjust the key height.

Solution: The keybed is now machined with CNC equipment to ensure greater uniformity from one instrument to the next. Less work is required to bed the key frame, and key height is more uniform.

Adjustable music rack
Adjustable music rack

Problem: The angle of the music rack was fixed and did not suit all players.

Solution: The angle of the music rack can now be adjusted to the player’s preference.

The next group of improvements concern the piano’s appearance:

Rounding of case edges and corners on satin ebony models
Rounding of case edges and corners on satin ebony models

Problem: The sharp edges and corners of the case on satin ebony models didn’t hold the finishing material well, leading, with handling, to premature wearing away of the finish in these areas.

Solution: The corners and edges are now slightly rounded, which better holds the finish and resists wear longer.

Clearcoat case bottoms
Clearcoat case bottoms

Problem: Unfinished case woodworking on the bottom of the piano was hidden by black paint.

Solution: The woodworking on the bottom is nicely finished, and shown off under a clear coat of lacquer.

Improve appearance of trapwork blocks
Improve appearance of trapwork blocks

Problem: Trapwork on the underside of the piano looked rough, and was painted black by brush, which did not create a neat appearance.

Solution: Trapwork blocks are now sanded, given rounded corners, and spray-painted satin black before mounting on the piano.

Satin lustre (semigloss) soundboard finish
Satin lustre (semigloss) soundboard finish

Problem: The high-gloss soundboard varnish showed finish imperfections too easily, and took too much time to cure.

Solution: A satin lustre (semigloss) varnish shows finish imperfections less, looks better, and takes less time to cure, allowing fewer foreign particles to settle in the drying varnish.

High-gloss lacquer finish on fallboard, all models
High-gloss lacquer finish on fallboard, all models

Problem: Over time, the fallboard naturally develops scratches from players’ fingernails. Due to the “grain” of a satin finish, scratches showed up prominently on satin-finished fallboards and were difficult to buff out.

Solution: The fallboard on all models is now finished in high-gloss lacquer. Such a finish has no grain; while it still scratches, the scratches don’t show as much and can be buffed out more easily.

The last group of improvements concern measures taken to reduce the amount of touchup and repair needed after production:

Protective shields during installation of plate screws and bolts
Protective shields during installation of plate screws and bolts

Problem: Plates can get scratched during screw and bolt installation. Plates are difficult to touch up well.

Solution: Protective plate shields made of polystyrene were developed to fit each model. No touchup is required afterward.

Protective “armor” for cases during production

Problem: During stringing and other production work, the case arms, stretcher, and keybed would get scratched and dented, and would have to be touched up at the end of production. Often, the touchup was noticeable as such.

Solution: Plastic “armor,” developed to fit the front end of each instrument, is kept in place during the manufacturing process to minimize scratches and dents. The result is that little or no touchup is required.

Plate protection around tuning pins during stringing
Plate protection around tuning pins during stringing

Problem: The area around the tuning pins can get scratched easily during stringing, and is difficult or impossible to touch up.

Solution: Protective plate shields made of thin sheets of rubber were developed to fit each model. No touchup is required afterward.

Plastic covers to keep strings clean during production
Plastic covers to keep strings clean during production

Problem: Dirt and dust would get into the bass-string windings during production, sometimes resulting in discoloration and tonal impairment.

Solution: To keep dirt and dust out, the pianos are covered with plastic sheeting when not being worked on.

Positive-pressure clean room for soundboard finishing
Positive-pressure clean room for soundboard finishing

Problem: Despite best efforts to keep out dust, invariably it would get into the soundboard varnish as it dried, making for a less-than-perfect finish.

Solution: Create a positive-pressure clean room in which to spray and cure the soundboard varnish, resulting in a near-perfect finish.

 – Larry Fine
Posted on

Steinway Spirio Update

Spirio Spotlight

NOVEMBER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SPIRIO CATALOG

Steinway & Sons Spirio, the world’s finest high resolution player piano, presents jazz headliner Aaron Diehl in a tour-de-force set of short works by Dick Hyman that encompass the heritage of jazz. In just 20 minutes, Diehl (and Hyman) take us from Scott Joplin to Earl Hines, from Fats Waller to Dave Brubeck. Aaron is also featured in two SpirioSync videos:  tributes to George Shearing, and our featured Steinway Immortal, the remarkable Art Tatum.

