Saturday, 4 August 2018

Keeping Notes

Time for our next British piano, which is actually German - an 85-key Steck belonging to Marion's stepmum, Marilyn. It originally belonged to her mother, Marj.

L-R: Marj, Marilyn & Marion
Stanton Drew

Fall Board

Thanks to Roberts Pianos, Oxford, who published the serial numbers, it appears to have been built around 1929/30. You can also find a large list of model numbers in the Blue Book of Pianos.

Click to Enlarge
It's hard to date a piano by its serial number because you have to take a rough guess at how many pianos they manufactured each year. The serial number on this piano is 101169. Between 1920-40, Steck made 79,500 pianos, so roughly 3,975 per year. Adding 3,975 to the original 1920 total of 63,300 brings us to 1929-30. All depending on whether or not they made an average number of pianos each year. If more, it might be earlier. If less, it might be later.

We did find a little something that backs up our theory, though.

Lifting out the upper panel, some markings became visible along the ivory keys.

These appear to be the dates the piano was tuned. They're written in dark-blue ink in the centre of the piano. It wasn't until later that we spotted some fainter markings in pencil to the far left.

The one on the second key reads 1934.

It's fair to assume it was tuned a year or two after it was built. So, somewhere in the region of 1929-1934, most likely 1930-33. A pre-war German piano.

[UPDATE: Thanks to our friend  Jim Kelly at  Fur Elise Piano Service  for letting us know that the Aeolian embossing on the plate means that it was likely made at 155 New Bond Street, London!]

It's just really interesting to contemplate whether the piano had the same tuner all those years, or whether Biro Tuner saw Pencil Tuner's marks and thought 'that's a good idea, I'll continue doing that'. Was Biro Tuner a friend of the family or were they just a local tuner who came to the house year after year? It's fun to speculate.

Unfortunately, the piano has fallen into some disrepair over the years. Many of the hammers don't fall back, the strings are a bit rusty and the heads and dampers are worn.

But the piano is a family hand-me-down, so there's a chance that piano enthusiasm will spread and the instrument will be restored.

After giving it an overpull, it was time to head to the pub. A nice pint by the river at The Boat in Ashleworth, which had been run by the same family for over 350 years until recently.

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