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#27766 - 06/20/07 04:39 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4977
Loc: boston north
More, more, more!

;-)

Every last detail that you can remember and pics of everyone that attended!

I'll add a bribe...

That is....if you guys want to see pics of the NYC adventure and the DUO SCARBO concert at Carnegie Hall Thurs, and members attending.

VBG

It sounds like we need a yearly tour there at Steinway. Maybe? Is something there in the works for next year? Will they reserve the room for playing pianos afterwards for our eager group?

LL
_________________________
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#27767 - 06/20/07 04:57 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
BethJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/12/06
Posts: 9
Loc: South Orange, NJ
Thanks so much to Fingers and the Piano World Forum for making this tour possible. It was fascinating and fun to meet you all.

I believe someone is trying to get permission to post a video of a Steinway factory tour (John Ratzenberger filmed one for his series "Made in America")--in the meantime check out this NYTimes series for pictures, video and lots of interesting stuff on Steinway.

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/nyregion/PIANO_INDEX.html

Beth

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#27768 - 06/20/07 05:42 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
atropos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 68
Loc: New York
The tour was fun, quite eye opening, and I'm glad I drove down for it.

Some of the things that caught my attention:

-Wood selection and care; Lots of effort and time is put in this step, way before any cutting is even done.

-The amount of hand work that is still done. Legs and such are a CNC routine... but plate-to-rim fitting and soundboard / bridge work are entirely done by hand. Finishes, from what we saw, are done by hand after the initial lacquer is applied. Actions seem to be entirely assembled by hand, and each stage is checked for quality along the way.

-The look and attitude of the employees... realizing that this is, in the long run, factory work, just about everyone there seemed genuinely 'into' what they were doing. Lots of folks, when asked about how long they had been there, were 5-10+ year employees. Apparently there is less cross-training than I would have thought as well.

-Cleanliness. For a shop doing the work they do, things seemed quite organized. How much of all of this (and the overall attitude of everyone) was put on due to there being a tour, I am not sure. I've worked in similiar environments, and generally employees know when there are visitors, and how to act, etc.

-The company went over and above taking a good amount of time showing us most of the shop, though we did not have time to see the restoration area. Lunch was an unexpected perk.

So, 2 thumbs up... it was excellent to tie some usernames to faces, and to meet everyone. A very warm and friendly bunch!

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#27769 - 06/20/07 06:50 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1516
Loc: New York
What a great time! Meeting everyone was an extra bonus. I took no photos so sorry I cant help there. I'll try to add to Frank's post. After seeing the wood pile outdoors we walked past the kiln where the wood is further dried and then into the raw woods first stop. Lots of saws and stacks of cut wood. We then walked a little ways to the rim bending room. There is an area where the thin strips of maple has the glue applied and then the stack is taken over to the rim mold. We saw a model M rim being bent. It takes alot of muscle and 5-6 big guys to do it as they clamp up the wood a little at a time using huge wrenches on the outer mold plates to force the wood into shape. The room where the curing cases were kept was like a sauna, and it was almost shocking to see how many rims were being cured. In fact everywhere you look there are dozens of grand pianos in their various stages of construction. How many if I take a guess maybe a thousand. I saw a single worker pushing a model b rim around by himself on a very large router table machining the soundboard & plate shelf in. On this floor all kinds of operation were taking place to make the rims into a grand piano case including placing the braces in. We saw the soundboards being installed and the plates as well. I enjoyed watching the stringing where the string was put on a tool over the piano. A pin is inserted then wire was put in the pin, it turned to wind the string and then pressed the pin into the pin block. We saw the pianos being painted and sanded and rubbed and carts full of parts everywhere. My impressions were that Steinway takes no shortcuts in building the piano. They could easily speed up production and make modifications that would be unseen to make assembly much easier but they do not because their method and design is to do everything possible to make every part connect as fully as possible with each other and to free the sound board of restrictions such as the plate pressing directly on the soundboard. There is a reason why the Steinway has power. As for quality I could find no evidence of quality issues. Seeing dozens of finished pianos with little sticky notes all over them shows that every piano gets a quality inspection and a final go over before the tuner/voicer puts it in his soundproof room. It is apparent that many of the workers take a great deal of pride in their work. Several were wearing Steinway T shirts that said on the back Steinway builder of the worlds best pianos. I concur. ....Many thanks to Steinway for their hospitality. I will answer questions if I can.

