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#1125835 - 12/07/04 05:46 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Undamped. But it's not as simple as sustain time alone. It's also the shape of the sound envelope as the tone transforms over time from the initial attack to the eventual sustain. In a fresh-sounding board you still have the characteristic "round" tone with a nice, long transitional period between attack and sustain. In this transitional period the string exhibits a mix of horizontal and vertical motion.

In a board lacking impedance the vertical energy is sucked out right away rather than reflected back into the string, so you get this very brief 1/2 cycle initial attack sound followed almost immediately by pure horizontal motion. The transition portion is now mostly missing and along with it, good singing tone.

I wouldn't give too much credence to the "wood used to be different" theory regarding soundboard tone. There is a whole lot of discussion and mythology on the subject and it's very romantic, but it doesn't seem to hold up under objective scrutiny. If the spruce has a good strength-to-weight ratio it should make a good board. I don't see anything magical about the past in that regard. Now in terms of the beauty of hardwood grain patterns, that's a different story.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#1125836 - 12/07/04 05:53 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
BDB,

Philly is not coastal NY or NJ.

I have encountered some surprisingly very nice old Philly pianos myself. Even had a discussion with Rich Gallassini about it a few years ago and why they fared better than NYC ianos. Seems that the typical indoor Philly climate is a lot easier on pianos.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#1125837 - 12/08/04 01:25 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21287
Loc: Oakland
That doesn't explain the (R)T. (The parentheses are because it is a reproducer with a hysterectomy.)

I've seen pianos that have been restrung poorly, and the results are what is ascribed to a dead soundboard. But it doesn't mean the soundboard is dead. It means the piano was restrung poorly.

Ori said:
 Quote:
The difference between us is that I decided to avoid what BDB would call “rebuilt” and I would describe as “patching up” pianos altogether.
When I’m offered a Knabe, Baldwin or a Chickering for free (and it happens all the time) I refuse it.
Not because I can’t ”patch it” and sell it, but because I feel it is wrong for the customers, their kids (that more often then not will stop playing the piano) and for my reputation.
Other rebuilders feel they can restore these makes and recuperate their investment, but expect to pay over 20K-25K for a good rebuilding Job. There is nothing wrong with these pianos.
However, if I could take that same piano and make it as good as any you sell for a fraction of that price, the only one it would be wrong for is you.

We're not in the same business. You sell pianos. I don't. I am disseminating my skills, knowledge and craftsmanship, so that as many people as possible can enjoy pianos and music. My reputation depends on my doing good, economical work, and not in telling them that they can't enjoy pianos or music unless they spend more money than they can afford.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1125838 - 12/08/04 06:50 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
ny1911 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/04/03
Posts: 2238
Loc: New York
Ori is a good guy. His (and Irving's) rebuilt pianos sell to an upscale market. I suspect their buyers wonder if they should buy a new Steinway or one of their rebuilt Steinways.

My philosophy closer aligns with BDB's because I have neither the budget or the skill to justify $40k for a piano. I must consider if a $15k rebuilt M&H with a shimmed board is better (for me) than what I can buy new in that price range. For my dollar it was, with the closest second going to Estonia. It was a toss-up for me, but my wife (who is much better pianist than I) prefered the M&H.

Would we be able to discern the difference between our rebuild and one from Ori or Irving? I sure we could. Do we regret our choice? Not in the least.
_________________________
So live your life and live it well.
There's not much left of me to tell.
I just got back up each time I fell.

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#1125839 - 12/08/04 07:07 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
BDB,
As I said before, it is a matter of a decision and expectations.
You defined it very clearly. You expect the piano to sound “better than the cheapest piano”.
I want a lot more.
I decided to avoid this market because I don’t think it’s right for my customers.
I believe there are many new, or almost new pianos, in the price range of a “patch up” job, that will serve the customer a lot better then a dead piano with some lipstick.
I am willing to let people that insist on getting “dead’ pianos to buy pianos elsewhere.
Many of them will come back to me a few years down the road.

The difference between us is simple.
I have a choice. You don’t.

In our factory, we can “patch” pianos all day if we choose to. We can shim boards from dawn till dusk.
I decided not to take this route.
You on the other hand, clearly don’t have the equipment and the capability to replace a soundboard.
If you had to replace one, you’d have to send it to someone like me and it will cost you a lot of $$.
You won’t be able to SELL that 12K-restoration job you’re touting as “service to the poor”.
The “poor” that buy an 80 years old 20K “patched” Steinway thinking they’re getting a deal.
The same poor people that come to me few years later and paying an extra 25k to throw out the window everything that was “rebuilt” and start all over again.
If you had the ability to change soundboards you’d talk differently than, and I quote “there isn’t any reason to replace a soundboard, ever”.

I have a choice, and I choose to do what I believe is the right thing.
You obviously don’t have a choice so you do what you must.


