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Steinway Rebuild Costs Question #1940559
08/10/12 08:27 PM
08/10/12 08:27 PM
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New York
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Rafterman Offline OP
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Recently I saw a post where a member had found a 1977 Steinway "L" model for sale on EBAY for $14,700 US dollars.

Some had commented on 1977 as being a bad quality year for production standards for Steinway. (I agree along with anything else made in the USA in the 70s)

I was wondering if that piano was returned to Steinway for a complete rebuild and overhaul........What would the approximate cost be? Would Steinway just gut the case and redo everything including the Soundboard and action?

What would a private rebuilder charge for the same? I am asking ball park figures for a piano to be brought up to 2012 Steinway sprcs. Thanks!

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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940580
08/10/12 09:04 PM
08/10/12 09:04 PM
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Tennessee
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Ed Foote Offline
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Greetings,
I don't think you can find a more expensive way to replace the action and the soundboard in a Steinway than to send it to the factory. Their finishing is hard to beat, but priced incredibly high. I think their prices are set as they are to discourage the customer who owns one, wants a 'genuine Steinway', and is considering rebuilding vs trading in. The way the numbers have been presented in the past, they make the argument that it is "so expensive to rebuild, you will be better off trading that one in on a new one..."

I used to send pianos up there for new soundboards, and initially was pleased with the quality, but not anymore. I was told that a lot of the older factory guys were moved to the restoration dept. back in the 1980's rather than adapt to new production arrangements, I am not sure that is the case now, since I have been told that restoration jobs are run through the production line.

I submit that you will have superior Steinway if you have it rebuilt by either a well-regarded "boutique" rebuilder who has the small crew keeping their hands on the piano, (who should have examples of their work for you to try), or one of the well-established larger facilities. Rich has Cunningham piano enjoying a very strong reputation among very picky artists, Sam Bennet in Atlanta, same thing, as well as John Johansen in North Carolina and Acousticraft in Connecticut. New York has numerous old-line restoration outlets, you should be able to check their credentials, as well as their instruments.

Currently, a complete job of belly, action, and finish runs in the neighborhood of $29,000 down here in the south. If you have a worn out hulk from the twenties with intact plate and veneer, this is definitely the way to go. If it is a 1970's model, I would not move so fast, as those pianos often had uncorrectable problems, such as, agraffes so crooked that the piano is doomed to never have a good voicing. Scale problems, plate problems, actions that would embarrass anyone with pride in their work, and poor overall general obedience to the scale stick.

A 1977 L would maybe worth $ 6,000 to me, if it had any potential.
Regards,

Last edited by Ed Foote; 08/10/12 09:07 PM.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940611
08/10/12 10:38 PM
08/10/12 10:38 PM
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beethoven986 Offline
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If you want to gut the piano, it would cost somewhere around $30,000-$40,000; this, of course, depends on who is hired to do the work. It makes more financial sense to buy one from the Golden Age period for maybe $10,000 less.

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: beethoven986] #1940629
08/10/12 11:23 PM
08/10/12 11:23 PM
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New York
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Rafterman Offline OP
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What do you consider the golden age?

I was just curious because someone had posted the EBAY link and they must have bought the piano. I was wondering what their reasoning was for that. The piano was in NYC along with some other Steinways.

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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940645
08/11/12 12:23 AM
08/11/12 12:23 AM
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beethoven986 Offline
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Pre-Depression.... (the 1930s one, not the current one).

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: beethoven986] #1940647
08/11/12 12:30 AM
08/11/12 12:30 AM
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Vancouver B.C. Canada
Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Originally Posted by beethoven986
Pre-Depression.... (the 1930s one, not the current one).


laugh


Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: beethoven986] #1940664
08/11/12 01:09 AM
08/11/12 01:09 AM
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Dale Fox Offline
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Originally Posted by beethoven986
If you want to gut the piano, it would cost somewhere around $30,000-$40,000; this, of course, depends on who is hired to do the work. It makes more financial sense to buy one from the Golden Age period for maybe $10,000 less.


Goodness, I need to raise my prices.


Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician
Remanufacturing/Rebuilding
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940676
08/11/12 02:02 AM
08/11/12 02:02 AM
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Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Hi Rafterman,

You asked a question; "Would Steinway just gut the case and redo everything including the Soundboard and action?" in reference to a rebuild from the Steinway plant. That is exactly what they would do. That is exactly what a total rebuild is, and it makes more sense when you remove the word "just." It isn't the easy, quick way by any means, it is the best way. It is how all of the master re-builders proceed, whether at Steinway, or in their own shops. Newer instruments can often do with refurbishment, but that is a different approach altogether. With a total rebuild, you have, for all practical purposes, a new piano, which if done at the highest level, will compete with anything ever produced by the original maker.

