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#1301964 - 11/09/09 09:21 AM More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich
BoseEric Offline
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Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Perhaps some of you may remember my last trip to tour German piano makers. I went again last week, this time without my traveling companion who, much to his regret, had school.

To give a quick recap of my philosophy, I do not see the worlds true high end makers as competitors. With the idea of "tonal diversity" firmly in mind, I think these makers support each other in trying to reach prospects who might otherwise have, from pure marketing exposure, a narrow idea of what represents true quality in the piano world.

These European makers have very specific, very individual tone that usually appeals in a very direct, individual way. If someone truly loves the sound of X, they probably won't be interested in Z. And this is a good thing, since there are many music styles and many approaches to interpretation. There should be, logically, many tonal options available to support this wonderful world of individuality.

Therefore I find it personally and professionally rewarding to learn as much as I can about these makers and they have all, so far, universally accepted my visits and my intentions.

So, this is another round. While distances in Europe are relatively small, gas is expensive and these trips are self funded, so I have to carefully control how I travel. This time I flew into Frankfurt and drove east to visit Förster first. Then, on my way to Gunzenhausen to visit Feurich, I practically drove by the front door of Steingraeber and could not resist the opportunity to revisit. Then the charming town of Gunzenhausen and on to Ludwigsburg to see my friend Andre Bolduc from Montreal teach a class in soundboard replacement.

I am in no way trying to represent any of these makers. This is intended to be a personal travelogue by a big fan and enthusiast. I tried to pay close attention during the tours and discussions, but I did grow up in the 70's so my memory may occasionally fail me. If I get something wrong, I would welcome being corrected by a representative of one of these makers.
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#1301969 - 11/09/09 09:36 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19640
Loc: New York City
Looking forward to more trip details and pictures. Somehow I missed your thread about the previous trip and having just found it, enjoyed it very much.

Can you, in layman's terms, please explain the difference between cylindrical and spherical crowning(noticed this on your previous thread)?

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#1301973 - 11/09/09 09:47 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
BoseEric Offline
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Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
First 2 stops: tourist
I arrived in Frankfurt Sunday morning, went through efficient immigration and baggage, and loaded my Hertz rental car. Fortified by a McDonalds früstuck wrap (really great), I was on my way.



My first stop was the tiny hamlet of Mödlareuth, near the small city of Hof. The border between East and West Germany ran right through the middle of Mödlareuth, giving it the distinction of being "little Berlin". With the reunification of Germany, Modlareuth preserved parts of the wall and its fortifications as a reminder of what had been. I was very interested to see it since little of this remains in Germany.

In the photo above you can see that the wall ran right behind the still existing red and white barrier. Here you can walk various lines of fortifications, peer into the hidden machine gun nests and climb the guard tower, getting a visceral feel for what a very different world must have been like.




Sobered, but refreshed, I drove on to Dresden where I spent the night.



Monday I toured Dresden in the rain, again sobered by how little was left of what must have been one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The city was destroyed over the course of 2 days in February 1945 by the allies.



The historic Frauenkirche, above, was completely destroyed. The dark blocks were recovered from the wreckage.

This and decades of DDR domination leaves most of Dresden's glory to the imagination. You can get a glimpse of this past glory of Dresden and Saxony by visiting the Staatlich Kunstsammlungen museum. Here you will see a mindblowing collection of examples of artistry and craftsmanship in the form of jewels, figures and objects of art in a stunning variety of materials, including one whole room dedicated to objects made from turned ivory.

Again sobered and ready for pianos, I drove 1 hour further east to the city of Löbau.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1302002 - 11/09/09 10:25 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
August Förster
Once in Löbau I met up with Bert Neidhardt who has been the US distributor for August Förster for something like 40 years. Löbau is deep inside what had been the DDR, or East Germany and has not, at least to my eyes, thrived under the DDR or reunification. But I have always admired the Forster piano and was really looking forward to visiting. I was not disappointed.



(new haircut, new jacket and I still look like a dork)

I was warmly received by Geschäftsführerin Annekatrin Förster and her father Wolfgang. These two represented an unbroken chain of family management going back 5 generations! Förster was nationalized during the existence of the DDR with Wolfgang serving as the public face of management. However now with the full reinstatement of family control, management has passed on to Annekatrin.

The Forster factory has been in continuous use since the founding of the company and positively exudes history. They were quite proud of their new gas fired boilers. As I understand it, as recently as 10 years ago they were still dealing with mountains of coal.

