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Steinway Pianos: The Finest Tradition of Craftsmanship and Artistry


Model D

Steinway pianos are built by hand, with the highest level of quality craftsmanship, at the company’s factory is in Queens, New York. Such is the excellence of these instruments that Steinway has been the piano of choice for composers and artists ranging from Sergei Rachmaninoff, Gustav Mohler, Arthur Rubenstein, and Irving Berlin, to Shirley Horn, Billy Joel, Diana Krall, and Harry Connick, Jr. Such is their durability that the Steinway presented to the White House in 1938 during the Franklin Roosevelt administration is still in use there today.

The company began operation in 1871. Unlike many of the modern manufacturing stories highlighted at, this is not a story of advanced robotics and automation. The plant is modern, but has used many of the same patented procedures and practices for decades.

About 85 percent of a piano is wood. Steinway carefully selects wood that is air-dried for up to one year before it makes it into the factory, where it is further dried with a kiln to eliminate any tendency to warp or crack.

Production begins with shaping of the rim. Six men carry 20-foot strips of maple that will form the inner and outer rims of the piano. The employees then apply presses that were invented in 1880 by Theodore Steinway and whose technology is still in use today. Heat is later applied, and the glue is set. The rim is then cured for several months in a 95 degree conditioning room. A strong rim is critical, since stringing can cause up to 45,000 pounds of pressure.

Months later, the rim is sanded, and fitted with bracing, which augments the tonal projection and tuning stability. Alaskan spruce is used for the soundboard. A cast-iron plate holds the springs and is lowered and carefully fitted into the rim with attention to detail, a process that can take several hours to complete.

The piano is then strung by hand. The bridge transmits vibrational energy from the strings to the soundboard. Hammers are made in the Steinway factory and are glued to the hammer-shanks. Finally, the entire key-frame is carefully fitted into position within the casing of the instrument.

Gauges are used to measure the precise length of key depth travel. Each key is hand-tested by on-staff inspectors and adjusted as necessary. Finishes are then applied. When the manufacturing process is completed, the result is a Steinway piano that will provide decades of music and that will appreciate in value over time.

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