Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways

Posted by: Anne'sson

Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 02:24 PM

I've seen this question posed, but I've never seen an answer. Does anyone know when Steinway changed from Adirondack spruce to Sitka spruce for soundboards?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 04:23 PM

If you cannot hear the difference, why would it matter to you?
Posted by: Anne'sson

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 04:29 PM

Historical interest.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 05:29 PM

You might contact S&S-NY directly. They are always very helpful.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 05:56 PM


I would presume that once other makers became interested in west coast timber most followed suit. I would think it has been in the last fifty-sixty years…since the early sixties or seventies…

Maybe earlier if the Adirondack supply became unreliable because of overcutting. Really doesn’t matter just play and be happy the piano has soundboard worth vibrating…..
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 06:26 PM

I think they got their lumber from N. Hudson Woodcraft. Here's some interesting lore on their site.

http://www.northhudsonwoodcraft.com/aboutus.htm

(NH Woodcraft is where I got my soundboard wood back in the '70s and '80s)
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 06:33 PM


Same here. it was the late John Ford that turned me onto N. Hudson.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 07:16 PM

David Kirkland is probably the best person to ask at Steinway. He's very knowledgeable about Steinway history. DKirkland@steinway.com
Posted by: Anne'sson

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 07:24 PM

Thanks for all the leads! Yes, I am happy with the sound of my piano--it's really amazing for a small grand from 1939. It would sound good no matter what it's made of. But I am interested in everything connected with its history.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 08:19 PM

Steinway can supply the history as far as year of manufacture, delivery date, original owner, and style and original finish. The only thing you need is the SN. The charge is $25.00 and you receive a very nice presentation. As a Steinway owner, you are entitled to receive a free subscription to the S&S Magazine.

One of the perks of owning the best.

(I'll duck and cover, now!)
Posted by: Anne'sson

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 08:25 PM

Thanks, Marty. I already got the information re date of manufacture etc. from Panni Talmadge. My mother was the original owner.
Posted by: chrisman

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/01/13 10:34 PM

1896 Grand Piano Chickering and Sons 110b Should i replace the original soundboard, it has lost its crown an is NOT SINGING very well. If i just repaint the harp repair the board and redo the action, This piano will still not sound very good correct???
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 12:08 AM

Originally Posted By: chrisman
1896 Grand Piano Chickering and Sons 110b Should i replace the original soundboard, it has lost its crown an is NOT SINGING very well. If i just repaint the harp repair the board and redo the action, This piano will still not sound very good correct???


What does this have to do with the topic of this thread? How about posting a new topic?
Posted by: phacke

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 01:05 AM

According to the book "Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand" by James Barron," p. 79, Steinway made their soundboards of eastern white spruce until the 1920s.
Posted by: Anne'sson

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 11:46 AM

Thanks, Phake.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 12:00 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos

I would presume that once other makers became interested in west coast timber most followed suit. I would think it has been in the last fifty-sixty years…since the early sixties or seventies…

Maybe earlier if the Adirondack supply became unreliable because of overcutting. Really doesn’t matter just play and be happy the piano has soundboard worth vibrating…..


This is anyway an interesting question, and eventually can be related to some tone characteristics we hear, but this is about soundboards that are now very old.

I discovered that most of the decisions taken was often because of the nonavailability of the part or material, of course looking for the better is part of the building process but if this implies more than minor problems the test is stopped soon.

Could be that the tree went ill, that the cost was too high, that the Sitka was prooved to be really better. The dates should be of some interest anyway...
Posted by: Anne'sson

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 12:06 PM

Marty, you were right that Steinway is very helpful. And Ryan, David Kirkland did get right back to me. According to David, they don't have an answer "at their fingertips" but "probably" the answer is at the end of WW2 because Adirondack spruce was used for gliders in the war. Steinway of course was one of the companies making those gliders.

So putting together the statement from Barron's book and the communication from David Kirkland, the question is still unresolved. It seems possible to me that Steinway could have been using both eastern spruce and western spruce up until WW 2-- possibly the bellyman picked whatever looked good and sounded good for individual instruments.
Posted by: Del

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 02:47 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
I would presume that once other makers became interested in west coast timber most followed suit. I would think it has been in the last fifty-sixty years…since the early sixties or seventies…

Maybe earlier if the Adirondack supply became unreliable because of overcutting. Really doesn’t matter just play and be happy the piano has soundboard worth vibrating…..