One can easily get the feeling of generations of craftspeople standing at this bass string lathe, looking out these windows.



The same goes for working at this bench. These are not scenarios carefully crafted by an ad agency. These scenes are part of what make Förster pianos what they are.







As with most true high end factories, you will see uprights being made along side grands. Same workers, same craftsmanship, different shape.



I have seen a number of Forster pianos in my day and had thought that I had examined them carefully, but I discovered a very unique construction trait. There is a section of the soundboard and inner rim that is built to vibrate somewhat seperately from the rest of the rim and soundboard.


There is a slot cut in the inner rim and the rim and soundboard are trimmed to not touch the outer rim, in essence vibrating as a somewhat separate structure. When I asked Wolfgang if this had a name, he thought for a minute and then said "no". I think it is very cool and should have a name something like the "Anachromatic Resonance Chamber". Maybe it didn't translate well because he didn't seem that impressed.



Förster also uses what they call a "double bridge" in the uprights. Blocks attached on the opposite side of the soundboard. This shot also shows the backpost construction; glued beech and spruce. This is the construction of the truss beams on the grands as well.



Much of the equipment exudes the same history as the building. Here is a well used and loved veneer press.



And here is the result.



Notice they veneer (matching) the inside of the case top. I forgot to check if they also matched the veneer on the inside of the bottom panel, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.





Edited by BoseEric (11/09/09 11:25 AM)
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#1302015 - 11/09/09 10:49 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
Terry5758 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 348
Loc: Vero Beach,Florida
Very interesting! Please show and tell us more. Having a Feurich and a Steingraeber,your post is especially personal to me. Thank you!





Terry
_________________________
Proud owner of a fully restored Feurich concert grand built in 1912 with Phoenix System.
Gotta love that German technology

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#1302057 - 11/09/09 11:42 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Terry5758]
Gregor Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 436
Loc: Münster, Germany
Nice and interesting pictures (and words). It´s a little bit embarrassing that I as a German located in Germany did not so many such tours to the German factories. To be honest: I have only been to Steinway and Bechstein where I got a private guided tour and when I attended the school in Ludwigsburg our class went to Pfeiffer. But it´s my intention for the next year to visit some factories.

Gregor
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Münster, Germany
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#1302086 - 11/09/09 12:17 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Gregor]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
thank you so much for sharing. quite interesting for this landlocked apple. it's a shame so many European cities lost so much of their tradition and beauty.
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#1302251 - 11/09/09 04:54 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: apple*]
Avantgardenabi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/08
Posts: 496
Originally Posted By: apple*
thank you so much for sharing. quite interesting for this landlocked apple. it's a shame so many European cities lost so much of their tradition and beauty.


It's quite ironic that I always thought this statement applies more for American cities, including the New York City. (The Singer Building and Pennsylvania Station, for example)

Thank you for sharing, BoseEric. It's wonderful to see your posts.

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#1302560 - 11/10/09 06:23 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Avantgardenabi]
Jibbers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 41
Loc: Australia
Very informative and interesting! Looking forward to the next instalment of your travelog!

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#1302564 - 11/10/09 06:47 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Jibbers]
lilylady Offline
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Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4981
Loc: boston north
So wishing to do a tour like this myself.

I look forward to more pics and discussions.

Roberta/lilylady
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"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#1302870 - 11/10/09 05:29 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: lilylady]
turandot Offline
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Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7301
Loc: torrance, CA
Ditto everyone else.

Really nice thread, Eric.

Please continue.
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#1302883 - 11/10/09 05:50 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: turandot]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Love the pictures and love your approach on what you said in your opening post.

Thanks
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#1302924 - 11/10/09 07:09 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Thanks for the encouragement. I'm editing the Steingraeber photos now.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1303108 - 11/11/09 08:12 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Steingraeber
Back to the bustling city of Bayreuth, which wears its illustrious musical heritage (both Wagner and Liszt are buried there) lightly.

Unlike some European makers, it's hard to miss Steingraeber, being just off Steingraeber Passage.


Let's see, isn't there a piano company around here someplace?



My street cred must be higher, and my timing was right because this time Udo Steingraeber took me around. You cannot imagine a more involved, knowledgable, enthusiastic proponent for the world of high end pianos and his in particular.



The Steingraeber factory also exudes history, being in continuous use for, well I forget the exact number, but a number of years.





