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#2100689 - 06/10/13 11:24 PM Does a soundboard improve with aging?
tdv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/13
Posts: 69
Loc: MI
I am new to the technical aspects of the piano, so please forgive my ignorance! But I am curious about the change in soundboard sound as it ages. My background is classical guitar. High quality classical guitars generally have sound boards made out of cedar or spruce. With a cedar classical guitar is pretty much "there" sound wise from when you buy it. However a spruce classical guitar does not really come into its full rich sound until after a couple of years of regular playing. Is this true also of spruce piano soundboards? Also, does it take a lot longer because piano soundboards are so much thicker than a guitar?

I bring this up because I bought a 1978 Charles Walter upright for $700 from a private party early 2012 to learn to learn to play piano (at 60 years old). I heard that Walter made a good piano but I did not want to spend a lot as I did not know how learning piano at 60 would go - but I figured that it was hard to go wrong at $700, especially after a tech friend said that it was in good tunable condition. But it was not only the price; to me the piano sounded bright and alive. However, after getting it home and playing it a while, it was too "alive"; or I should really say it was too bright and it hurt my ears. The hammers were very hard so my tech friend put on new quality Abel hammers. Wow! What sound now! Mellowed it down but beautiful full alive rich tone.

Being new to pianos, I figured that this was normal. But I have since played quite a few other pianos. However, when I play other uprights they don't seem to have as full rich alive of a sound at my Walter. I am talking about good quality new uprights of very popular brands, even some new baby grands, and also a couple of newer used Walters. Only when I play a top quality used or new grands like a M&H, Bosendorfer, etc. do they significantly outclass my Walter upright. But that is not fair as those pianos are very expensive. I would have attributed this to Walter quality but the fact is that the other two newer (but still used) Walters I played did not in my opinion compare to my Walter.

So it got me thinking as to why this is. Did I just happen to get a great sounding piano? Or does a spruce piano soundboard, like with a classical guitar, improve with the sound age - assuming good hammers and strings, etc.? Just curious about your experiences.
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#2100690 - 06/10/13 11:34 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
BDB Online   content
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Pianos change with age. If you feel it is an improvement, it is.
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#2100698 - 06/10/13 11:59 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
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Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 389
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
Not sure you can compare a vintage guitar with a vintage soundboard. I can tell you that when we dismantle old pianos for all the hardware/screws etc that stringed instrument builders want the old soundboard spruce and maple scrap from the bridges. Which they use for making new bridges and other parts.

I think the reasons behind it are it is getting harder to find any good dimensional hardwood and what you do get is almost always imported
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#2100700 - 06/11/13 12:02 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Maximillyan Offline
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Registered: 06/12/11
Posts: 1550
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Originally Posted By: tdv
So it got me thinking as to why this is. Did I just happen to get a great sounding piano? Or does a spruce piano soundboard, like with a classical guitar, improve with the sound age - assuming good hammers and strings, etc.? Just curious about your experiences.

The cause of poor sound new pianos or grand is a significant reduction of the cost of materials. Including a departure from the traditional manufacturing techniques soundboard. Oldest pianos were made only with the flawless execution of all cycle need acts. Therefore, through the centuries it's have not lost their sound, I'm think so
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#2100823 - 06/11/13 07:36 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
jim ialeggio Offline
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Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 746
Loc: shirley, MA
I think, in this case, what happened is simply that your tech did what a good tech does. He tweaked the systems to hone the sound and optimize the nature of the hammer impacts of your Walter.

Keep in mind, that before he did the hammer work, you were not at all pleased with the sound, and after the hammer work you were pleased. He did not change the soundboard. He did, with the new hammers, tone regulate the instrument, and this makes all the difference in the way the piano sounds.

Its not just a matter of the hammers swinging up and hitting the strings. The impact, is really quite an aggressive event. The hammer must strike all 3 strings simultaneously, the hammer shank pivots have to be such that the hammer doesn't shimmy around much at the actual impact, the density of the felt has to be adjusted to suite the soundboard's current impedance, and the action has to be regulated, at least somewhat in the process. All of these things effect the velocity of the impact, hammer string contact time, and precision of the strike, which results in pleasant musical tone.

You don't hear this in uprights and entry level grands in the showroom, because very little to no custom finishing is done to showroom entry level instruments...price point does not support it. In general, showroom prep is inadequate to achieve a nice sounding piano even on more expensive grands, but the bottom line is that a tech has to do the custom finishing before a piano will sound great. I can take a Chinese entry level grand that sounds quite unpleasant, and turn it into a musical instrument...it just takes time and chops.

Add to that, that the showroom instruments are kind-a tuned. A pianos sound often blossoms with a really nice tuning, all by itself, with no other work. You'd be surprised at how much the aggressiveness of the impact can be mitigated by having all 230 strings working together rather than chaotically grating against each other!

On top of that uprights are mostly of Asian origin and have been setup with cheap hard as rock hammers. The cards are stacked against them from the beginning. They can be greatly improved by a good tech, but the price point is such that owners are not particularly disposed to part with the cash it takes to customize these instruments and actually make them sound like musical instruments.

Jim Ialeggio



Edited by jim ialeggio (06/11/13 07:42 AM)
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#2101020 - 06/11/13 04:25 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
kpembrook Offline
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Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1344
Loc: Michigan
[quote=jim ialeggio]I think, in this case, what happened is simply that your tech did what a good tech does. He tweaked the systems to hone the sound and optimize the nature of the hammer impacts of your Walter.

Keep in mind, that before he did the hammer work, you were not at all pleased with the sound, and after the hammer work you were pleased. He did not change the soundboard. He did, with the new hammers, tone regulate the instrument, and this makes all the difference in the way the piano sounds.

Its not just a matter of the hammers swinging up and hitting the strings. The impact, is really quite an aggressive event. The hammer must strike all 3 strings simultaneously, the hammer shank pivots have to be such that the hammer doesn't shimmy around much at the actual impact, the density of the felt has to be adjusted to suite the soundboard's current impedance, and the action has to be regulated, at least somewhat in the process. All of these things effect the velocity of the impact, hammer string contact time, and precision of the strike, which results in pleasant musical tone.

You don't hear this in uprights and entry level grands in the showroom, because very little to no custom finishing is done to showroom entry level instruments...price point does not support it. In general, showroom prep is inadequate to achieve a nice sounding piano even on more expensive grands, but the bottom line is that a tech has to do the custom finishing before a piano will sound great. I can take a Chinese entry level grand that sounds quite unpleasant, and turn it into a musical instrument...it just takes time and chops.

Add to that, that the showroom instruments are kind-a tuned. A pianos sound often blossoms with a really nice tuning, all by itself, with no other work. You'd be surprised at how much the aggressiveness of the impact can be mitigated by having all 230 strings working together rather than chaotically grating against each other!

On top of that uprights are mostly of Asian origin and have been setup with cheap hard as rock hammers. The cards are stacked against them from the beginning. They can be greatly improved by a good tech, but the price point is such that owners are not particularly disposed to part with the cash it takes to customize these instruments and actually make them sound like musical instruments.

Jim Ialeggio

[/quote

And that, is about as good a summary of this topic as one is likely to find.
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#2101131 - 06/11/13 07:37 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1974
Loc: Philadelphia area
(short answer) No.