In all probability, earlier.

When the meetings of piano makers were being held that resulted in the book Piano Tone Building—i.e., from 1916 to 1919—there was already pressure on both the Adirondack (red) spruce and the Eastern (white) spruce forests. Attitudes among these men varied but in general they were of the opinion that, like ivory (there are plenty of elephants in Africa and India, just kill more of them), there were still adequate supplies of spruce (there are plenty of trees around, just cut more of them).

Estimates varied but in general they looked forward to at least “two generations” worth of trees remaining. There was no discussion about doing anything to ensure a steady supply of trees for the future; that was a task for “governments.”

Posey Manufacturing of Hoquiam, Washington started supplying both Sitka spruce lumber and glued-up soundboard panels to the industry in 1909 or 1910. By the 1920s it was a large and thriving manufacturing company so it must have been supplying lumber and/or soundboard panels to quite a few different pianomakers.

ddf
Posted by: Eric Gloo

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/02/13 02:49 PM

I tune pianos in and around Dolgeville, New York, as that is part of my service area. I live about 30 minutes from Dolgeville. It's a beautiful area!

Anyway...this is purely anecdotal, but I'll still tell it. I once tuned an early 1970's Steinway "M" grand about 15 miles outside of Dolgeville. The owner, who bought the piano new, told me that "he" was told the soundboard was a North Hudson soundboard.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/03/13 07:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
I would presume that once other makers became interested in west coast timber most followed suit. I would think it has been in the last fifty-sixty years…since the early sixties or seventies…

Maybe earlier if the Adirondack supply became unreliable because of overcutting. Really doesn’t matter just play and be happy the piano has soundboard worth vibrating…..

In all probability, earlier.

When the meetings of piano makers were being held that resulted in the book Piano Tone Building—i.e., from 1916 to 1919—there was already pressure on both the Adirondack (red) spruce and the Eastern (white) spruce forests. Attitudes among these men varied but in general they were of the opinion that, like ivory (there are plenty of elephants in Africa and India, just kill more of them), there were still adequate supplies of spruce (there are plenty of trees around, just cut more of them).

Estimates varied but in general they looked forward to at least “two generations” worth of trees remaining. There was no discussion about doing anything to ensure a steady supply of trees for the future; that was a task for “governments.”

Posey Manufacturing of Hoquiam, Washington started supplying both Sitka spruce lumber and glued-up soundboard panels to the industry in 1909 or 1910. By the 1920s it was a large and thriving manufacturing company so it must have been supplying lumber and/or soundboard panels to quite a few different pianomakers.

ddf


Very good, thanks.Interesting to learn some of the history the west coast timber developments.

In earlier times that was the mindset; the scorched earth policy of unlimited resources has us where we are today.
Posted by: Del

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/03/13 08:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Eric Gloo
I tune pianos in and around Dolgeville, New York, as that is part of my service area. I live about 30 minutes from Dolgeville. It's a beautiful area!

Anyway...this is purely anecdotal, but I'll still tell it. I once tuned an early 1970's Steinway "M" grand about 15 miles outside of Dolgeville. The owner, who bought the piano new, told me that "he" was told the soundboard was a North Hudson soundboard.

Oh, well, if a salesperson said so....

ddf
Posted by: Del

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/03/13 08:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
… In earlier times that was the mindset; the scorched earth policy of unlimited resources has us where we are today.

Hasn’t changed all that much. At least not in the United States and Canada. We’re still cutting the trees about as fast as we can. We’re now into maximum fiber yield timber management.

Just a few years ago I asked the president of a soundboard lumber processing and manufacturing company if they were doing anything to replenish the supply of spruce as they were using up the Northwest’s—that is the northwest part of the U.S.—remaining old-growth spruce timber resources. He said “no, we aren’t.” I asked if he was concerned that they would run out of spruce trees of a grade suitable for making piano soundboards. He said, “Nope, it’s not my problem; we won’t be running out in my lifetime.”

ddf
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/03/13 08:34 PM

Edna Ferber wrote about those practices in one of her epics, Come and Get It.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/08/13 08:48 PM

They may not run out but the quality of the boards have changed. The widths used to be 24 inches plus and now if they are lucky they will get a clear width of 8 inches... maybe.

