Wednesday, 4 April 2012

To craft a Titanic Steinway

"A Steinway grand piano takes nearly a year to create. Nothing is hurried. Even the carefully selected woods that make up the rims, top, soundboards, and actions cure for months in our yard, kilns, and conditioning rooms before they stabilize at a rigidly specified moisture content. The rim of the instruments consists of layers of hard rock maple and with our bell-quality, full cast-iron plate, withstands the enormous amount of tension exerted by the strings." - Steinway & Sons*

The following YouTube video was made in 1929 by the Steinway Company to display how they manufacture their Style B Grand Piano, which was the style of piano that was installed in Titanic's First Class Reception Room on D Deck.

The process would have been the same in 1912 for Titanic's pianos, and according to Steinway, "Most of the techniques have stayed the same in the 80 year interim [since the video was made]." Titanic's Steinway pianos would have followed these preliminary processes until the cabinets were finished with their one-of-a-kind "art cases", designs made for and seen only on Titanic.


For more on Steinway, visit the La Guardia and Wagner Archives' website

In March 2012, 100 years after Titanic's pianos were anchored into place, I traveled to New York for the Music Teachers' National Association (MTNA) conference at the New York Hilton. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting several Steinway employees, both at the conference trade show and on a visit to Steinway Hall.

During the trade show Sante Auriti, an artisan at the Steinway booth, plied his trade before our eyes. He chiseled and sanded a grand piano cabinet which lay upside-down on a sawhorse workbench. Wood chips littered the red carpeted floor.


The craftsman explained that the cabinet of the piano is made up of many thin layers of maple that have been plied together, for ease of shaping the curves. The carved wooden appliqu├ęs and sculpted legs are individually machine carved then hand detailed to make a perfect fit. This takes hours of hands-on crafting,  the musical counterpart of the "slow food" movement - this is real take-time-to-do-it-right craftsmanship.

His shirt says, "I Build the World's Best Piano."

You can see the pedal lyre, here upside-down, with the three notches where the brass pedals will be fitted (top side).



Here is a look at the finished piano, Steinway & Sons Louis XV, at 5'7". While this style was not seen on Titanic, these photos give an idea as to the slow, hands-on process that pianos of this quality go through prior to the finishing touches that make a Steinway & Sons piano a superb musical instrument.


Titanic had five Steinway pianos on board, four of which were "art case." One appreciates the time and care that went into Titanic's pianos from just one meeting with a Steinway artisan.

This is me, dreaming...

___

Related Posts
Titanic's First Class pianos
Titanic's Second Class pianos
Enthusiast turns commentator

Links
*Steinway Louis XV
Steinway & Sons Article, May 4, 2012 Read discussion on Titanic's pianos, how they responded to sinking and the possibility that some parts may still be there.

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