More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich

Posted by: BoseEric

More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 09:21 AM

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.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 09:36 AM

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)?
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 09:47 AM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 10:25 AM

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.



Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 10:49 AM

Very interesting! Please show and tell us more. Having a Feurich and a Steingraeber,your post is especially personal to me. Thank you!





Terry
Posted by: Gregor

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 11:42 AM

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
Posted by: apple*

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 12:17 PM

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.
Posted by: Avantgardenabi

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/09/09 04:54 PM

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.
Posted by: Jibbers

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/10/09 06:23 AM

Very informative and interesting! Looking forward to the next instalment of your travelog!
Posted by: lilylady

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/10/09 06:47 AM

So wishing to do a tour like this myself.

I look forward to more pics and discussions.

Roberta/lilylady
Posted by: turandot

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/10/09 05:29 PM

Ditto everyone else.

Really nice thread, Eric.

Please continue.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/10/09 05:50 PM

Love the pictures and love your approach on what you said in your opening post.

Thanks
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/10/09 07:09 PM

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm editing the Steingraeber photos now.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 08:12 AM

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!
Posted by: Loves Pugs Too

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 08:28 AM

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
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 08:36 AM

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
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 08:48 AM

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.
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 09:02 AM

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
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 09:10 AM

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.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 09:12 AM

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.
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 11:38 AM

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
Posted by: gutenberg

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 01:59 PM

This has to be the most enjoyable thread I've read. Thanks, Eric, and I'm eagerly awaiting more.
Posted by: lilylady

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 02:18 PM

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.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 07:53 PM

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.
Posted by: devils4ever

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/11/09 08:16 PM

Thanks for the pics of the August Forster factory. It reinforces my choice in pianos. wink
Posted by: HNB

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/12/09 12:39 AM

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
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/12/09 01:52 AM

Thanks for your work on this post Eric, I am really enjoying it!!
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/12/09 02:07 AM

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
Posted by: kluurs

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/12/09 10:57 PM

Must make it to Bayreuth.... Thanks Eric - this is next best thing to being there.
Posted by: newgeneration

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/12/09 11:43 PM

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.
Posted by: krikorik

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/13/09 12:21 AM

John
The sand technique you mention is called Chaldni modal analysis

you can see it applied to a viola here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HwPw3YEwSQ

a plate here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtiSCBXbHAg

and on a classic piano lecture by Conklin

http://www.speech.kth.se/music/5_lectures/conklin/howdoes.html

It is very powerfull to see the vibration modes, but I guess it takes lots of experience to modify them correctly.

Eric
Thanks for all the shared material
Regards
Krikorik
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/13/09 07:01 AM

Thanks for all the positive comments. I've been laid low by something I picked up from that &*$!@$# in the row ahead of me on the flight back. He coughed the whole flight!

Feurich will come soon.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/13/09 07:04 AM

The photo with Udo in it shows the end result of the sand technique. If you look closely you can see a fine line of light colored sand collected on the outer edge of the soundboard. This is what they want at the end of the process.
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 05:48 PM

Eric,

Thanks for sharing such wonderful pictures and stories. It is great to hear about the different factories and see such wonderful pictures of places I have never been.

Marcus

PS get well soon
Posted by: Tweedpipe

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 06:00 PM

A very enjoyable post Eric.
Very much appreciated. thumb
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 07:04 PM

Eric,

I KNEW I liked you for some reason!

Great post.

Thanks.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 07:33 PM

Steve...
Buying an ad wasn't enough?
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 08:15 PM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
Steve...
Buying an ad wasn't enough?


Are you implying that I can be bought for the price of an ad???

[Truth is, I'd turn in my mother for a 1/4 page ad!] smile
Posted by: newgeneration

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feuric - 11/13/09 08:40 PM

So how many manufacturers make use of the Chaldni modal analysis? Is it quite common? It seems like a very integral part of creating a decent soundboard?
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/16/09 09:46 AM

Eric hope you are feeling better. When is the next edition to log your visit to Feurich? I'm anxiously awaiting.