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#27770 - 06/21/07 01:32 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
rustyfingers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 788
Loc: Massachusetts
Sorry it has taken me a while to post: I didn't get back home until 4 am and then my router was fried so I haven't been on the internet all day.

It was a wonderful tour--for me really a thrill of a lifetime. Thanks so much to fingers for
organizing, to Keith Keeler for an outstanding tour, to President Bruce Stevens and the rest of the Steinway management and employees for the hospitality, information and lunch, and, of course, to Frank, for bringing us together in the first place.

I concur with Frank, the factory is much bigger than I expected. The entrance is classical, as you see here.



The offices are modern and air-conditioned. You enter into a lobby where the receptionist sits in front of a piano. After signing our disclaimers and receiving our fashionable protective eyewear, we wound our way up the spiral staircase past a bust of Henry Steinway Sr. to the offices and conference room, where we had a few minutes to introduce ourselves to each other as we waited for the rest of the group.

Keith made an excellent tour guide, especially as he has only been with Steinway for about two years.

As Frank mentioned, we started in the lumber yard. Warren Albrecht, Steinway's lumber buyer and wood technologist, travels the world to select the proper woods and then it cures outside in the elements or in an open air storage building for months. When the wood reaches something like 18% moisture content, they bring it inside and dry it further to something like 6-8% (I could be wrong about this.)

From the yard, you notice huge dust collection machines hanging on the outside of the buildings. These collect sawdust and such from the numerous carpentry operations we were to see later.

Steinway moved to its present location from Park Avenue in the 1890s to take advantage of the convenient river transportation. (So my old 1864 square was actually built in Manhattan. I never knew that!)

In those days the pianos were lifted by horses and pulleys through the windows of the factory. (Reminds me of the pictures of jon-nyc's Bosie flying through the air when delivered).

We were not allowed to take pictures anywhere in the factory except in the rim curing/drying room, so we have lots of pictures there!

The final finish is applied to the piano rims before the soundboards and plates are added. There is a lot of work done in the "belly," much of it with sharp instruments, so the workers must be extremely careful. I can see how flash photography could be very distracting.

The varnishing department did not have as strong a smell as I would have guessed. Each worker has a sort of garage on the factory floor where the pieces are sprayed with the appropriate varnish. About 10 ft? away is a waterfall of mineral oil that absorbs stray varnish particles so that it can be recycled rather than ending up in the air (and workers lungs).

Steinway's workers are unionized. As we began the inside of our tour it looked like they were just coming back from a break. Each worker seemed to have a personalized workspace, with their own mementos and radios. Every department was hung with a giant banner with Steinway's mission of quality production. The workers seemed unhurried, but focused.

I think they said after they press the rims they cure them in the drying room for about 90 days depending on production needs. Here are some pix from inside. (We were kind of like the paparazzi in there because we had pent up photoitis.) Please forgive and correct me if I get the names wrong or they are missing.






Here's Frank among the rims:


Tourists:


Keith explains how the rims are cured and then (for some pianos) reunited with pieces cut from the same tree in other parts of the factory.


Our group heads out of the rim curing room. That's fingers in the black shirt:



Keith pointed out that although some parts of the manufacturing process are automated, the machines don't normally run at full capacity, because they don't want parts to get damaged by just sitting around at the bottom of a bin until needed.

The factory is so huge that Keith even lost a department at one point (stringing). We were glad to see that it had not disappeared, and were rewarded by watching several workers each stringing a piano.

I believe they said they shut down the factory for 4 weeks in July and August. Good thing too, because while well ventilated, it is not air conditioned. There was some dust as you would expect (you can see some on Keith's dark jacket, although it started out clean!), but over all the factory is very clean.