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#2101162 - 06/11/13 08:28 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
tdv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/13
Posts: 69
Loc: MI
Thanks Jim for the insightful post.
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1978 Charles Walter piano
1915 5"1' Weber
Seeking truth in all areas of life

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#2101346 - 06/12/13 07:03 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Here is an old panel, a soundboard that passed 100 years .
(1889) -

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQVlVRXzFUQk5xbUU/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQTW9fQlpsZDNEazg/edit?usp=sharing


The piano is a mod C Steinway. (2.30m)

work in progress, action wise, new hammers will be fit in a few months (only the soprano section have good hammers there, as the original ones where really glassy and harsh sounding)

The soundboard is under downbearing normally (normal wire geometry on bridges)

Then, the dynamics in the treble is clearly reduced, (tone less thick than usual)

Basses have no real problem out of old strings and rarely have.
Mediums will sound better when all hammers will be replaced (the ones installed are an old Renner set that have been lacquered and is reduced in elasticity range)

A new piano have a little "green" tone, that quieten in +- 10 years, with less dynamics, if it can be over-simplificated that way)
Then under good conservation conditions (air moisture) the panel usually can stay stable for an extremely long period.

Now there are 4 different ways to make a soundboard, with some better than others from a resistance to cracks and loss of tension, so not all behave similarly.

A piano is under stress, more than what is perceived at first sight.

The glue used, the wood, the shapes of parts, are supposed to retain that tension for decades.

The weak part there is the wood, in the end, because of its permanent contraction expansion work.

So all piano owners that have a relatively closed room with an humidifier and a dehumidifier , are really doing their best for the long term maintenance of their instrument. (Dampp Chaser also are known to be efficient particularly when enclosed with an under-cover)



Edited by Olek (06/12/13 08:00 AM)
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#2101610 - 06/12/13 05:42 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Here is a Yamaha G5 , 25 years old.

The hammers where re shaped, a few days before the recording.(2012)

I will have the same piano recorded one year later .

Now the tone is really open, the treble sparkle, I could make a tuning with very open unison.

I like that pianist !

Tuning done without any ETD, of course !

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQdFV2YlJ5UmFDaGs/edit?usp=sharing
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#2101622 - 06/12/13 06:03 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
In my opinion a soundboard does improve with age. After a soundboard is installed I feel it take a few years for the best tone to appear. That being said that does not mean 30 years is better than 4 years.

You have a well made piano with a fantastic design. Changing the hammers was what made the improvement.

Enjoy!!!
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#2101643 - 06/12/13 06:49 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: Olek
Here is a Yamaha G5 , 25 years old.

The hammers where re shaped, a few days before the recording.(2012)

I will have the same piano recorded one year later .

Now the tone is really open, the treble sparkle, I could make a tuning with very open unison.

I like that pianist !

Tuning done without any ETD, of course !

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQdFV2YlJ5UmFDaGs/edit?usp=sharing

Superb sound and tuning! Thanks, Isaac.

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#2101647 - 06/12/13 06:52 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Bonjour Isaac,

Does the group that did The Elegant Elephant have CDs? I would love to buy some. Very cool Jazz !

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#2101653 - 06/12/13 07:04 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Hi, I am happy you like it, in fact Christophe Cravero, the pianist is playing in many different groups and with singers (and plays also much different instruments, his is the real orchestra man !)

The CD is not yet ready.
Christophe begun as alto player find that too difficult so he turned to violin. wink
Then bass, cello, drums, piano, accordion, I certainly forget some instruments (mouthharp, bandoneon)

I will let you know when the CD will be ready.And I hope to receive a recording with the piano one year later, and tuned differently.

I am also much appreciating that music...





Edited by Olek (06/13/13 05:34 AM)
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#2101710 - 06/12/13 08:46 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
We were always taught that no piano systems that come to bear upon the soundboard improve with age. If anything, these decline at varying rates with age and, in so doing, make the soundboard appear to be caught in the declension as well. (Harp in good shape excepted.) But, on the other hand, the soundboard itself improves with age, or perhaps it is better said "is an improvement due to its age." It was asserted that an old soundboard, cut from virgin forest, or second generation, is a better quality wood than those cut from newer timber. And, as the theory goes, better quality = better tone. Therefore, the old things are worth shimming and so on as opposed to replacing with new board.

Problem is, in my short time in rebuilding, I was never able to prove the assertion. Perhaps some of you who specialize in rebuilding and soundboard replacement can confirm or deny it?
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#2101820 - 06/13/13 04:16 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Well what strikes the most is the loss of power reserve (and its eventual "excess" when the panel is new.) But those things stabilize relatively soon.

I have heard a 110 years old Steinway D that had a surprising dynamics. And other , Steinway or not that missed a good part of it. In any case new hammers (and new strings)= are always an improvement (for the string if the man knows what he is doing with the abilities of the panel and do not overload it)

Here is the same 1889 grand (slightly better recording, but still with an Iphone, so the sound is much compressed and hardly shows the real dynamics of the piano) we will try to have something more audible asap)

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6GjQDkF_AMQLUlZbkx0elJic1E/edit?usp=sharing





Edited by Olek (06/13/13 06:14 AM)
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#2102054 - 06/13/13 04:01 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
In my opinion a soundboard does improve with age. After a soundboard is installed I feel it take a few years for the best tone to appear.
Can you give a brief explanation in layman's terms why you feel this it the case? Thanks.

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#2102075 - 06/13/13 04:42 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: pianoloverus]
tdv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/13
Posts: 69
Loc: MI
I cannot speak for Rod Verhnjak, and he is far far far more experienced than I am. But I brought up the question initially because in classical guitars that have a spruce soundboard, it is my understanding that as you play it it opens up the pores / grain of the wood. In doing so the wood actually becomes more flexible and therefore vibrates better, giving a fuller, better sound. I have heard that this is also true of violins. But since the soundboards of guitars and violins are only a few mm thick, I have NO idea if this could also happen with the much thicker piano soundboards.

As for my piano, the board already conclusively answered that the reason my 35 year old Walter piano sounds better IMO than new pianos that I play is the quality work of my technician did in putting on Abel hammers, etc.


Edited by tdv (06/13/13 06:35 PM)
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#2102224 - 06/13/13 11:16 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Del Offline
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Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5327
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: tdv
I cannot speak for Rod Verhnjak, and he is far far far more experienced than I am. But I brought up the question initially because in classical guitars that have a spruce soundboard, it is my understanding that as you play it it opens up the pores / grain of the wood. In doing so the wood actually becomes more flexible and therefore vibrates better, giving a fuller, better sound. I have heard that this is also true of violins. But since the soundboards of guitars and violins are only a few mm thick, I have NO idea if this could also happen with the much thicker piano soundboards.

As for my piano, the board already conclusively answered that the reason my 35 year old Walter piano sounds better IMO than new pianos that I play is the quality work of my technician did in putting on Abel hammers, etc.
There is a lot of mythology that surrounds the functioning of the classical guitar. And a violin. But it all pales beside the mythology that surrounds the piano.

ddf
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#2102248 - 06/14/13 12:17 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Supply Offline
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Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: tdv
... the wood actually becomes more flexible and therefore vibrates better, giving a fuller, better sound....

If more flexible is good, then totally floppy must be even better... or?

More flexible does not necessarily vibrate better (think of a loose string, a loose drum head or a cooked noodle, for instance). And "better vibration" (whatever that is) may or may not lead to a "better sound". There are other important factors such as stiffness and impedance.
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#2102315 - 06/14/13 06:44 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
I suggest that this is the softness of the old wood that gives the basses that warm quality, on old pianos.

then when progressively we raise toward the treble, more inner stress is necessary for the whole assembly, basically to raise the resonant frequencies so the treble would be more easily reproduced.

