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#2316959 - 08/18/14 01:59 PM Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back
freelife Offline
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Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
I'm rebuilding a Julius Bauer grand that has an odd characteristic I've seen only a few times in 40 years of rebuilding: The ribs are glued to the top of the soundboard, instead of the normal glued-to-the-underside configuration. I wondered if anyone knew some history about which piano makers first invented/used this top-rib configuration, and what they thought was the advantage gained. Obviously, any advantage must have been insignificant, as no modern pianos continued the practice, and at first glance, it seems to be counterproductive to the concept of holding the soundboard in its upwards crowned shape. Anybody know the history & purpose of this top-rib experiment?
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#2316994 - 08/18/14 03:40 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Eric Gloo Offline
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Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1251
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
The only one like it that I've encountered was an A.B. Chase grand.
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#2316997 - 08/18/14 04:01 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
A443 Offline
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I would really love to see some pictures. Is that possible?
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#2317069 - 08/18/14 07:28 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
pyropaul Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/10
Posts: 189
Loc: Montreal
I have a 1887 Steinway A that has ribs on the top - I presume these were added at some point when it was restored.

I'll see if I can dig out some photos tomorrow.

[edit] There are also ribs on the underside

Paul.


Edited by pyropaul (08/18/14 07:29 PM)

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#2317076 - 08/18/14 07:49 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
WilliamTruitt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/14
Posts: 99
Loc: New Hampshire
The Julius Bauer has ribs on both the top and bottom of the soundboard. I rebuilt one about 15 years ago. Nice solid piano

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#2317079 - 08/18/14 07:58 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Gene Nelson Offline
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Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 1510
Loc: Old Hangtown California
Yeah, Julius Bauer - full perimeter plate and I believe the board and pin block comes out with the plate as one unit if I'm not mistaken???
Only ever seen a few of these.
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#2317088 - 08/18/14 08:46 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: freelife
I'm rebuilding a Julius Bauer grand that has an odd characteristic I've seen only a few times in 40 years of rebuilding: The ribs are glued to the top of the soundboard, instead of the normal glued-to-the-underside configuration. I wondered if anyone knew some history about which piano makers first invented/used this top-rib configuration, and what they thought was the advantage gained. Obviously, any advantage must have been insignificant, as no modern pianos continued the practice, and at first glance, it seems to be counterproductive to the concept of holding the soundboard in its upwards crowned shape. Anybody know the history & purpose of this top-rib experiment?

I don’t know the full history of the design. The earliest reference I’ve seen is an 1885 patent (US 320264 A) issued to John R. Lomas (with half being assigned to B. Shoninger). This patent very simply describes a soundboard assembly with superimposed ribs on both sides of the soundboard panel just as was later used by Bauer.

I’ve only seen this soundboard design used on Julius Bauer pianos. No modification of this patent was ever issued to [William M.] Bauer for the invention so I assume JB used it as described. It seems to be used in the 1914 patent (US 1171921 A) issued to Bauer for his string frame and adjustable bearing mechanism although Bauer makes no special claims for the soundboard in this patent. Both grand and vertical JB pianos used the feature.

I owned a 9’ JB grand with all of their bells and whistles for a while. Fascinating instrument. Heaviest 9’ piano I’ve ever seen—David Rubenstein’s 12’ piano is heavier but not by much.

The (claimed) advantages were crown stability and lighter weight. For a given amount of overall soundboard stiffness the combined weight of the two superimposed ribs could somewhat less than that of a traditional single ribs used in conventional soundboard design.

Essentially this systems acts like a three-ply laminate with the crown being formed during the press cycle. Compared to conventional soundboard systems the crown in these systems was absolutely stable. I monitored string bearing on my piano in Sacramento, California (hot and dry in the summer) and in Jonesboro, Arkansas (hot and humid in the summer and cold and humid in the winter). I don’t recall it ever changing. If it had it would have given me an excuse to play around with the crown-adjusting mechanism built into the piano.

ddf


Edited by Del (08/18/14 09:05 PM)
Edit Reason: Added content
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#2317095 - 08/18/14 09:09 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: Del]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Del

The advantage was crown stability and lighter weight. The two superimposed ribs were both somewhat lighter than the traditional single ribs used in conventional soundboard design. Crown was absolutely stable.


Thanks Del, that's great info.Two other questions arise from your response:

- What made the Bauer grand the heaviest ever? More wood beams? Different plate design? In an old Bauer promotional catalogue, they bragged that its structure was so much more stable that they actually needed less beams and less square inches of plate w/more open spaces.You'd think it would end up being lighter.

- What, and where, is this crown-adjusting mechanism you speak of? Was it only on 7' or 9' models. The one I'm rebuilding is a 6 footer.

As for sandwiching the board between top & bottom ribs, my customer actually asked a smart question which was, wouldn't that be somewhat more restrictive to the free-floating vibrations of the soundboard, compared to boards with ribs on bottom only? Wouldn't it kind of clamp down and make for a thinner resonance?
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#2317103 - 08/18/14 09:35 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: freelife
— What made the Bauer grand the heaviest ever? More wood beams? Different plate design? In an old Bauer promotional catalogue, they bragged that its structure was so much more stable that they actually needed less beams and less square inches of plate w/more open spaces. You'd think it would end up being lighter.

