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#2083452 - 05/16/13 01:19 AM Steinway's three famous patents
Reno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 141
As part its marking strategy, Steinway emphasises a lot on the following famous patents:

1) Accelerated Action; October 13, 1931 - Patent #1826848
2) Diaphragmatic Soundboard; August 18, 1936 - Patent #2051633
3) Hexagrip Pinblock; May 28, 1963 - Patent #3091149

I heard from some technicians that none of these patents are important. I would like to hear the export opinion about these patents.


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#2083539 - 05/16/13 06:57 AM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
Loren D Online   embarrased
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2596
Loc: PA
Of the three, I think the diaphragmatic soundboard is the most important.
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#2083547 - 05/16/13 07:36 AM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1664
Loc: Tennessee

The patents are far more important as marketing tools than they are for performance. The soundboards were originally tapered by hand, with a plane, but are now machine sanded by a very large apparatus that makes them all the same,(there goes one factor in their much touted "individuality". ) The boards are very much a determinant in the sound of the piano.

The accelerated action refers to the acceleration of the key ratio through its stroke by its rotating on a curved surface. This works if the key is beginning its rotation centered on a point of the curve distal to its centerline. The effect is that the fulcrum (the contact point) moves towards the player (proximally) during its stroke, effectively losing leverage and gaining increased capstan speed during the rotation. The Steinway half-rounds were, to my knowledge, drilled with the hole slightly off set from center to accomplish this. It was important to install them properly aligned. The later parts were drilled in the middle, obviating the geometry that created this "gain ratio".

I was also informed by Bill Garlick, while he was at Steinway, that key leading was also part of the acceleration patent, and that Steinway had stopped following that design years before,effectively violating their own patent. I have never seen a pianist that could distinguish an accelerated action from another without. The same effect can be had by cutting 30% of the balance rail punching off and installing it so that the key rocks back onto the uncut portion.

The Hexagrip blocks are just a label. The earlier blocks, barring extreme climate exposure, were great. I tune numerous blocks that are 70-90 years old that are still viable. I will also restring an older block if it is still intact by chasing the holes with an appropriately prepared drill bit and installing 4/0 pins. I have many of these out in the clientele and it has proven to be a stable, long-term way to restring.

If a new board is going in, a new block is going in, but when the board is acceptable, (they usually don't live past 80 years), and the block undamaged, it saves the customer thousands. I don't do it to save myself time, since my reputation rides on every one of these things and I give a life-time warranty,(my life, not theirs). I have, in the past, gotten half way through a stringing job when I decided that the block was too weird and undid everything and replaced it. What a hassle, but it only happened once.

The modern blocks are something else. Eight years ago the restoration department sent us a D with untunable pins in the bottom four notes and wildly inconsistent torque throughout. A customer that had their 1880 concert grand restored at the factory 15 years ago has just seen the block collapse and crush the action rails, and in 1982, our one year old D at Vanderbilt had to have the bottom three holes plugged and redrilled because the block had failed. The latest ones I have tuned had torque readings well over 160 in/lbs on numerous pins, (this is totally unnecessary for tuning stability and makes fine tuning a real chore). The 1098 model is well known for tuning difficulty, and the pinning torque is far higher than needed.

Marketing is necessary to sell anything, but customers have, usually, a very thin grip on the realities they belie.

Edited by Ed Foote (05/16/13 07:40 AM)

#2083552 - 05/16/13 07:56 AM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
Olek Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 9230
Loc: France
The "concert caster brake" was also a very important patented design.

Very useful if the stage floor is not level wink

patenting anything seem to be a way of doing business, we have a very clear example with our beloved Monsanto (thanks for that guys !)
Professional of the profession.
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#2083631 - 05/16/13 11:01 AM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1620
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: onlysteinway
As part its marking strategy, Steinway emphasises a lot on the following famous patents:

1) Accelerated Action; October 13, 1931 - Patent #1826848
2) Diaphragmatic Soundboard; August 18, 1936 - Patent #2051633
3) Hexagrip Pinblock; May 28, 1963 - Patent #3091149

I heard from some technicians that none of these patents are important. I would like to hear the export opinion about these patents.


Ed has answered very well. The takeaway concept here is that you have design criteria (string must be held at tension) which are then solved by particular design solutions. (Tuning pin in multi-lam block). BUT, even though a particular design solution may be both effective and even elegant, it DOES NOT FOLLOW that that is the ONLY solution. (Eg. Wegman or Mason & Hamlin screw stringer.)

Marketing departments tout the effectiveness and elegance of the particular design features of their product. They never discuss the relative merits of that design feature compared to other solutions that have been established to work equally well. Another case in point is the vertical hitch pin introduced by Baldwin. It was ONE APPROACH to setting back bearing in a piano. It is effective and elegant. However, It is certainly not the only way to set bearing nor has it ever been demonstrated that pianos with bearing set in that fashion are superior in any way to pianos that use other approaches.

With S&S, soundboards were being tapered before their patent and many other makes of pianos taper their boards in one fashion or another. If I recall correctly, the S&S patent was on the tapering procedure -- not the fact of tapering itself. (Been a little while since I read their patent.)
Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

#2083649 - 05/16/13 11:55 AM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 4147
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
If I had no financial limits, I would have that panel planer in my shop.

In my opinion, the significant Steinway patents important to tone are the ring bridge, duplex scale, and diaphragmatic.

I have a patent application pending for my Fully Tempered Duplex Scale which solves the problems with the past state of the art and fully explains all the things going on in the duplex.
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com

#2083668 - 05/16/13 12:33 PM Re: Steinway's three famous patents [Re: Reno]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24774
Loc: Oakland
Other significant Steinway patents are cross-stringing, the continuous rim, and the cupola plate.
Semipro Tech


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