Coming Together: Fitting The Soundboard & Plate to the Pianos Rim
Fitting The Soundboard and Plate to the Rim Requires 15 Operations
1. Creating a fit that supports up to 10 tons of string tension involves fitting the front edge of the plate flange against the back edge of the wrestplank and hoisting the plate up and down repeatedly, until the fit is perfect.
2. Craftspeople use wooden scale patterns to determine precise rib locations. They hand-notch the top of the inner rim so that it accepts rib ends of the “double-crowned” relaxed soundboard.
3. The soundboard is custom cut and fit into the case. Its edge must fit snugly against the inside of the outer rim to support the important crown.
4. With the soundboard positioned on top of the inner rim, the plate is lowered into the case to take string down-bearing. Bridges are marked every three inches with a triangular wood file to determine proper bridge height.
5. To give the craftsperson access to the soundboard, the plate is again hoisted above the case.
6 & 7. The soundboard is removed from the case and secured to its proper scale “belly board” for custom fitting.
- Tops of bridges are planed to coincide with the plate for precise bearing
- Tops of bridges are brushed with a black graphitic paint
- Perforated steel templates are affixed to tops of bridges
- Bridge pin holes are marked with a pointed steel punch through each template perforation
- Templates are removed and bridge pin holes are hand-drilled
- Bridges are hand-notched with a sharp chisel
- Bridge pins are driven to proper depth
8. Soundboard is placed in a conditioning room set at 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% relative humidity. For ten weeks it “relaxes” from the shock of double-crowning.
9. Soundboard is removed from conditioning room and hand-brushed with heavy-duty sealing varnish.
10. Soundboard is positioned in the case and permanently glued to top of inner rim.
11. Holes are drilled through the soundboard, into the top of the inner rim, to receive plate anchoring screws.
12. Two holes are drilled, one on each side of plate screw holes, to accept 7/16 inch (diameter) by 2 1/4 inch (length) maple dowels (horizontally scored for glue channels) upon which the plate will be mounted.
13. Plate is lowered into the case to rest on top of the maple dowels, which range in number from 20 in Model S to 28 in Model D. Bearing is taken.
14. The pianos plate will be hoisted up and down, numerous times, to permit shaving off tops of the maple dowels for precise plate height, thus, perfect bearing.
15. The plate will be lowered into the case, for the final time, to rest on the maple dowel tops followed by the application of nickeled steel wood screws which anchor the plate into its case.
These 15 steps for marrying the soundboard and plate to the case take eight weeks for a Model S, ten weeks for a Model D. But rememeber, the time required to complete a Steinway grand piano, from drying the wood to final inspection is 12 months.
Below is a clip from the documentary, Note by Note, The Making of Steinway L1037, of a Steinway craftsman fitting the plate to the rim of the piano.