By the way, I’m still waiting to hear what kind of pianos you “fix” that have dampers in the 5th octave.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#1125840 - 12/08/04 07:34 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
ny1911,
There are other important things, as you may find out, in the performance of the piano other then just the way it sounds when you buy it.
I hope you’ll be happy with your choice also a few years from now.

I hope things really work out for you. If they will, however, you will be one of the lucky ones.
For most of those that play the piano, a new piano within the budget you mentioned, will be a lot more reliable and will serve them for a much longer time.

Especially if you live in the NY area.

Pianos in this area don’t fair very well and usually need full rebuilding after 70 years (we have here great swings in the RH).

If the piano was brought here after spending many years in a place like…Arizona, where it’s always consistent and dry, it may be in a much better shape.
The problem is that the piano will not acclimate to its new environment very well.
Usually, within a few years the piano will deteriorate in a very fast pace. So unless one is willing to relocate from NY to the area the piano came from. The odds are against the piano performing well for long.

It’s a shame, but it’s a no win situation.

So if you have a vintage Boston M&H (before 1930), than I suggest you install a Dampp-Chaser in AND control the RH of the room. Make sure the humidity is constant and hope for the best.

You’re a good guy too, and I hope things will work out for you.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#1125841 - 12/08/04 08:50 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
ny1911 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/04/03
Posts: 2238
Loc: New York
Thanks Ori...if it doesn't work out, I can blame my wife!

You and I spoke on the phone at length about Estonia last winter. Shopping was half the fun though, so if I have to do it again in 5-10 years when my girls get a little older, I won't be too unhappy!
_________________________
So live your life and live it well.
There's not much left of me to tell.
I just got back up each time I fell.

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#1125842 - 12/08/04 11:32 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5176
Loc: Olympia, Washington
This is only partially a question of local or regional climate. It is also a question of how the soundboard assembly was originally designed and built. Since I’ve already gone into this subject under several different Piano Forum topic headings I’ll not repeat myself here — if you are interested please check the archives — but, briefly, if the original soundboard assembly was built as a purely compression-crowned soundboard there is inherently enough perpendicular-to-grain compression stress on the wood fibers within the soundboard panel to permanently deform them over time.

Thr process is called compression-set and is a well known phenomena among wood technologists. Whether some in the piano industry refuse to acknowledge or accept this phenomena as reality is another issue. But that refusal does not detract at all from reality — compression-set continues on whenever there is compression stress present. Unless the piano is located in some desert region which keeps the wood at an equilibrium moisture content of 4.0% compression-set is going to be an ongoing condition. The time required for compression-set to damage a soundboard panel sufficiently to affect tonal performance will be extended if the piano is kept in a mild climate that lacks high humidity extremes simply because the level of internal compression stress will be relatively low. Conversely, during periods of high humidity there will be greater compression stress within the soundboard panel and the rate of compression-set will be accelerated. Ultimately compression-set will work to reduce internal compression to some relatively stable minimum and along with that reduction will come some loss of soundboard assembly crown. Along with the loss of soundboard assembly crown will come an overall reduction in soundboard assembly stiffness.

At this point, as Rick Clark has pointed out, the issue becomes one of tonal performance. Or, perhaps, our expectations of tonal performance. The change in acoustical performance is (usually) very gradual and is evidenced by both the rate of sustain and the shape of the sustain envelope. As piano soundboards lose stiffness through time-related compression-set and the subsequent loss of crown and string bearing they begin to accept lower frequency energy at an increasingly faster rate. The tone quality becomes increasingly percussive with a tone envelope that, after a sharp attack sound, dies out rather rapidly. This sound envelope can not be altered appreciably through new hammers nor by any amount of voicing regardless of how skilled the voicer is.

If your tonal expectations find this type of percussive tone quality acceptable or desirable then nothing further needs to be said. or done. Keep (or get) the piano in mechanically good condition and play on. If, however, you don’t like that particular sound — and many do not — then something beyond this needs to be done. This acoustical problem will not go away by restringing alone. Yes, restringing alone (along with the related work, of course) might well make the piano sound better but it will still have that characteristic percussive attack and fundamental drop-off through (mostly) the upper third of the compass.

I cringe when I hear someone say, “As far as I can figure out, there isn't any reason to replace a soundboard, ever….” because I can’t begin to tell you how many otherwise nicely rebuilt pianos I have been called to evaluate after the fact that have left their owners dismayed. After having spent all that money they still hear the same tone character that led them to have the piano rebuilt in the first place. Sure, the piano looks great and the overall performance has improved some. The action performance is better, the new hammers do sound better and the overall voice is improved. But, despite all the warm and fuzzy assurances of the rebuilder, repairing the original soundboard — patching it, shimming it, whatevering it — simply did not yield the desired and promised results. The rebuilder may be justifiably proud of technical and aesthetic quality of his or her work and the price may have been quite reasonable for the work done but the customer ends up feeling they didn’t really get what they paid for.

