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#2261562 - 04/14/14 11:41 AM What's a Stencil Piano?  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Across a number of current threads this question has come up. I consider that the term has different connotations when used in different contexts.

What is your definition of the term or how do you interpret its usage?

Do you think that it has more than one definition when applied to the piano industry?


Marty in Minnesota

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#2261571 - 04/14/14 11:59 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Greetings,
A stencil piano is one that is manufactured with no markings to identify it. This allowed local stores to have stencils of their own name made and, once applied to the anonymous carcass, allowed them to sell the pianos into their markets at whatever price they wanted, or could get.

The pianos were made by a variety of makers, most of them are mediocre instruments. Stencil pianos have plates with no names, or there may be a screwed on nameplate. There will not be a name cast in the metal of the plate, itself.
Regards,

#2261617 - 04/14/14 01:36 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Ed Foote]  
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote
Greetings,
A stencil piano is one that is manufactured with no markings to identify it. This allowed local stores to have stencils of their own name made and, once applied to the anonymous carcass, allowed them to sell the pianos into their markets at whatever price they wanted, or could get.

The pianos were made by a variety of makers, most of them are mediocre instruments. Stencil pianos have plates with no names, or there may be a screwed on nameplate. There will not be a name cast in the metal of the plate, itself.
Regards,


I would add that sometimes it is a distributor that labels the pianos.


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#2261619 - 04/14/14 01:43 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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I believe that there are stencil pianos which also include faked. reputable brands. For example, I saw a used piano at a local piano shop which had "Schimmel" on the fallboard. It had been brought to the piano dealer as a trade-in and the dealer was very suspicious about it. An experienced person checking the piano would have soon discovered that it was not a genuine Schimmel at all. Unfortunately, most people know little about pianos and would believe that they were buying a genuine, quality German piano.

Regards,

Robert.

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#2261629 - 04/14/14 02:12 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Robert 45]  
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Originally Posted by Robert 45
I believe that there are stencil pianos which also include faked. reputable brands. For example, I saw a used piano at a local piano shop which had "Schimmel" on the fallboard. It had been brought to the piano dealer as a trade-in and the dealer was very suspicious about it. An experienced person checking the piano would have soon discovered that it was not a genuine Schimmel at all. Unfortunately, most people know little about pianos and would believe that they were buying a genuine, quality German piano.

Regards,

Robert.


Wait a minute Robert. There was a Schimmel & Nelson in Minnesota (yes, Minnesota) who built some pianos with Schimmel & Co. on them.

This piano you mentioned might have been one of theirs.


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#2261641 - 04/14/14 02:34 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Stencil pianos sometimes have indications of the actual maker inside. For instance, my brother in law has a console with "Sherman Clay" on the fallboard and "Daewoo" cast into the plate. It was made in 1968 by Daewoo in South Korea for sale by the former Sherman Clay music stores in the SF bay area. It's neither great nor terrible, you got what you paid for with them.

Older American made stencil pianos may have "O.S. Kelly" on the plate. Kelly was a maker of plates for a great many small piano companies.



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#2261658 - 04/14/14 03:36 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Rich Galassini]  
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
Wait a minute Robert. There was a Schimmel & Nelson in Minnesota (yes, Minnesota) who built some pianos with Schimmel & Co. on them.

This piano you mentioned might have been one of theirs.

Strangely enough, it is the same family. It is not at all unlike the Steinweg connection of the emigration of parts of a family.

The S&N and S&C pianos are very rare and very well built.

(Hey Rich, what's surprising about a piano being built in 'Sota, eh? Wez got lottsa gud stuff like lutefisk, ya know.)


Marty in Minnesota

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#2261750 - 04/14/14 07:16 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Quote
A stencil piano is one that is manufactured with no markings to identify it. This allowed local stores to have stencils of their own name made and, once applied to the anonymous carcass, allowed them to sell the pianos into their markets at whatever price they wanted, or could get.