It is best to stay away from the word "restore." That usually indicates using period parts, not new stock, and can't really equal a great rebuilding. This is an area where semantics can really cause confusion.

There are some great re-builders scattered around. Some have already been mentioned, some have not. Before having a piano rebuilt, the choice of the master builder is extremely important. It might very well be more important than the name on the fallboard.

Generally, and only very generally, we are talking in the $30K+ range, and worth every penny. The style of the cabinet can really push up the price. However, when starting with a "core" instrument, the value of the rebuilt instrument would equal or exceed the price of the equivalent new instrument. I don't know the current Steinway prices, however, they historically have run about 30-40% higher than a private rebuild.

A "core" piano is one that requires a total rebuild. It may be perfectly playable, but is really past its prime. The generally accepted price, for a core from "the golden era," is ~$6K. Here the prices can go up considerably with ornate/exotic cabinetry, but the value of the "guts" is all about the same. I am referring to a standard straight leg piano in ebony or one of the standard veneers.

General usage and reference of the term "golden age" is from the dawn of the 20th. Century to about 1930. The "Great Crash" took a big toll on the great companies. The effect can still be felt in terms of quality of the pianos in the periods following. We may very well be going into a new golden age, however, as the finest pianos are no longer competing nationally, but internationally as well.

Of course this can be argued, but the usual candidates for this type of rebuild include:

Steinway & Sons - NY and Hamburg
Mason & Hamlin
Baldwin
Chickering
Knabe

Plan to be without the piano for a year. Yes, it could take less time, but that is what can be expected. It is a very involved process, proceeding in a strict progression, which must not be rushed.

In 2005-06, I had our family 1920 Steinway-M rebuilt (SSN 204506). I was worried that it would not sound like the piano I grew up playing. I needn't have worried. Its individual voice was still there, but the overall difference was monumental. I thought that if the soundboard was replaced the sound would change. What I didn't understand was how carefully a true artist/craftsman will listen to the original, and then work to recreate the original voice throughout the entire process. It is art and not craft.

Now, I am considering a total rebuild of my 1927 S&S-M. It will return to the same shop without question. This time around I have no concerns at all.

I hope this will be helpful to you, and to others, when thinking about proceeding with a rebuilding of a great piano.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Minnesota Marty] #1940685
08/11/12 03:05 AM
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Generally, I agree with what Marty wrote. Well-crafted response!

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Dale Fox] #1940687
08/11/12 03:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Dale Fox
Originally Posted by beethoven986
If you want to gut the piano, it would cost somewhere around $30,000-$40,000; this, of course, depends on who is hired to do the work. It makes more financial sense to buy one from the Golden Age period for maybe $10,000 less.


Goodness, I need to raise my prices.


A lot of technicians do wink

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940745
08/11/12 08:10 AM
08/11/12 08:10 AM
Joined: May 2001
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Marty,

In general, a great post. You are "spot on" with most of what you said.

I will add though that some of the most beautiful pianos I have ever seen were built in the 1930's. The Depression decimated most every piano company, true. But those left had a pool of tremendous craftspeople to choose from - and they needed work.

My two cents,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rich Galassini] #1940798
08/11/12 11:12 AM
08/11/12 11:12 AM
Joined: May 2012
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Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Hi Rich,

I agree with you completely. I was merely trying to define the general use of the term "golden age." Great pianos can come from all time periods, even the 1970's. Stranger things have happened, ya know!

grin


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Minnesota Marty] #1940836
08/11/12 12:51 PM
08/11/12 12:51 PM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Great pianos can come from all time periods, even the 1970's. Stranger things have happened, ya know!
grin


I would have to see one to believe it. I consider the golden age of Steinways to be from serial number 60,000 to 300,000. I am basing this on the ones I have taken apart and put back together. The late 1880 uprights are among the best ever done, (according to professional responses I get from two that I rebuilt.) One of them is now the main keyboard in a major Americana artist's studio, the other is in the home of an internationally known pop star. These are exceptional instruments and as one owner said, "After playing this one, all those other upright pianos sound like, well, uprights.." So, I include them in the "Age".
By 1990, the grands were pretty well developed, and it seems like until WW II killed so many of the craftspeople, the pianos were made with well executed alignment, everywhere. After the war, the pianos exhibit a gradual descent into mediocre construction and assembly.
Even so, it is a rare Steinway grand older than 70 years that still has an evenly responsive soundboard. Their boards are non-durable, just like hammers and keybushing, regardless of what age they come from.
Regards,

Last edited by Ed Foote; 08/11/12 12:53 PM.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1940843
08/11/12 01:06 PM
08/11/12 01:06 PM
Joined: May 2012
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Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Hi Ed,

I think you meant 1890.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Minnesota Marty] #1941099
08/11/12 11:17 PM
08/11/12 11:17 PM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Hi Ed,

I think you meant 1890.