You see, they didn’t really think they were paying for a piano rebuilding, they thought they were paying for a mechanism that would enable them to get the music in their heads out into the airwaves. And now, after spending all that money and after all that time, they find their instrument of choice is still not able to do that. Often it’s nothing they can really put their finger on but the overall result is just vaguely unsatisfactory. But now they have spent their money and they really can’t afford to start over. Regardless the physical quality of the rebuilding work, these owners have not received value for their money but they are the ones stuck with the result. Only the rebuilder, having happily deposited the check and made the boat payment, is happy.

No, piano soundboards should not be arbitrarily replaced. But, when the acoustical evidence is there telling us the soundboard has seen better days, we should also not refuse to acknowledge reality. We owe our clients better than that.

Del
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1125843 - 12/08/04 11:52 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21287
Loc: Oakland
Actually, Ori, you undoubtedly have less of a choice than I do. Having made the investment, you probably have to use it whether the piano or the customer needs it or not. I don't need any money from piano work any more, so I can concentrate on what the piano and customer needs. That was my focus even when I did live off the piano money, because I could easily have made a lot more money doing something else.

I also don't have a need to make outlandish claims. If I say that a piano I have worked on plays and sounds at least as well as a new piano that costs what I charge to do the work, that doesn't mean that they don't play and sound as good as a "comparable new piano," whatever that may mean. After all, it's kind of difficult to say that old Steinways I work on sound like new Steinways, when new Steinways are all over the map. (As are other makes. I just use Steinway because they are the most common old piano that are still around.)

To answer your question, all my pianos have dampers in the fifth octave, but just about all of them stop having them around the fifth octave, as I said.

Perhaps you could answer some questions that I have asked before, but have never gotten satisfactory answers:

How do you measure sustain in a measurable, repeatable, objective way?
How do you know exactly when a soundboard needs to be replaced?
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1125844 - 12/08/04 09:01 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
BDB,
I start to feel uncomfortable here.
You refuse to hear it from me.
You refuse to hear it from Irving.
You refuse to many others.
And now, after Del wrote a “hall of fame” post, one that people should print, frame and hang on their walls, you still refuse to believe what you read.

Very few people know about pianos as much as Del, so I would suggest you read his post again.

However, since Del's writing stile is so eloquent and polite, and since you decided to ignore his post altogether as if you couldn’t bear to read it, I would like to offer some help here and “translate” it for you as I read it..

For your convenience, all of Del’s quotes are in bold letters. My simple translation is not.

if the original soundboard assembly was built as a purely compression-crowned soundboard there is inherently enough perpendicular-to-grain compression stress on the wood fibers within the soundboard panel to permanently deform them over time.[/b]

Translation: The soundboard wouldn’t last forever.


Whether some in the piano industry refuse to acknowledge or accept this phenomena as reality is another issue.[/b]

Translation: He is talking about you, and the likes of you.

But that refusal does not detract at all from reality [/b]

Translation: wake up and face the facts.


Unless the piano is located in some desert region which keeps the wood at an equilibrium moisture content of 4.0% compression-set is going to be an ongoing condition. The time required for compression-set to damage a soundboard panel sufficiently to affect tonal performance will be extended if the piano is kept in a mild climate that lacks high humidity extremes simply because the level of internal compression stress will be relatively low. Conversely, during periods of high humidity there will be greater compression stress within the soundboard panel and the rate of compression-set will be accelerated.[/b]


Translation: The soundboard “dies” with age. Greater humidity swings will “kill” it faster.

If your piano is the Kalahari Desert you’re lucky, You could play to the Bushman for a very Long time.

At this point, as Rick Clark has pointed out, the issue becomes one of tonal performance. [/b]

Translation: Hello, Rick also tried to get to you.


Or, perhaps, our expectations of tonal performance.[/b]

Translation: Maybe you should aim higher.

The change in acoustical performance is (usually) very gradual and is evidenced by both the rate of sustain and the shape of the sustain envelope.[/b]

Translation: It sounds like someone pulled strings over a tin can.


This sound envelope can not be altered appreciably through new hammers nor by any amount of voicing regardless of how skilled the voicer is.[/b]

Translation: You’ll succeed in making a piano with a “dead” soundboard sound as good as one with a new one, the same day you’ll be able to wave your magic wand and turn a pumpkin into a limousine.

I guess life is great in wonderland.


If your tonal expectations find this type of percussive tone quality acceptable or desirable then nothing further needs to be said.[/b]

Translation: If people that are willing to spend 20K for a “rebuilt” Steinway think that it should sound as good, or just a little better than the 38” spinet their aunt got for her 7th birthday 45 years ago, then nothing further needs to be said.

If, however, you don’t like that particular sound — and many do not — then something beyond this needs to be done. This acoustical problem will not go away by restringing alone.[/b]

it will still have that characteristic percussive attack and fundamental drop-off[/b]

Translation: If you don’t like your Steinway grand to sound like your aunt’s spinet, you’ll actually need to RESTORE it.

