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Posted By: Michael Evans New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 02:58 PM
Hello everyone, through an estate settlement I have become the lucky owner of a S & S model O from about 1917. We’ve had a technician do an evaluation and he’s informed us that it’s been rebuilt once and has a good pinblock and soundboard, but that the action work was incomplete and some of the components were inappropriate- very soft hammer felt, for example. He’s recommended new bushings, hammers, whippens, etc., and some pedal work. The piano is in the Midwest; however, we live in the northwest part of the country and would like to get the work done there if it can be done very well, as we could then have follow up work done as needed. Can anyone recommend a very able rebuilder/technician in the Washington-Oregon area? Thanks!
Posted By: violarules Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 03:53 PM
A 1917 Steinway O has the potential to be a spectacular piano. It is interesting that the tech said the hammers used in the rebuild were too soft. I would argue that many modern hammers are too hard for a vintage piano such as this. It was designed with cold-pressed (often softer) hammers in mind, such as were used at the time it was built. It could very well be that the hammers on the piano will yield more tonal variation and color than a stock set of harder modern hammers.

As far as rebuilders in the northwest US goes, Ed McMorrow in WA has forgotten more about rebuilding vintage American pianos than most techs know. Paging Ed!
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 08:12 PM
Hmm, thanks for the reply, so you think the softer hammers might be more in keeping with the original sound of the instrument? Intriguing. Someone else mentioned Mr. McMorrow to me, I hope he sees this and responds. Also Mr. Fandrich is in Washington, and it occurred to me that I visited his shop probably twenty some odd years ago- I’d forgotten until I googled him and discovered his shop was near Starwood. I wonder if he’s still doing this kind of thing.
Posted By: piano411 Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 10:02 PM
What kind of rebuilding work are you looking for? Are you looking for the best performance out of the piano, or parts that come from the manufacturer that may not necessarily fit nor sound the best (because many things have changed). Different people specialize in different approaches.
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 11:21 PM
I have become aware of that fact through research, therefore, I’m not set on having all genuine Steinway parts. I have determined it is not going back to the S & S factory. I’m not a very accomplished player with highly specific needs, just an enthusiastic amateur, but I do know when I’m playing a piano that inspires.

I already like this piano a lot, I’m going by the advice the technician gave about bringing the action up to date, but I’d also like a second opinion. The problem is, I’m not experienced enough to know who I can trust in this regard, that’s why I’m reaching out to the forum members.
Posted By: violarules Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 11:48 PM
Here is a link to Del Fandrich recommending cold-pressed Ronsen hammers with Bacon felt (the softest available) for a vintage Knabe. You can apply the same general thinking to all vintage American instruments (M&H, Steinway, Baldwin).

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1271039/1.html
Posted By: violarules Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 11:50 PM
Originally Posted by violarules
Here is a link to Del Fandrich recommending cold-pressed Ronsen hammers with Bacon felt (the softest available) for a vintage Knabe. You can apply the same general thinking to all vintage American instruments (M&H, Steinway, Baldwin).


http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1271039/1.html

Farther down the page, Del also mentions hammer weight of vintage instruments compared to modern Asian and European hammers.
Posted By: LemonColor Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/13/20 11:54 PM
It's hard to know who to trust. The factory takes shortcuts. Different people correct these issues in various ways. There are a lot of opinions out there. Is it light hammers, action geometry, stringing and tuning, soundboard? Who knows. I think it is the stringing and tuning that creates an inspiring piano.
Posted By: OE1FEU Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 12:36 AM
Originally Posted by Michael Evans
I have become the lucky owner of a S & S model O from about 1917. We’ve had a technician do an evaluation and he’s informed us that it’s been rebuilt once and has a good pinblock and soundboard

Don't get me wrong, but that is a completely meaningless assessment.

What's needed is clear information about what's still left of the original 100 year old piano. New/old pinblock, pins, action frame, bushings, wippen, hammers, dampers, back checks, soundboard, strings, bridges, bridge caps?

And when anything has been replaced, it should be assessed, in what way, with what material of what origin and with what kind of adaptations.
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 01:25 AM
Good point. We did not receive a written assessment of exactly what was what, or exactly what work was proposed, only an oral presentation, despite paying what I thought was a very generous fee for the assessment (compared to what I’ve paid for the piano I’ve been playing on and the fees for the appraisal of it).