But very certainly by creating a disequilibrium between the panel and the ribs, the ensemble and strings, the reaction to the impulse provided by the hammers is fastened.

The tuner perceive that on recent pianos with the amount of "shortening" the attack of the tone is allowed to.

There is, to me clearly something that make some panels more reactive and others slower.

For instance the panels made with 3 layers of wood (probably glued stressed) are generally a little slow and damp more or less high frequencies (that due to the less homogeneous material probably, or the glue layers)

Wood particles are certainly detached with the vibes.
I was said that it is noticed on old Fortepianas that did not had a lacquer protection coat (the brand or origin escapes me) that the surface of the panel is full of craters, so some wood turned to dust there.

Then the retraction due to the moisture level of wood is something that seem not to stop in time, as I was told by historical furniture restorers, you can have a huge retraction under very dry circumstance even with a 350 years old wood.

And "loss" of material (shrinking) simply due to the age happens also. this certainly lower any originally (moderate) installed stress.

(compression) I have read since years that the "compression crowning" was a crude method used to simplify a process, but in the end all first grade makers use some form of compression during their panel ribbing, (even harpsichord makers) and that for 2 reasons :

To have a compressed layer at the place where the ribs are glued, that will protect the panel from cracks (allowing more wood movement) as long it is done under controlled conditions.)

Of course also make the springiness of the panel better.
And to raise the resonant frequencies, in a place where the panel is soon too large and too heavy, due to the scaling in mediums and basses (pianos taller than 170-220 cm for grands, or taller than 120-124 cm for verticals)

Corrective measures to counterbalance the weight and surface of the panel are necessary on all tall or long pianos.

They make the panel more sensitive to time, probably.

Then the balance of tone is easily compromised, with basses that are overpowered, in regard to the smaller treble.

This can be noticed yet when comparing U1 and U3 Yamaha verticals series 25-30 years old.

It is easier to find a good sounding U1, and it will be more stable, tuning wise.

Now I have read that the only way to avoid the compression crowning method, is to glue the ribs fast enough on the panel -
I am not sure if it relate to the amount of moisture that the glue is adding, to be honest I do not really understand what is intended there.

Another problem related to old soundboard (old pianos) is when the instrument was left below pitch for long periods, as at each pulling up to pitch, part of the tension is not correctly balanced and the bridge tilts.

The explanation given to me for incorrect lengths of A49 with 398 mm where it must be at last 399 and more probably 400.

The improvement due to aging is not proved. In fact my brother is soloist violin player. He plays a recent violin (Fustier)

I saw a documentary on Stradivarius, where all sort of theories where proved wrong about why those violins where so much in view and considered the most musical violins.

In the end of the documentary a few violins (3-4)where played by 2 different players , hidden behind a curtain. one was a Stradivarius the other a good old maker.

About 12 persons in the audience, musicians, violin maker, musicologists - they had to recognize which violin was the Stradivarius.

They ALL (pun intended!) decides that was the Fustier, the most recent violin tested, that was the Stradivarius. Why ? because the "Fustier" had visibly a larger dynamics , hence a more precise and more lively tone.

Old panels I often compare to very good old singers. They retain most of their color but cannot provide as much as when they where younger.

There is indeed a color change, and it even can be appreciated. It is also often due to a different action with faster and lighter hammers. As old board does not really have the use for heavy hammers in the end it may turn to be an advantage for the restoration.

In the end I wonder if what I say is understood really. Most buyers today buy sort of "not too bad" asian pianos, that generally have a tone which lack deepness, is sort of simplified, when compared to traditionally made pianos (lets say German pianos to simplify !)

There are so many points in construction, where the tone may be lost or colored toward metallic sounding, that often related to the materials used and the industrial processes preferred, that those that where considered as defects some 30 years ago, slowly have became a "feature" of the piano tone.

S one if lucky can expect a light a little lemonish tone that is pleasing as long as you do not need a large dynamic plague.

Or have the best pleasant tone when played strong, and a little dull at low level

Of have a so much "rounded" tone that any amount of force will gives you the same musical tone, but without the subtleties obtained with the most expressive pianos.

etc.. Thanks for reading and sorry to be long
















Edited by Olek (06/14/13 06:51 AM)
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#2102398 - 06/14/13 10:23 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: pianoloverus]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 746
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
In my opinion a soundboard does improve with age. After a soundboard is installed I feel it take a few years for the best tone to appear.
Can you give a brief explanation in layman's terms why you feel this it the case? Thanks.


Alright...this is a potential can of worms...I'm going to take a shot at de-wormitizing it(custom word alert...no extra charge smile )...if that's possible.

The OP's question, from the way he referred to the "soundboard", infers that the soundboard is a singular entity...a single material. In thinking about this, one needs to keep in mind that the "soundboard" is an engineered structure, not simply a singular panel of spruce.

So there are at a number of components to be taken into consideration in the aging process. At the least, there is:

1-the 8-12mm spruce panel
2-the rib supports running roughly perpendicular(ish)to the panel's grain
3-the mechanical bond (glue joint) between the spruce panel and the ribs
4-the mechanical bond to the perimeter rim
5-the interface between soundboard engineered structure and the strings...namely the bridge/bridge pin assembly
6-in some fabrication techniques the panel wood is required, through high compression of the wood, to provide a significant amount of the overall system structure

In order for the instrument to sound nice throughout the entire 88 note compass, the integrity of the entire system, not just one part, but the system, needs to be intact.

This above analysis excludes the entire action, which as the OP experienced complicates the whole picture significantly. But lets just stick with the belly for now...though its a serious over simplicifaction.

As to the wood of the panel itself, moisture cycling of a 4ft wide piece of spruce can easily push the panel to a place where some of the spruce cells are permanently crushed. On the other hand, having worked with reclaimed aged wood throughout my career the stuff can be quite stable, and can have strength characteristics that differ from the strength numbers the fresh wood originally had. This is not necessarily good or bad, but just "is". Whether the aged spruce panel can perform, compression set or not, depends on whether the entire system has been able to retain its engineered structure. Since there have been many ways of approaching the engineered aspect of the soundboard system, making a generalizations about what happens in aged bellys can be misleading.

In some climates, in some maintenance schedules, depending on what fabrication techniques were used, the entire system can retain its engineered structure. In other set of circumstances,the engineered structure can fail before the piano leaves the showroom floor (this is not an overstatement, by the way).

On the other hand, if one were to take the 100yr old soundboard panel of a failed belly out, intact, as Craig Hair has done, and then reconstruct the entire engineered system, the old, crushed panel can perform again. But the spruce panel's ability to perform is totally dependent on reconsturcting the entire engineered system. What does the aged panel sound like all on its own...beats me, because we have no way of separating the panel from the structure in the whole gestahlt.

Jim Ialeggio


Edited by jim ialeggio (06/14/13 10:28 AM)
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#2102415 - 06/14/13 10:57 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Supply]
bkw58 Offline

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Registered: 03/14/09
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Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: tdv
... the wood actually becomes more flexible and therefore vibrates better, giving a fuller, better sound....

If more flexible is good, then totally floppy must be even better... or?

More flexible does not necessarily vibrate better (think of a loose string, a loose drum head or a cooked noodle, for instance). And "better vibration" (whatever that is) may or may not lead to a "better sound". There are other important factors such as stiffness and impedance.


Good point.