I cringe when I hear someone say, “As far as I can figure out, there isn't any reason to replace a soundboard, ever….” [/b]

Translation: No need to translate here. I cringe too.
And by the way, he quoted you-BDB.

….” I cringe when I hear someone say, “As far as I can figure out, there isn't any reason to replace a soundboard, ever….” [/b]

After having spent all that money they still hear the same tone character that led them to have the piano rebuilt in the first place. Sure, the piano looks great and the overall performance has improved some. The action performance is better, the new hammers do sound better and the overall voice is improved. But, despite all the warm and fuzzy assurances of the rebuilder, repairing the original soundboard — patching it, shimming it, whatevering it — simply did not yield the desired and promised results.[/b]

Translation: The owners/buyers finally figured out they had been “stiffed”.


You see, they didn’t really think they were paying for a piano rebuilding, they thought they were paying for a mechanism that would enable them to get the music in their heads out into the airwaves. And now, after spending all that money and after all that time, they find their instrument of choice is still not able to do that.[/b]

Translation: The owners/buyers finally figured out that they were “conned”.


But now they have spent their money and they really can’t afford to start over.[/b]

Translation: The owners/buyers finally figured out that they threw their money away and that the great ”deal” wasn’t such a bargain after all.


Regardless the physical quality of the rebuilding work, these owners have not received value for their money but they are the ones stuck with the result.[/b]

Translation: Stiffed, conned, too late buddy.

Only the rebuilder, having happily deposited the check and made the boat payment, is happy.[/b]


Translation: the “patch up/con” artist is cruising towards the sunset with a bottle in one hand a bundle of cash in the other…


Now, and lets make it very clear so there won’t be any mix up…Del did NOT write this. BDB did.

BDB wrote:
 Quote:
Actually, Ori, you undoubtedly have less of a choice than I do. Having made the investment, you probably have to use it whether the piano or the customer needs it or not. I don't need any money from piano work any more, so I can concentrate on what the piano and customer needs. That was my focus even when I did live off the piano money, because I could easily have made a lot more money doing something else.
No, I could take people's money too, if I was a crook.
I could send their pianos to some of the wholesale butchers that do a complete “rebuiled” for less then $4000. Is this what you do and charge 12K for?

Ahhhh… sorry, you don’t need any more money…You could have done something else…Your doing volunteer work all day…Your “customers” don’t pay you anything.

Well I’m glad you made so much money and now you’re cruising into the sunset…
I am surprised though, you’re not ashamed to come out and say it. After all, now we all know how did you make your money.
Kudos to you.

BDB also wrote:
 Quote:
To answer your question, all my pianos have dampers in the fifth octave, but just about all of them stop having them around the fifth octave, as I said.
Ahhh...now you admit that pianos HAVE dampers in the 5th octave...so now around the 5th octave can be the upper part of the 6th. If so, then It can also be the lower part of the 4th octave...Do you know of any pianos that have no dampers in the 4th octave then?
As you said, and I quote:"most manufacturers stop putting dampers in the piano around the 5th octave".
I just love it how you try to justify your comments.
A 2 year old with some integrity will just say...OOOps, I made a BU-BU.


Now to answer you questions:
BDB wrote:
 Quote:
How do you measure sustain in a measurable, repeatable, objective way?
How do you know exactly when a soundboard needs to be replaced?
Well the first one… How do you measure sustain in a measurable, repeatable, objective way?

I think Del answered this already for me so I’ll just quote him again.

Del said:
The change in acoustical performance is (usually) very gradual and is evidenced by both the rate of sustain and the shape of the sustain envelope.[/b]

Your second question:
How do you know exactly when a soundboard needs to be replaced?

It's an easy one to answer… I am not deaf!.[/b]
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#1125845 - 12/08/04 09:13 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3303
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
Ori,

Rather than antagonize BDB, I think you should make an effort to befriend him. Then, you can sell him the perfect 100 year old soundboards you remove from pianos you are rebuilding. I am sure if you are careful, the slight damage done in removal, and taking off the bridges wont be of any concern to him.
_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#1125846 - 12/08/04 11:38 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Ori,

I have no desire to browbeat BDB on this issue. There is no need to "translate" my comments. He and I have had these discussions in a respectful manner in the past and I think we understand each other's position and are willing to listen to new info when it comes in.

Also I am not 100% positive that all the modern explanations about how and why tone deteriorates in soundboards are completely correct. I am 80% convinced maybe. I think there is room for discussion at least.

I can certainly support BDB on the fact that there are some pretty old soundboards here in CA that still sound great- and neither of us is in a climate anything at all like the Kalahari desert. We are both in regions with a heavy marine air influence. In mine, it runs on the high side (usually 50-80% RH) . In his, just about right I think. And I have witnessed other rebuilt pianos that at first got tagged as having bad old boards, but once they got really tweaked out nicely, the "bad board tone" somehow disappeared.