Terry
Posted by: Strings & Wood

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/16/09 05:28 PM

Thanks Eric, I have really enjoyed traveling vicariously through your stories and pictures in this thread, as well as the previous one. thumb
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 12:45 PM

Sorry for the delay. Editing photos has not seemed very interesting to me for the last week. But am feeling better and eager to share my Feurich experience.



After Bayreuth, I drove to the charming lake town of Gunzenhausen. We in the states think things are old if George Washington visited. However both Martin Luther and Goethe visited Gunzenhausen. In fact, my hotel (same name, same site, different building) was established in 1364!!

The few Feurich pianos I have seen have always impressed me. They have a strikingly unique sound, but well within the norms of German makers. The recent history of Feurich has confused even some in the German piano industry, leading to me hearing all sorts of stories about their current production. However I was met by a very cordial Julius Feurich (IV, I think) and his son Julius (V, if I'm correct about the previous). Founded in Leipzig, the Feurich family included a number of piano builders, even competing among themselves for a while. However with the end of WWI, Julius' family moved to the West and started making the Feurich piano again from scratch. Recent history includes a short lived acquisition by Bechstein (described by some as a "hostile takeover")and a subsequent return to family ownership and management. More recently there was a joint project with a Chinese manufacturer for pianos for Asia. The recent ending of that agreement leaves the Asian built Julius Feurich line, made by others, available only in Asia. This chain of events has led to some speculation as to how many Feurich pianos are really produced in Germany.


I can confirm that I saw both grand and upright production in Gunzenhausen with typical German attention to detail and absolutely no indication that there was any "finishing off " of Asian product going on, as some have speculated.


Feurich is a small maker among small makers. Julius says his grand production this year will be about 20. The Feurich shop is, shall we say, small with just about every square inch of the building is used for production or storage.






I am now late for an appointment. To be continued.
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 01:31 PM

Eric,
It's good to know you are feeling better. Great pics of Gunzenhausen and the Feurich factory. I knew the building was small,but not that small.I believe it is Julius V and Julius VI. I have met them both. Julius VI is a very nice typical 17 year old. He was visiting Melbourne Fl. this summer and i took him to visit the Kennedy Space Center. When he saw the launch pad,he was very much impressed.
The original Feurich building was much much larger,but was destroyed by the allies in World War II. During our day togeather,he gave me a lot of information about the Feurich history. In the near future i will be visiting Bayreuth and Gunzenhausen. Julius has promised to give me a tour and show me as he says "some very beautiful castles." Of course i will be visiting the Steingraber and feurich factories,as i proudly own a piano made by both. I agree with you Eric that the Feurich is a unique sound and very beautiful i might add.Thanks again Eric. This makes for a nice appetizer before i see the main course for myself. I can't wait to go!!!!! I absolutely love German pianos.




Terry
Posted by: James Senior

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 05:47 PM

Fanscinating Eric,
do you know when Feurich moved into their current building? Did it have anything to do with their sale from Bechstein, e.g. downsizing?
In the third picture from the bottom, you can see an action - does it have carbon fibre shanks and wippens? They certainly look darker than usual...
I'm surprised that Feurich used their name in an attempt to build in Asia. It certainly didn't work for Ibach - It may even have tarnished the brand name, leading to their sad demise.
Obviously I'm glad Feurich are still around and striving for top quality. I have one from 1925 and it's a joy.
Looking forward to more pics :-)
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 10:08 PM

Thanks for sharing Eric,

I did not realise that their production was so limited. 20 grand piano's per year! No wonder I have not come across any in Australia.

Marcus
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 11:07 PM

I'm certainly glad i own one of the few and that the Feurich dealer(also the Steingraeber dealer) is only 15 min. from me.