I should have been taking notes, but as I remember it: It has a new pin block, which is in good shape; new strings; new hammers and dampers (employing soft felt); repaired, not replaced, soundboard, which the tech thought was well done. His recommendation was: new whippens, bushings, hammers, dampers, pedal work, cosmetic cabinet work.
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 01:45 AM
Originally Posted by violarules
Originally Posted by violarules
Here is a link to Del Fandrich recommending cold-pressed Ronsen hammers with Bacon felt (the softest available) for a vintage Knabe. You can apply the same general thinking to all vintage American instruments (M&H, Steinway, Baldwin).


http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1271039/1.html

Farther down the page, Del also mentions hammer weight of vintage instruments compared to modern Asian and European hammers.
Originally Posted by violarules
Originally Posted by violarules
Here is a link to Del Fandrich recommending cold-pressed Ronsen hammers with Bacon felt (the softest available) for a vintage Knabe. You can apply the same general thinking to all vintage American instruments (M&H, Steinway, Baldwin).


http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1271039/1.html

Farther down the page, Del also mentions hammer weight of vintage instruments compared to modern Asian and European hammers.
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 01:59 AM
I would be happy to give you my assessment about the piano and appreciate being mentioned. I will PM you my contact info. My website is down and I apologize for that.
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 02:37 AM
Thanks Violarules, two pages into the discussion of hammers, my appreciation of how much I don’t know is shockingly apparent.

I realize why techs ask “Well, what do you want?” Because they can go any number of ways, but they need some better guidelines than a a mediocre player saying, “just make it good”.

I wish I could tell someone exactly what I want, but my notion of that is too vague. The piano already sounds great for Debussy- gentle and ethereal. I want it to sound good also for Beethoven. Maybe that’s up to me more than the piano and I should just play the thing and not obsess.
Posted By: piano411 Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/14/20 05:36 PM
It is very difficult to describe how a piano should sound and function. Rebuilders are all going to do different things, and describe it in different ways, and you are going to end up with different results. This is a very difficult road to go down. Your best bet is to put as many of your expectations in writing as you possibly can (in the contract). If I were to sub-contract piano work out to someone, I would be very clear about how I would be evaluating the quality of the end work. For example, if I were having someone string a piano, I would insist there are no twists in the wire, the becket ends terminates at the same place, and that the coils are tight and at the same angles. Without the aforementioned, tuning and getting the piano to sing will be problematic. I'd specifically ask how people plan to do the work and what kind of things they care about. Some people really care about a smooth hammer scaling, others don't think it matters. Obviously, the factory doesn't place this high on their list of priorities. I think, however, once you ask the questions, and hear both sides, you'll figure out where your money is best spent.
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/15/20 02:03 AM
I invite the OP, (and anyone else), to come to my shop to play some examples of my work. That makes expectations and results much clearer.
Posted By: WBLynch Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/16/20 03:39 AM
If rebuilding or restoring an old Steinway I know I would rather use the Tokiko reproduction Steinway whippens and other action parts that are available, than switch to modern parts like Renner. I guess it’s a purity thing perhaps, but refurbished original, or quality reproduction parts at least keeps it representative of what it was when new. The thought of completely replacing the action stack saddens and horrifies me.

I’m like that when restoring cars too. Although it is done, I would never put a 2020 engine in my 1963 Fuel Injected Sting Ray.
Posted By: OE1FEU Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/16/20 08:34 PM
Originally Posted by WBLynch
If rebuilding or restoring an old Steinway I know I would rather use the Tokiko reproduction Steinway whippens and other action parts that are available, than switch to modern parts like Renner. I guess it’s a purity thing perhaps, but refurbished original, or quality reproduction parts at least keeps it representative of what it was when new. The thought of completely replacing the action stack saddens and horrifies me.

I’m like that when restoring cars too. Although it is done, I would never put a 2020 engine in my 1963 Fuel Injected Sting Ray.

My Google Fu drew a complete blank on Tokiko reproduction Steinway whippens.
Posted By: LemonColor Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/16/20 08:38 PM
Tokiwa
Posted By: LemonColor Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/16/20 09:15 PM
I'm sad when people gut a piano for no good reason. I know it is easier to screw in new parts, but people really need to learn how to work with the parts that are there. They are meant to be refurbished, not replaced. New felts, new leathers, new pins, it's all part of the process.
Posted By: WBLynch Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/16/20 09:25 PM
Originally Posted by LemonColor
Tokiwa

Oops. Right. sorry about the mistake.
Posted By: Michael Evans Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/17/20 11:07 PM
I don’t even feel qualified to know whether or not the whippens need to be replaced. That was the opinion of the one technician who has inspected it. If we have them replaced, will I really be able to feel those new whippens? I’d say it’s a long shot.
Posted By: LemonColor Re: New old Steinway advice? - 10/17/20 11:42 PM
No. I don't think anyone would notice new whippens. It only matters if the geometry is really off. The right parts would regulate out better. You would feel if the hammers are right weight or not.
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