So while I am certain that some boards do need to be replaced, I am a lot less sure of the arguments that they all should be replaced.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#1125847 - 12/09/04 12:17 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21287
Loc: Oakland
Actually, if anyone might have bothered to check the times of the posts, you might have noticed that Del posted his response while I was writing mine. It doesn't matter. I've read his stuff before. I know what compression set is, and I know that the only way it figures into soundboard construction is that the soundboard is glued crosswise to the ribs. That's entirely independent of how the soundboard is formed. Whether you form the crown in a soundboard by compression-crowning or by shaping, or any other method, if you take two otherwise identical soundboards and dry them to the moisture content used to form the crown by compression, they will both go pretty much flat. All the forces balance out. If you take off the ribs, they pretty much will go back to their original shape, except for the problems caused by being glued crossgrain to the ribs. That's because there hasn't been any compression set caused by the construction method.

That's only one of the questionable assertions made here by Del. For those of you that choose not to question them, that's fine. It doesn't make any difference to most people. There are only a few people who really understands what he says, fewer for whom it would make any difference, and I am probably the only one who follows what he says with a critical eye. I learn a lot from his writings, although they may not be what he wants me to learn. Del, I hope you understand that this is my sincerest compliment to you and the work you have done!

Ori, if you can't understand that the sixth octave is around the fifth octave, if you don't understand what measurable, repeatable, objective means, if you don't know how to spell "deaf," I'm afraid I can't help you.

Keith, if I were into making pianos, I would be happy to take old soundboards and recycle them into new pianos. After all, old instrument makers did such things for centuries. I, like Ori, am not into such things, I'm afraid. I wish Del would be a bit more forceful in taking the leap. But as I said at the outset, I recognize that there is a cost to recycling old materials, even old pianos, and doing too much doesn't make economic sense.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1125848 - 12/09/04 12:41 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
Kith, you’re sooo right!!
You are a much better businessman than I am.
Why didn’t I think about it…

But you know, when I remove the old, dead soundboards, even if they are damaged, he could easily fix them with his ” skills, knowledge and craftsmanship”… and his magic wand.


BDB.
The 6th octave is around the 5th as much as the 4th.
So why be over smart and not just say the 6th?

Thank you for correcting my spelling, English is not my first language.
If you just noticed it now I'll take it as a compliment.
Now if you can't do better than pointing out my typing errors in a discussion about pianos, than I really can't help you.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#1125849 - 12/09/04 01:19 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Ori Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 1703
Loc: Stamford CT, New York City .
Rick,
If you read my posts I think it's clear that I believe too that RH plays a role in the preservation of the piano and the soundboard.
I never said ALL boards need to be replaced, I said I almost never see in my area a board that can and should be saved.

I also know what happens to pianos that are moved from an area of the country where they were kept in a relatively good shape, to this area, and it's not good.


I faced many times families that thought they're getting the piano that was in their family for 90 years lovingly restored just to be disappointed.
Del said in his post he was there too.
Keith posted in the past he was there too.
Irving was there...Many good rebuilders had to face that family.

And it's not a pleasant experience.
What should I tell them?

It's not the "patch up" job that bothers me...It's the romantic storys about the special woods, the authentic soundboard and the false hopes they give their clients.

It's when the "rebuilders" say there's never a reason to replace what they're not equipped to replace.
It's when they try to tell their clients..."it's just as good or better" than replacing what they can't replace.

It's when those peoples hopes crash.
People want to believe that a 12K rebuilding job on a 100 years old piano is a good thing...but we know better.
it's not just the boards...It's keeping action parts that should be replaced.
It's restringing with over sized #6 pins or doping the block.
Or replacing the pinblock in a way that...well, I'm sure you know...

Reading on this forum it seems that piano dealers and rebuilders as a whole enjoy a reputation not much better then used car salesman. Why???
I was always proud of what I do. And always happy to recommend my customers to do the right thing (at least as I see it) even if it means that I "loose" them.

When people are "taken"...in the end it comes back to us dealers, as a whole.
_________________________
Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - New York City and Stamford CT showrooms.

Authorized dealer representing:

Bluthner, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai.

Restored Steinway pianos.

www.allegropianos.com

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#1125850 - 12/09/04 03:25 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
Anyone want to venture a "guesstimate" as to how long - *how many years* - it might take for compression to deaden a soundboard? Are we most likely talking 5-10 years? 10-20 years? 30-40 years or more?

I'm still not sold on dampchasers. Still worry about them cracking the soundboard, etc. Humidity levels are running between 35% - 45% right now with a room humidifier which I think is reasonably good for a piano. It's the summer I'm concerned about. Haven't checked into dehumidifiers yet, and wonder if we'll really be able to control humidity without a LOT of noise in the room, so I'm wondering ....

If the better choice is to take a chance and get a DC, which some feel can actually crack a soundboard. Which is better (worse?):

*A cracked soundboard - how likely are the ribs to remain intact and for how many years? vs

*Higher humidity levels which will eventually compress and "deaden" a soundboard. Again how many years does this likely take?