Steingraeber places GREAT emphasis on the perfect mating between inner and outer rim. They go so far as to create the outer rim, using the exact inner rim that will be on the same piano, as a mold. Here 2 inner and outer rims are being created at the same time, numbered and matched forever.



There is a vast array of construction and design details that go into a Steingraeber and many of them have been adapted, modified, or dropped in recent history. This is an active, living breathing maker, not content to build historical artifacts. Here I must add that I found this trait in all the makers I visited, but Steingraeber is particularly active offering carbon fiber soundboards and the new phoenix bridge.

This piano has both



Let's digress for a moment and speak in gross generalizations about concepts of piano tone.

I have come to the conclusion, specifically reinforced by Udo Steingraeber, that there are fundamentally 2 approaches to piano tone; high rim tension and low rim tension. (don't bust my chops on theoritical details, remember this is gross generalization).

Low rim tension is characterized, IN MY OPINION, by Bosendorfer, Förster, and Blüthner, to name 3. These makers want no tension in the outer rim and to varying degrees want the rim to actually play an active role in tone production. These may be solid spruce like Bosendorfer, or layered like Bluthner, but they are not bent under great pressure when mating them with the piano. Again I'm open to correction, but Christian Blüthner himself described the layered/sectioned rim of a Blüthner as having "no tension".

This results, to use Udo Steingraebers analogy, in sound like water on a beach. The gentle waves break softly and evenly across a wide expanse. The result is a tone that emphasizes the fundamental, a more pure (not as in good vs bad) tone.

The alternative is high rim tension, characterized by Steingraeber, some other company whose name I forget, and others. Here a rim made of densely laminated material is bent, under great pressure, into shape. This rim may, when installed, actually squeeze the soundboard to some degree. The result is like a swimming pool, or as Udo says, a harbor. Here the water strikes the hard vertical surfaces of the sides and splashes back, maybe repeatedly. This results in a distinctly different tone that emphasizes higher harmonics.

Steingraeber is proudly a swimming pool piano. Wait, that doesn't sound quite right. What I mean to say is they look for a more powerful tone that emphasizes higher partials and their construction strives for that result.

Which brings me to a recurring theme of mine: isn't tonal diversity wonderful? You can find anything you want!


Edited by BoseEric (11/11/09 08:17 AM)
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1303114 - 11/11/09 08:28 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
Loves Pugs Too Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/09
Posts: 105
Loc: VA
I am truly enjoying your personal tour with beautiful pictures and comments. Thank you so much for sharing what I and perhaps others may never have been able to see. I sure am hoping there will be more from you in the future.
RDW
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Old Wulitzer

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#1303121 - 11/11/09 08:36 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
Terry5758 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 348
Loc: Vero Beach,Florida
Very interesting Eric. I love the look of the Steingraeber complex. It's like going back in time.I would like to pay a visit their in Spring.I would go now but living in Florida,i am afraid the weather would be too cold.Did you get a chance to see the Steingraeber historical house and the i believe they call it their opera house? If so do you have pictures? I would love to see them if you have any.Thanks for taking me and others on this fabulous voyage.I appreciate the hard work you are putting into this.Please keep it coming!


Terry
_________________________
Proud owner of a fully restored Feurich concert grand built in 1912 with Phoenix System.
Gotta love that German technology

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#1303127 - 11/11/09 08:48 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Terry5758]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Terry

I got a tour of the Steingraeber Haus on my previous trip, but did not take any photos. This time we stopped in briefly to see them returning the Liszt Steingraeber, carrying it up the 2 flights (no, not sliding it, carrying it!). It is filled with beautiful furniture and furnishings with the air of both a museum and the home an a very aristocratic, cultured family.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1303132 - 11/11/09 09:02 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Loves Pugs Too]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2069
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Hi Eric,

It's fascinating to read this thread.

I'm wondering whether your observations on rim tension and sound production are, to some degree, transferable to uprights?

I don't know enough about piano building to gauge the technical validity of my question (a rim on an upright?) - what I'm getting at, is the means that various piano makers have at their disposal, to build their ideal sound into pianos, both grands and uprights, and whether a similar "beach" vs. "pool" approach exists in uprights.

Regards,
Mark
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.
LinkedIn profile
1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#1303135 - 11/11/09 09:10 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Mark R.]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Mark

To be honest, I have not investigated the various uprights made by these makers in any kind of detail.

