Manufactory Seifhennersdorf

At C. Bechstein Germany and C. Bechstein Europe, piano-makers build musical masterpieces by hand.

 

Manufactory, principles, facts and figures

Both the company’s headquarters and the production site were located in Berlin from 1853 to 1992, although Bechstein operated additional facilities in Karlsruhe and Eschelbronn for a time following WW2. With the restructuring of Berlin in the aftermath of German reunification, running production facilities in the city center became increasingly difficult. This prompted Bechstein to acquire the production facilities of the old-established Zimmermann brand in Seifhennersdorf in the region of Upper Lusatia, in Saxony.

For several years, the company focused on relocating the entire Berlin production step by step while at the same time qualifying the Saxonian staff as well as modernizing and expanding the facility with an investment of more than 20 million Euro. As a result, C. Bechstein Seifhennersdorf has now become a flagship production site of worldwide renown.

Heritage and continuity

Today, Bechstein boasts its sixth generation of engineers, tone specialists, piano makers, and other specialists in the fields of finishing, wood working and metal processing, all of them contributing to the further development of the company that Carl Bechstein founded in Berlin in 1853. This visionary piano-maker succeeded from the outset in producing fine instruments with a singing tone that fascinated great pianists and composers, thus cultivating the brand loyalties of artists and music fans the world over.

The expertise required to create pianos with outstanding sound is a heritage that now lives on at the Seifhennersdorf production site. A team of 150 top craftsmen and technicians, old and young, are fascinated by the singularity of the Bechstein brand and pass on their skills and knowledge to each succeeding generation of piano-makers. The expertise gained from tradition, experience and the latest research into materials and innovative processing technology goes into improving the action assembly and the famous Bechstein sound.

Internationally coveted apprenticeship

C. Bechstein constantly endeavors to capture the imagination of young people over the world for the piano-making profession, and to provide top-level training. C. Bechstein is the world's leading company when it comes to training professionals in the skills of making and servicing first-quality upright and grand pianos.

 

Remarkable in-house production depth

C. Bechstein not only invests in further training, modernization of production conditions and selection of materials, but also constantly expands the in-house production depth to maintain the excellent quality of materials and parts and to be highly independent from suppliers. This development contrasts with the general trend among other manufacturers, who increasingly outsource their production or merely assemble third-party components. C. Bechstein intends to increase its level of in-house production depth even further in the upcoming years.

Expertise advantage

What is the secret behind C. Bechstein’s world-renowned expertise advantage?

The knowledge of how to make top-class instruments; experience handed down since 1853; scientific advances in the fields of materials and processing; and, of course , the ongoing dialog between craftsmen and women, engineers, tone specialists and professional pianists.

C. Bechstein continuously promotes intensive as well as controversial exchange of ideas between all those involved to further develop versatile pianos that are a pleasure to play and to hear for generations to come, so that every C. Bechstein piano can truly become the owners’ “musical friend for life.”

Bechstein follows an integrative approach toward piano-making, starting with engineers, CNC technology for most accurate processing of materials, handcrafting both the acoustic body as well as the keyboard and action assemblies, up to the final adjustment of touch and tone in order to fulfill all expactations placed on a top-class musical instrument such as a sensitive touch and rich and colourful tone.

 

Research and development

Research and Development, the constant process of developing components as well as the entire sound structure is a task to which a team of engineers, wood specialists and process technicians commit themselves to. Detailed specifications for all materials and supply parts also belongs to their relevant tasks.

C. Bechstein runs Europe's most modern R&D department in the field of piano-making. While preserving historical assets like the legendary Bechstein sound and traditional piano-making methods, C. Bechstein pianos meet the demands of today’s pianists. The accuracy of modern CNC technology and the use of state-of-the-art CAD software are applied in the process of constantly improving and refining the quality of our instruments.

 

Dependable in any climate and under any conditions

A dependable and precise action assembly is extremely important on stage. That’s why all materials undergo extensive testing under various climatic conditions (temperatures from –30 to +40 °C; humidity of 10 to 95%) prior to their processing.

 

 

Zero-defect production processes thanks to the Six Sigma system

Measure, test and evaluate: C. Bechstein implements this standard control sequence for every instrument manufactured to prevent errors, defects and shortcomings. Warranty claims come to just 0.1% of our annual revenues, which means that we have succeeded in minimizing flaw events. Naturally, all of our processes are ISO certified.

