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Hey good people of PW! Hope all has been well. Ok, so, me being me.... I have to ask some questions that are bothering me about Hamburg Steinway's vs. NY Steinway's and how to tell the difference.

I've read the other posts on this subject, even the really old ones, and it seems that most people say that the way to tell the diff between them are 2 things - 1. Hardened Renner hammers 2. Curved cheeks.

I get this. However, couldn't either of these 2 "traits" be easily faked by a competent restorer? I've read that some say there are differences in the plates, but I have not seen anyone post any pics or really definitively answer precisely what these differences are. Moreover, is there an "age" factor as well i.e. are we only talking about post 1900 or do these "trait" apply to ALL era's of Steinway's? I'd like to know what specifically would be a definitive trait in a Hamburg that a NY does not have i.e. something that would be easy to see without having to pull out calipers wink

Thanks for your help folks! Still learning here.... smile

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The differences vary over time. A few are:
Two pedal grands=Hamburg,
Sostenuto,(if it has one), mounted to belly rail instead of action frame=Hamburg,
Blued action screws=Hamburg,
One piece ivory key-tops=Hamburg, (a very few early 1980's NY had one piece),
Pedals mounted to bushed wood blocks instead of cast brass plate=Hamburg,
Shellac finish on soundboards=Hamburg,
Spruce key-sticks with beech buttons=Hamburg,

That is all I can think of right now. It would be very difficult for a restorer to fake country of origin to any experienced technician and I don't see what would be gained by it.


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The best way to tell is to ask Steinway. There are lots of exceptions.


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OK, lets see what we can do.

Hamburg Steinways have rounded off arms, not cheeks. The arms are the extension of the rim at either end of the keyboard. NY's have a sharp 90 degree edge where the top of the arm meets the front of the arm.

Without technical expertise, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in hammers by sight. Hamburg uses hammers, built by Renner, to Steinway specs. NY builds their own hammers.

Visually, there is no difference in the plates at a casual glance. There are small differences in the stringing of the instruments, but again, that requires close attention to fine detail.

On the Hamburgs, there is usually a lid-lock knob, at the curve of the rim, which is absent from the NY models.

Keep in mind that the Hamburg plant wasn't opened until 1880. At that time, the pianos were the duplicates of the American production, but as time past, and rifts in the family developed, they began to differ in their focus. However, they remained visually very much alike.

I haven't ever heard of any serious rebuilder trying to make visual changes to an Astoria and try to pass it off as a Hamburg. But, who knows?

All in all, the arms are the biggest tip-off. And, if you have a good eye, you can spot the difference in finish. To the best of my knowledge, Hamburg has never produced the "Satin Ebony" which is a distinct feature of the NY models. It is hand rubbed, rather than by a finish product mix.


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Thanks all.

Marty and Ed - As usual you have excellent responses and I thank you for it. So, when you say "arms" you are talking about where the case terminates at the keys on both sides i.e. forming the outer edges of the "box" for the keys right?

I didn't want to assume or imply that any builder would purposely try to deceive but given what I see in price differences between the 2 origins for the same model piano it's easy to think that, as with anything of great value, there might also be "copies". I was hoping that there would be something that would say "made in Hamburg" sort of thing that someone with layman's eyes as myself might be able to spot immediately i.e. something not easily modifiable like a casting, serial number, marking, etc.

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Yep - the "box" is the rim, or the case, which contains all of the "guts" of the piano. And yes, the arms are the ends of the case between which the keyboard sits.

The keyboard logos (decals or inlays) changed a lot through different periods from both Hamburg and NY. So, without a reference guide, it gets confusing.

Most of the pianos you run across are from "the modern era" so these are generalizations, but the easiest identifiers. Prior to about 1890, you will run across all sorts of variations and then it takes some detective work.

There is a very good book called "The Official Guide to Steinway Pianos" by Kehl & Kirkland, but it is a reference guide and not casual reading.

The best first glance, after the logo on the fallboard, remains the shape of the arms.


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Excellent Marty, thank you. I just ordered this book smile I love reference books! It appeals to my research nature wink As always, much thanks to you and all the experts out here on PW for your responses! My wife and I are still researching and trying to come to a conclusion on what she ultimately wants to do regarding restoration or replacement of her piano. So, given the costs involved regarding restoration and/or purchase, we are being very cautious and want to learn everything we can before making our final decision.

Thanks again!!!!! smile

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Thruthseeker,

It may have been mentioned in another thread, but what is the piano you are considering for restoration/rebuild?

Since you already own an instrument, you might find that it is the most cost effective to have it rebuilt.



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Oh - BTW - The "cheek blocks" are between the ends of the keyboard and the arms. It's very odd anatomy!


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The arms difference only works for Steinways from after WWI. Most NY grands prior to WWI had round arms.

WWI and WWII led to separation between Hamburg and NY in many design elements.

Hamburgs had satin and gloss ebony finishes in the early years-although satin varnish is glossier than satin lacquer. Some early natural finish Hamburgs may have been french polish also.