No, one was an 1888 and the other an 1889, according to the dates on the various action parts and serial number.
Regards,

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Ed Foote] #1941251
08/12/12 08:20 AM
08/12/12 08:20 AM
Joined: May 2012
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Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
By 1990, the grands were pretty well developed, and it seems like until WW II killed so many...


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1941259
08/12/12 08:35 AM
08/12/12 08:35 AM
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New York City
pianoloverus Online content
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Completely rebuilt L's at the biggest NYC rebuilder (other than Steinway) are priced in the 50-55K range. However, NYC prices may be higher than many other parts of the US.

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: pianoloverus] #1941521
08/12/12 04:57 PM
08/12/12 04:57 PM
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Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Completely rebuilt L's at the biggest NYC rebuilder (other than Steinway) are priced in the 50-55K range. However, NYC prices may be higher than many other parts of the US.


I know from customers that you are in the right ball park PL. It makes sense.

I must say though, I have really enjoyed being located in Philadelphia. The cost of doing business here is a fraction of what it is in New York, we are close enough to draw extra help from an expert pool there when needed temporarily, and when we take on a permanent craftsman from there he could literally take a pay cut and live much better here.

...except you can't get a decent egg cream in Philly.



Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for great content every week:
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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1941533
08/12/12 05:15 PM
08/12/12 05:15 PM
Joined: May 2012
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Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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And ya can't get a decent cheese steak in NYC!

Scrapple, anyone?

Unfortunately, we excel in Lutefisk.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1941878
08/13/12 10:39 AM
08/13/12 10:39 AM
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Dallas, Texas
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Casey Dan Offline
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Hi Rafterman,

You may want to check out A Grand Guide to Buying a Used Steinway Piano: http://www.usedsteinwaypiano.com This was just recently published to help answer questions like the one you had.

Hope you find it helpful.

Last edited by Casey Dan; 08/13/12 10:44 AM.

Casey D. Saliba

Steinway Hall - Dallas/ Fort Worth/ Plano
Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston
www.steinwaypianos.com
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Casey Dan] #1941886
08/13/12 11:05 AM
08/13/12 11:05 AM
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Ed Foote Offline
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Originally Posted by Casey Dan
Hi Rafterman,

You may want to check out A Grand Guide to Buying a Used Steinway Piano: http://www.usedsteinwaypiano.com This was just recently published to help answer questions like the one you had.
Hope you find it helpful.


Greetings,
Be aware that this is about as self-serving a "guide" as you will likely to find. For some reason, the brand thinks that pricing their parts higher is proof of their superiority. I don't use many factory parts because there are longer lasting, more accurately made parts available. They desperately try to tell us that it is only a Steinway if they are the only ones supplying the parts. It overlooks the fact that the modern parts are not like the originals, and branding them "Steinway" doesn't make them fit any better.
The soundboards of aftermarket rebuilders have demonstrated far superior craftsmanship t the factory restoration,(I have sent many, many pianos through that department before finding much nicer results elsewhere).

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1941968
08/13/12 01:39 PM
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I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading that Steinway rebuild site - something very unclean about it. Parts reputed superiority was only based on price. Value of soundboard based only on the "fact" that you can only get a top quality soundboard by sending the whole piano to their factory. Value of a restoration based only on length of time - never mind that there may be rebuilders who spend far more time on a restoration than 6 months, and that the time they have it has no relationship to the time spent on it, so it's a null statement in the first place. All that talk of retaining market value because of the use of approved parts is really cartel-style behaviour. It's worth that much because it's worth that much, and it's set by the company itself and the dealers they have control over. Once people buy into this, the notion of quality becomes irrelevant - it's just about factory stamps and certificates.

Honestly, the more I read about Steinway as a company the more I feel uncomfortable about them. I feel like selling my family's Steinway K upright which lives at my mother's and making a fresh start. The artist program that can only be described as anti-competitive, makes me feel bad about seeing their pianos at concert halls now. The mere fact that we talk about them as "company A" as a rhetorical device in our threads. Are we all scared of them now? Will they come after me for writing this post? Am I going to be sued for defamation for holding this opinion, even though I own one of their pianos?