This would argue against vintage boards always being necessarily better than new. I have great respect for the teacher who argued on the other side of the issue, but it just doesn't seem provable. Old boards can be good, true enough. On the other hand we have also observed an old board or two turning to dust. Do we really know how well it will manage post-Coronation? Even under the best of circumstances, with age, wood - no matter how good or well treated - can break down due to conditions, many of which are beyond human control. The Strad analogy that some are eager to advance is non sequitur. The conditions under which it was created are unique - unlikely to be repeated in our lifetime. That it is a different instrument entirely, is no small fact either.
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#2102535 - 06/14/13 02:44 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
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Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
In my opinion a soundboard does improve with age. After a soundboard is installed I feel it take a few years for the best tone to appear. That being said that does not mean 30 years is better than 4 years.

You have a well made piano with a fantastic design. Changing the hammers was what made the improvement.

Enjoy!!!


Here is my entire quote.
I was not implying a old board is better than new or a board 10 years down the road will sound better than new.
I find pianos in general seem to have a better sound a year or two after being manufactured. That is if a technician keeps on tweaking it.
I say this often in my shop. "A piano is never finished, it's a work in progress" If I shipped every piano when they were "done" I would never be done. smile

Cheers
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#2102651 - 06/14/13 09:36 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Del]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 592
Loc: CO, USA
Originally Posted By: Del
[/quote]There is a lot of mythology that surrounds the functioning of the classical guitar. And a violin. But it all pales beside the mythology that surrounds the piano.

ddf


I just can't help but remark, all of Mr. Del Fandrich's experience in the matter, such as -
http://www.pianobuilders.com/soundboards.html
is succinctly summarized as this, above!
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#2102657 - 06/14/13 09:48 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 592
Loc: CO, USA
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio


As to the wood of the panel itself, moisture cycling of a 4ft wide piece of spruce can easily push the panel to a place where some of the spruce cells are permanently crushed. On the other hand, having worked with reclaimed aged wood throughout my career the stuff can be quite stable, and can have strength characteristics that differ from the strength numbers the fresh wood originally had. This is not necessarily good or bad, but just "is". Whether the aged spruce panel can perform, compression set or not, depends on whether the entire system has been able to retain its engineered structure. Since there have been many ways of approaching the engineered aspect of the soundboard system, making a generalizations about what happens in aged bellys can be misleading.

Jim Ialeggio


Mr. Ialeggio,

Have you observed, and can you generalize what area(s) of the soundboard in the piano might exhibit compression beyond the elastic limit and yield should the relative humidity go way up?

I know it is not a problem in my piano because of the multiple 2-3 mm expansion joints (air gaps) that exist running most of the length of the soundboard every three or four boards or so. I'm sure glad Steinway had the good sense to put those in there.

(just kidding)

Thank you -


Edited by phacke (06/14/13 09:55 PM)
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Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2102660 - 06/14/13 09:51 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 592
Loc: CO, USA
I can add, lacquers take months to fully dry. Until they are fully hardened on the soundboard (if indeed a lacquer is used), I would speculate they have a bit of damping nature.

Regards-
_________________________
phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
F. Chopin, Prelude 28 (15)

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#2102661 - 06/14/13 09:54 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
I acquired my 90 old, 7' August Forster, and found that the crown of the sounboard was sufficient(it wasn't like mad soundbaord crown or anything). The down bearing was perfect throughout. I replaced the pinblock and now have the piano of my dreams!. I left the soundboard completely unmolested
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#2102760 - 06/15/13 03:33 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: phacke]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: phacke
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio


As to the wood of the panel itself, moisture cycling of a 4ft wide piece of spruce can easily push the panel to a place where some of the spruce cells are permanently crushed. On the other hand, having worked with reclaimed aged wood throughout my career the stuff can be quite stable, and can have strength characteristics that differ from the strength numbers the fresh wood originally had. This is not necessarily good or bad, but just "is". Whether the aged spruce panel can perform, compression set or not, depends on whether the entire system has been able to retain its engineered structure. Since there have been many ways of approaching the engineered aspect of the soundboard system, making a generalizations about what happens in aged bellys can be misleading.

Jim Ialeggio


Mr. Ialeggio,

Have you observed, and can you generalize what area(s) of the soundboard in the piano might exhibit compression beyond the elastic limit and yield should the relative humidity go way up?

I know it is not a problem in my piano because of the multiple 2-3 mm expansion joints (air gaps) that exist running most of the length of the soundboard every three or four boards or so. I'm sure glad Steinway had the good sense to put those in there.

(just kidding)

Thank you -


Between ribs and panel, ribs being secured in the rim, usually.

As with the simple moisture meter you can make by gluing 2
Lenghts of wood crosswise.
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#2102783 - 06/15/13 05:08 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Mark R. Offline
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Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2069
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
In some climates, in some maintenance schedules, depending on what fabrication techniques were used, the entire system can retain its engineered structure. In other set of circumstances,the engineered structure can fail before the piano leaves the showroom floor (this is not an overstatement, by the way).


Jim, this latter case, of premature failure on the showroom floor, is difficult for me to picture. Could you describe the nature of the failure?
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#2102803 - 06/15/13 07:30 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Mark R.]
jim ialeggio Offline
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Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 746
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
Jim, this latter case, of premature failure on the showroom floor, is difficult for me to picture. Could you describe the nature of the failure?

Boards constructed using high levels of compression can do this...Sometimes the board inadvertently has dried too much before rib assembly. When the ribs are glued on these panels, as the board takes up normal ambient moisture it compresses parts of the board which were already darn close to the point of cellular collapse, past the point of no return. This can happen after just a few moisture cycles.

Jim Ialeggio
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advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
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#2102810 - 06/15/13 07:49 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: phacke]
jim ialeggio Offline
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Registered: 06/03/05
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Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: phacke
Have you observed, and can you generalize what area(s) of the soundboard in the piano might exhibit compression beyond the elastic limit and yield should the relative humidity go way up?

The panel is about 4ft wide at some points. Wood expansion happens across the grain, ie across this 4ft expanse. With changes in EMC wood expansion across a large cross grain span is significant. Normally, the spruce which is quite elastic, takes up a fair amount of that expansion by compressing small amounts throughout the entire width of the panel. If the board's EMC was too low when the ribs were glued on, the board is already compressed and held in that compressed state, offering little scope for further compression without irreversible cellular collapse.

So the compression happens in the field of the panel. The failure is seen often but not limited to joints between the glued up boards that make up the panel. After compressing the wood past its compressive limit, the crushed cells have lost elasticity. When the board shrinks at the next cycle, the no longer elastic portions have to give somehow, and they split.

This might or might not kill the board, depending on whether the manufacturer was depending on the compression of the panel to be the essential component of the boards stiffness or whether the ribs were sufficient to supply adequate stiffness.

Jim Ialeggio
_________________________
Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA

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#2102847 - 06/15/13 10:19 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
Jim, this latter case, of premature failure on the showroom floor, is difficult for me to picture. Could you describe the nature of the failure?

Boards constructed using high levels of compression can do this...Sometimes the board inadvertently has dried too much before rib assembly. When the ribs are glued on these panels, as the board takes up normal ambient moisture it compresses parts of the board which were already darn close to the point of cellular collapse, past the point of no return. This can happen after just a few moisture cycles.

Jim Ialeggio


I am sorry Jim but your logic does not seem to be correct. When the wood take moisture it release from compression, on the glued part.

If a panel that is too much dried suffers when moisture level raise it is not of too much compression, or I translate badly.