Satisfied customers

Bechstein grants you the opportunity to compare several versions of the same grand piano model. While the enthusiasm of numerous private customers or purchase commissions regarding all the instruments on display doesn’t exactly make the selection easy, there is no greater compliment for us.

Environment and sustainability

Thinking ahead and defining the interactions between wood and metal, we mainly use European wood and favor sustainable forestry.

We select the wood up to five years prior to processing. Only careful and controlled drying of the material ensures stability and best possible material utilization. Whether native German woods such as beech, pine and spruce, or mountain spruce from southern Europe for the tonewood, we always consider sustainability while selecting the wood.

C. Bechstein contributes significantly to conserving the natural environment by insisting on renewable resources. Because we manufacture only the highest-class musical instruments and forgo mass production, we can apply strict material selection standards and use only the best quality woods. Our glues and lacquers reflect the state of the art, and our processing techniques are low-emission and environmentally friendly.

A closer look at some of the production steps

 

Acoustic assembly

The C. Bechstein piano-making philosophy is unique. A key principle is that virtually all components contribute to the sound quality. Besides this holistic approach to the musical instrument as we emphasize stability and durability of our pianos. The singing tone and the reslience of C. Bechstein pianos are are indeed a point of reference.

Manufacturing the acoustic assembly plays a key role in the entire manufacturing process. The acoustic assembly is a complex system including the architecture of the soundboard, the back frame respecitvely the rim-and-cabinet system in grand pianos and even the keybed, the basis for the action assembly.

As this The accoustic body or assembly is the heart of the instrument, its making is crucial for tone quality, for the development, projection and duration of the sound, and for the modulation capability. Herein lies the secret of the C. Bechstein sound. All parts of the acoustic assembly are made and assembled put together with ultimate precision inhouse at the Seifhennersdorf production site itself. Another unique C. Bechstein feature: for all parts of the acoustic assembly we use only exquisite timbre-reinforcing materials which sustain the colour of tone..

Despite individual properties of a natural material, such as wood, the predominant material, utmost precision in the process of routing and gluing leads to long- lasting stability. In all production steps, we combine expert craftsmanship and modern technology for absolute dimensional accuracy.

Rest periods

Every production step entails a subsequent period of rest to ensure stability of the piano for many decades. To rest, the various parts are stored under optimum ambient conditions for a given time. At the C. Bechstein production site, hundreds of highly valuable soundboards can be found slowly seasoning in drying chambers. Allowing the tonewood to mature in several rest and drying periods, which is a process that sets C. Bechstein apart from other manufacturers. This unique procedure is part of our dynamics and tension management, together with the special milling of the sound-boards to calibrate the tone register intensity. All this is required to achieve an ideal sound projection through optimal curvature of the soundboard and the limitation of stress tension on the inner and outer rims of the grand piano case.

Whether pine wood used for the stable back posts and rim beams or layers of beech and mahogany glued together to make the case, high quality of materials is mandatory. Moreover, we use durable, climate-resistant glues and allow rest periods between these production steps as well, to ensure absolute durability.

The tone colors i.e. harmonic spectrum of partials largely depend on the balance between resilience and elasticity within a grand piano’s acoustic assembly.

Joining the case and the outer rim at an early stage of production is only one of the secrets of the characteristic, unique Bechstein sound.

Complex, highly resistant interlocking wood joints, which areprepared by using modern technology, ensure that the sound quality and tuning stability of Bechstein and C. Bechstein instruments will endure for decades.

Assembly of the back frame

The rims and braces that compose the back frame are made using CNC technology so that the assembly boasts precision down to a tenth of a millimeter.

The inner and outer rims of our grand pianos are made of carefully selected beech and mahogany layers with a thickness of three to five millimeters, shaped in specialized presses and joined using a special glue. As for all wooden parts, a rest and drying period follows this processing step since the quality of the rim has a great effect on the quality of the sound.

Maturing the wood is an imperative factor in achieving good sound quality. Having so much capital bound up in the maturing chamber over long periods of time is worthwhile for us, because we know that making top-quality instruments requires strictly controlled drying conditions. The wood must evenly maintain all the tensions applied during the gluing and pressing steps. The glue, and therefore moisture, is pressed down to the core of the wood along the pores of the material when preparing the sound assembly, and it takes months for the wood to “accept” its form and for the glue to dry naturally. This lengthy maturing process is of crucial importance for the long-term quality of the instrument as it precludes any uncontrolled deformation of the wood, which would have a negative impact on the sound.