Many parts of the manufacturing process are occuring simultaneously, so the factory is laid out to minimize the moving of the major piano parts to different levels rather than in the logical order of what happens for any individual piano. That's efficient for building pianos, but makes for extra exertion by the tourists.

The action department was a little overwhelming-many people painstakingly creating, measuring, regulating many many tiny parts. I think Keith said that 2/3 of the over 12,000 parts that make up a piano have to do with the action.

A few more pictures are coming in the next post...
_________________________
If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.

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#27771 - 06/21/07 02:26 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
rustyfingers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 788
Loc: Massachusetts
The tuners and voicers have individual sound-proof rooms on the factory floor. They are aware that each instrument has its own character, so they voice each piano to its natural character, rather than trying to achieve some objective standard sound.

Before we left the factory floor we had the pleasure of hearing our only notes of music as the master voicer and tuner worked on what looked like a concert grand (didn't even fit in his booth.) A big sign over his "office" proclaimed him Steinway's 2007 Man of the Year. He smiled as he ran up the scales and played snippets of Moonlight sonata. Every square inch of his booth was covered with photos and memorabilia, including a sign that said something like "What comes in here looks like a piano. What leaves here sounds like a piano."

As Frank said, it was a tease to pass the selection room which is acoustically designed to be able to electronically simulate different room conditions. I would have loved to hear our members play, but it was not to be this time.

As we ended our tour, we walked back through the offices and saw a little olive drab piano from the 40s that Steinway dropped (with a tuning kit and music) for the troops deployed in WWII. Steinway made mostly gliders and caskets during the war (according to Piano 300, the Smithsonian exhibit catalog and book that they gave us as a lovely parting gift). We asked if we could still get a piano in olive drab, and apparently Bette Midler recently ordered a custom green piano from Keith!

The two presidents Frank Baxter of Pianoworld and Bruce Stevens of Steinway:


Here are our obligatory group photos (except we didn't have a piano big enough to put people UNDER this time!) I'll try to guess those I know, but please do add the missing pieces and correct my mistakes, and I'll update accordingly.

Back: Keith Keeler, manofpianos?, Janet, billz, fingers, Bruce Stevens, atropos, SottoVoice, Frank Baxter, BWV845, Laura, not sure--sorry
Seated: EHPianist, LJC, CTPianoTech, BethJ


Here's another avec moi:

I had to sneak out early to get to Manhattan for a meeting, so I didn't get to say a proper goodbye and thank you, so I'll do it now. What a wonderful experience!

_________________________
If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.

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#27772 - 06/21/07 07:14 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
BethJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/12/06
Posts: 9
Loc: South Orange, NJ
Between them, Frank, Atropos, LJC and Rusty Fingers have provided a magnificent review of our tour. Thank you so much! --Beth

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#27773 - 06/22/07 10:54 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
BWV846 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/08/07
Posts: 29
Loc: New York, New York
The tour was quite amazing.
I knew that pianos have a great number of parts in them. I appreciate the fact that Steinway showed us the parts and how carefully they are made and assembled by folks who really are concerned about the high level of craftmanship they maintain.
Another real kick was meeting all the other members of Pianoworld who took this tour.
What I really have to do now is to start my piano savings program so that I can buy one of these amazing devices when I finally develop the ability to play one.
_________________________
Joseph

"If at first you succeed, try to hide your astonishment."

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#27774 - 06/22/07 11:39 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
rustyfingers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 788
Loc: Massachusetts
By the way, welcome to the forum, manofpianos, BWV845, and lurkette BethJ. It's nice to have you here and to have met you there.

And to Jim Frazee and pianoloverus, who had to drop out at the last minute, I'm very sorry about your troubles and wish you a speedy recovery and speedy resolution.

-RF
_________________________
If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.

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#27775 - 06/22/07 11:58 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Piano World Online   blank



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5573
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
UPDATE:[/b]

As I mentioned in my review above, we (piano forums members) had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Stevens, President of Steinway during our factory tour.