Terry
Posted by: turandot

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 11:27 PM

Originally Posted By: Oz Marcus
Thanks for sharing Eric,

I did not realise that their production was so limited. 20 grand piano's per year! No wonder I have not come across any in Australia.

Marcus


Marcus,

Mr. Feurich was on here one day in August. AS best I can figure out, he has not posted since. At that time he said:

Quote:
The first comment I would like to make is, that the present number of pianos in production does not mean anything about the SIZE of a company. It Has been said that Feurich is making 20 high end pianos only. This is correct in terms of grand pianos. Together with vertical pianos we are making about 50 pianos on total. But this reflects the present economical situation at these days. As you know we have a high percentage of exports, and so we are also depended to other countries economies. IN the years when the dollar was strong we shipped up to 85 grands to the US in one year. I want to say, that it is not only the present output of production when you are talking about the size of a company.

It also is important that the pianos we are producing are fixed orders.


http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1259031/1.html
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/17/09 11:47 PM

I'm certainly glad i own one of the few and that the Feurich dealer(also the Steingraeber dealer) is only 15 min. from me.


Terry
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 07:40 AM

The Feurich bass bridge has a rather complex construction


Both Steingraeber and Feurich offer the new WNG composite action parts on request. Maybe Förster too, but I did not see any in progress there.



Feurich uses a proprietary depleted uranium based yellow dye for the hammer underfelt, believing that this augments the upper partials in the....just joshing you, the color is for brand identification and, in my opinion, to help piano technicians maintain their sunny disposition.



Here is a closeup of the Fandrich action Feurich offers on vertical pianos. There is a clever additional spring (with a loop) between the top of the jack and the catcher shank, pushing the jack back into position. According to Julius, Renner provides the holes and the spring, but they must be bushed, installed and regulated by Feurich.

It is quite interesting to think about the Feurich production facilities now in comparison to the stature the company had in it's earlier years in Leipzig. While all these makers are dedicated to a particular sound and the construction techniques that achieve that sound, and all have strong family connections, I get the impression that Julius is maintaining his legacy with a real dogged determination. I mean, come on, there are easier ways of making a living! And yet, here he is, making 20 grands this year, hopefully more the next. My assumption is that he is driven by the belief that the Feurich sound has a place in this world. I agree with him.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 07:54 AM

I'd like to extend my most heartfelt thanks to all the makers I have visited in these two trips. They have been unfailingly courteous and welcoming and I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have had to visit them and learn about their marvelous pianos. I hope I have represented them well and since I have not received any rotten blutwurst anonymously in the mail, maybe so far so good. These are serious people in a small, arcane world who deserve the respect and appreciation of us all, no matter what piano is in our home.

There are still a couple I have not visited, so hopefully (for me, at least) I'll get to post again.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 08:25 AM

One more stop
By chance my trip coincided with a trip by my friend and dealer from Montreal, Andre Bolduc and his son Christian.

The main business of the Bolduc family is offering high quality wood components to the piano trade. Andre has built this business into one of the world's most highly regarded suppliers of pinblocks and soundboards, supplying some very high end makers as well as rebuilders.

There is a trade school in Ludwigsburg that offers what is generally considered to be the only formal course in piano building in the world. The school (whose formal name I neglected to write down) offers courses in a variety of trades, including brass instruments and organs as well as pianos. The school was the site of a 3 day class in soundboard replacement Andre and Christian were invited to present by the German Piano Technicians Association. I got to sit in on a small part of the class and later (happily) got to sit in on a couple of beers with them.

Posted by: DanLaura Larson

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 09:04 AM

This was a really wonderful thread, as was your previous factory thread. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these up.

Dan
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 09:31 AM

Originally Posted By: DanLaura Larson
This was a really wonderful thread, as was your previous factory thread. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these up.

Dan




Ditto!
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 09:44 AM

This thread is one of the best on the nature of hand-crafted, European pianos I've read. Having been to numerous mass-production piano factories, the contrasts are crystal clear.

We need to archive this thread and refer those who ask about these issues in the future.