If the consensus is it may take 30-40 years or more for the soundboard to "die" due to "compression" from high humidity, well, then, that's a good long time. If the ribs generally detach from a cracked soundboard in just a few years, well, these ae factors it is helpful to know when deciding which route to take to protect one's piano.

There are lots of variables to consider, I guess. I'm asking these questions from New England. We experience high humidity only during a 4-6 weeks maybe during the summer. Much different that the Pacific Northwest region where you are Del. I also wonder if the estimate may differ from one type of piano to another due to differing methods or quality of piano construction?

One last question, when rebuilders replace soundboards, do they usually rebuild to the same specs as the original soundboard? Is a piano that originally had a compression-crowned soundboard usually rebuilt the same way?

I know this is a lot of questions. I realize there are no cut and dried answers, either. Maybe just some guestimates on the time frame thing??

Just a note - I hope not to hear more testimony for DC's - I've read all of them, but I'm still hesitant.

Jeanne W

P.S. Steinway has a compression-crowned soundboard then, right?
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#1125851 - 12/09/04 04:25 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1708
Loc: Massachusetts
I think it's worth mentioning that the main cause of soundboard failure is the widespread practice of compression crowning rather than rib crowning. If manufacturers rib crowned, maybe old soundboards, like old violins, would get better and better with age.

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#1125852 - 12/09/04 04:45 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
ny1911 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/04/03
Posts: 2238
Loc: New York
Del...yo said "if" a soundboard is compression crowned. Is there another way that it is done in pianos, and who might do it that way? (note...non-technician here, trying to duck the bullets).
_________________________
So live your life and live it well.
There's not much left of me to tell.
I just got back up each time I fell.

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#1125853 - 12/09/04 04:51 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6168
Jeanne W, did your piano get a new soundboard?
_________________________
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

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#1125854 - 12/09/04 05:16 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
My soundboard is exactly 90 years old. It still sounds sweet and resonant. It certainly is not dead to my ears.

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#1125855 - 12/09/04 09:50 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1708
Loc: Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by ny1911:
Del...yo said "if" a soundboard is compression crowned. Is there another way that it is done in pianos, and who might do it that way? (note...non-technician here, trying to duck the bullets). [/b]
The other way is to shape the ribs so they have the right amount of curvature, and with the % moisture in the ribs and soundboard the same, glue the soundboard to the ribs. Before the strings are installed, there is no compression on the board, unlike a compression-crowned board, which starts out with a very large compression stress. Even considering the downbearing force from the strings, a rib-crowned board has much lower compressive stress on it.

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#1125856 - 12/09/04 11:06 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5176
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
Actually, if anyone might have bothered to check the times of the posts, you might have noticed that Del posted his response while I was writing mine. It doesn't matter. I've read his stuff before. I know what compression set is, and I know that the only way it figures into soundboard construction is that the soundboard is glued crosswise to the ribs. That's entirely independent of how the soundboard is formed. Whether you form the crown in a soundboard by compression-crowning or by shaping, or any other method, if you take two otherwise identical soundboards and dry them to the moisture content used to form the crown by compression, they will both go pretty much flat. All the forces balance out. If you take off the ribs, they pretty much will go back to their original shape, except for the problems caused by being glued crossgrain to the ribs. That's because there hasn't been any compression set caused by the construction method.

[/b]
True, compression-set as such is not caused by the soundboard’s construction method. Compression-set occurs as wood fibers are held in compression over some period of time. Constructing a compression-crowned soundboard assembly only results in a structure and process that creates the requisite perpendicular-to-grain compression within the soundboard panel. The missing element is time. Internal fiber compression is inherent and necessary to this crowning process and the compression set that develops over time is a natural and inevitable result. But this is just semantics.

In this type of soundboard construction without some amount of internal perpendicular-to-grain compression there will be no soundboard crown. There is no other mechanism that will either form or maintain crown. I suppose one could argue that soundboard crown itself is not necessary but most of us are of the opinion that it, along with the corresponding string bearing, does contribute to the overall tonal performance of the piano.

Your hypothetical example of two otherwise identical soundboards is misleading. Only the compression-crowned soundboard assembly is formed by drying the soundboard panel to 3.8% to 4.0% moisture content. A soundboard assembly using crowned ribs would be glued up much closer to the moisture content it will experience in real life. In our shop this is between 6.5% and 7.0%. Other factories use similar moisture content controls. In our region wood typically maintains an equilibrium moisture content of around 8% to 10% throughout the year. This means that a rib-crowned soundboard assembly will typically be under some small amount of compression year-round. By comparison the soundboard panel in a compression-crowned soundboard assembly will have a considerably higher measure of compression. At least initially, before compression-set begins to take its toll. Over time this initial measure of compression will decrease through the process of compression-set and along with it will go some amount of soundboard crown. Over enough time and given the right conditions, most or all of the original crown simply disappears.