Tatum’s heavy influence on jazz is well known. Spirio listeners have the privilege of experiencing the man himself through our re-created performances. Indeed, Tatum’s influence is not bounded by jazz — most pianists, irrespective of genre, marvel at his astonishing technique and musicianship.

New & Notable

If you have enjoyed listening to our September featured artist from, Ludovico Einaudi, you’ll want to hear our favorite Belgian pianist Jean-François Maljean, who returns this month with a new set of music that features his engaging blend of jazz and New Age improvisation.

The trailblazing pianist and composer Vijay Iyer takes us to another area of jazz that highlights his diverse creativity that is so admired.

And if you liked Piotr Anderszewski’s taste of Janáček’s On the overgrown path released in September, you will want to hear Czech pianist Ivo Kahánek, who presents the complete First Book of that seminal work.

Japanese pianist Yoko Kikuchi debuts on Spirio with some short works including Mozart’s Kleine Gigue; Jenny Lin plays Sibelius and Philip Glass; and Sunny Choi plays Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

Posted on

Steinway’s Accelerated Action™

Did you know? Laboratory tests have proven that the keys on a STEINWAY piano can repeat 13% more quickly than any other piano. The same features that allow for this faster repeat also provide a much more sensitive, responsive keyboard, an aspect that can be appreciated even by beginning pianists.

1) Balanced Rail Bearing

The balance rail bearing, as you can see in the illustration taken from the 1931 patent, is a rounded felt-covered piece of maple, which serves as the fulcrum on which the key pivots. Only STEINWAY incorporates a rounded surface; other brands have flat rail bearings.

Why is a Rounded Surface Important?
Scenario 1: Imagine a long plank balanced on a flat piano bench. It’s easy to place the plank so that it balances. The plank can be moved slightly one way or the other without either end touching the ground.

If you place your hand on one end and press very lightly, the plank might bend a little but the other end will not move. As you gradually press harder, the other end of the plank will eventually move, but only after you have applied considerable pressure.

Scenario 2: Now imagine the same situation but with a round surface on top of the flat bench. In this case the plank moves easily (friction free), and it is somewhat difficult to balance; once balanced, pressure on either end will cause the opposite end to move.

This principle underlies every STEINWAY action. The benefit is that the STEINWAY keys move friction free on the rounded balance rails making for the most responsive action possible.

 2) Weighted Keys

The second distinguishing factor in the touch is the weighting of the keys: Larger weights are placed closer to the balance rail bearing, causing the keys to return faster.

So why doesn’t every piano manufacturer incorporate these features? In one word: Time. Every key found on STEINWAY pianos is individually weighed off — a remarkably time consuming process.

Because the STEINWAY action has a much more sensitive fulcrum than actions of other pianos, all other action-related regulation is also more sensitive. The sensitive fulcrum of a STEINWAYaction increases the complexity of all parts of the action.

STEINWAY, of course, is happy to put in the extra work, especially when the result is the most responsive piano action in the world. As the founding credo states “Build the best piano possible.”

Posted on

Simply a better piano.

When Henry E. Steinway and his sons founded what would become the world’s most famous piano company in 1853, they promised to passionately execute Henry’s ambitious vision: ‘To build the best piano possible.’ This 165-year-old mission statement is today imbued in every element of the Steinway brand, including the Steinway–designed Boston piano.

The Boston, born in 1992, is the culmination of Steinway & Sons’ decision to develop a new line of instruments to meet the needs of piano connoisseurs not yet ready for a Steinway. Designed by Steinway the Boston is manufactured using a recipe developed from Steinway’s more than sixteen decades of premier piano-building and commitment to continued improvement.

Through its adherence to Steinway design principles, the Boston maintains its position as the best piano available in the popularly-priced market, bar none. Thanks to its Steinway pedigree, the Boston sounds better, plays better, and lasts longer than any other piano in its price range.

SOUNDS BETTER.

There are distinct design differences between the Boston and any other piano in its market, and these design distinctions are born of the Steinway recipe. Just as the Steinway is known for its unmistakable “Steinway Sound,” so, too, has the Boston developed a reputation for a distinctly pure, rich sound that simply can’t be reproduced by other pianos.

