The late 1800s to the 1960s are considered the heyday of Steinway & Sons, and in most cases, of all piano makers. Anyone who owns or has played upon a number of such instruments tends to agree. In those times (especially before the advent of television and radio) the piano was considered an extremely important part of peoples' lives. Piano makers were aware of this importance in their manufacturing of an instrument that would last for a lifetime, if not generations. And standing out above them all, in quality and design - was Steinway & Sons. Although they made a large number of instruments during these times, there were only so many, and I am observing a lesser amount available on the market for sale as the years go by. Owners seem to be appreciating what they have in an old Steinway, enjoying their gorgeous sound and holding onto them even if for just investment purposes. In the case of a family owned instrument, there is always the idea of passing them onto the next generation. Considering the cost of new Steinways and changes made in the overall construction of such in the past 50 years, these are very wise decisions.
A number of my clients have asked me, "If the old Steinways were so good, why rebuild them?" as well as "Wouldn't that make them a 'new' Steinway?". There are a number of reasons to rebuild an old steinway. A piano is made up mostly of wood and metal, along with many moving parts. The wood tends to crack, split and warp. The metal tends to rust and tarnish. There is also the problem of varnish and lacquer becoming discolored or "checked". The soundboard is initially placed into the body of the piano with a slight curvature to it, which we refer to it in the piano business as "crown". This curvature tends to flatten out over the years and the piano loses its carrying power. The strings rust and lose tone. The moving parts, like anything mechanical, can be adjusted or "regulated". But this can be done only a number of times and then they wear out. Replacing all of these parts and refinishing the piano does not change the fundamental sounds of the instrument. In fact, rebuilding only enhances that sound. Steinway made their own metal plates for many years. When they began having them made by another company they inexplicably changed the design. This plate, or harp, is the one thing (besides the body itself) that we do not change in rebuilding this, along with the body itself, are the elements responsible for making the sound of the old Steinway what it is.
So when we rebuild your old piano, we give it a new life, we resurrect it! Many of our clients are enjoying their rebuilt Steinways now and intend to pass them on and keep them in the family for generations to come. Although it can be an expensive proposition, complete rebuilding and refinishing makes playing your piano a new and exciting experience and only enhances the value of the instrument and is therefore a worthwhile investment.