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Thanks Marty! Well, my wife has an 1870's Steinway D that she's quite fond of, but she has recognized that it needs to be rebuilt - it's time. So.... not knowing anything at all about that process, I was tasked to find out all I could about who/what/how/costs of such a venture vs. purchasing a Steinway already restored. I have learned a great deal and everything I learn I pass on to her, as she is the final say in what ultimately happens. I am not a piano player, but I am a mechanical engineer, so I do understand the "tech" aspects of a piano. However, she will be the one playing on whatever we decide to do, so I have ultimately left that final decision in her hands. We have compiled a list of reputable and highly recommended builders based on your comments, as well as others on PW, and as we move forward - if a rebuild is what she wants to do then we will be contacting each of them and going to the next level with that. Otherwise, it's either sell the old girl, or keep her, and go with something different. Whatever it is, it has to be Steinway as this is her preferred MFG. She has played most other MFG's but Steinway is what she is most comfortable with. So, there we have it.

She is a concert level pianist - advanced and has performed. So, her will be done if you catch my drift wink Don't get me wrong, all this sounds grand but that fact is we don't exactly have 30-50k just laying around so we are being cautious in what we do, as you can understand I'm sure.

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Thank you Ed! Very interesting comments! World wars and Blued screws... wow... would never have even considered such a detail as this. It seems that one must really be "in the know" to truly recognize a Hamburg vs. NY Steinway, and that's what I was wondering e.g. how does a layman tell the difference. Based on what you and Marty have stated, it's a bit more complicated but "rounded arms" is a key point to look further into the piano for more clues. I have ordered the book that Marty recommended and greatly looking forward to getting it.

I might also state that, given our ages, whatever my wife decides is likely to be for the rest of her life. So.... this is the main reason why we are being so cautious in our decision making. Once we either restore, or buy, it will be a decision for a lifetime so we are trying to find out all we can in the hopes of making the best decision we can - for her sake. Thank you and Marty again for your help. Can't express to you both enough, and the other experts on PW, on how valuable it is.

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[Linked Image]

Dead giveaway, and probably difficult to fake.

I don't know for how long they have been stamping the plates for...

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Originally Posted by noambenhamou
[Linked Image]

Dead giveaway, and probably difficult to fake.

I don't know for how long they have been stamping the plates for...


Thanks noambenhamou! Now that's what I'm talkin' about wink Yeah, would be interesting to know how long they've been stamping the plate. This is the first I've seen in all 100's of pics I've viewed regarding plates, so my gut feeling tells me that they haven't been doing this for too long.

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You could call or email Steinway and ask them to look up the serial number. They should be able to tell you the date and location of manufacture and maybe a few other things too. There's a small fee ($20?) for the service. I found out the address and name of my childhood piano's first buyer this way.


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That identification of Noam's piano is interesting. I've never seen that before, so it's time for some sleuthing.

This is speculation, and only speculation, but the "Made in" seems to be an applied medallion, rather than cast into the plate. Keep in mind that this particular piano was destined for the US when it was selected in Germany. This may be a recent addition to pianos imported here. Also, why wouldn't it be in German, rather than in English?

For older instruments, or rebuilds of them, I'm skeptical if it is a "Bingo" sort of thing.


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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
That identification of Noam's piano is interesting. I've never seen that before, so it's time for some sleuthing.

This is speculation, and only speculation, but the "Made in" seems to be an applied medallion, rather than cast into the plate. Keep in mind that this particular piano was destined for the US when it was selected in Germany. This may be a recent addition to pianos imported here. Also, why wouldn't it be in German, rather than in English?

For older instruments, or rebuilds of them, I'm skeptical if it is a "Bingo" sort of thing.


Marty, you are right. I just looked at it closely. It's a medallion.

PS - I hope it's not negatively effecting the sound of my piano - I will remove it now to see if it makes a difference!!

JUST KIDDING!!!

I just browsed through my photos from the selection room in Hamburg, non of the pianos including the one I selected had that "stamp". So Marty, you are right yet again - the medallion was put in probably due to shipment to the United States.

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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
OK, lets see what we can do.
Hamburg Steinways have rounded off arms, not cheeks.
So I guess the wood blocks at either end of Hamburg Steinway keyboards would be called arm-blocks then? wink


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Jurgen,

Well, I already pointed out that the anatomy is rather odd.

I propose that the term "cheek-blocks" should heretofore be know as Arm Pits!

I'm sure that Cory could come up with a lovely line of deodorants and antiperspirants to combat excess action emissions.

whome


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Truthseeker,

The date of manufacture has been pushed back into the 1870's?
This just gets better. The Steinway piano was evolving so quickly during this period that a difference of six months may reveal an otherwise obscure incremental development.

I would love to see about a hunderd pictures of your piano.
Does it look like this, A Centennial Grand?

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/105412259108667869462/albums/5727541518361434513

Be well


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