There really is not a rim on an upright. There are 2 end panels, left and right, glued on the back frame. The back is completely open and all the cabinet pieces on the front are removable.

I know the Bosendorfer upright also has spruce end panels. However my intuition tells me that the cabinet pieces don't play much of a role in tone production on any upright.

Again, I welcome correction by any makers rep.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1303137 - 11/11/09 09:12 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Maybe I should clarify something. It is not only the rim construction that contributes to the sound being swimming pool or beach. There are a number of other steps that makers take to emphasize and develop the particular sound they are looking for. The rim construction and installation is just one of them.
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RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1303209 - 11/11/09 11:38 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
Terry5758 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 348
Loc: Vero Beach,Florida
Thanks Eric,I can't wait to see the home. That picture of them carrying the Liszt Steingraeber up the stairs made me a bit unconfortable. Glad they didn't trip. Again,I'm enjoying the thread. Can't wait to hear what you have in store for us about Feurich.


Terry
_________________________
Proud owner of a fully restored Feurich concert grand built in 1912 with Phoenix System.
Gotta love that German technology

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#1303316 - 11/11/09 01:59 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Terry5758]
gutenberg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 380
Loc: Wichita, Kansas
This has to be the most enjoyable thread I've read. Thanks, Eric, and I'm eagerly awaiting more.

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#1303328 - 11/11/09 02:18 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Terry5758]
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4981
Loc: boston north
Most who know me personally, know that a Steingraeber is the 'ultimate' piano tone to me.

The touch is also most gratifying - to play a note 'such' and get the response that one wants. (I melt like a pool of butter, doing so)

This does not negate my love for several other piano mfgs though.

Quote
"isn't tonal diversity wonderful?"

Yes, absolutely! Many have beautiful tones and can stir my being into musical fantasyland.

But the Steingraeber makes my heart skip a beat more than most!

Having played a few, having met Udo Steingraber at Allegro Pianos, and now having seen pics of the factory, is there anything more that could make me fall in love - than to tour the factory where these pianos are crafted?

Why yes!

To own one!!!

Thanks for sharing, Eric.
_________________________
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#1303599 - 11/11/09 07:53 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: lilylady]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Thanks for the tour, Eric.

I have only toured the Grotrian facility, so it's nice to get a vicarious introduction to other makers. BTW, Grotrian likely would be another of the higher rim tension makes.
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#1303617 - 11/11/09 08:16 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Piano*Dad]
devils4ever Offline
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Registered: 04/12/04
Posts: 477
Loc: northwest NJ
Thanks for the pics of the August Forster factory. It reinforces my choice in pianos. wink
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#1303750 - 11/12/09 12:39 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: devils4ever]
HNB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 73
Loc: Australia
Thanks so much Eric, that was a great lunchtime read.

It's curious that many pianists (including myself) have little or no idea about what goes into making these miraculous instruments, even if they've been playing their whole lives. Now I've discovered PW, I'm enjoying the education smile

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#1303779 - 11/12/09 01:52 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: HNB]
Grandpianoman Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/05
Posts: 2416
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Thanks for your work on this post Eric, I am really enjoying it!!

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#1303787 - 11/12/09 02:07 AM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: BoseEric]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Originally Posted By: BoseEric
Steingraeber






What the heck!!! Is he doing that by hand!!!!

Facinating piano and Udo is a great guy. I have enjoyed a few beers with him in the past and think very highly of his pianos.
And I felt that way before the beers laugh
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#1304402 - 11/12/09 10:57 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
kluurs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 3739
Loc: Chicago
Must make it to Bayreuth.... Thanks Eric - this is next best thing to being there.

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#1304443 - 11/12/09 11:43 PM Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich [Re: kluurs]
newgeneration Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 428
Loc: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Eric,
Great photos and narrative of your visit to Germany.
Early this September I too had the opportunity of visiting the Steingraeber factory. (Have just become the Steingraeber representative/dealer in Toronto and Eastern Canada)

Did you get a chance to see the soundboard work where they test the full area of the soundboards using sand, then hand plane accordingly? I had heard of this in faint whispers (not exactly sure where) but finally seeing it was a great revelation for me.

I don't want to intrude on this ongoing post...so carry on!! All those who haven't yet had the chance to visit these fine German factories are receiving a wonderful treat by you sharing your visit on PW.
_________________________
John
J.D. Grandt Piano Supply Company
Steingraeber & Söhne (Canada) www.facebook.com/SteingraeberCanada
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