What said Mr Steingraeber is that the wood cells could be weakened by too much drying. (hence his drying level I guess about 5.5% EMC)

The compression cannot be too high with ribbing. expansion, eventually (on the upper surface of the panel) .

I could believe that a too much dried panel could have a hard time to accept compression under a heavy curve, as if 8 mm crown is used in the caul for instance, but then when the moisture release the wood expands.

The amount of compression that the spruce may accept without bypassing its elastic limit can certainly be computed.








Edited by Olek (06/15/13 11:55 AM)
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#2102865 - 06/15/13 11:24 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
jim ialeggio Offline
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Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 746
Loc: shirley, MA
Originally Posted By: Olek
I am sorry Jim but your logic does not seem to be correct. When the wood take moisture it release from compression, on the glued part.

If a panel that is too much dried suffers, it is not of too much compression.

I disagree Isaac,

The board does not return to its previous state when ambient moisture is re-introduced. The ribs, which are glued across the grain, restrain the panel's return to its previous free state. So as the panel picks up ambient moisture, it expands. However, the expansion is resisted by the ribbing.

This resistance of the ribbing, combined with EMC induced expansion forces the panel into an unbalanced state of compression. It is unbalanced because the un-ribbed side of the panel is unequally restrained, forcing the panel into a crown.

Then, that unbalanced crown is forced into further compression by applying anywhere from 500lbs to over 1000lbs of downbearing.

Jim Ialeggio


Edited by jim ialeggio (06/15/13 03:59 PM)
Edit Reason: redundant sentences...sigh
_________________________
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www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA

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#2102868 - 06/15/13 11:26 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Craig Hair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 210
Loc: Holyoke, MA


It has been my experience that old soundboard material becomes stiffer over time, not more flexible. At the same time, the wood has become lighter from the loss of bound moisture other than water. These combined developments compliment one another, and result in a marked rise in the natural impedence of the wood. This rise manifests itself as an added clarity in the tonal response

In this way I would say that soundboard material improves with aging. Who would'nt use the most thoroughly aged wood for their boards? And, if the conditions for the piano are absolutely perfect, then I could imagine a board that sounds better with time, where the natural vibrancy of the wood might keep ahead of structural compromises. But everything goes against it.

As I see it, the soundboard is a driven system that relies on mechanical advantages to produce an acoustic effect. The closest mechano-acoustic cousin is the singing saw, with its large acoustic body, stressed into opposing springs, being activated by a small driver.; clearly a very efficient transduction model. The crowned board bucks against the rim, becoming a stiffer spring, with a higher natural impedance, and responds to the wire by reproducing the higher partials more clearly. The downbearing is there to ensure that the board gets bucked. If the mechanical relationships lessen, then the effect is lessened in turn.

In this way an old piano, with just a remnant of crown and bearing, may lack the power and the dynamic range provided by a robust crown/bearing, yet still exibit a tonal clarity so distinct that many choose to live with the downside, rather than risk losing it. This clarity, I believe, comes from the raised impedance of the wood, in total, making the best of a bad mechanical state. The bass section, responding the best to a lowered impedance, suffers the least. The high treble lives and dies by its crown. Like the saw, if there is not a springy tensioned interface, energy dissipates instantly. The break becomes pronounced as the mechanical founadions of each note,being drasticly different, have degraded in divergant fashion. We call it the bass fiddle to banjo effect. These are all mechanical failings due to the shrinkage of the wood. And even though loosening the board along the spine and belly rail allows you to push some crown back into the longest ribs.

And this does a lot to improve the break.

Nothing but a complete removal and reconstruction,however, can reestablish the mechanical foundations in the treble. These limitations have driven most decisions to replace.

With replacement, however, there is an unavoidable change in the imedance of the resonant material. It may solve all the mechanical problems in the board, but the basic voice of the piano will be changed. It may gain in power and balance, but the loss of age clarity obliterates a certain promptness and presence. As for myself, the clarity is worth the exta work involved in restoration over refabrication.

Old tonewood is stable and responsive but it is not indestructable. The annual shrinkage rate, something that never goes away, has slowed over a century to the point of being almost negligible. Stable not meaning dead, the wood still expands across the grain with enough strength to bow the ribs, though we do use curved caulding. Still, anything that would ruin a new board might damage one of these as well. All fully functioning pianos are deceptivly delicate and need environmental maintenance.

As far as the Strads go, musicians tell me that the difference lies in how the instruments play as well as how they sound. That they are so readily responsive that they are less work to play and easier to controll.




,
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Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

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#2102881 - 06/15/13 12:05 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Olek
I am sorry Jim but your logic does not seem to be correct. When the wood take moisture it release from compression, on the glued part.

If a panel that is too much dried suffers, it is not of too much compression.

I disagree Isaac,

The board does not return to its previous state when ambient moisture is re-introduced. The ribs, which are glued across the grain, restrain the panel's return to its previous free state. So as the panel picks up ambient moisture, it expands. However, the expansion is resisted by the ribbing.

This resistance of the ribbing, combined with EMC induced expansion forces the panel into an unbalanced state of compression. The wood wants to return to its EMC appropriate dimension, but the ribs are restraining it. It is unbalanced because the un-ribbed side of the panel is unequally restrained. This unbalanced compression forces the board into a crown.

The existence of crown at all, in a compression board is a sypmtom that the board has both expanded from its dried state, but that it is also being restrained from assuming its pre-ribbed condition. Add to that that the panel is then glued to the rim, which further restrains the expansion of the panel.

It is the ribbing forcing the panel into the dried state reduced cross grain dimension that causes the compression as well as the creation of crown in a compression board. Then, that unbalanced crown is forced into further compression by applying anywhere from 500lbs to over 1000lbs of downbearing.

Jim Ialeggio


Yes Jim, the ribbing force compression on a yet reduced panel, then that drying acts as a protection against future cracks, also, as the wood, even if restrained have keep some reserve of expansion toward its original state.
If the panel is not dried enough ther seem to be less reserve, as I understand it.

I said that because you said the wood compress when the moisture is coming back. I am not sure of that point, it is retained, not crushed, if you see what I mean.
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#2102884 - 06/15/13 12:14 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Craig Hair]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Craig Hair


It has been my experience that old soundboard material becomes stiffer over time, not more flexible. At the same time, the wood has become lighter from the loss of bound moisture other than water. These combined developments compliment one another, and result in a marked rise in the natural impedence of the wood. This rise manifests itself as an added clarity in the tonal response

In this way I would say that soundboard material improves with aging. Who would'nt use the most thoroughly aged wood for their boards? And, if the conditions for the piano are absolutely perfect, then I could imagine a board that sounds better with time, where the natural vibrancy of the wood might keep ahead of structural compromises. But everything goes against it.

As I see it, the soundboard is a driven system that relies on mechanical advantages to produce an acoustic effect. The closest mechano-acoustic cousin is the singing saw, with its large acoustic body, stressed into opposing springs, being activated by a small driver.; clearly a very efficient transduction model. The crowned board bucks against the rim, becoming a stiffer spring, with a higher natural impedance, and responds to the wire by reproducing the higher partials more clearly. The downbearing is there to ensure that the board gets bucked. If the mechanical relationships lessen, then the effect is lessened in turn.