Plus they may not run out of wood in their lifetime but they have a new kid on the block and that kid is CITES. The CITES treaty folks who are somehow linked to homeland security. I only know about them after a client of mine tried to get her piano shipped to the US from Canada and did not have documentation on the wood ( broad leaf Mahogany) and animal species of Ivory it was constructed from. So it was denied at entry for now.

I have since had my raw materials documented and those inspectors really took a hard look at my antique wood in stock especially Rosewood. Including taking samples, so I would imagine that sooner or later heavy duty permitting will be involved driving up costs of instruments, not just pianos.

J C
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
since 1918
Lascassas TN
Posted by: Del

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/08/13 09:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Nash. Piano Rescue
They may not run out but the quality of the boards have changed. The widths used to be 24 inches plus and now if they are lucky they will get a clear width of 8 inches... maybe.

Plus they may not run out of wood in their lifetime but they have a new kid on the block and that kid is CITES. The CITES treaty folks who are somehow linked to homeland security. I only know about them after a client of mine tried to get her piano shipped to the US from Canada and did not have documentation on the wood ( broad leaf Mahogany) and animal species of Ivory it was constructed from. So it was denied at entry for now.

I have since had my raw materials documented and those inspectors really took a hard look at my antique wood in stock especially Rosewood. Including taking samples, so I would imagine that sooner or later heavy duty permitting will be involved driving up costs of instruments, not just pianos.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is primarily concerned with protecting species of plants and animals that are already endangered and are already protected by laws in the individual countries that are participants in the CITES treaty. It does not—yet—cover trees like the various spruces from which piano soundboard panels are made. And they probably never will be covered because spruce forests can be easily regenerated. Indeed, where I live—in the northwestern part of the U.S.—plantations of spruce trees grow like weeds! As long as they receive lots of water and adequate sunlight they grow very fast.

Unfortunately this fast growth negates their value as piano soundboard wood. The Sitka spruce trees that were used to make those wonderful soundboards of yesterday were grown over hundreds of years in old-growth forests. And those have pretty much been destroyed over the past century. But, since the trees do grow and are not endangered they will probably never be covered by any restrictions on their harvest. Unfortunately for us Earth will probably never again see those incredible old-growth forests.

ddf
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/08/13 09:46 PM

Well, it depends on who survives longer, people or trees. I would bet on trees.
Posted by: accordeur

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/08/13 10:30 PM

Ok, I can't help myself. BDB, you are the most annoying poster.

A proclaimed semi-pro tech. Obviously a pro who will not reveal his identity, on the pretence that his investments allow him to be quietly anonymous. And then naming the famous musicians for whom he has worked.

Every once in a while you have something valuable to say, the rest of the time you are just being a smart Aleck.

This seems to occur more often when Mr. Fandrich graces us with his wisdom and experience.

I would not mind calling you Mr. BDB, if I knew your name, but geez, in the meantime, please refrain.

Back in my lurker mode I am.

Regards.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 01/08/13 11:39 PM

It is odd, because I absolutely agree with Mr. Fandrich on this issue. It is only a question of degree. If people use up material until there is not enough to support them, there is a good chance that the human population will plummet enough so that regenerative materials can come back. There is the possibility that people will use up all of the material so that it can never come back, but plants are pretty tough. Earth may see old-growth forests again. People may not.
Posted by: phacke

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 02/19/13 02:42 AM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
Steinway can supply the history as far as year of manufacture, delivery date, original owner, and style and original finish. The only thing you need is the SN. The charge is $25.00 and you receive a very nice presentation. As a Steinway owner, you are entitled to receive a free subscription to the S&S Magazine.



Minnesota Marty, Are you saying that requesting the $25 history on my second-hand Steinway also puts me on the biannual S&S owners magazine mailing list? Or, what would one need to do to get it (other than buy a new one)?

Thanks,
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 02/19/13 08:20 AM

phacke,

The S&S magazine is a courtesy to all owners of Steinway pianos. You don't need to be a new purchaser to receive the magazine. As far as I know, you don't even need to obtain the history of your piano to get the subscription. Though, I'm glad that I obtained the construction history and original sale info for all three of my pianos.

Give a call to Steinway and they will transfer you to the proper people to make your requests.
Posted by: phacke

Re: Adirondack spruce soundboards in older Steinways - 02/20/13 02:59 AM

Thanks for the advice Marty!
Best regards,