hamburg factory visit: three keys of steinway & sons enriched with technology

hamburg factory visit: three keys of steinway & sons enriched with technology

since 1853, steinway & sons has manufactured the grandest pianos in the world in terms of acoustics and aesthetics. their principles – quality materials, careful craftsmanship and traditions – have stayed the same for over 165 years. the company, originally founded in new york, opened a second factory in hamburg, germany, in 1880 to care for the european, african, asian and australian markets. to mark their anniversary year, designboom visited their hamburg plant to see how the 250 pianos a year are crafted, as well as the 40% that embrace their new spirio technology.

the first production process is the rim bending 
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with a steinway & sons piano, everything starts with the wood. the countless sheets of high quality maple and mahogany, sourced from north america and africa respectively, are stacked and left to dry naturally for two years before the rim bending then takes place – the first process of a year long production. taking quality consideration another step further, the wood chosen to construct the sound bar is selected purely by color, grain and health. in fact, only 45% of the material is used; the waste sources energy for the factory itself.

up to 20 layers of timber are glued together and pressed into shape
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beneath the wooden composition, a hand-polished iron plate is the backbone of the instrument. this component is built in a separate factory in the US, whilst, similarly, the keys are constructed in germany. these two factories, now owned by steinway & sons, ensure the materials and quality never change, just like in their assembly plants. the final stage before quality control is the lacquering, which, although only 1mm in thickness, gives each piano its aesthetic depth and grandeur.

the models are pressed into shape for three hours
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as the name suggests, steinway & sons is all about family. their employees, from those who start from the five year apprenticeships to those who have been there for decades, typically work there until retirement. they all have a great identification to the product, the sound it makes, and so the materials that create the music. 80% of the production process is handcrafted; machines are only used when they guarantee more precision and safety than their highly skilled craftsmen. even with the highest quality of materials, the pianos are only completed in duet with the greatest of care.

the maple and mahogany wood are sourced from north america and africa
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from the five-man rim bending process to the stringing, all is completed by hand. even the keyboard, which takes three days to install all 12,000 pieces, is created by accomplished eyes and hands. when it comes to quality, experience is key. tuning can be measured by hertz, but the voicing, the individual character of the piano, can only be tested by the ears of the chief voicer, who has been at the factory for over 30 years.

the factory houses an almost uncountable amount of wood
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in a world where the traditions of craftsmen reigns supreme, the use of technology quietly facilitates behind the scenes in the factory. similarly, steinway & sons’ technology product itself, ‘spirio’, a self-playing system, is constructed in instruments from the start of the production process – it cannot be added afterwards. the system brings the highest resolution player to customers’ homes, where the world’s best pianist and performances – past and present – can be relived in exceptional ‘color’ on demand.

CNC machines ensure precise cuts are always achieved
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a steinway & sons piano lasts for generations, passing from children to grandchildren. and, once seeing their intricate and delicate craftsmanship, it is clear why the quality is timeless. each one can be customized per customer, with anniversary – like the 165 piano – and special production numbers also being created. just like the materials, not one instrument is the same except for their grandness. instead, much like the diamond in each one, every steinway & sons piano is just as unique.

timber for the sound bar is selected by touch and feel
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spirio technology is built into pianos from the beginning of the production
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steinway & sons offer seven types of grand and upright pianos
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the construction takes one year
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the veneers are the ‘crown jewel’ of each piano
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the iron frames are made in the US
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every employee specializes in one production stage
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even the stringing is completed by hand
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the keyboards comprise of 12,000 pieces, all of which are assembled by hand
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each instrument must withstand 20 tons of pressure so are pressed 10,000 times by the pounding machine
image © designboom



  • Beautiful pianos. The grand piano shape looks like it mimics a concert hall where the sound waves are directed to a back focus for enriched sound. And, I want to visit the Astoria NY factory.

    Patricia L Garcia says:

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