Great job, Eric. the PW community is indebted to you.

And I know you had a great time in your travels and writing this great series of post!!!

Thank you!
Posted by: The Owner

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 09:48 AM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
There is a trade school in Ludwigsburg that offers what is generally considered to be the only formal course in piano building in the world. The school (whose formal name I neglected to write down) offers courses in a variety of trades, including brass instruments and organs as well as pianos.


That is the Oscar-Walcker-Schule.

Website: http://www.ows-lb.de/
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 09:59 AM

Danke to you Steve, and to The Owner and to everybody who expressed support.

NOW GO OUT AND BUY A HIGH END, EUROPEAN BUILT PIANO!!
Posted by: turandot

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 10:00 AM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
I'd like to extend my most heartfelt thanks to all the makers I have visited in these two trips. They have been unfailingly courteous and welcoming and I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have had to visit them and learn about their marvelous pianos. I hope I have represented them well....


For sure you have. It's the fact that you have represented them without actually repre$enting them that makes it especially neat!

Eric,

Now that the main course it over, could you expand on the point you made about squeezing the soundboard into the rim (Steingaeber and the maker whose name you forgot smile ). I could follow the waves on the beach/swimming pool analogy, but not the how-to of the squeezing process. Is this part of achieving crown?
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 10:15 AM

TDot, this gets out of my area of expertise, both in that I'm not a designer nor do I represent a company who makes their pianos this (that)way. But, lack of expertise has never stopped me before.

One maker notches the inner rim for ribs all the way through the inner rim on one side of the piano, but not on the other side. The idea is that installing the dense outer rim (great pressure, clamps etc) will push the rib on the side notched all the way through, and the other side, buttressed by being against a couple laminations of the inner rim, will not move, causing, or at least supporting, more curve in the rib and voila, the soundboard. We're talking very small amounts here. The rib DOES NOT measurably stick out on the side notched all the way through. Maybe it's more support than additional pressure.

(If I don't remember the name of a maker, that usually means I don't care how they do it. Some companies don't need my help.)
Posted by: plumpfingers

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 10:30 AM

Just wanted to add my thanks and many kudos to Eric for an incredibly enjoyable tour of fine European piano manufacturing demonstrating again the beauty of this incredible art/science. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/18/09 04:45 PM

Don't be surprised if Eric's journey isn't revisited in a future Piano Buyer article!
Posted by: EltonRach

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 11/21/09 10:53 AM

Thank you BoseEric for your time and effort to write-up your experiences. I enjoyed it and hope there'll be more.
Posted by: Fritz Heberlein

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/10/09 08:24 AM

Sorry for intruding into this thread from outside the US. I just want to say that it has inspired me to extent my search for an new upright to Feurich, a brand I was familiar with in my youth but wich I had lost sight of since. Well, after a visit to the Feurich shop at Gunzenhausen, after listening to the full and warm sound of the Feurich 123, and after an "introduction to piano building for bigdummies" by Julius Feurich, I decided that I had arrived at the end of my searching odyssey, and last week the F 123 was delivered to my home.

Thank you BoseEric for your interesting perspective on traditional piano manufacturing!

BTW. Somebody wrote here he believed that the Feurich pianos be "not all of the same quality". This is true, in a sense: for customers with a limited budget, Feurich offers a downgrading option to an asian made action and keyboard instead of the Renner action and the Heuss keyboard. The other way round, you can also, for a price, upgrade to a very impressive Fandrich action. These differences are clearly stated in Feurich's printed material (less so, regrettably, on his somewhat outdated web site). The crucial point is that every variant is build at Feurich's in Gunzenhausen, and not, as is rumoured sometimes, in China.


---
Dr Fritz Heberlein
Dept. of Classics,
University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Feurich 123 (2009), Arnold 130 (1933)
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/10/09 09:06 AM

Congratulations on your new Feurich, Dr. Heberlein! I'm sure it is a beautiful piano and that you will be very happy with it. The tradition here at PianoWorld is for you to post photos!


