Robert Estrin - piano expert

Is Teflon on Steinway Pianos Bad?

Extend your piano knoledge with this brief video about Steinway Pianos

In this video, Robert talks about Steinway Pianos, specifically about those few pianos that include parts made of Teflon instead of the traditional felt. This is an interesting video to learn more about piano construction.

Released on August 13, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here at Today's question is, is Teflon in Steinway pianos bad?

That's right, there was a period of time when Steinway was owned by CBS in the late 1960's to about the 70's, up to the early 80's when they were building their actions, all the key bushings, the action bushings I should say, instead of the traditional felt they used Teflon. They eventually abandoned the practice and they ran into a lot of trouble and got a lot of heat from that and there are those people today, when they have a piano from this period, they want to rip out all the Teflon and put in felt. Now, is this necessary and is Teflon really bad?

Well, it's not such a simple yes or no answer to this question. Teflon has different characteristics from felt. Indeed, it is more robust in some ways, the very reason why Steinway used it to begin with. The biggest problem that Steinway ran into was that not all technicians know how to work on Teflon actions because after all, the vast majority of the world's actions are built with felt bushings throughout and unless piano technician is experienced with Steinway Teflon actions, they might not have no idea how to deal with adjustments on these actions.

If you have a Steinway with Teflon action, add a technician who knows how to work on it, if everything's in good shape, I don't believe there's any reason to replace something that's functioning well.

Now, here's where the problem comes from, and in certain situations, Teflon should be avoided.

The Teflon itself is rigid but the wood of course is susceptible to expanding and contracting with the weather, so if you put a piano, a Steinway piano with a Teflon action in an extremely harsh environment with wild swings from dry to humid, hot to cold, the wood may expand and contract around the Teflon, causing cracking and then you might have noise that could spaced between the Teflon bushings and the wood and this is what gave Teflon such a bad rap. The few instances where pianos are in extremely harsh environments, Teflon really is not as robust, as forgiving as felt.

However, if you live in a stable climate or the piano is in a home that has climate control and everything is functioning well and you have a technician who knows how to work on it, there's really nothing wrong with Teflon.

That's the long and short answer for you. So glad you're joining me here at Again, I'm Robert Estrin and thanks a lot.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tim Foley on April 25, 2023 @8:47 am PST
Excellent info. My 1973 Steinway Model B lived in a very controled setting nearly its entire life. I have not noticed any problems since I acquired it in 2018. So far, so good. I also heard that during the 70s Steinway was installing superior soundboards in their grands. Any truth to this rumor?? The 'B' has a magnificent sound.
Robert - host, on April 25, 2023 @5:42 pm PST
There are always some pianos that are better than others at any point of any piano company's history. Steinway is no exception. I have played some magnificent Steinways from the CBS era.
Jean Paul on August 16, 2016 @11:00 pm PST
Back in the mid seventies my piano professor at the university told me post WW2 S&S did not dry the wood for soundboards long enough resulting in bad quality, but I never see references to this in related discussions, I felt in the 70ies this was common knowledge amongst music professionals, I grew up in Europe, not sure if this related to the Hamburg factory working for Hitler's war industry during the war. S&S Hamburg as far as I remember was spared bombing, as opposed to Bechstein and Bluethner which were totally destroyed, and was easily able to pick up production. During communist times Bechstein and Bluethner were disowned and just as Petrov in the Czechoslovakia never were able to recover. I was told back in the 70ies that previous to WW2 Bluethner was the nbr 1 piano for pianists, I also do not find comments on this these days. I was selling pianos during my studies back then. Interestingly, amongst dealers I never heard of the Teflon issue at the time. I remember however them telling me that Steinway's were not that different in that good technicians could bring them to "be alike", whereas a Boesendoerfer was always a gamble and could turn out "brilliant" or hopeless. Fazioli only started later and while not in the business anymore in the 80ties dealers said all the same thing: "Fazioli decided there cannot just be one high prized piano , they meant S&S, and created an even more expensive piano", but they did not question the quality of a Fazioli. I think by now many old destroyed brands during WW2 are riding this strategy. Still, I am looking for some comments on post war Steinway, before the Teflon area.
Lois Owsley * VSM MEMBER * on August 13, 2014 @9:11 pm PST
Good to know about this! Thanks!
Duke Goodwin on August 13, 2014 @5:02 pm PST
Hi Robert : I'm already in my early 60s. I'm a professional commercial pianist. living on a small caribbean island. I'm aspiring to become a pianer tuner.I need your advice ; should I purchase a course and tools from an online place , or should I enroll in an established institute of piabno tuning that has a physical location.
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