The pianos were made by a variety of makers, most of them are mediocre instruments. Stencil pianos have plates with no names, or there may be a screwed on nameplate. There will not be a name cast in the metal of the plate, itself.


This is a common understanding of a stencil, but I think the term is broader than that, and can include pianos that are far from mediocre. A good example is the "Howard" made by Kawai in the early 1970s for Baldwin. This arrangement to reuse an old name benefitted both Kawai and Baldwin, and the "Howard" Kawais were essentially identical to the Kawai 550s sold under Kawai's name at the time. The soundboards were clearly marked with the "Kawai, Hamamatsu" decal, and it was obvious to the meanest intelligence that they were made in Japan. Some US dealers tried to hide the provenance, but anyone who looked at the plate or soundboard could tell what they were getting.

In this sense, many of the old names that now come back to us from Korea, China, and Indonesia would be stencils, and many are decent instruments. Not all, of course. smile

#2261888 - 04/15/14 12:40 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Are "Essex" and "Boston" stencil pianos under your broader definition of the term?


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#2261907 - 04/15/14 01:29 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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So according to this guy pretty much everything coming from China, maybe minus Hailun and Pearl River, is a stencil piano. And he specifically calls out Essex and Boston as well.


#2261908 - 04/15/14 01:37 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: BornInTheUSA]  
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Originally Posted by michaelha


So according to this guy pretty much everything coming from China, maybe minus Hailun and Pearl River, is a stencil piano. And he specifically calls out Essex and Boston as well.



Totally false. Perzina is not a stencil piano. They have their own factory and are privately owned.

#2261913 - 04/15/14 02:04 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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@Grandman still, as far as I know Perzina was originally not Chinese nor Dutch. They're good piano's but they have little if anything to do with the original product however much their marketing department tries to make the link.


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#2261924 - 04/15/14 02:37 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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I'd like to propose a new term: Ghost Piano.

Not the same as a stencil piano.

A stencil piano is made by one company and sold to another company with the second company's name applied to it. E.g., the "Sherman Clay" piano made by Daewoo. The second company distributes or retails the piano.

A ghost piano is made by a company that owns the name of a defunct company, which it uses to link its product to the defunct company's past product. E.g., "Knabe" pianos made by whoever it is in asia. Unlike a stencil, there's no OEM sale, because the "buyer" no longer exists.

Boston and Essex are closer to stencil than to ghost, but the situation is a little more complex in that the distributing company uses previously unknown made-up names that it owns, rather than putting its own name on them. Are there any others like that? If not, we really don't need a name for this third category.



Last edited by JohnSprung; 04/15/14 02:42 AM.

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#2261925 - 04/15/14 02:40 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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That might be a good Idea. I would call the Perzina ghost piano's then since they're not really stencils (they have their own factory and so on.)


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#2261934 - 04/15/14 03:14 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: WimPiano]  
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Originally Posted by wimpiano
@Grandman still, as far as I know Perzina was originally not Chinese nor Dutch. They're good piano's but they have little if anything to do with the original product however much their marketing department tries to make the link.


You are wrong. The pianos are made using the original German scales according to Larry Fine. How can you say their pianos have nothing to do with the original product? They also still own the original German factory where the original designs were kept.

Last edited by Grandman; 04/15/14 03:25 AM.
#2261937 - 04/15/14 03:24 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: JohnSprung]  
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
I'd like to propose a new term: Ghost Piano.

Not the same as a stencil piano.

A stencil piano is made by one company and sold to another company with the second company's name applied to it. E.g., the "Sherman Clay" piano made by Daewoo. The second company distributes or retails the piano.

A ghost piano is made by a company that owns the name of a defunct company, which it uses to link its product to the defunct company's past product. E.g., "Knabe" pianos made by whoever it is in asia. Unlike a stencil, there's no OEM sale, because the "buyer" no longer exists.

Boston and Essex are closer to stencil than to ghost, but the situation is a little more complex in that the distributing company uses previously unknown made-up names that it owns, rather than putting its own name on them. Are there any others like that? If not, we really don't need a name for this third category.