Best

Eric
Posted by: Fritz Heberlein

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/10/09 12:08 PM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
The tradition here at PianoWorld is for you to post photos!



Hm ... I'm an old fashioned guy and do not own a digital camera (have bought a piano instead...). But i can offer a picture made for me by Julius Feurich, which shows "my" model at display in his shop:



Best

Fritz (who has a stiff neck from playing too much ... )

---
Dr Fritz Heberlein
Dept. of Classics,
University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Feurich 123 (2009), Arnold 130 (1933)

Posted by: apple*

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/10/09 01:24 PM

hope your neck holds out.

congratulations on your piano Fritz - it fits nicely in this thread.
Posted by: AJF

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 02:41 AM

Congratulations! A genuine Feurich- wonderful pianos. If you DO get a digital camera in the future, your piano would be a good specimen for some photos:)
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 06:22 AM

Beautiful Feurich Fritz! The wood is amazing. Congrats on your purchase of one of the finest pianos made. I absolutely love my Feurich and the Julius Feurich Family. They are very nice people.
Posted by: Fritz Heberlein

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 09:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Terry5758
Beautiful Feurich Fritz! The wood is amazing.


The sound is even more! Of course, I would have prefered a grand F 227 myself (I saw one at the Feurich shop), but ... doughter studying at Princeton for a year, money saved for a grand piano vanishes into tuition fees ...

Best,

Fritz

--
Dr Fritz Heberlein
Dept. of Classics
University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Bavaria

Feurich 123 (2009), Arnold 130 (1932)
Posted by: Norbert

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 06:40 PM

Quote:
NOW GO OUT AND BUY A HIGH END, EUROPEAN BUILT PIANO!!


In Europe it's not "high end" but "normal".

It's all they know.....

Norbert thumb
Posted by: Terry5758

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 07:03 PM

Good point Norbert!
Posted by: turandot

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 12/11/09 07:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Norbert
Quote:
NOW GO OUT AND BUY A HIGH END, EUROPEAN BUILT PIANO!!


In Europe it's not "high end" but "normal".

It's all they know.....

Norbert thumb


Proof positive?

Yamaha is Europe's largest selling piano brand. grin


Congratulations on your find, Doctor Heberlein!
Posted by: phacke

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 08/14/14 12:37 AM

Steingraeber visit (Bayreuth, Germany), continuing on the theme of the Steingraeber visit here by BoseEric.

At that time of BoseEric's post, workshop pictures were apparently allowed. When I visited they were not, according to the sign on the door, so images are of finished pianos, or obtained elsewhere.

The approach,


Factory tour was given by Albin Steingraeber

Only about 38 people work there. It is really quite amazing to have reached the level they have with so few people. Standard outsourcable parts are outsourced, locally. For example they get their cast plates from two companies in Germany, one just 80 km away, the other on the other side of Germany (or so). I think a key factor in the ability of the not so large German piano makers to achieve success is the local, close (locational and collaborative) working relationship they have to the upstream (and probably downstream too) value chain entities.

All technical people can do one anothers jobs.

The short of it all is that they are a very fine business and wonderful people. Udo Steingraeber came by and did a meet & greet. Udo and Albin are different style people, but my impression is Albin can carry the Steingraeber tradition superbly.

Technical observations:

Agraffes
I have seen on these pages complaints about Klinke agraffes. Steingraebers solution to strengthen them is to reinforce them with a steel pin. This is outsourced. I dont know exactly where that steel pin sits with respect to the string position.

