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#608569 - 07/20/05 02:51 AM a mystery signature on soundboard  
Joined: Jul 2005
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cerulean5 Offline
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cerulean5  Offline
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USA
Hello everyone,

I just joined the Piano World and am very glad to be part of this lively group!
I thought this question is best addressed to piano technicians/tuners who have worked with and seen many instruments. My husband and I recently purchased a 1923 Steinway model O, an instrument with such a lovely, warm, resonant voice. It's been refinished by an experienced tuner (he's the guy we bought the instrument from), and he told us that some of the more wearable parts have been replaced, but that this grand has its original soundboard.
Just the other day, I was looking up at the soundboard from the ground, and noticed that there's a signature on the soundboard, in between the ribs and right by one of those square pegs (? not sure of the technical term?). What intrigued me is that the signature is in a location that would be impossible to have access to unless the piano was taken apart somewhat, i.e., a random owner couldn't have signed it. The name is something like W. Nitzoli, though it's hard to tell due to the peculiar penmanship.
This is our first Steinway ( I grew up training on a good old Yamaha grand), so I was not sure if a signing a soundboard is a common practice for Steinway piano builders. Any insight into this would be greatly appreciated!

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#608570 - 07/20/05 03:00 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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BDB Offline
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Old Steinways were often signed by lots of their workers in places you cannot see without taking them apart for restoration.


Semipro Tech
#608571 - 07/20/05 11:42 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Dale Fox Offline
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This was likely the belly-man who installed or pressed the board. Most Steinways from that era will also have a signature somewhere on or around the lowest key which was someone invloved in assembly or regulation of the action/keys.

The location is usually specific to the work performed.

Dale


Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician
Remanufacturing/Rebuilding
#608572 - 07/21/05 02:48 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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cerulean5 Offline
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Hello again,

Thanks DB and Dale for the insightful and quick replies. It is a rather strange feeling to know the name of one of many craftsmen who worked on this grand so many decades ago (Roaring Twenties!), long since dead. Somehow it makes me appreciate this instrument even more.

cerulean5

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#608573 - 07/22/05 02:09 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Dale Fox Offline
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BTW, did you notice the quality of the handwriting of the signature? Usually very nice by today's standards. Don't see too much of that anymore.

Dale


Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician
Remanufacturing/Rebuilding
#608574 - 07/22/05 08:53 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Bob Offline
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Florida
Wish I could read those chinese quality control signatures. There's a few things I'd say to the people who put those there. Hee Hee.

#608575 - 07/22/05 10:58 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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cerulean5 Offline
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Yes indeed, I did notice that the handwriting was rather classy. It also surprised me somewhat that the signature is preserved perfectly. It doesn't seem to have faded or gotten smudged over the years, almost as if the instrument just got signed yesterday.
Dale, do you know if pianos that are mostly handcrafted today (I am assuming these are likely to be high-end pianos) get signed by their craftsmen at all? Or is this mostly a quaint but dead custom? I rather like the idea that the builders get to put their "personal stamps of approval" on their creation.

#608576 - 07/23/05 12:07 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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curry Offline
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Hamilton Twp, NJ
A few of the high end manufacturers still do this. Mainly in the form of initials upon completeing a regulating step. Indeed Steingršeber craftsman do autograph with a complete signature, but the others as I said, just initial.


G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358
#608577 - 08/01/05 05:21 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Helene Offline
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Helene  Offline
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Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your Steinway O. I have a rebuilt
Steinway O and it has a signature on the keybed. (Hope that's the right term--it's the wooden base holding the keys and the action.) But mine was rebuilt and the soundboard was replaced, so I'm not going to search for signatures there.

#608578 - 08/01/05 08:58 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Dale Fox Offline
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Dale Fox  Offline
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Nor California Sacramento area
Quote
Originally posted by cerulean5:
Yes indeed, I did notice that the handwriting was rather classy. It also surprised me somewhat that the signature is preserved perfectly. It doesn't seem to have faded or gotten smudged over the years, almost as if the instrument just got signed yesterday.
Dale, do you know if pianos that are mostly handcrafted today (I am assuming these are likely to be high-end pianos) get signed by their craftsmen at all? Or is this mostly a quaint but dead custom? I rather like the idea that the builders get to put their "personal stamps of approval" on their creation.
Sorry to be late in returning to your ?....

I have no idea whether it is current custom anywhere. We usually sign and date pin blocks and boards here in our Sacramento shop. Our signature is not pretty though.

Dale


Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician
Remanufacturing/Rebuilding
#608579 - 08/02/05 01:09 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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cerulean5 Offline
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USA
Hi again,

Thanks Curry, Helene, and Dale for recent posts. Now I am tempted to go stick my head under all the old pianos (or any Steingraebers) I see in shops, stores and my friends', which would most likely bemuse my hosts smile
Helene, congrats to you on your Steinway O as well. What year is your model?
Dale, I didn't realize you are in Sacramento. I would love to visit your shop sometime. The heat's been a real killer around here recently-- I hope the temperature goes down soon (and humidity up!), if only to give the old Steinway a reprieve! The instrument is not in a air- or humidity- conditioned room, so I get wary when the relative humidity drops below 38C...

#608580 - 08/02/05 05:10 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Helene Offline
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Helene  Offline
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Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
My O is from the early 1920's -- I looked up the serial number once but forget the exact year. But, it's about the same vintage as yours. I bought it about 12 years ago and it was rebuilt with new soundboard, strings, pinblock, etc -- so whatever other signatures it might once have had are now gone. I've been very happy with it. I can't quite make out the signature on mine--it was done in pencil and the letters in the middle are
too faint to read.

#608581 - 08/03/05 06:20 AM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Rich Galassini Offline
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Helene,

Not that you would see this on your piano, but occasionally we see sigs. in chalk on the back of the plate in Steinways of that period - and in other makes as well.

When it is rebuilt again in 50 years, we can look for THAT signature. wink

BTW, nice to see you here!


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
(215) 991-0834 direct line
rich@cunninghampiano.com
Check out the Science Channel's "How Its Made" featuring our piano restoration:
http://www.cunninghampiano.com/how-its-made/
#608582 - 08/04/05 06:04 PM Re: a mystery signature on soundboard  
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Helene Offline
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Hmm. The plate was rebronzed--does that cover up everthing on the plate, or just what I can see in the finished piano? Wish I could make out the letters on the signature I can see. I first noticed it about a year ago. Would there be any signatures on the actual case, on the inside? Should I go inspect with a flashlight, the next time I'm under the piano?


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