In this way an old piano, with just a remnant of crown and bearing, may lack the power and the dynamic range provided by a robust crown/bearing, yet still exibit a tonal clarity so distinct that many choose to live with the downside, rather than risk losing it. This clarity, I believe, comes from the raised impedance of the wood, in total, making the best of a bad mechanical state. The bass section, responding the best to a lowered impedance, suffers the least. The high treble lives and dies by its crown. Like the saw, if there is not a springy tensioned interface, energy dissipates instantly. The break becomes pronounced as the mechanical founadions of each note,being drasticly different, have degraded in divergant fashion. We call it the bass fiddle to banjo effect. These are all mechanical failings due to the shrinkage of the wood. And even though loosening the board along the spine and belly rail allows you to push some crown back into the longest ribs.

And this does a lot to improve the break.

Nothing but a complete removal and reconstruction,however, can reestablish the mechanical foundations in the treble. These limitations have driven most decisions to replace.

With replacement, however, there is an unavoidable change in the imedance of the resonant material. It may solve all the mechanical problems in the board, but the basic voice of the piano will be changed. It may gain in power and balance, but the loss of age clarity obliterates a certain promptness and presence. As for myself, the clarity is worth the exta work involved in restoration over refabrication.

Old tonewood is stable and responsive but it is not indestructable. The annual shrinkage rate, something that never goes away, has slowed over a century to the point of being almost negligible. Stable not meaning dead, the wood still expands across the grain with enough strength to bow the ribs, though we do use curved caulding. Still, anything that would ruin a new board might damage one of these as well. All fully functioning pianos are deceptivly delicate and need environmental maintenance.

As far as the Strads go, musicians tell me that the difference lies in how the instruments play as well as how they sound. That they are so readily responsive that they are less work to play and easier to controll.




,


Hello Craig, thanks for the added points.

My experience (limited) shows that old soundboards does lower under new downbearing easily. sometime after 1-2 years, sometime as soon as the pressure is added.

I guess I see what you mean with some hardening (that is loss of elasticity, "old wood", "hard wood" is something that is known as a concept) then the loss of resiliency may come from the ribs more than from the panel. (or more precisely from the loss of constrain within the gluing of the structure, reducing of the panel, etc, depending , again, of the type of method used for ribbing )

I have hard time to believe that only the too little crown is impeding resistance to more downbearing that is encountered on some (most?) old boards. (the crown is not so much seen as structural resistance outfit)

Do you use a flat gluing for panel protection ? to avoid any added compression at ribbing time ?

How much reduction along/transverse grain did you see on drying ?




Edited by Olek (06/15/13 12:34 PM)
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#2102937 - 06/15/13 02:47 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2414
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Crown is an "expansion joint" of sorts for the soundboard panel. It allows the board to shrink in dry conditions without pulling apart and also produces a desirable state of relations regarding the impedance of the string board structure.

The compression set that damages the board usually occurs at edge glue joints where two boards with less than perfectly quarter-sawn wood are located. If the board contains perfectly quartered boards-it will resist crushing damage quite well when exposed to high humidity.

I have found that the condition of the bridge caps is far more significant to the reduced treble tone in old bellies than the old panel wood. The panel condition is important-but not quite as the bridge.
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#2102952 - 06/15/13 03:17 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
Craig Hair Offline
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Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 210
Loc: Holyoke, MA
Hi, Isaac,
How much reduction? Along the grain, we see no real change. the long boards still fit tight between the corners. Across the grain, on the longest ribs, the panel can shrink by as much as 20mm. This width is recovered by the insertion of at least two strips of new old wood either side of the bridges. After that we see about a 7 mm reduction in width when the panel is heated for pressing.

We use a curved caul deck. The longest caul has a dish of about 14mm. We may be mistaken, but we have always tried to get the panel to lay as flat as we could so that when it is layed in the cradle the cells on the concave side would be compressed just a little more before the cells on the underside of the rib, stretched from being bent into the curve, are welded by the glue joint. We have always tried to promote compression.

I,m not sure if I,m answering your question, but I have never had much luck adding any new additional bearing to an already fatigued board. It seems to me that at some point in the loss of a board's crown, there comes a point where the board has a tendancy to pull at the rim rather than push. This is a non-dynamic action. energy is consumed by the rim rather than reflected. Adding extra bearing can only immobillize the board further. At least that's how I've made sense of it.
_________________________
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Hampshire Piano
Holyoke, MA

hampshirepiano.co
soundboardrecrown.com

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#2102970 - 06/15/13 04:08 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Craig Hair]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Craig Hair
Hi, Isaac,
How much reduction? Along the grain, we see no real change. the long boards still fit tight between the corners. Across the grain, on the longest ribs, the panel can shrink by as much as 20mm. This width is recovered by the insertion of at least two strips of new old wood either side of the bridges. After that we see about a 7 mm reduction in width when the panel is heated for pressing.

We use a curved caul deck. The longest caul has a dish of about 14mm. We may be mistaken, but we have always tried to get the panel to lay as flat as we could so that when it is layed in the cradle the cells on the concave side would be compressed just a little more before the cells on the underside of the rib, stretched from being bent into the curve, are welded by the glue joint. We have always tried to promote compression.

I,m not sure if I,m answering your question, but I have never had much luck adding any new additional bearing to an already fatigued board. It seems to me that at some point in the loss of a board's crown, there comes a point where the board has a tendancy to pull at the rim rather than push. This is a non-dynamic action. energy is consumed by the rim rather than reflected. Adding extra bearing can only immobillize the board further. At least that's how I've made sense of it.



Thanks Craig

14 mm sound really enormous to me, (have read about 8 mm something). 20 mm for I suppose 1200 mm lenght+- also seem to be more than expected.
But my main question was more about how much panel dimension change do you obtain with low moisture level ?

I just noticed that some astute angle management (computed in % if I get the point) can be done with the bridge, as this one Will tilt somewhat (about 1-2°) so the bridge top is planed with a slant including the tilt so to obtain the final expected geometry on the top of the bridge.

So all this can be computed somehow.

I see what you mean with soundboard "pulling" on the rim, could it be because of wood dimensional change ?

About retractation, there is a web site (on woodworking) where you can enter the species and the different moisture levels (of air, of wood) for a given lenght. The dimensional change is then computed when a second set of variables is entered.
That could allow you on your next project, to document the amount of "life" yet present in the wood.
http://www.woodworkerssource.com/movement.php

5 I did not read well, you get 7 mm less for 1200 mm ? seem to be more than with new spruce ! or you get to a really low EMC, coming from a 14% original level ? that match new wood in that case (that was the question)

AN idea could also use a system that allow to reglue the front of the board a little farther, adding tension thru the bridge, in longitudinal direction (Bluethner really is against any spherical shape on soundboards, due to too much effort at the bridge, but this method is used by some other brand (s?) as "tone amelioration by stress".

PS, expecting a 4 mm crown at the higher spot, with around 40% loss out of the cauls, you see why I find your caul a tad strong. But it may be a compression method (it is, probably) I just seem to read that using so large crown implie an even higher degree of panel drying than with the "flat ribs curved caul" method. May ask more on the ribs than on the panel, is not it ?.

I would be really curious to hear some of your rebuild boards, whenever possible.

The lateral shim tip, was given to me long time ago. 5I heard also the result, some pianos are relatively accessible to that process) Did not have the opportunity to use it or not the courage. May certainly apply well to the break region (but I am unsure the bass end is not stiffened too much).

Best regards






Edited by Olek (06/15/13 04:34 PM)
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#2102974 - 06/15/13 04:22 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
phacke Online   content

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Originally Posted By: Olek


...So all this can be computed somehow...



I will put this on my to do list, unless someone has already done it or beats me to it.