Well, I just received my MMR magazine email today, and the lead story is that Bruce Stevens is retiring from Steinway[/b] (was it something we said Bruce?).

I've been in the music business for over 35 years, but Tuesday was the first time I've had the pleasure of meeting Bruce, although his name is well known in the industry.

Bruce, you've earned the right to retire, I hope you enjoy many years of fun and relaxation.

You can read the MMR article HERE
_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
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Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
And please invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield (southwest) let's get together!


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#27776 - 06/24/07 03:44 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
There's a wonderful documentary out called "Note by Note" about the making of a Steinway, much of which was filmed at the factory in Queens. I saw it at SilverDocs in Maryland last weekend; the director said it would be making the rounds (not sure where, but I know he said it's booked at the Film Forum in NYC for November).

Well, well worth seeing.

Note by Note
_________________________
Recovering cellist, amateur pianist.


Check out my blog !


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#27777 - 06/24/07 04:09 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Mary-Rose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/16/06
Posts: 1428
Loc: Essex, England
It was interesting to read all your experiences of the recent Steinway tour because you obviously had a better time than I had when I went! I had always thought Steinway, being the creme de la creme of piano makers, would have a similar level of staff and organisational flair. The day I went (a while ago, not with PW):
*initially the receptionist ignored me as she was having a fascinating private telephone conversation
*the chap who showed us round had the manner of a used car salesman, but in any case I couldn't hear him after a while because his voice didn't carry over the noise of the factory and he had no amplification
*He kept getting muddled with where we were to go next, so we had to retrace our steps several times
*Some of the areas were so hot or so acrid (with fumes) that I felt ill, and so did some of the people I was with
*At the end, tired and thirsty, I was delighted to see a table laden with sandwiches - only to find that they were ALL MEAT, not a single veggie or fish option. How strange in NYC in this day and age.

So, folks, I am truly glad that things have improved so much since my visit. The thing that disappointed me the most was that such a shoddy arrangement should come from a company that I had previously respected so much. And you'd think they would produce some sort of video describing the company's history, or a walkthrough of piano manufacture (which wasn't entirely clear from the disjointed tour). Maybe they have done that by now?
_________________________
Best wishes from MR
http://www.extraloudpurrs.blogspot.com

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#27778 - 06/25/07 07:30 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
rustyfingers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 788
Loc: Massachusetts
Frank, interesting news about Bruce Stevens. I guess the announcement was made the day before we were there.

Maryrose, there was an element of everything you mentioned in our tour as well.

The receptionist was a bit distracted, but warmed up.

As Frank mentioned, it was hard to hear our guide over the noises of the factory.

We did indeed get lost at least once and went up and down stairs a number of times. The explanation was that they are reengineering the plant to make it more efficient, so departments aren't always where they left them!

The rim curing room was very hot. We didn't have a really hot day, though, so the rest of the factory was warm but not unbearable. We did get exercised with all the up & down though! The varnishing floor smelled, but not terribly. Keith did warn those with asthma that they might not want to go in.

We were also glad (and pleasantly surprised) to see the sandwiches: didn't notice whether there were any veggie options, but that's a good point.

We were given a short DVD from the Made in America TV series starring John Raztenberger to take home describing how the pianos were made. I noticed that it too was a bit out of sequence. I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary Piano Again mentioned.

I don't know about anybody else, but I was so thrilled to be there that these things didn't really bother me. My viewpoint was that the primary purpose of the factory is to make pianos. I felt privileged to observe, and didn't mind a certain amount of discomfort. But I can certainly understand these criticisms.
_________________________
If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.

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#27779 - 06/25/07 07:52 AM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Piano World Online   blank



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5573
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Well put rustyfingers.

I agree there are things they could do to improve their tour. Although to their credit they did contact me to ask for my feedback/input.

I'm guessing someone from the organization is also watching this thread, so here's hoping they will make some changes in the future.

But your right, just getting to watch as they turn out some of the worlds finest pianos made it all worth the minor inconveniences.