“Even if I know that I’m only a small cog in a great machine, it’s a challenge for me to contribute to the further development of such outstanding instruments day after day.”

Andreas Richter

The art of soundboard making

Every C. Bechstein model – whether upright or grand piano – has its ideal voice, called the “acoustic master profile”. For the soundboard, the heart of the instrument, and its stabilizing ribs we use only slow-growth mountain spruce from the Alps. Seasoning of the soundboard wood takes up to 10 years as of cutting the tree.

For the soundboard, we process the materials according to the specifications of the R&D department and use CNC technology to ensure that the “heart of the instrument” perfectly renders the intended acoustic master profile. Boards sawn from the core of alpine spruce are joined to achieve the desired vibration frequency properties. In the C. Bechstein Masterpiece series, the soundboard is tapered towards its periphery to form a vibrating membrane with optimal sound projection and transmission speed properties. As for the Bechstein premium pianos on the other hand, their soundboard is famous for an outstanding voluminous sound, both elegant and relaxed.

Giving the soundboard the required curvature in order to ensure optimum responsiveness to string vibrations requires repeated cycles of humidification, seasoning and shaping under pressure. The Bechstein soundboards are true masterpieces, achieving a perfect balance between tension and flexibility.

The ribs, too, are selected specifically for the desired tone. The clear difference in sound character between Bechstein and C. Bechstein pianos is partly due to the fact that the soundboard in the latter instruments is tapered.

 

Bridge

As the string vibrations are transferred to the soundboard through the bridge, the design and quality of the bridge also have an impact on the sound and its character. Whether the bridge is made of solid wood (Bechstein) or of several layers (C. Bechstein), the direction of the wood grain and the precision of the assembly are essential for optimum sound transmission from the key to the hammerhead which hits the strings causing them to vibrate and finally setting the complex acoustic assembly into action.

The special manufacturing program that was developed for making the bridges achieves a repeated precision standard that handcrafting simply cannot match. This exceptional precision contributes to the beautiful voice and the impressive sound volume that never fail to amaze professional pianists.

The pinblock – made in accordance with the same overall principles – consists of cross- laminated layers of prime hardwoods and guarantees the optimum fit and accurate positioning of the tuning pins. When assembling the wooden parts, all future elements of tension and traction, which will affect the dynamics and durability of the acoustic assembly, are taken into consideration, as this also contributes to the character of the Bechstein sound.

Cast-iron frame

An essential element which suppors the total string tension is the cast-iron frame, which is made by using unique manufacturing techniques. According to the holistic C. Bechstein piano-making philosophy, the cast iron frame plays an important role in the acoustic assembly’s function to support the fundamental frequencies of tone.. The cast iron, with its special composition that we developed, delivers outstanding resilience resisting both pressure and tension.

Also here a rest period is required in order to improve stability after the iron is cast and before the frame is processed using CNC technology. The processing includes careful milling to ensure a perfect fit with the pinblock. This assures a precision that can hardly be achieved by using handcrafting techniques which in turn has a positive impact on the piano’s tone. A C. Bechstein cast iron frame is precisely adjusted to the acoustic assemby to a hundredth of a millimeter.

All the crafting steps such as drilling, milling, threading are carried out by using specially designed high precision tools All data regarding the parts being worked upon are collected during this working process, they are transferred between the metal and woodworking machines as required. This is another major C. Bechstein advantage: the intelligent interconnection of all processing machines not only permits high-precision assembling of the wood and metal parts, but also shows that C. Bechstein has already implemented the “Industry 4.0” concept. The perfect accuracy and optimal integration and connection of all parts within the acoustic assembly is a prerequisite for creating the desired sonority.

Fitting the frame

Fitting the cast-iron frame is a meticulous manual task that requires consideration of all the dimensions of the acoustic assembly, as well as all tension and compression forces that will come into play when stringing the instrument. During that procedure of work, the technician precisely determines a) the speaking (vibrating) length of the strings which is limited and defined by the agraffes, respectively b) the capo bar, c) the bridge, and d) the duplex scale. This lays the foundation for both a masterly sound projection and a stable music-making instrument.

Making the bass strings

The bass strings are made of high-tensile steel wound with nealry pure copper wire. Despite the high precision of the machine used for this winding process, skilled craftsmanship is essential and the operator’s hands, eyes and ears are of crucial importance.

Stringing the piano

Every single unwound and bass string must be positioned on the bridge and affixed at its extremities by using a tuning pin and one of the cast-iron frame’s hitch pins. It is also important to carefully control the positioning of the string on the specially calibrated duplex scale.