It's funny because as I was growing up, I dreamed of having a Steinway grand because it was just universally agreed that they were the ultimate pianos. There was no accounting for it other than they were expensive and could be found in concert halls and in the best homes and buildings. It just seemed to be an agreed upon fact of life. Now that I know the background of how Steinway achieved its market dominance, all that mythology is being debunked for me. I no longer feel any attraction to them as a brand. I don't honestly know how to assess their instruments anymore - and I don't aspire to own one. I don't even feel the romance I used to about the Steinway upright that my family owns. I'll probably sell it once my parents pass away - which hopefully won't be for a while yet.

What is a Steinway piano? Just an instrument, or a monolith of thought-control?

I just don't like what's happening here. Gives me the willies...

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: ando] #1941979
08/13/12 01:52 PM
08/13/12 01:52 PM
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Well, maybe now that they are under new ownership things will change.


Amateur Pianist and raconteur.
Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1941995
08/13/12 02:20 PM
08/13/12 02:20 PM
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Lowell MA
Larry Buck Offline
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IMHO, Steinway as done a nice job on advertising.

Personally, I like the manufacturers, including Steinway.

Steinway's parts dept. is well run and responsive. I use Steinway parts in Steinway pianos and my clients love the results.

It is certainly a consideration with merit that using parts original to the manufacturer represents that manufacturers original intent best.

Meeting a client's expectations or better yet, exceeding those expectations has much more to do with "overall skill", which in my opinion, is the single largest "expense" in any work done.

I fear that going down the road of vilifying, leads nowhere.


"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
Mark Twain

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Larry Buck] #1941999
08/13/12 02:28 PM
08/13/12 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Larry Buck

I fear that going down the road of vilifying, leads nowhere.


But isn't that more or less what Steinway does to others with its own promotional material? Everything else in inferior, lacks in value.

Besides, this is a forum where people can express their thoughts on something. I am yet to see somebody on this forum who is comfortable with the Steinway Artist program, and lots of people who aren't. Likewise, Steinway doesn't just extoll the virtues of its own parts, it actively denigrates the alternatives. Where do you think that is leading?

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: ando] #1942001
08/13/12 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by ando
Originally Posted by Larry Buck

I fear that going down the road of vilifying, leads nowhere.


But isn't that more or less what Steinway does to others with its own promotional material? Everything else in inferior, lacks in value.


That's definitely the way it comes across to a lot of people.

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rafterman] #1942008
08/13/12 02:44 PM
08/13/12 02:44 PM
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I have enormous respect for all the manufacturers, not just Steinway.

Aside from that, I would submit my own work for inspection by any and all.

You are right, this IS a forum of opinions. I submit my opinions and ask for no greater consideration than given any others.


"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
Mark Twain

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Larry Buck] #1942012
08/13/12 02:48 PM
08/13/12 02:48 PM
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 5,520
Melbourne, Australia
A
ando Online content
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Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 5,520
Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted by Larry Buck


You are right, this IS a forum of opinions. I submit my opinions and ask for no greater consideration than given any others.


Indeed, about that we are in fierce agreement. smile

Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Larry Buck] #1942803
08/14/12 09:06 PM
08/14/12 09:06 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,080
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Rich Galassini Offline
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Rich Galassini  Offline
Platinum Subscriber
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 11,080
Philadelphia/South Jersey
Originally Posted by Larry Buck

Steinway's parts dept. is well run and responsive. I use Steinway parts in Steinway pianos and my clients love the results.

It is certainly a consideration with merit that using parts original to the manufacturer represents that manufacturers original intent best.


Larry, this is a sincere question. How helpful is today's Steinway parts department when you are rebuilding a Centennial? Or an 1890's A?

I like the people I speak with there as well, but they are not in the business of providing historic parts, at least none that they actually make. There are manufacturers who are and who provide better materials for historic pianos.

I sincerely wonder what parts you feel that Steinway is providing today that represent their "original intent" for many of their historic instruments? Am I misunderstanding your statement?


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
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Re: Steinway Rebuild Costs Question [Re: Rich Galassini] #1942811
08/14/12 09:18 PM
08/14/12 09:18 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,456
Lowell MA
Larry Buck Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Larry Buck  Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,456
Lowell MA
Rich,

In all fairness, you misunderstand historic restoration needs.

And you misunderstand what Steinway is offering.

No offense intended.

I get exactly what I need and everything I need from Steinway for my historic needs.


"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
Mark Twain

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
http://www.facebook.com/EJBuckPerformances
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