Perzina doesn't just own the name. They own the right to the original German scales and designs. The floating and reverse crown soundboards are examples based on the original German scales. No chinese thought went into these ideas. The misinformation spewed by some on this sight is really comical. This is lumping all pianos coming out of china in a single category and drawing a stereotyped conclusion. Totally wrong information.

#2261939 - 04/15/14 03:47 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Grandman
You are wrong. The pianos are made using the original German scales according to Larry Fine. How can you say their pianos have nothing to do with the original product? They also still own the original German factory empty warehouse which has not been a shadow of a real factory for a lot of decades where the original designs were kept.


Not According to Larry Fine but According to the company.
quote from piano buyer:
Quote
According to the company, all the piano designs are the original German scales. The Renner actions used by Perzina are ordered complete from Germany, not assembled from parts.
.
That information is also outdated btw. since Perzina no longer offers piano's with Renner Action. (I wanted to order one). In the time I did quite some research on Perzina because there is an incredible amount of fuzz around the brand.

It does not say anything about the floating soundboard here and that is because it was introduced by Ron Bol, the Dutch owner. A very good idea but not related to the original piano. (Inspired by Rippen, a Dutch brand which no longer exists):
Del about Floating soundboards

So again, they're good piano's. The relation with the original product is however much smaller then they want to make you believe.

They very much market "Larry Fine said this and Larry Fine said that" it is unclear to me how much of what they claim he says can actually be attributed to mr. Fine himself. I'll leave that up to him.


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#2261944 - 04/15/14 04:05 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: JohnSprung]  
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
I'd like to propose a new term: Ghost Piano.


Ghost piano. I like it. How about a Zombie Pianos?


#2261948 - 04/15/14 04:26 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: JohnSprung]  
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
I'd like to propose a new term: Ghost Piano.

Not the same as a stencil piano.

A stencil piano is made by one company and sold to another company with the second company's name applied to it. E.g., the "Sherman Clay" piano made by Daewoo. The second company distributes or retails the piano.

A ghost piano is made by a company that owns the name of a defunct company, which it uses to link its product to the defunct company's past product. E.g., "Knabe" pianos made by whoever it is in asia. Unlike a stencil, there's no OEM sale, because the "buyer" no longer exists.

Boston and Essex are closer to stencil than to ghost, but the situation is a little more complex in that the distributing company uses previously unknown made-up names that it owns, rather than putting its own name on them. Are there any others like that? If not, we really don't need a name for this third category.



That would be like late-era Kemble. The company became defunct but Yamaha took over production. Making Yamaha pianos with a Kemble badge on the fall board. (Do the frames on said pianos have Yamaha stamped on them?)


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#2261993 - 04/15/14 06:45 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: BornInTheUSA]  
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Originally Posted by michaelha
Originally Posted by JohnSprung
I'd like to propose a new term: Ghost Piano.


Ghost piano. I like it. How about a Zombie Pianos?



That came to mind for me too. Zombie piano could be applied to a ghost piano that was particularly unsatisfactory.


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#2262007 - 04/15/14 07:22 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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How about a vampire piano. It only gets played at night and the pedals are upside down


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#2262087 - 04/15/14 10:41 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Withindale]  
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Piano Dad

Are "Essex" and "Boston" stencil pianos under your broader definition of the term?


That's a good question. I think I would argue that they are, and that's one reason why we should not immediately presume that a piano made by one company for another automatically means mediocrity.

Unlike the Howard/Kawai of my youth, or many of the old US names that have been resurrected in Indonesian, Korean, or Chinese factories, Essex and Boston are made up names. Steinway has created its own branding for these two price points.

The term stencil becomes more pejorative to the extent that provenance is deliberately hidden.

#2262092 - 04/15/14 11:05 AM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: LarryShone]  
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Originally Posted by LarryShone
How about a vampire piano. It only gets played at night and the pedals are upside down



lol

#2262140 - 04/15/14 12:27 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Though Ed Foote's definition is the most 'absolute' in its application, it illustrates exactly the reason I started the thread as there seem to be many concepts of what a stencil actually is.