So would I like to see them make some changes in the way they conduct the tours? Yes.
Would I take the tour again even if they didn't?
In a heartbeat.
_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
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Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
And please invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield (southwest) let's get together!


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#27780 - 06/25/07 10:14 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1516
Loc: New York
I think we have to keep in mind that Steinway is not in the business of giving tours, they are in the business of building pianos. Giving tours is a courtesy that can only hinder their production and use up their personel. I am extremely grateful that they would even let me in the building much less have groups of strangers walking in their factory then have the president come down to say hello and provide a nice lunch and then give handouts as well, all at no charge. So I would suggest to anyone that objects to a tour guide that is not used to guiding and objects to factory sounds and smells to go visit a museum or some vacation resort instead.

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#27781 - 06/26/07 05:16 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Piano World Online   blank



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5573
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
 Quote:
Originally posted by LJC:
I think we have to keep in mind that Steinway is not in the business of giving tours, they are in the business of building pianos. Giving tours is a courtesy that can only hinder their production and use up their personel. I am extremely grateful that they would even let me in the building much less have groups of strangers walking in their factory then have the president come down to say hello and provide a nice lunch and then give handouts as well, all at no charge. So I would suggest to anyone that objects to a tour guide that is not used to guiding and objects to factory sounds and smells to go visit a museum or some vacation resort instead. [/b]
I hear what you're saying LJC, but I can't completely agree.

The marketing guy in me says there were some minor missed opportunities.

I think everyone in our tour group last week was glad they went, and the lunch and meeting Bruce were pleasant surprises.

That said, when you represent one of the most prestigious names in the industry, you want to do everything you can to support the perception of the brand.

Particularly in todays environment where you can be assured people will talk about their experiences on forums like ours.

Sure, you can say "be happy they let you in the door", but I don't think that is the type of image a company like Steinway wants to project (nor did I get that impression).

I think what I'm trying to say is... Yes it is a wonderful experience to see the making of a Steinway piano in person. But, it doesn't take that much more effort to make the experience even more pleasant for your guests.

In particular, I'm referring to the fact most of us could not hear what was being said, at all.

I'd also have liked to have known if we could have taken any other pictures, besides the one rim room (hey, we are a group that likes to take pictures and talk pianos).

As to the noise, sawdust, fumes, etc. You are absolutely correct, it's a working factory, deal with it :-)
_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
Facebook.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Twitter.com/PianoWorld
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Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
And please invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield (southwest) let's get together!


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#27782 - 06/26/07 11:38 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Grane Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/05
Posts: 430
Loc: Greater Miami
While I didn't join you, I have taken the tour a few times.

We all know (especially here) Steinway as a marketing machine - at least when it comes to professional pianist endorsements, pianos at concert halls and pianos at universities -- hence some have expectations or a mindset about what they are supposed to be like.

Having purchased two pianos over the past 4 years, I've interacted with lots of Steinway folks and have found them to be very down to earth, real, just plain nice people -- not sophisticated marketing types. It is these folks you find in the factory or those who come out to your home to work on your piano.

Oops, perhaps I wasn't supposed to let this secret out of the bag -- those who like to bash Steinway will have trouble reconciling this kindler, gentler image.
_________________________
2005 Steinway B

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#27783 - 06/27/07 12:04 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
atropos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 68
Loc: New York
I dunno.. the tour was a lot 'more' than I expected overall. The noise in parts was an issue, but we were also given freedom to look around etc more than I would have guessed.

There is room for improvement in everything, but I wasn't dissapointed at all in any aspect of this tour.

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#27784 - 07/02/07 06:50 PM Re: NEW THREAD: S&S FACTORY TOUR IN JUNE - Now with Picts & Reviews!
Starting Over Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 1290
Loc: Toronto
I wasn't there. I wish I was.
Thanks all for the excellent summary and description of the tour.

I'm going next time!
_________________________
Buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.
Will Rogers


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Imperial Concert 61 Phase Piano
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