Steinway Musical Instruments is about to be taken private in a $438 million deal with an affiliate of Kohlberg & Company, a private equity investment firm.
Last year we toured the Steinway & Sons factory in Astoria. The company is a subsidiary of Steinway Musical Instruments with two factories: one in New York, the other in Hamburg.
Steinway prides itself on having retained manufacturing jobs in the U.S. since all its Grand pianos are made here.
It does however manufacture and market its two lower end Boston and Essex pianos in Asia.
Sales for the company were hit in the New York area and across the world during the recession, with ‘hobbyist’ buyers cutting back on spending.
At the time, Steinway cut a third of its New York staff, reducing the Astoria factory head count to 215, from about 300.
But the New York market recovered quickly. In fact, in 2011 the company sold 2,013 Grand pianos, not including upright pianos. In the last decade the company averaged about 3,300 grand pianos a year.
The wood sits in the storage space for months as Steinway begins the long process of lowering the moisture content in the wood.
The wood is then placed in one of four kilns to reduce moisture content. The amount of time the wood spends in these kilns varies depending on the type of wood and purpose of that wood in the piano.
In an effort to be greener, Steinway uses an $875,000 solar thermal system to dehumidify the factory.
Once inside, the wood is cut and separated depending on the part of the piano it is intended for. This part of the factory has a distinct smell of sawdust.
85% of each piano consists of wood, and the wood is passed through this machine that cuts out scrap wood and maximizes yield.
Different lengths of Alaskan Sitka Spruce, which are hand-selected and make their way into the soundboard.
The construction process begins with the rim bending process. First a team of workers glues together straight grained maple laminates in flat-grained sets.
Steinway says that flat grained sets gives a 47% improvement of vibrational characteristics over cross-grained plywood style sets.
Once the clamps are in place, the workers begin tightening the clamps from the centre to the outside. This process is extremely loud.
Once this process is completed you have a unified inner and outer rim. This is the rim bending of a Model D concert grand piano.
As we move to the next room, my guide and the director of marketing and communications, Anthony Gilroy shows me the oldest operating machine at Steinway.
Prenta Ljucovic started working at Steinway 40-years ago after moving to the U.S. from Yugoslavia. She was one of the few women carrying out inspections.
Sante Auriti, originally from Italy, started working at Steinway about 35-years ago. He came to America from Germany where he worked in textiles.
Auriti started off as a janitor at Steinway but worked his way up. He now builds the company's gorgeous Louis XV pianos.
The 'action' involves small wooden parts, felt, hammers and so on which are essential to the operation of piano keys.
Before the piano's are ready to go they pass through Wally's World for a final tone regulation and inspection.
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