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70's Steinway D rebuild
#2911139 11/12/19 12:20 PM
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My buddy had his piano rebuilt by a longstanding company in upstate NY, some portions of the job were completed by Steinway techs (dampers and stringing). I had visited him after he got the piano, something he bought online for a song from a church in Florida. I thought the piano sounded incredible and was going to be a monster after the rebuild. It has not turned out that way. I had a specific question about the restringing portion, namely, the rebuilder took the strings off the piano and it sat for four to six weeks before it was restrung. I am wondering if this is likely to take a 45 year old soundboard and give it the opportunity to weaken structurally without the tension on the harp. I have not heard the piano since this has happened and I am not sure what the issue is beyond the description he's given, but his (and his daughter's) comment to me was that it sounded quiet and un-dynamic. The rebuilder recommended and used Renner Wurzen hammers (not sure if they are blue point or premium blue). I may get a chance to see the piano in a few weeks if things don't get sorted by the rebuilder to try and understand what has happened, but I wanted to hear experience about the effects of leaving an older piano unstrung for that duration and what it might do to the soundboard..... a dead piano sounds more like a soundboard problem than anything to me. Also unknown is what prep work was performed to the string paths and sound board prior to this rebuild job.

Thanks and Best,
Josh

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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911147 11/12/19 12:40 PM
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Greetings,
I would not worry about an unloaded soundboard. With strings off, there are few forces acting on it, (and, most rebuilders I know will consistently have plates out of pianos for weeks on end). This isn't where your concern should lie.

The condition of the board should have been determined before the strings came off. Pounding on it and listening for it boom like a drum tells little about how it will respond with 3,000 lbs of pressure sitting on it. It would have been instructive to know what the bearing was like, as well as crown under load. It would have been valuable to know if the nose bolts were zeroed (turned to a position that neither raised or pulled down the plate), before being restrung, as this allows some latitude for bearing changes when back up to tension. Bridge termination is something to be examined during stringing, as it can certainly affect response.

Without knowing these things, it is difficult to know whether that board was dead before the work began, or whether somebody has made some poor bearing adjustments. Since changes were not made in isolation, it may be that the hammers are in the wrong position, or may be too soft for the soundboard's impedance. I use Weikert hammers, and in pursuit of the most complex and malleable tone I can get, I needle their shoulders fairly heavily. In fact, I voice them down enough so that they have to be played for several hours to produce the optimum response.

Chasing down "lack of response" has to look at the total equation, the sounding structure, the hammer, and where the two come together.
Regards,

Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911368 11/12/19 11:35 PM
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If the tone had life before the rebuild and the rebuild did not include soundboard replacement; the tonal problems now present are most likely from the hammers being too heavy.

I also have never heard a set of Renner Wurzen hammers that could be tone regulated to the highest standards. They are too heavy. The felt is too dense. They stay on the string too long because they are too heavy for the period of the strings, and that is why the sound is dead. In essence they are dampers.

Many people in the piano industry think that the bigger the piano, the bigger, (heavier) the hammers need to be. This is absurd because all the strings are tuned to the same pitches. The same weight of hammer that would make a spinet sound best is the same weight a concert grand needs.

Last edited by Ed McMorrow, RPT; 11/12/19 11:36 PM. Reason: typo

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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911374 11/13/19 12:17 AM
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Well, I had a lot of experience with a CD model Steinway D that had the same problem after an action rebuild.

The piano had a decent tone prior to the rebuild but afterwards it had almost no dynamic range and a weak tone. The technician who did the rebuild said he used Ronsen Weickert hammers, and it was on the invoice, although strangely the lowest bass hammers had ‘Steinway’ stamped on them. And also strangely, the felt didn’t seem like normal Steinway hammers.

Whatever hammers they were, what I needed to do to get the dynamic range and tone back was to lacquer up the lower and upper hammer shoulders. Afterwards the tone projected better than a new D which was previously brought in because this D was so weak (and this D also a warmer and less-bright tone).

I suspect the Renner hammers are already pretty hard? If not, perhaps my experience would apply to that D.