My piano had no bellybracing at all. The weight was primarily in the string frame. It had the most complex and massive casting I’ve ever seen in a piano. Grand or vertical.


[quote}— What, and where, is this crown-adjusting mechanism you speak of? Was it only on 7' or 9' models. The one I'm rebuilding is a 6 footer. [/quote]
Look up the patent (just do a Google patent search). The patent drawings explain it better than I could.


Quote:
As for sandwiching the board between top & bottom ribs, my customer actually asked a smart question which was, wouldn't that be somewhat more restrictive to the free-floating vibrations of the soundboard, compared to boards with ribs on bottom only? Wouldn't it kind of clamp down and make for a thinner resonance?

Not really. It’s the overall stiffness of the system that we’re interested in. I made no effort to measure this in my piano but I did note that the ribs—combined—were about half that of a normal rib. I.e., each rib was probably one-fourth the height of a typical rib in a conventional soundboard system. My 9’ JB was a very nice sounding piano.

I’d leave the soundboard alone. Clean it up and, if the finish has deteriorated, you might consider refinishing it. But it’s highly unlikely that—unless the ribs are delaminating from the panel or something—it will need anything more than this.

I rebuilt my piano in the early 1980s and sold it shortly thereafter. Were I doing the job today I’d do more measuring and testing. It was one of the most interesting pianos I’ve ever owned.

ddf
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#2317180 - 08/19/14 04:59 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: A443]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: A443
I would really love to see some pictures. Is that possible?


Bis repetita, please!
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#2317270 - 08/19/14 10:52 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
Again thanks for great info Del. Olek & A443 want photos. Don't know if you have any from your old 9' you can post. I'll post some of the 6-footer I'm rebuilding later this week, it's being moved into my shop on Friday.
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#2317300 - 08/19/14 11:55 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Dale Fox Offline
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Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 1064
Loc: Nor California Sacramento area
Del,

I have an Upright (about 55") Bauer here in the Sacramento area built like this. Had to move it out from the wall an inch. Not easy. Haven't tuned it for years though.
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#2317373 - 08/19/14 03:42 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
pyropaul Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/10
Posts: 189
Loc: Montreal
Here's the picture of my 1887 Steinway A - the small ribs can be seen near the case in the centre of the picture. The ribs under the soundboard appear to be of "normal" dimensions and shape.



Paul.

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#2318571 - 08/22/14 12:47 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: pyropaul]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
Hey Paul, not seeing any photo or attachment to your post?
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#2318581 - 08/22/14 01:18 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4949
Loc: Bradford County, PA
(Hmmm, and if you took an old upright that had little crown and put some shaped ribs on the FRONT side, after increasing the crown by using wedges between the posts and the ribs on the BACK side...)

Just thinking out loud, no need for anyone to respond.
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#2318602 - 08/22/14 02:19 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
pyropaul Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/10
Posts: 189
Loc: Montreal
Hmm, it was there .... try this
Paul


Edited by pyropaul (08/22/14 02:45 PM)
Edit Reason: fix problems with permissions on image

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#2318617 - 08/22/14 02:54 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
That 1882 Julius Bauer with the top-mounted soundboard ribs arrived at my shop. Here's a first photo, prior to any disassembly.



Edited by freelife (08/22/14 03:05 PM)
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#2318698 - 08/22/14 07:01 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
The thought that kept coming to me as I worked on my 9' JB went something along the lines of, "I'd sure like to have seen the look on the pattern maker's and foundrymen's faces when they first saw the design of that string frame." In mine, if memory serves, it was a two-part casting.

ddf
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Delwin D Fandrich
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2318725 - 08/22/14 09:02 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
SMHaley Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 757
Loc: Seattle
Is there any appreciable addition to resonance at any point of the scale with such an open casting as this? Or any color the top ribs contributes?
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#2318781 - 08/23/14 01:31 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: SMHaley]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: SMHaley
Is there any appreciable addition to resonance at any point of the scale with such an open casting as this? Or any color the top ribs contributes?

Who knows? The JB pianos had so many unique features it would be impossible to sort out which tonal characteristic was attributable to which design or manufacturing feature.

What I do know is that a professional jazz pianist fell in love with the thing the first time she played it and couldn't rest until she had raised the money to buy it.

ddf
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Delwin D Fandrich
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ddfandrich@gmail.com
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2318856 - 08/23/14 10:31 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: Del]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1767
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Del, do you recall the purpose of the "rib-like" strip of spruce atop the SD10 soundboard? I have forgotten.
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#2318908 - 08/23/14 01:13 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: bkw58]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Del, do you recall the purpose of the "rib-like" strip of spruce atop the SD10 soundboard? I have forgotten.

It is not really a rib. It covers a joint in the soundboard. The SD-10 used a soundboard cutoff bar. To make gluing the edge of the soundboard to that cutoff bar easier and more reliable the board was cut so it could be clamped more securely to the bar. Then the remaining small triangle portion was glued in and the joint was covered by a thin maple wood strip.