Knowing that he carries a huge responsibility, the technician who performs this work checks whether the string sits properly as he plucks it to make it sound for the first time.

Action assembly

The touch of a Bechstein piano is like a kid glove to the player as it adapts effortlessly to his or her hands. It is fantastically precise, and reacts without delay. Playing on a Bechstein is effortless, yet absolutely controllable — Exactly the right resistance for the virtuoso, and precisely the elegance which even the non-professional piano player wants.

A Bechstein piano allows you to forget that practicing takes any effort at all. On a Bechstein, you can fully concentrate on making-music as expression of your inspiration. The perfection of the Bechstein action assembly stems from the specifications for the material, the dimensional accuracy, as well asthe staff’s expertise and craftsmanship. The hammers move easily, and nothing hampers your creativity thanks to the ideal balance between controlled and fluid playing. Your Bechstein translates effortlessly, precisely and intuitively every nuance of your touch to generate exactly the sound you intended. The perfect touch of your Bechstein piano brings out the full potential of its highly complex acoustic assembly.

 

 

Keyboard

The keys are designed by C. Bechstein for perfect leverage, made of finest spruce wood and provided with a keytop surface that meets any player’s requirements. A special wooden key frame warrants a stable and precise support for the keys. It allows both subtle and frictionless movements. The key-frame is made of finest spruce, reinforced by harder beech to stabilize the key guide pins. Key pins and felts are specially coated to assure minimal friction.

 

 

Action

The Bechstein action is a marvel made of thousands of individual parts with axial connections designed in the Bechstein tradition, and further developed with innovative methods. A special wood drying process and axle bearings granting minimal friciton and minimal wear ensure the excellence of the Bechstein action, with its subtle nuances and incredible ease of motion.

Hammerheads

The extremely stringent Bechstein quality criteria increasingly limit cooperation with component suppliers. This drawback led Bechstein to develop and manufacture its own components for the action assembly. An example of this remarkably successful development is the manufacturing of hammerheads at the Seifhennersdorf production site. Experience accumulated from various studies and experiments over the years pointed the way to the ideal manufacturing method for a hammerhead with a stable core and a resilient and dynamic felt covering. C. Bechstein is the only European maker of grand pianos and upright pianos with the expertise required for in-house manufacturing of these parts, which are of crucial importance in the creation of the ideal tone.

 

Dampers

The Bechstein standards of perfection also apply to the dampers. The precise definition and regulation of these piano parts made of wood and felt is required for damping the sound of the strings without generating undesired side noise. Achieving evenness in damping all tones on all registers is truly a Sisyphean task mastered daily by our skilled damper installation specialists.

 

Regulation

All modules and parts of the keyboard-and-action assembly mentioned before must be adjusted to and with one another. Numerous operations are carried out by experienced craftsmen to achieve the cumulative sensation of a perfect touch. Although pianists have different preferences regarding the ideal touch, the regulation of the action must finally contribute to a highly sophisticated sound experience. The diversity of these experiences are limitless thanks to the individuality of each piano player...

Tuning and voicing

Tuning and voicing is performed by C. Bechstein tone specialists who know und understand the entire piano, inside and out. Tonal substance and perfect touch in all registers are a prerequisite for the final step of blending the multifaceted tone colours sensitively into a piece of art.comparable to a painting. It can take hours or even days of working on the hammerheads to ultimately create the incomparably sophisticated Bechstein touch and tone.

“When a Bechstein sings, you should close your eyes and let your hearing wield all your perceptive powers. After all, it’s behind closed eyes that the acoustic images of our feelings are born.”

 

 

Case finish

Lacquer finishing is a process that applies to all parts of the case from the early stages of manufacture. After completetion of the manufacturing process in the woodworking department, all exterior parts of the piano are prepared for lacquering. This step includes priming, sanding, application of the final lacquer layers, more sanding, and finally polishing — and of course, several drying and rest periods to allow the surface-finish to stabilize.

As with all production steps, the experienced Bechstein specialists select the most modern technology or handcrafting processes with a view to achieving the best possible result. In all our production operations, we keep emission levels of solvents and fine dust to an absolute minimum, and maintain clean air and environment by using special extraction and filtration equipment. Preserving the health of our employees is our top priority.

The finished piano boasts an excellent, mirror-like surface. Its splendor is inspiring and its brilliance enduring.