Last edited by jsilva; 11/13/19 12:21 AM.
Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911771 11/14/19 01:16 AM
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My first thing to check would be the downbearing of the strings, and try to determine if the board is overloaded. Did someone say 3,000lbs? Thats like 3.5 times more than normal. I would check for steep string deflection angles. Next I would check the Hammer mating and see if the strings are in phase. Also, every once in a great while, a new set of hammers can be a bad set of hammers low in tension. I think the Renner are a poor choice for Steinways. I'd stick with Ronsens or Steinways. Just to maintain that type of sound their known for. But I suppose that just falls under personal preference.
-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911840 11/14/19 09:43 AM
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Greetings,
I was under the impression (from Conklin,etal) that boards carried a down bearing force of approx. 10% of string tension. Literature indicates that a maximum of 2,500 Newton-meters is used in piano soundboard down-bearing, but I am unsure of how to translate that ( 1,800 ft/lbs. ) into static pressure.
regards,

Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911900 11/14/19 01:12 PM
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Mr Foote,
That's just a rough rule of thumb, but even so, I see no resemblance of accuracy in it.
Wolfendens rule is somewhat better. He states the average downbearing to be approximately 1/40th of the string tension. I just checked a piano i am working on- the tension is 33,500 lbs divided by 40 = 825 lbs. However, that assumes a 1.5 degree downbearing angle throughout. Many techs don't do a 1.5 degree throughout ( for example on older boards) so even less downbearing is more often applied. I aim for 600- 800 lbs on my new boards.
-chris


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2911927 11/14/19 02:04 PM
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If the piano sounded incredible before it was restrung, the soundboard had nothing to do with it not sounding to your liking afterwards. Chances are it is the voicing.


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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2912073 11/14/19 07:41 PM
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I would agree with BDB.

Pwg


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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
Chernobieff Piano #2912286 11/15/19 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
I think the Renner are a poor choice for Steinways. I'd stick with Ronsens or Steinways.


Huh? Every Hamburg Steinway comes with Renner hammers and there are no Steinway hammers. Only Yamaha and Bechstein produce their own hammers.

Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2912291 11/15/19 08:23 AM
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Obviously something has happened snuff out the power of the instrument. Without actually examining it though it is hard to say precisely what. Found a single thing...could be a combination of things.

A good concert grand is not a go cart. It is a "Ferrari" and requires extreme attention to detail and an understanding of how these details interact to get the most out of it. Anybidy can make a go cart go...

Pwg

Last edited by P W Grey; 11/15/19 08:26 AM.

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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2912379 11/15/19 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
The same weight of hammer that would make a spinet sound best is the same weight a concert grand needs.


Would that apply to a high tension scaling? My thought is that a bass string under more tension would need to be heavier to produce the correct pitch, and would need a heavier hammer to move it. (I'm guessing we'd be talking a gram or two, not twice the weight...!)


Started work at the Blüthner piano re-building workshop in Perivale, UK, in 1989. Self employed since 2000. Learning something new about pianos every day... smile

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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
Adypiano #2912614 11/15/19 11:28 PM
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The first order of importance in the hammer/string relationship is mass of the hammer in proportion to the frequency of the string. If one wants a perfect transfer of the hammers momentum into the string the hammer should rebound from the string within one period of it's vibration.

In the low bass it is more complex than this because the string doesn't really produce a fundamental so staying on the string longer will not inhibit the tone.

In the upper treble starting around note 55 the hammer mass becomes very critical to tone. If they are too heavy, (and most modern piano hammers are), the hammer stays on the string for several periods and dulls the tone. Too heavy hammers also make more "Thwack" sound. Too heavy hammers also increase the touchweight and builders/techncians feel compelled to "lighten" the touch by installing front weights in the keys. This makes the key return slow which makes fast playing with dynamic control very difficult.

Hammers do not need to get off the string in one period to produce excellent tone, but the principle is too important not to be stated simply and clearly as the first principle.

In essence, piano hammers are dampers. Otherwise we wouldn't use felt on them. The spring rate of hammer felt is non-linear. This means that for a soft blow the felt rebounds faster than when it is compressed from a hard blow. This produces the tone color change with dynamics that is so prized in excellent piano tone.

And all of these principles must be blended across the compass of notes in the most musically judicious manner possible. this is why tone regulation of actions is highly skilled work.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2912623 11/15/19 11:59 PM
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I really enjoy this forum. I learn so much from you guys and I appreciate your informed responses.

Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2912669 11/16/19 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
The first order of importance in the hammer/string relationship is mass of the hammer in proportion to the frequency of the string. If one wants a perfect transfer of the hammers momentum into the string the hammer should rebound from the string within one period of it's vibration.

In the low bass it is more complex than this because the string doesn't really produce a fundamental so staying on the string longer will not inhibit the tone.

In the upper treble starting around note 55 the hammer mass becomes very critical to tone. If they are too heavy, (and most modern piano hammers are), the hammer stays on the string for several periods and dulls the tone. Too heavy hammers also make more "Thwack" sound. Too heavy hammers also increase the touchweight and builders/techncians feel compelled to "lighten" the touch by installing front weights in the keys. This makes the key return slow which makes fast playing with dynamic control very difficult.

Hammers do not need to get off the string in one period to produce excellent tone, but the principle is too important not to be stated simply and clearly as the first principle.

In essence, piano hammers are dampers. Otherwise we wouldn't use felt on them. The spring rate of hammer felt is non-linear. This means that for a soft blow the felt rebounds faster than when it is compressed from a hard blow. This produces the tone color change with dynamics that is so prized in excellent piano tone.

And all of these principles must be blended across the compass of notes in the most musically judicious manner possible. this is why tone regulation of actions is highly skilled work.


Thank you Ed smile


Started work at the Blüthner piano re-building workshop in Perivale, UK, in 1989. Self employed since 2000. Learning something new about pianos every day... smile

http://www.hamiltonpianos.com/
Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2912987 11/17/19 12:10 AM
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The problem, as i see it, with some of the Ed-isms, is that they contain a kernel of truth at the theoretical level. but the practical level is another story. A lot of human perception gets in the way of pulling them off successfully. The one Ed-ism that has bothered me the most is " The Hammer is a Damper."
No its not.
I hate to state the obvious here, but the Hammer is a hammer. I suspect this is a cute attempt at explaining the selection of partials in the tone, but I think it fails because it confuses as a teaching tool.
Better would be the comparison of hammers to hammers. Hammers influence Timbre. If you strike a metal hammer, or a brass hammer, or a wooden hammer, or any kind of hammer on a hard surface(like an anvil), you get different timbres. If you change the striking surface, you can get another set of timbres.
When Ed states that the Hammer does not need to get off the string in one period to sound good, well I think that that is an admission that Eds Light Hammer theory isn't as exact as he alluded to all these years. There are many parts of the acoustic chain in a piano, and not all of them have to be surgically precise.
I just recently heard a square piano (yes I know a square?) that had a few notes that were beautiful. The hammers were leather covered, and no one on this forum would believe that it was leather hammers on a square piano if you listened while blindfolded. The theories are great up to a point, but craftsmanship comes in to play to pull it off.
-chris


Disclaimer: This post was not an attack on Ed, just a kind challenge to the theory.


Chernobieff Piano Restorations
"Where Tone is Key"
Lenoir City, Tennessee U.S.A
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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
OE1FEU #2912996 11/17/19 01:15 AM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by Chernobieff Piano
I think the Renner are a poor choice for Steinways. I'd stick with Ronsens or Steinways.


Huh? Every Hamburg Steinway comes with Renner hammers and there are no Steinway hammers. Only Yamaha and Bechstein produce their own hammers.


Unless something changed very recently, the New York Steinway factory makes their own hammers. They're different from the ones installed on Hamburg Steinways.


Nathan Monteleone
Piano Technician / Amateur Rebuilder
PTG Registered Piano Technician

My pianos (in various states of rebuild):
- 1900 Mason and Hamlin AA
- 1911 J&C Fischer 6'2" grand
- 1935 Story and Clark vertical
Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2913040 11/17/19 08:07 AM
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Try plucking the strings?
It should sound a big difference compared with a hammer blow if the hammers are the issue.


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Re: 70's Steinway D rebuild
jkess114 #2913063 11/17/19 10:00 AM
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Perhaps one easy test, if the owner knows someone else with a D and is technically inclined, is to take a hammer/shank from another decent sounding D and put it in the questionable sounding one. It wouldn’t even need to be aligned 100% perfectly to notice whether it makes a difference.

I think it’s likely to be the hammers. That they need more tone support in the lower and upper shoulders. The two D’s I take care of where I teach both had similar issues, and one of them seems identical to the OP’s description, which were corrected by lacquering in that way.


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