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Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

  • 1.  Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-08-2022 21:41
    After reading David Hughes article in the July Journal on rebuilding his Steiff piano I am, once again, curious as to the point in rebuilding when the original piano ceases to exist. When enough parts have been replaced with new and/or redesigned parts, and sophisticated modifications to original structure and functions have been employed, when is it no longer technically the same brand, or model, piano that it was at the beginning of the rebuild? While the piano that David created out of his 1913 Steiff is, in all regards, quite fantastic, and I applaud him in what he has created, is it not now a beautiful new Hughes piano, sn:001?

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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 2.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-09-2022 07:49
    Geoff

    An interesting observation. I'm not a patent attorney, but would there be something in the law that says you can't do that?  I don't know how long patents are good for, but wouldn't Mr. Steiff be allowed a certain amount of recognition for the instrument he made back in 1913?

    Just asking.

    Wim





  • 3.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-09-2022 18:55
    Wim --

    I don't mean to imply, in any sense of the word, that this is a legal issue. I posted what I was hoping was more of a rhetorical question, wanting to start a discussion more than anything else. If you own a Ford and you decide to replace the wheels, or put custom made carburetor on it, it's still probably a Ford. But is it still a Ford if you put a Chrysler engine and a Hurst transmission in it?

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    Geoff Sykes, RPT
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 4.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-09-2022 21:45
    Geoff

    On the NASCAR circuit, the engines and transmissions are anything but a Ford, but on the outside it still looks like a Ford. (Besides the fact that Ford probably pays a pretty penny to have their name on it). 

    In our world, even though most people would not know the difference between a Steif and a Steinway, and you should mention what modifications were made and what effect those have on the piano, but I think we should still call the instrument by its original name. 

    Wim





  • 5.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-10-2022 01:34

    There's another issue, IMO. If the piano being rebuilt is old enough, the parts sold by the same company which made it no longer resemble the ones it started with.

    So, being true to the original concept, buying off brand parts closer to what it had originally might demonstrate more loyalty to its original design and designers than buying parts produced by what the company has become after the passage of over a century.

    Of course it would be fantastic if a top quality piano company was willing to stock a variety of parts matching many eras of its prior production, but it does not seem likely to happen.

    (In the process of rebuilding an 1887 Steinway C ... having bought a number of parts, some historic, some replicated, from David Hughes.)






  • 6.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Posted 07-12-2022 10:48
    Wim -

    Patents typically expire after around 20 years.  They can expire earlier if maintenance fees are not paid.
    Anyone doing innovative work should make themselves familiar with the process:

    https://www.uspto.gov/patents/basics

    We can safely assume that all of the original patents on a 1913 piano have expired.  By the same token I agree that a
    reasonable person will make sure to give due credit to anyone that has made the world better ... especially
    the world of pianos.

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    Neil Vanderschaaf
    Round Rock TX
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  • 7.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Posted 07-09-2022 19:46
    Let's go down the rabbit hole again with Alice!!  :-)  There is no simple answer to this one that everyone will like.

    The truest answer is to say that David Hughes took a 1913 Charles Steiff model x grand piano and restored it, making the following modifications:  A, B, C, D, etc etc.  Wim, Mr. Steiff is long dead, the company is defunct, and whatever patents it had have long expired.  Mr. Hughes is the owner and he can call it whatever he wants.  I think that most of all he hopes it will be called a very nice piano.

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    Will Truitt
    Bristol NH
    1-603-934-4882
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  • 8.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-10-2022 15:10
    I would suspect that if Charlie Stieff was still around to test it out he would say something to the effect of: "Mr. Hughes, you have done a wonderful job with this monstrosity. I tip my hat to you. Nice work. Perhaps you would like to come and work at my factory...?"

    Anyone know how to say that in German?

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 9.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Member
    Posted 07-10-2022 22:28
    There is a huge point to doing rebuilding work. A purist would have a view that only original parts using original design and features including the felts, glues, woods , fabrics, stains, keytops etc etc is the only way it is all brand xxx.  Fortunately there are rebuilders like Mr Hughes that have spent a lifetime restoring instruments that deserve to be enjoyed, cherished, preserved and past forward. The spirit, designs, craftsmanship, sweat and tears as well as the soul of the piano are still in it.  He has added his touch and talents to the mix .Someone created a piano and branded it with their name but I doubt every single component in it was made by that maker. In that sense the original was not original at all unless someone whittled the hammer shanks, drew strings from steel rod , cast their own plates, etc.  The industrial revolution, standard parts, specialization, division of labor, use of machinery allowed the piano to be a social economic force.

    I look at this type of rebuild in awe. What once took a factory of workers to create he has managed to do without a full factory The legacy of those who worked in the Steiff factory has been preserved and their spirit lives on . If anything the piano is an improved version of itself but it has the same  heart, soul and body and beauty when it was first crafted.

    BTW one of my newest clients is a retired Concert Pianist with a Steinway B that both David Hughes and Joyce Meekins rebuilt. It is one of the finest Steinways I have ever come across. The story goes it was in ruff shape like so many pianos we find.

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    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC
    (843) 325-4357
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  • 10.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Posted 07-11-2022 07:09
    Nein

    Les Koltvedt
    (404) 631-7177
    LKPianos.com




  • 11.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-13-2022 16:48
    Thank you, Peter Grey, and others, for the rewarding comments about my piano. I am honored.
    With regard to Geoff Sykes's original question, I would offer that my restored concert grand remains a Stieff piano. Should the day ever come when I can bend my own rim and cast my own plate I might have the audacity to place my name upon the finished product. On this eventuality, however, do not hold your breath.
    It's been a great ride, and I thank you all for your willingness to read (and hopefully find value in) what I have had to say over the past 40 years. This said, I'm not fading away, merely readjusting. I'm a lifetime PTG-er.
    Now on to the really important stuff: anybody know a potential buyer for this big black bus? :-)

    David G. Hughes, RPT
    Baltimore Chapter


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    David Hughes RPT
    Vintage Case Parts
    Glyndon MD
    (443) 522-2201
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  • 12.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-13-2022 18:41
    I've been tryin...:-)

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 13.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-13-2022 22:19

    Bending rims is not all that difficult. Talk to me.

    And one-off string frames can much more easily be built up using standard steel plate. Talk to David Rubenstein.

    ddf



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    [Delwin D] Fandrich] [RPT]
    [Piano Design & Manufacturing Consultant]
    [Fandrich Piano Co., Inc.]
    [Olympia] [WA]
    [360-515-0119]
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  • 14.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-14-2022 10:16
    Somehow I doubt David (or any of the rest of us) will be going down that road any time soon.

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 15.  RE: Reviving an old discussion about rebuilt pianos

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 07-14-2022 14:18
    Thank you for this offer and advice, Del Fandrich. Alas, I have put myself out to the Retired Rebuilder's Pasture.

    David G. Hughes, RPT
    Baltimore Maryland Chapter

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    David Hughes RPT
    Vintage Case Parts
    Glyndon MD
    (443) 522-2201
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