(For those interested there are charts available that make it possible to calculate just how much initial compression will be involved in each case. There are too many variables involved to reasonably predict the rate at which compression-set will affect the soundboard assembly.)

Drying a rib-crowned soundboard assembly to a moisture content of 4.0% will create some perpendicular-to-grain tension but it will still have crown. Slightly less than it was designed to have, perhaps, but it will still have crown. Drying a compression-crowned soundboard assembly to a moisture content of 4.0% will remove all compression and the assembly will have no crown whatsoever. Indeed, if the compression-crowned soundboard assembly has been in existence long enough for some amount of compression-set to develop, at 4.0% mc this panel may well be under some amount of tension. Compression-set causes the wood fibers to physically and permanently change shape.

No, these systems are not at all otherwise identical. If you take the ribs off of these two examples the ribs from the compression-crowned soundboard assembly will return to their flat configuration while the ribs from the rib-crowned soundboard assembly will still have their curved face, or crown. The soundboard panels themselves are so floppy (across-grain) as to be of no consequence in this discussion.

The only way a compression-crowned soundboard assembly can form and maintain crown is through perpendicular-to-grain compression. That’s it. That is the whole point of the process and there are no other forces at work; take away that compression — as happens naturally over time through the mechanism of compression-set — and that crown goes away. Whether we like it or not this is the process that takes place over time. This is not just some wild theory I dreamed up out of the ether, it can be (and has been) demonstrated through a variety of experiments and tests both myself and many others. It’s gone well beyond speculation, it’s verified fact.

Del
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1125857 - 12/09/04 11:27 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5176
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:
Anyone want to venture a "guesstimate" as to how long - *how many years* - it might take for compression to deaden a soundboard? Are we most likely talking 5-10 years? 10-20 years? 30-40 years or more?

I'm still not sold on dampchasers. Still worry about them cracking the soundboard, etc. Humidity levels are running between 35% - 45% right now with a room humidifier which I think is reasonably good for a piano. It's the summer I'm concerned about. Haven't checked into dehumidifiers yet, and wonder if we'll really be able to control humidity without a LOT of noise in the room, so I'm wondering ....

[/b]
There are too many variables involved to accurately predict the rate of, or the effects of, compression-set. These range from the characteristics of the actual wood samples (specifically the resiliency of the earlywood portion of the growth ring) to the extremes of humidity in the micro-climate surrounding the piano. How high does the relative humidity go? And for how much of the year?

Like most technicians I’ve evaluated pianos upwards of a hundred years old with soundboards that still exhibited good tonal character. I’ve also evaluated pianos still on the showroom floor that were already exhibiting the percussive attach and rapid sustain drop-off characteristic of compression damaged soundboards. Since these pianos were mostly prepped by technicians I consider to be exceptionally good at their work I expect they (the pianos in question) were performing about as well as possible with their given soundboards.

Most of the pianos coming to our shop for soundboard replacement are upwards of 40 years old. There have been a few that were less than 10 years old, but they are the exceptions.

Personally, I’d suggest you reconsider that position on Dampp-Chasers. Properly sized to the piano and properly installed they are quite effective at keeping the moisture content of the soundboard panel down during periods of high humidity. Even if you don’t wish to install the whole system complete with water buckets (and I usually don’t), if my piano lived in your neck of the woods it would have a D-C bar or three down under the soundboard (along with the humidistat control, of course). Ask your technician.

Del
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1125858 - 12/09/04 12:03 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5176
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeanne W:


If the consensus is it may take 30-40 years or more for the soundboard to "die" due to "compression" from high humidity, well, then, that's a good long time. If the ribs generally detach from a cracked soundboard in just a few years, well, these ae factors it is helpful to know when deciding which route to take to protect one's piano.

There are lots of variables to consider, I guess. I'm asking these questions from New England. We experience high humidity only during a 4-6 weeks maybe during the summer. Much different that the Pacific Northwest region where you are Del. I also wonder if the estimate may differ from one type of piano to another due to differing methods or quality of piano construction?

One last question, when rebuilders replace soundboards, do they usually rebuild to the same specs as the original soundboard? Is a piano that originally had a compression-crowned soundboard usually rebuilt the same way?


P.S. Steinway has a compression-crowned soundboard then, right? [/b]
Part II.

The issue is not whether or not the ribs will detach themselves from the soundboard panel. With modern adhesives this is rarely a concern. The issue is how rapidly compression-set will develop and how long it will take for this to have an effect on you piano’s performance. And, of course, how much of an effect it may have.

Yes, your climate is much different than ours. Checking the charts that illustrate these things you will notice that the moisture content of wood products within the average home in the Pacific Northwest stays pretty much between 8% and 10% year round and we don’t experience the high humidity peaks you mention. Our climate takes pretty good care of the wood products we use in our homes — better than in most other parts of the country. (And this despite the fact that it rains pretty much every day and it’s always wet and miserable and nobody should ever think about moving out here!)