Please keep posting your opinions and your definitions. It's great that there is interest in the thread and I hope it will keep growing.


Marty in Minnesota

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#2262153 - 04/15/14 12:40 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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I think that the Hailuns and Seilers of this world use the best options.
Hailun for establishing a name for themselves without the false association with long gone glory.
Seiler for making copies of there top line for less money in low manufacturing cost countries.

As to real stencil piano's: I think however good the intention it just makes the market less transparent.


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#2262158 - 04/15/14 12:45 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by Withindale
Piano Dad

Are "Essex" and "Boston" stencil pianos under your broader definition of the term?


That's a good question. I think I would argue that they are, and that's one reason why we should not immediately presume that a piano made by one company for another automatically means mediocrity.

Unlike the Howard/Kawai of my youth, or many of the old US names that have been resurrected in Indonesian, Korean, or Chinese factories, Essex and Boston are made up names. Steinway has created its own branding for these two price points.

The term stencil becomes more pejorative to the extent that provenance is deliberately hidden.


Although it is rare, I disagree with you on this one Dad.

The Boston is made to a unique design. (I'm not so sure the same is true of the Essex.) Once they widened the tail and refined the action I think the Boston is more unique than a "stencil".

And Marty is right....the term "stencil" isn't clearly defined.


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#2262164 - 04/15/14 12:55 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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One thing about the Boston is that Kawai has been very open about the fact that it is indeed very different than their own pianos. Steinway also maintains that the Essex is a proprietary design but I have never read confirmation from a Pearl River representative. It would be an interesting investigation.

Personally, I have never put Boston or Essex in the 'Stencil' category. I feel the same way about Cunningham. But, that's just my interpretation.

It all does get muddled up in the whole "Designed by" - "Produced by" - "Built by" concept of contemporary manufacturing.


Marty in Minnesota

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#2262175 - 04/15/14 01:27 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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How much does it really MATTER ?
Manufacturers in just about all industries have been doing this for a very long time.
Sears/Kenmore - is it a Whirlpool ?
Chrysler/Mitsubishi - is it a Dodge ?

If the standards are the same it shouldn't matter what State or country a product is "built", "made", "produced" or merely "assembled" in - unless there is racial bias against particular groups of people who may have somehow contaminated it by their very touch.

Do pianos sold in the USA have to have stickers indicating their percentage domestic content ?
laugh

#2262181 - 04/15/14 01:39 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Another confusing factor is what I call "Chinese Menu" designs.

A few manufacturers offer a series of choices in making a private label piano. Like taking one from Column A and two from Column B...

Soundboards - Solid or Laminate; tapered or straight, Average # of grains per inch.

Bridges; maple or Birch. solid or capped, vertically laminate?

Hammers - (a lot of choices)

keytop material

Cabinets - styles, legs, toe-blocks, or contemporary; open pour, satin, polished; Ferrules, spade legs, straight legs...

I could go on...

With more than a couple of dozen choices made, is the finished product a "unique design"????

Arguable. But my personal opinion is not really. It may be a unique combination of choices as dinner, but then again it is just a combination of Eggdrop soup, Chow Mein, sesame chicken, and Shaow Har Kew! Tasty but not really unique.




Last edited by Steve Cohen; 04/16/14 11:45 AM. Reason: Accuracy

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#2262211 - 04/15/14 02:24 PM Re: What's a Stencil Piano? [Re: R_B]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014
Minnesota Marty  Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Originally Posted by R_B
How much does it really MATTER ?
Manufacturers in just about all industries have been doing this for a very long time.
Sears/Kenmore - is it a Whirlpool ?
Chrysler/Mitsubishi - is it a Dodge ?

If the standards are the same it shouldn't matter what State or country a product is "built", "made", "produced" or merely "assembled" in - unless there is racial bias against particular groups of people who may have somehow contaminated it by their very touch.

Do pianos sold in the USA have to have stickers indicating their percentage domestic content ?

Who said anything about country of origin?


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
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