Mezzo-thermoneal stabilizers (Or: Marketing Gimmicks)

Mezzo-thermoneal stabilizers (Or: Marketing Gimmicks)

What’s a “mezzo-thermoneal stabilizer” you ask? That’s a great question. In the post-WW2 era, when the piano market was really taking off in America, manufacturers started coming up with all kinds of new patented techniques to make their pianos stand out from the competition. Or, at the very least, to make them sound special. “Mezzo-thermoneal stabilizers” are a great example. No one really knows what it means, but it sure sounds cool. Almost like your piano was designed by NASA! Most of these kinds of labels, unfortunately, are little more than marketing gimmicks. This particular piano is a 1979 Kimball Console. It’s actually a good little piano, but the mezzo-thermoneal stabilization probably has nothing to do with it!

Cooling holes in piano plate

Cooling holes in piano plate

Have you ever wondered why grand pianos have these holes in their plate? Piano plates are made of cast iron, and as such are forged at very high temperatures. These “cooling holes” are strategically placed in the plate to break up large contiguous areas of cast metal so that the entire plate can cool more evenly and quickly, avoiding warping and cracking. As cool as it would be, they are unfortunately not “subwoofers” or “sounding holes” and having more of them does not necessarily make your piano better. There is minimal impact on sound and that is not the purpose of the holes. What IS cool though, is that various manufacturers trim and decorate the holes in different ways, and it can be a unique identifying element of a piano’s history! This one is a 1926 Steinway L baby grand.

An 80-year-old spinet?

An 80-year-old spinet?

This 1938 Lester spinet doesn’t have any resale value, hasn’t been serviced or tuned in over ten years, and frankly was a low-end piano to begin with. So why am I writing about it? Because it never ceases to amaze me that pianos like this still have life left in them. When I finished tuning (twice over) and doing some minor regulation, this piano sounded pretty good! In fact, it hit me that it sounded and felt better than most mid-price electric pianos I’ve played. Some of which cost several thousand dollars. I think that’s pretty impressive for an 80-year-old bottom-of-the-line piano from Lester. There truly is no comparison to quality craftsmanship and acoustic sound. (Don’t get me wrong here: there are WAY better acoustic pianos than this! Don’t settle for an 80-year-old spinet if you can afford something better.)

Stencil pianos – what are you actually getting?

Stencil pianos – what are you actually getting?

This is a great example of what is known as a “stencil” piano. The name “Brahms” appears on the front of the piano, but in fact the plate (visible in the background) is stamped with Winter & Company, the actual manufacturer of the piano. I couldn’t find any background information on this particular customer’s piano, but it was very common in the mid-1900’s for piano stores, dealers, and others to have a run of pianos manufactured by an established company with the dealer’s name stamped on the front. Winter & Co. was one of the larger piano manufacturers in the 1940’s, when this piano was built, and had arrangements like this with dozens of companies over the years. If you own a piano with a name on the front that is unfamiliar and hard to find any information on, one possible explanation is that it’s a stencil. They are not… Read More