Long bridge
Small steps chiseled in at the bridge pins. This was explained as an intermediate geometry between Steinway (bevel only) and Fazioli, (step only) :


Bass bridge.
Interesting key-holes and a bit of a slot off to the right indicating some cantilever in that areas (see shots by BoseEric above). Obviously, these key-holes were explained to me as helping to improve the sound, but the mechanism was not clear to me:


The bass bridge did not have small steps chiseled in, just an acute slope:

This got me looking at other bass bridges:
Bluthner, in their Leipzig showroom. Looks like one can drive a (toy) truck under the bass bridge. (Predominantly lower cost Bluthners at this showroom, even Bluthner-labeled digitals):


Bosendorfer, at the Mendelssohn house in Leipzig, some similarities to Steingraeber. This particular Bosendorfer didnt sound that good to me, kind of thin:


C Bechstein, at the Frankfurt airport for all to play, solid bass bridge. Sounded good to me:


I folded the lid back after this photo of it. (I) couldn't bare the stress:


Action
Hammer shanks tuned. Hardest (highest resonance frequency) placed in the high treble, lowest are placed in the bass. 2% are rejected as being too soft and sent back to Renner for credit. Renner gets a visits very frequently from Steingraeber.

I think of Mr McMorrrow writing he cannot get Klinkes attention. It seems you have to physical show up and get in their face to get attention, and your piano workshop being in the same country helps for that. You can see by what Steingraeber is doing (with the insertion of the steel pins), others also see room for improvement beyond the baseline product.

They are studying the WNG action (it was on display) and may include it for those customers wanting it, but they said they do not anticipate nor seek a general move to it.



Tuning pins. Drilled in to desired depth with a machine, pounding not involved.

General plate and cabinet item: effort to make all parts musical and resonant at the appropriate frequency.

Duplex bar (rear/backscale). On the plate we were looking at (a smaller grand), this was molded right into the plate for the bass section, I believe. After casting, they said they heat treated it with locallizeds induction heating to harden it as much as possible.

Grand piano lid.
Honeycomb aluminum bounded by a fiberglass with 1.5 mm veneer on each face. (random picture from the web here). They said they like the acoustic behavior of it. Im not a convert on that just yet, but Im sure they would make me plywood one if requested.
http://www.simonliuinc.com/html/fiberglass.php

Soundboard: German, valley grown spruce (because the wind of the mountain buckles the grain), tuned and optimized with sand for observation of the modes, as observed by the previous PW reports.

Albin volunteered the information that the wood they use is from sustainable sources. I did not ask about this, and I was not wearing my tree-hugger tee shirt. I of course jumped on this because this is an interest of mine, and proposed that they advertise this to the maximum, and make coalitions with other manufactures who do this considering the death and destruction that goes into collection of some woods. He said he would think about it, but the worry is that people would get the impression of it (the sustainable wood) being an unnecessary extra cost (though he did not worry about it when telling me).

This is the map of Steingraeber dealers (North America here) . He called out a few people that frequent these pages in the USA. He mentioned there was a hole in dealerships in the central US, such as Texas (opportunity?) . Udo mentioned there used to be someone in Boulder, Colorado who retired (too bad for me).



The selection room had two Bs and a C. The C was great, with all the butter and thunder you want:


The Bs there, Im sorry, did not have much of it at all. The auditorium had a Steingraeber E, Excellent, obviously. I was however surprised how the lower octaves sounded with a strong element of the sound of metal strings fundamentally vibrating when played above p. This is not a criticism, it was just its natureand it was satisfying and beautifully harmonious. You can hear this nature I am talking about here:
https://soundcloud.com/five-stars-1/steingraeber-e-272-brahms-sonate-op-5-f-moll

Here is the Steingraeber C label. The higher price is for the carbon fiber soundboard option. Albin quoted the carbon board as being most suitable for jazz and humid climates (used in much less than 5% of pianos):



For the money you save by passing up on this (photo at the zoological garden mall/Berlin) , I can get two Steingraeber Cs:

I sincerely thank Albin and the Steingraeber team for the wonderful visit.
I welcome any corrections.
Posted by: ando

Re: More factories; Förster, Steingraeber (again) and Feurich - 08/14/14 06:35 AM

Wow, what a post, Phacke! Very interesting. smile