As to your last question — it depends on the rebuilder. Some do use a relatively authentic compression-crowning system (as is described elsewhere). We do not. Our ribs are crowned and the soundboard panel is held to a somewhat higher moisture content when it is all glued up. We believe our system has certain acoustical advantages and fewer inherent structural drawbacks. Obviously, others disagree. It is a matter of choice, experience and technological background.

Del
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#1125859 - 12/09/04 12:12 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
JeanneW,

The reputation of D.C.s causing damage to boards is from three things:

1. Heater bars installed *without* the humidistat in an environment that already goes dry seasonally. This is not supposed to be done, but many have done it and probably still do. it comes from a mixed mentality of cheapness and technical ignorance.

2. People observing boards that have both cracks and Dampp-Chasers and jumping to the conclusion that the D.C.s *caused* the cracks, when in fact the cracks existed before the D.C. was ever installed. In fact, the cracks are what prompted the owner to finally do something about climate control.

3. Technicians who are unable or unwilling to change their ways or adapt to new facts. Not unusual in this business.

A properly installed system *can't* cause cracks because the humidistat shuts off the dehumidifier when the proper humidity level is reached.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#1125860 - 12/09/04 12:22 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Ori,

Certainly in your neck of the woods a good argument can be made for replacing boards a large % of the time, even if we set aside these issues about tone/compression set, etc. The deteriorated joints alone (old glue gone bad etc) make an argument for it. I mean a rebuilder friend of mine says he can literally kick an old NYC soundboard out of a piano,that's how weak things get. And I have certainly seen many rebuild jobs with the old boards left in where odd problems and sounds developed that seemed to strongly suggest failed joints and/or crystallized glue.

These pianos have problems that require complete tear down, removal of the board, new rib glueing, new bridge caps, etc. At that point the difference between regluing and reusing the old board versus putting in a new one is relatively small and it makes good sense to go ahead and get new wood in there- better safe than sorry.

Regards,

Rick Clark
_________________________
Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#1125861 - 12/09/04 01:29 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Irving wrote:
"I have saved many hundreds of soundboards and replaced thousands"

Bumping for emphasis. One should always be aware of the perspective of the technician who is offering advise. Know they've done both, at least a handful of times.

I know this thread has seemingly been a repeat and would only attempt, in siding with the replacement camp, to add one more voice that isn't making money doing it and who says go for it. A dead soundboard is a dead soundboard, is a dead...and you may not figure it out without anything fresh near by.

Welcome to the forum, Ori. Irving, Rick et al. must be getting pretty tired of this chapter and verse ;\) . "12k rebuild"? May not be a lot for a refinish, action rebuild, and a new soundboard, but I think its not far off for any two out of those three.

Chris
_________________________
Amateur At Large

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#1125862 - 12/09/04 04:47 PM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3303
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris W1:
Irving wrote:
"I have saved many hundreds of soundboards and replaced thousands"

Bumping for emphasis. One should always be aware of the perspective of the technician who is offering advise. Know they've done both, at least a handful of times.

I know this thread has seemingly been a repeat and would only attempt, in siding with the replacement camp, to add one more voice that isn't making money doing it and who says go for it. A dead soundboard is a dead soundboard, is a dead...and you may not figure it out without anything fresh near by.

Chris [/b]
Chris,

This may be the most illuminating post of the entire thread. Many techs think they are doing great work repairing old boards, until they begin to install new boards. If they master soundboard replacement, it becomes obvious how much better the new boards work, and they often feel embarrassed by their stubborn adherance to saving old boards no matter what.
With that being said, we recently rebuilt a 100 year old Bechstein on which we saved the original board, and this piano sounded wonderful in all registers. This is the exception, and perhaps it would have sounded even better with a new board.
_________________________
Keith D Kerman
PianoCraft
Rebuilding & Sales of vintage and pre-owned Steinway and Mason & Hamlin
New Steingraeber, Estonia, Charles R. Walter, Brodmann, Feurich
www.pianocraft.net
http://www.youtube.com/user/pianocraftchannel/videos

keith@pianocraft.net 888-840-5460

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#1125863 - 12/10/04 04:09 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
Jeanne W Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/04
Posts: 1240
Loc: New England
 Quote:
Originally posted by Axtremus:
Jeanne W, did your piano get a new soundboard? [/b]
Yes, it does have a new soundboard installed. I wouldn't have bought an early 1900's piano without a new soundboard (and complete rebuild).

Jeanne W
_________________________
Music is about the heart and so should a piano be about the heart. - Pique

1920 Steinway A3
My Piano Delivery Thread:
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8776.html#000000

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#1125864 - 12/10/04 08:23 AM Re: Fascinating Steinway Phenomena
JCS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/02/04
Posts: 75
Loc: Aurora, Colorado
Question:

Assuming crown is retained over time, why would newer wood vibrate better i.e. with more sound and sustain than older drier wood?

Seems to me the reverse would be true... i.e. stiffer drier wood would seem to vibrate stronger.

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