Best regards-
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#2102980 - 06/15/13 04:40 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Gene Nelson Offline
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Loc: Old Hangtown California
Enter the radius crowned soundboard:
Glue up to ribs around 6 to 6.5% moisture content so there is very little compression in the panel. No need to dry the panel down to 4% or less then subject the panel to excessive tension and compression.
Ribs are cut so that the apex of the crown is mostly directly under the bridge except in the lowest bass and treble, where on compression panels the crown happens somewhere on the board and you live with it.
The amount of crown is designed into the radius that is cut onto the ribs and graduates smoothly and evenly across the entire panel. (I like to believe that this makes setting bearing and bridge carving a bit easier)
The ribs are designed to support string down bearing (as a structural member) and they do not resist crown as in a compression board with flat ribs.
String down bearing can be designed so that it is never greater than the amount of available crown.
It is a controllable system with some aspects that are predictable.

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#2102988 - 06/15/13 05:00 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Loc: France
Thanks Gene, you added one of the methods.

AS I have seen it pictured the ribs are shaped and can be shaped so the apex is on the 1/3 of the front rail so the bridge is also providing some stiffening and the amount of stress provided to the board is progressly higher when coming to the treble.

That seem to induce much computation to design the ribs and the cauls.

That method put the higher spot of the bridge on the front of the bridge in the 5-6 octave region.

About your drying level, really compression is said to help the panel accept high level of dryness later. and is not necessarily used on flat ribs.

Now probably the more desequilibrium can be entered (within limits) in the panel, the more reactive it must be, (but also the more stress, the best the treble crispness, unless the piano is relatively small)

The amount of control on shape and resiliency is just amazing when you see it.

Then , all computations are said to give results at 20% approx.

DO you use a caul with extra curve or just fitting the final shape , with the method you describe ?

That thread is interesting wink

The descriptions given state about the 4 methods - 2 with more control on final shape - 2 with more resistance to cracks. (to simplify)

Best regards


Edited by Olek (06/15/13 05:02 PM)
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#2102994 - 06/15/13 05:25 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
Craig Hair Offline
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14mm may be a measuring error, but not by too much. We do tend to bend a rib to test its tolerance. and this is the longest rib of a yacht tail 109-c chickering at 1280mm.

A 1200mm wide section will shrink between 6 and 8 mm when dried.

the 20mm measurement was the difference between the original size of the panel and its stable adjusted size after all accumulated shrinkage is released through the ungluing.
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#2103024 - 06/15/13 07:08 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Gene Nelson Offline
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Registered: 09/10/04
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That seem to induce much computation to design the ribs and the cauls.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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#2103146 - 06/16/13 01:51 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Loc: France
I can imagine that the usual method to compute ribs for an existing panel shape is not that complicated. I talk of something that push the resonant frequencies of the soprano enough on inner stress basis.

The web numbers that are produced could certainly be with a good spreadsheet, but due to the progressive curves the spreadsheet may not be that easy to setup. 4 different radii for each rib seem to complicate the computation enough wink.

Last new board I tuned had a basic and limited treble with no elegance, like with feet in the mud... (on a Steinway) Basses and mediums are easy probably and may be high treble as well, but on the 5th rib region seem to occur a hit or miss game.


Edited by Olek (06/16/13 05:04 AM)
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#2103175 - 06/16/13 03:58 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Craig Hair]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
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Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Craig Hair
14mm may be a measuring error, but not by too much. We do tend to bend a rib to test its tolerance. and this is the longest rib of a yacht tail 109-c chickering at 1280mm.

A 1200mm wide section will shrink between 6 and 8 mm when dried.

the 20mm measurement was the difference between the original size of the panel and its stable adjusted size after all accumulated shrinkage is released through the ungluing.


20 mm , once the ribs are unglued ! I have seen some horror movies that where less bad !!
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#2103179 - 06/16/13 04:16 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
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Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Olek
I am sorry Jim but your logic does not seem to be correct. When the wood take moisture it release from compression, on the glued part.

If a panel that is too much dried suffers, it is not of too much compression.

I disagree Isaac,

The board does not return to its previous state when ambient moisture is re-introduced. The ribs, which are glued across the grain, restrain the panel's return to its previous free state. So as the panel picks up ambient moisture, it expands. However, the expansion is resisted by the ribbing.

This resistance of the ribbing, combined with EMC induced expansion forces the panel into an unbalanced state of compression. It is unbalanced because the un-ribbed side of the panel is unequally restrained, forcing the panel into a crown.

Then, that unbalanced crown is forced into further compression by applying anywhere from 500lbs to over 1000lbs of downbearing.

Jim Ialeggio


Could someone explain that to me ?
As I see it, the underside of the panel is compressed (tensed) at the time of ribbing, if curved cauls are used on a yet dryed panel.

Then when moisture get back, it is retained from expanding but not compressed more (there is indeed some form of compression due to the fact that the wood is not allowed to get to its previous condition, but the drying is there to protect it somehow, giving the wood some resiliency "reserve".

It is said that a lightly dried panel is more prone to develop cracks .

Why wanting to leave the board in an uncompressed condition ?

DO have it right ?

Is the "position" of the neutral fiber in the panel computed, or envisaged, or is it too idealistic to try to get it under control ?
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#2103356 - 06/16/13 02:05 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
lluiscl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/06
Posts: 152

A Steingraeber from 1909, with unusual SB grain almost parallel to belly rail... with very long and high ribs disposed longitudinally to the piano length... The panel has less than 7mm thick, has not cracks and perfect downbearing from beginning... I am asking if this way provides more rigidity to the system, at cost to the final sound... (pending to finishing and hearing it).

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#2103375 - 06/16/13 03:02 PM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Gene Nelson Offline
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Registered: 09/10/04
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Loc: Old Hangtown California

My guess is that the bass and lo-tenor sections are a bit too stiff making it difficult to get a clear defined tone with good fundamental and the treble may not be stiff enough.
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#2103682 - 06/17/13 05:15 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
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Loc: France
Soft tone, with no much high frequencies for the ones I have seen.

But they had many cracks, always
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#2103704 - 06/17/13 07:00 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
lluiscl Offline
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Registered: 07/10/06
Posts: 152
Originally Posted By: Olek
Soft tone, with no much high frequencies for the ones I have seen.

But they had many cracks, always


Hi Isaac. According Steingraeber this pictured model is the improved version (30 years later) of the famous last piano Liszt. There are many recordings of this grand (which of course was full restored but maintaining original SB), for instance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV1lmRb4_Gs
It doesn't seem to me precisely a soft tone.

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#2103710 - 06/17/13 07:21 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Hello, thank you so much for the recording.
I recognize the characteristic by a relatively fast absorption of energy with no much high partials provided.


Seem to me the panel is not resilient much.
I have a vertical piano with similar setup, and similar round tone but with limited dynamics .

It may be what was called "light panel" construction, while more actual ones range from 6-7 to 9-10 mm.


Edited by Olek (06/17/13 07:49 AM)
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#2103721 - 06/17/13 07:59 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
lluiscl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/06
Posts: 152
Originally Posted By: Olek
Hello, thank you so much for the recording.
I recognize the characteristic by a relatively fast absorption of energy with no much high partials provided.


Seem to me the panel is not resilient much.
I have a vertical piano with similar setup, and similar round tone but with limited dynamics .

It may be what was called "light panel" construction, while more actual ones range from 6-7 to 9-10 mm.


