Rebuilding a Steinway Model “L”

A number of years ago, I acquired, through a long-time tuning customer, a 1924 model “L” Steinway grand piano (length = 5’10-1/2″). Its cabinet had been refinished, but the strings and internal parts were all original, and it would not hold tune, especially in the bass. The piano was moved to my shop and received the makeover which is documented in the following photos. For a number of years it was used by both of my daughters for practice and to make some wonderful recordings from our home, and it now sits, well-loved and well-used, in my daughter Amy’s piano studio (

Steinway Model L grand, upon delivery to rebuilding shop.

One of two photos taken after string removal and before plate removal, showing the exact location of the aliquot plates (right half of the phot, just to the right of the bridge), for proper re-location later.

Removing tuning pins with a power driver after strings have been removed.

Removing plate lag bolts with a socket wrench.

Removing the large slotted plate screws that hold the plate to the pinblock (front end of the plate)

Plate screws and lag bolts in a cardboard template so they will later return to their original location when the plate is re-installed.

Beginning to hoist plate from piano.

Plate removal.

Plate removed from piano.

Plate removed, with fuller view of piano beneath.

Piano, front view, with plate removed.

Piano with plate removed, back view.

Plate after removal, just before removing hoist and straps.

Removed plate proudly standing for a portrait, prior to cleaning and preparation for rebronzing.

View of old pinblock (previously hidden by the plate) needing to be removed and duplicated.

One of many photos of the pinblock which, along with multiple measurements, help in making sure the new pinblock is installed exactly in the place of the old one.

Pinblock view, treble end.

Additional measurements of the old block in relation to the rim of the piano.

Removing the old pinblock with a reciprocating saw. The block is glued and doweled into the piano on three sides, the fourth side perfectly fitted to the plate flange.

Removing of pinblock, continued: This is a long, slow cut, through a 1-1/2-inch-thick block of laminated maple.

Another view of “making the cut.”

Front end of piano (side view) with the pinblock removed.

Part of the area where the pinblock has just been removed, showing some of the old dowel holes.

Beginning the job of soundboard repair with a soundboard tool.

Soundboard repair, continued. Cracks in the board must be cut into a v-shaped groove to receive sounboard shims – long strips of wedge-shaped spruce – which fill the cracks.

Soundboard repair, continued. After the shims are glued into the cracks, they will be planed and sanded down to the level of the board, after which the board can be refinished.

Showing the underside of the plate with the “web” (the area where the tuning pins pass through) and flange (the vertical “wall” that holds the pinblock in place under the tension of the strings) chalked up for fitting of the new block.

Shaping the new block. The roughly-shaped block is placed in the chalked-up area of the plate, tapped in and then removed. Chalk will remain on the “high spots.”

Pinblock shaping, as high spots with chalk on them are removed using various tools. This is a long process that takes at least one full day.

The newly-applied authentic Steinway soundboard decal.

The Steinway royal decal shows the various royal families that have owned and endorsed the Steinway piano.

Scraping the old finish off the carved ares of the top of the bridge.

Gluing the new block into the rim and “stretcher” (the cross-piece between the two ends of the rim) with the plate in place. After the glue dries, the plate will be removed one final time so the pinblock can be reinforced in the piano with additional screws and dowels. Then the plate is reinstalled permanently.

Reinstalling the lag-bolts to anchor the plate into the piano.

The stringing process, installing the last treble strings. Last strings installed are the bass strings, which cross over the treble strings (Called the “overstrung scale,” this design was an innovation of the Steinway company in the 1850’s.)

The job of re-covering the white keys with new plastic keytop material.

Keys with new keytops clamped on while the glue dries.

Key covering in progress, front view.