The Boston owes its superior sound to Steinway–designed advancements:    

  • Steinway & Sons Engineers Susan Kenagy and John Patton designed the Boston from the ground up at Steinway & Sons’ New York factory, calling upon 165 years of pioneering piano manufacturing.
  • Steinway–designed low-tension scaling results in a longer sustaining tone and longer  life of the whole piano. A low-tension string scale design gives a fuller tone by allowing more of the lower partials to sing. It also has more sustain, is more powerful, has more dynamic range, and provides warmer and mellower tones.
  • The linearly tapered solid Sitka–spruce soundboard, designed for optimal vibrational response, which provides a bigger, richer, fuller tone and increased sustain.
  • The hard rock maple inner rim, which — by virtue of its superior qualities—produces less vibration and less absorption of sound to generate a better, fuller sound from the soundboard.
  • The “wide-tail” design, which offers substantially more surface area on the soundboard to create a richer sound and the impression of playing on a larger instrument. Additionally, the wide-tail design permits longer bass strings, as they can be placed closer to the center of the soundboard, providing a much richer, deeper and colorful bass.
  • Pear-shaped hammers manufactured on a Steinway-owned hammer press. Striking the strings at exactly the right spot, these hammers are designed to produce the best tonal result.
  • Solid copper-wound bass strings — made by Mapes Piano String Company in Tennessee, USA — will last longer than copper-plated on steel. It also ensures pure tone for the life of the instrument. Steinway–patented overstringing permits maximum speaking length of bass strings and a smoother transition from bass to tenor.
  • The Steinway-patented, vertically-laminated maple bridge with solid maple cap, which provides the best transfer of energy from bridge to soundboard. The patented bridge is also placed closer to the center of the soundboard in Boston grands, thus allowing for a more even disbursement of energy and resulting in a richer, fuller tone.

PLAYS BETTER.

From students to teachers to performing artists, pianists who play Boston know the benefits of the Boston “feel” and are passionate about its superiority to the touch of other pianos in its price range. The trademark responsive action of the Boston is owed to its Steinway pedigree, which emphasizes sophisticated geometry and the highest-quality construction materials.

Like Steinway, Boston uses all-wood action parts — never plastic like many competitors. Wood helps to determine the Boston’s characteristic feel and allows the player to experience the “feedback” from the keyboard that is found only in performance-level instruments. In addition, Boston pianos feature Steinway–patented (and famous) rosette-shaped flanges, which mate positively with the action rail, lock into place, and prevent any twisting or shifting of the action parts. This means that despite humidity, temperature changes, or heavy use, the Boston’s action is forever tight, sharp, and responsive.

The rosette shape on Boston’s action rail was originally patented by Steinway in 1868: it’s a time-tested hero when it comes to piano “feel” and stability, and no other similarly-priced piano offers it. In addition, the design of the Boston action requires less energy to start the hammer moving, permitting pristinge repetition, an extremely responsive action, and greater control over a tremendous dynamic range.

LASTS LONGER.

Like the Steinway from whence it came, the Boston piano is designed for legacy and longevity. With its unique, proprietary design, Boston has emerged since 1992 as an affordable workhorse with an elegant pedigree and long-lasting heirloom potential. While the overwhelming foundation of the Boston’s durability stems from its adherence to Steinway design and Steinway–sanctioned manufacturing and materials, there are specific points that offer it a long-lasting playing life:

  • Radial bracing (on Boston grands) ties the framework of the instrument together and supports the rim; and staggered backposts (on Boston uprights) address tension where it is greatest and ensure stable tunings and an overall longer life.
  • The low-tension string scale works seamlessly with these two unique Boston bracing systems. Physics guarantees that this design creates a piano with less stress that is better able to handle tension and prolonged use.
  • Inspired by the revered Steinway Hexagrip® pinblock, the Boston’s Steinway-patented Octagrip® pinblock is constructed from eleven layers of hard rock maple. These layers are glued in different grain angles to keep the tuning pins tight but allow for fluid motion. The result is improved tunings, greater tuning stability, and overall extended piano life.

The Steinway-designed benefits of Boston pianos are real. Boston is designed by the world’s most revered piano maker, utilizing expertise and technologies honed over more than 165 years. Built in manufacturing facilities with the ability to build exactly according to the Steinway design, the Boston is fashioned from a famously-exacting recipe for piano greatness — one which has found countless passionate devotees the world over. And based on the ever-increasing number of Boston pianos sold to music schools and institutions, where performance and longevity are paramount, it’s clear that the word is out on Boston.

If you would like a brochure of the Boston, please fill out the form below.

Contact the Piano Centre

Posted on

Grand Piano Floor Template

 

With a piano template you can envision what size grand piano is best for your space. As a complimentary service, we can send out a piano specialist on a booked appointment to help you size out the proper length of grand piano for your home. Please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you promptly!

Contact the Piano Centre