Next time you're sitting in front of one of these pianos follow that strip to the front edge of the board and look down just below the damper guide rail. You'll see a slight gap in the edge of the board.

ddf
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#2318971 - 08/23/14 04:58 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1767
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Wholly aesthetic, then. Thanks, Del.
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#2322291 - 08/31/14 04:02 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: bkw58]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA

As promised, here's another photo showing the top-ribs on the Bauer 6' grand, this time with all the wires & dampers removed for a better view:



This Bauer's design continues to present surprises. As you can see, the plate is a "full-perimeter" plate. The outer edge of the plate is not just a thin perimeter that sits on top of the soundboard dowels. The outer rim of the plate is a 6" deep "wall" of cast iron, bolted to the rim all around, as well as bolted down to the board.

I removed all the strings, dampers, and all the plate bolts visible from the top, to allow me to lift the plate up & off the board and out of the piano. But it wouldn't budge. Even lifting with my crane & hook, it just wanted to lift the whole cabinet up with it, as if it was stuck or there was one bolt I missed still holding it down. Turns out there were quite a few bolts still screwed in...under the soundboard.

That 6" vertical wall of iron that forms the outer rim of the plate, has "tabs" on the bottom, small extensions in the plate's casting for a dozen bolts to screw the plate to the cabinet perimeter just under the soundboard:



In 4 decades of rebuilding, never seen anything like it!
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#2322303 - 08/31/14 04:25 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
kennyz Online   content
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Registered: 10/27/13
Posts: 54
Loc: N.E Pennsylvania
What an awesome project! I can't wait to see some finished pics.....that plate must be massive....rather ingenious design.

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#2322343 - 08/31/14 06:03 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Several differences I see right off:

In my 9' JB there were relatively low laminated maple strips in the shape of the bridges glued to the soundboard with cutouts for the ribs. The actual bridges were [s][/s]mounted on dowels that were fitted into holes drilled into the top of this strip and the bottom of the bridges. In the treble the bridge was probably 50 to 60 mm tall By the time it got to the low tenor it was more like 140 or 150 mm. The bass was even taller.

The ribs underneath the soundboard panel were not quite as deep as those in your picture.

Does the piano have JB's "adjustable crown" feature?

ddf
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Delwin D Fandrich
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2322376 - 08/31/14 07:40 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
freelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/09
Posts: 28
Loc: CA
Del, I've been unable to find any patents/diagrams in a Google search for "Julius Bauer" or "Bauer adjustable soundboard" or anything like that. The closest I've come is a patent by F. B. Long for an upright soundboard with adjuster on each corner: https://www.google.com/patents/US936789?...ved=0CDIQ6AEwAw

So if you can post the actual link to the patent diagrams you saw for J. Bauer, that would be great.

Meantime, I not seeing any extra adjustment devices on this Bauer. And yes, the bridges have notches cut to accommodate fitting over the ribs, but the bridges appear to be one piece, plus a cap. A bit of a pain actually, as my bass bridge has enough thin diagonal cracks running right through the bridge-pin lines, to make it borderline as to repairing the existing bridge cap or needing recapping. I've never done my own bridge recapping, always sent it out to Schaff's bridge-maker. But with the notch-outs across the bottom, I don't know if he can match this.
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#2322482 - 09/01/14 02:18 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5316
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: freelife
Del, I've been unable to find any patents/diagrams in a Google search for "Julius Bauer" or "Bauer adjustable soundboard" or anything like that. The closest I've come is a patent by F. B. Long for an upright soundboard with adjuster on each corner: https://www.google.com/patents/US936789?...ved=0CDIQ6AEwAw

So if you can post the actual link to the patent diagrams you saw for J. Bauer, that would be great.

The only patents I know of that were issued to Bauer listed "William M. Bauer" as the inventor. I'm not sure that particular feature was patented by Bauer, however. I thought I remembered it being described in one of his patents but I'd have to go back and read through them to be sure. When I have the time....

Edit: Yes, that was it. Search Google patents for US 1171921 A. <http://www.google.com/patents/US1171921>

ddf


Edited by Del (09/01/14 02:51 AM)
Edit Reason: Added content
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#2322488 - 09/01/14 02:46 AM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1411
I just want to say that those pictures represent one of the most sexy piano designs I've seen in a very long time. There are sooooooooooooooo many things "right" with that design. Modern manufactures would be wise to take serious note!

Freelife, when you took the plate out, was it distorted at all from the internal tension like some pianos, or was it pretty much flat? From here, it appears the design is really well balanced: I imagine it was probably pretty straight/flat if it were to theoretically be laid flat on the floor?
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#2322768 - 09/01/14 05:39 PM Re: Grand Pianos w/Ribs on Top of Soundboard, instead of back [Re: freelife]
Olek Offline
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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
That looks like an interesting design.

What theoretical books say is that the ribbing is intended to install stress within the panel. (stress under the panel, between ribs and the underside of it, and stress on the outside, due to crowned shape.


this is somehow destructive to the panel itself with decades most probably

As we cannot know how where glued those ones it is very difficult to imagine.

Thanks for sharing that.
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