Well, personally never heard a 130 years old modest (200 cms) grand piano with this full/complex tone and this great dynamics.
Steingraeber did the things well...

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#2104187 - 06/18/13 02:27 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Yes it is juicy, (200 cm is yet full scale or near, BTW).

What I hear is the tone circulation is not very long.

The piano do not saturate easily, on the other hand.

I like that sort of tone, my comments was about real thickness and dynamic plague if compared with more massive/resilient soundboard.
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#2104188 - 06/18/13 02:28 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 592
Loc: CO, USA
Originally Posted By: Olek
Originally Posted By: Craig Hair
14mm may be a measuring error, but not by too much. We do tend to bend a rib to test its tolerance. and this is the longest rib of a yacht tail 109-c chickering at 1280mm.

A 1200mm wide section will shrink between 6 and 8 mm when dried.

the 20mm measurement was the difference between the original size of the panel and its stable adjusted size after all accumulated shrinkage is released through the ungluing.


20 mm , once the ribs are unglued ! I have seen some horror movies that where less bad !!


Great way to state it, Mr. Oleg.

After looking at the numbers thought, I am in full agreement. There is absolutely huge in-plane compressive stress in the soundboard as it wants to expand with humidity when constrained by the ribs and the rim. It is easy to see that Mr. Ialeggio is correct about the frequent existence of yielded wood in the soundboard.

Maybe the following that I am seeing is obvious to some and not to others --
Both modulus of elasticity and yield stress in compression varies with orientation of the grain. For both these figures, the difference is almost an order of magnitude as you move from radial (quarter) sawn to the situation with the grain running in plane with the width of the board (laterally). Expansion with humidity also varies with direction of grain. So, the angle of the grain in the soundboard would make a huge difference in the final mechanical properties of the board. Fortunately, the data for all this seems to exist for Sitka spruce, though there is variability in the figures among the references - makes sense, it is a natural material.

I'm supposing Mr. McMorrow is correct, that some of the stress in the board coming from humidity has to be relieved in bowing in the board (the stress levels would certainly be worst than a horror movie, without something giving). We all know the board gives to an extent, but it would be interesting to quantify this effect.

That is where I am at in my discovery. I will look further and report, but no promises for timeline.

Regards -



Edited by phacke (06/18/13 02:35 AM)
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#2104192 - 06/18/13 02:40 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
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Loc: France
Boards are clearly "supposed" to be made from quarter sawn.

hey probably are not depending of the quality...

The amount of compression installed at ribbing is what allow the board to accept future humidity fluctuations.
It is supposed to stay within limits of acceptability, a less dried panel would develop ridges (often seen on modern pianos and absent from older ones)


Edited by Olek (06/18/13 02:40 AM)
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#2104235 - 06/18/13 07:18 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
jim ialeggio Offline
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Originally Posted By: Olek
a less dried panel would develop ridges (often seen on modern pianos and absent from older ones)

This is backwards. smile It is the boards that are dried to the edge cell damage that will be pushed over that damage threshold during moisture cycling. Compression ridges do not occur on boards installed at 5.5% or higher. These higher-emc-at-ribbing boards are far enough away from the compression failure threshold that there is more resilience in both the joint and in the wood throughout the field.

Jim Ialeggio
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#2104237 - 06/18/13 07:29 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: tdv]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Well I did not make panels, so I have to trust you but if the wood is constrained at ribbing time it will be happy to receive some moisture, and the compression will be less strong than when it is dry.

The ridges I notice on some modern panels at joints are not there on old boards.
It seem evident that the wood have been pushing where no contraction reserve exists and a ridge develop.

I did not notice them on old soundboards (the panel surface is flat without those hops)

Certainly a wood with damaged cells will not keep enough elasticity to follow when the moisture is high, it may happen, but at last it is less sensitive to high level of dryness.

The goal clearly stated anyway is to have a soundboard that contains enough inner stress to accept moisture fluctuations without cracks. "the board is kept in is constrained state for the time of its useful life" (Bluethner, Fenner, U.Laible).

Now I understand that under heavy climatic conditions, the soundboard builder will err on the side of caution, and will make panels that are made more neutral ? Then I was surprised to read that the protective effect against cracks is due to the compression/drying, but I did not invent it.

If not for that, just to raise the treble frequencies, so the treble part of the piano have that shiny quality, and not that tendency to produce more low pitched treble I seem to notice on a few boards I heard.
(together with a "slow" reaction time, seem to me.)

Now I suppose there is the panel of the piano technician, and the one that can be made in a factory with adequate control on drying of all elements (while this does not seem to be so complicated to attain for the equiped tech, while precise wood moisture room may mean a strong deshumidifier, if not heated box.

The ribs seem to be dried more than the panel , the bridge also is dried.

Now I have seen a pneumatic press used with some sort of moistening of the surface of the panel (unless it was a product intended to harden the wood surface before the lacquering) . and I have no real explanation on that, possibly only for the bridge gluing with a certain method.







Edited by Olek (06/18/13 07:43 AM)
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#2104694 - 06/19/13 12:54 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: Olek]
phacke Online   content

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
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Originally Posted By: Olek
Boards are clearly "supposed" to be made from quarter sawn.

hey probably are not depending of the quality...


Hello soundboard makers,

What kind of angles (typical and maximum) in the grain are you seeking when you take apart an old soundboard and look at the individual board at the end grain at the board end? How true to quarter-sawn wood are other people using in medium to high quality boards? (I don't ask about you, because of course you are top class, a special case!)

As a coordinate system, assume 0° is approximately ideal quarter sawn wood, like in the blue box here:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Softwood_endgrain_marked.png

With this, I would like to make a spreadsheet for the stress state in the board and how it varies with subsequent humidity changes.

Kind regard-


Edited by phacke (06/19/13 02:38 AM)
_________________________
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...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Sonata No. 1 in B minor (BWV 1014) duet with violin
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#2104735 - 06/19/13 04:10 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Olek
a less dried panel would develop ridges (often seen on modern pianos and absent from older ones)

This is backwards. smile It is the boards that are dried to the edge cell damage that will be pushed over that damage threshold during moisture cycling. Compression ridges do not occur on boards installed at 5.5% or higher. These higher-emc-at-ribbing boards are far enough away from the compression failure threshold that there is more resilience in both the joint and in the wood throughout the field.

Jim Ialeggio


They are glued in a bowl shaped press, then? More curved than the ribs ?

I read that even straight ribs can be used that way. Energy is stored by the sliding of the ribs on the panel at gluing time.

Seem to be that different methods use more or less the ribs resiliency. The last tend to close the grain on the outer surface of the panel, as the ribs tend to straighten.
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#2104765 - 06/19/13 07:28 AM Re: Does a soundboard improve with aging? [Re: jim ialeggio]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jim ialeggio
Originally Posted By: Olek
a less dried panel would develop ridges (often seen on modern pianos and absent from older ones)

This is backwards. smile It is the boards that are dried to the edge cell damage that will be pushed over that damage threshold during moisture cycling. Compression ridges do not occur on boards installed at 5.5% or higher. These higher-emc-at-ribbing boards are far enough away from the compression failure threshold that there is more resilience in both the joint and in the wood throughout the field.

Jim Ialeggio


They are glued in a bowl shaped press, then? More curved than the ribs ?

I read that even straight ribs can be used that way. Energy is stored by the sliding of the ribs on the panel at gluing time.

Seem to be that different methods use more or less the ribs resiliency. The last tend to close the grain on the outer surface of the panel, as the ribs tend to straighten.
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