Buying a Used Steinway
The only problem with them is that, like the wood around them, they respond to humidity changes, swelling up in damp weather and shrinking in dry weather, causing the attached moving parts to become alternately sluggish or loose. To minimize the servicing that its pianos needed from one season or climate to another, Steinway in introduced its "Permafree" action, in which all the cloth bushings were replaced with Teflon bushings. Teflon, created by DuPont, is a very slippery inert plastic, immune to temperature and humidity changes. The bushings were tiny, hollow cylinders of Teflon; the center pins would rotate in these instead of in cloth see illustration.
Finding Your Serial Number
Switching to Teflon bushings involved changing more than just the bushings themselves, though. To accommodate the new bushings required manufacturing the wooden parts differently, making a new kind of center pin, supplying new tools and supplies, and teaching new techniques to technicians who had to service these actions. Several unforeseen problems with these bushings eventually caused their downfall.
First, although they themselves did not respond to humidity changes, the wood around them continued to expand and contract with the seasons. This had the unexpected effect of causing some of the bushings to become loose in their wooden parts during the humid season the opposite of what one might guess , resulting in a clicking sound whenever those particular notes were played. The remedy was to replace the offending bushings — not particularly difficult, but with approximately a thousand bushings in a piano action, there were plenty of potential trouble spots.
The wood could also squeeze the bushings in the dry season, causing the action parts to become sluggish, which completely defeated the purpose of the Teflon bushing. A second problem — annoying but not as serious — was that Teflon, unlike cloth, was an "unforgiving" material: This meant that the slightest mishandling of an action part might cause the center pin to dent and ruin a bushing.
How old is my Steinway?
The technical problems of Teflon bushings were magnified by bad press and the conservatism of piano technicians, and Steinway finally gave up and began a return to cloth bushings in If you are buying a used Steinway made between and , you may not need to be as concerned with the presence of Teflon bushings as the previous discussion might suggest, especially if your piano will be receiving only average use in the home. According to technicians with extensive experience servicing these pianos, there are usually few problems with these bushings after those that give trouble during the first few seasons are replaced.
But the bushings or, rather, the wooden action parts into which the bushings are inserted are very sensitive to humidity changes, and the technician, when servicing these bushings, must be very careful to take into account the humidity conditions at the time of servicing. Because of the bushings' sensitivity, and the fussy service they require, pianos under heavy use or in adverse conditions, such as in some schools and concert halls, will probably benefit by changing to cloth-bushed action parts.
Also, if a piano with Teflon bushings is in the shop for rebuilding, it would make sense to rebuild the action with cloth-bushed parts. Note that it is not possible to replace the Teflon bushings with cloth bushings without replacing all the action parts as well.
Verdigris pronounced VER-di-gree is a green-colored substance produced by a chemical reaction between the metal center pins and chemicals in the bushing cloth or in lubricants applied to the cloth. The effect of this green "gunk" is to make the action parts move sluggishly or, in the worst cases, to prevent their movement altogether.
Although certainly not unique to Steinways, the verdigris problem is frequently found in Steinways from the s and to a lesser extent in pianos made during the several decades before and after that period. If you encounter an older Steinway with an extremely heavy touch or one in which the keys and hammers appear not to return to their rest position quickly, there is a good chance the piano has a verdigris problem. Technicians have attempted many solutions to this problem, using chemical, mechanical, heat, and electrical methods, and some of these methods appear to provide at least temporary relief when the problem is not severe.
The Unofficial Steinway Piano Guide
But because verdigris may penetrate the wood as well as the cloth, the only really permanent solution, especially in severe cases, seems to be replacement of all the action parts affected. This makes verdigris an expensive problem to correct, so be aware of it when inspecting a used Steinway prior to purchase.
- STEINWAY PIANO SPECIFICATIONS;
- Steinway Serial Numbers - Steinway & Sons!
- How to Identify Steinway Pianos.
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A chemical treatment called Protek appears to be effective in solving the verdigris problem in many, though not all, cases. Researchers studying the historical Steinway serial number books have found them to be a nest of inconsistencies. First, with the exception of the years — and —, pianos were not always shipped in the order in which they were manufactured. Second, the point in the manufacturing process at which the serial numbers are assigned has changed over the years.
Oh and by the way, we are in the market to buy Steinway grand and upright pianos, if you are in the market to sell! What is the age of my Steinway piano, and where is the serial number located? Published by Country Piano at July 18, Categories Steinway Piano Serial Numbers.
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For Steinway grand pianos you want to look for this: Use the Steinway piano serial numbers below to see the age of your piano: To find the serial number of your Steinway piano, look for a number most likely between four and six digits in length located on the lower part of the piano's cast-iron plate by the tuning pins.
It should be easily visible from inside the piano. Steinway's model numbers are actually a part of the cast-iron plate, but each piano's unique serial number is stamped onto the plate.