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Repurposed Piano Soundboards

Spruce spreaders, $15 plus N.C. sales tax. 
Shipping is extra or free local pickup.
Leather loop for hanging or 100% red wool piano bushing cloth loop.
Finished with 5 coats of food grade mineral oil and beeswax.
Approximately 8” long.
Please note that wood grain of quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce varies. No two handmade utensils are alike.

Spruce spurtles, $24 plus N.C. sales tax plus shipping or free local pickup.
Available with or without a hole for hanging and with a leather or wool loop, if you desire a hole.
Finished with 5 coats of food grade mineral oil and beeswax.
Approximately 11” long.
Please note that wood grain of quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce varies. No two handmade utensils are alike.
If you’re picky about the utensils you use in your vintage cast iron skillets, like Sheila is, you’ll like the spurtle!
(Photo of 3 spurtles and a vintage number 7 Lodge cast iron skillet that belonged to Sheila’s grandmother.)

NEW in 2019! Sheila Hunter, owner of Hunter Piano Service in Winston-Salem, NC, has obtained a supply of antique quarter sawn Sitka spruce piano soundboards. *(What is a soundboard? See below!) She has “repurposed” this select spruce wood into items ranging from spreaders (cream cheese, hummus, etc.) to spurtles for the kitchen to Appalachian dulcimer soundboards. Stay tuned for photos of her latest creations and an opportunity to own a unique piece of artistic repurposing!

TO ORDER: Email Sheila at “tunehunter@aol.com” to place your order for spruce spreaders or spruce spurtles. Include quantity, type of loop you want (if you want a hole with a loop) and your mailing address if you want your order shipped. You will receive a PayPal invoice (or if you choose to pay by check, a different invoice) and a confirmation of your order.

*Sitka Spruce piano soundboards are typically around 3/8” thick and are made with quarter sawn spruce, which is much stronger (and prettier) than flat sawn boards. The spreaders pictured above are planed and sanded to approximately 1/4” thick at the handle and thinner at the blade. The spurtles are also planed down to about 1/4” thick and taper to a thinner thickness at the tip. The original finish of the soundboard and all glue residue has been sanded off to make each kitchen utensil safe for use with food. Although spruce is classified as a softwood, it is superior to hardwoods for making soundboards for musical instruments due to its stiffness and tight grain pattern. These spreaders and spurtles feel very good in the hand and are extremely lightweight. Wooden kitchen utensils, including these made by Sheila, should be regularly maintained. Sheila uses “Bee Good Wood Oil,” made with beeswax and a food grade mineral oil for these and all her wooden kitchen utensils.

How does Sheila obtain these Sitka spruce soundboards? She has a colleague in the Piano Service business who rebuilds/restores pianos and other keyboard instruments such as square grands, pianofortes, harpsichords, etc. Sometimes the soundboard of an old piano (all the soundboards that Sheila repurposes are at least 50 years old) loses its “crown” and/or has so many cracks in it, that repairs are impractical and installing a new soundboard is preferable. Although soundboard cracks are not the death knell of a piano, they can cause buzzing and rattling that is unacceptable for a pianist. Soundboard cracks can be repaired with shims if there are only a few small cracks but is not advisable for a soundboard with many cracks. (Cracks in the soundboard primarily occur at the glue joints where individual spruce planks were glued up to form one large soundboard. The individual spruce planks, about 3” wide, are usually still in great shape for repurposing.) This rebuilder has been saving his soundboards for many years and they have come from Steinway, Baldwin, Mason & Hamlin, Chickering and Knabe pianos. Sheila removes the ribs (with chisels, from the back side of the soundboard), cuts them down and planes the surfaces to make kitchen utensils and mountain dulcimer soundboards.

Sheila is standing next to an antique Sitka spruce soundboard that has been removed from the piano, to be replaced by a new soundboard. This piano soundboard came from a piano that is 6’10” long. The length of this soundboard is not over 5 feet. 

Hand carving the “spoon” end of the spurtle.

How to care for your wooden kitchen utensils made by Sheila Hunter:

*Do not put them in water to soak or in the dishwasher. Rinse them off in warm or hot water, removing food particles. Wipe them off with a drying towel. 
*Do not make them available to children or pets. Or spouses that are forgetful and put them in the kitchen sink to soak or in the dishwasher.
*Do not leave your wooden utensils in your hot pan, on the hot stove or near a burner. Wood burns, remember? Just ask Smokey the Bear.
*The spreaders are great for use with soft spreads but if you’ve got one of those jars of “natural peanut butter” where the bottom of the jar gets hard with the peanut butter, your spreader may not work well and might even break. Your spreader is not a chisel.
*Treat all of your wooden utensils regularly with “Bee Good Wood Oil” to keep your wooden utensils from drying out and possibly cracking. It’s good for the wood and makes your hands smell pretty.

In the process of making these wooden utensils, Sheila has given the wood a real workout with saws, belt sanders, hand sanding and carving. If the utensil survives Sheila’s creative process, it should survive your ownership with normal use. Therefore, once it leaves her hands and workshop, it’s up to you to care for it and there is no warranty. It is a natural product and should be treated with great care.

*WHAT IS A SOUNDBOARD? Let’s take a quick look at piano soundboards...the spruce “speakers” of the piano. Without soundboards, you would not hear the over 200 strings that pianos have. Soundboards are responsible for transmitting the vibrations of the strings out into air so that we can hear the music! Most stringed instruments have soundboards...for guitars, mandolins, Appalachian dulcimers, hammered dulcimers, psalteries, ukuleles, it’s the wooden top of the instrument and usually has at least one sound hole. The best stringed instruments have solid wood soundboards and the less expensive stringed instruments have laminated soundboards. For pianos, almost all have quarter-sawn Sitka spruce soundboards, although there have been some cheap pianos made with plywood soundboards, believe it or not! 

Just beyond the piano keys of this antique Steinway grand piano, you can see the gold-colored iron plate and the many tuning pins to which the strings are attached. We’re going to take a closer view of that iron plate and the tuning pins and strings below.

See the many tunings pins and the strings? And just beyond that there are pieces of red felt, then the capo bars of the gold colored iron plate. On the left, you can see the ebony tops of the damper heads. Just beyond those damper heads, beneath the strings is a dusty, dirty tan colored spruce soundboard! Let’s get a closer view to see what kind of shape it’s in.

Yes, this soundboard is dirty but not so dirty that you can’t see a large diagonal crack running through it! Cracks in soundboards, caused by humidity changes over the years, can often be repaired (with shimming) but sometimes there are too many or in addition to the cracks, the soundboard has lost its “crown” or arc that helps with sound projection. In a case like this, a rebuilder may decide it is best to replace the original soundboard with a brand new Sitka spruce soundboard. How about a view of the soundboard from underneath the piano?

If you lie on the floor underneath your grand piano, you might see something similar to this! The soundboard has ribs for support and strength (often made with sugar pine) and some soundboard buttons glued or screwed strategically, to strengthen the contact between bridges and the soundboard. This style of soundboard button is very old. Most newer ones are round. Sometimes the ribs separate from the soundboard which also causes problems like buzzing noises.

Cracked soundboards, however, are not a sad end! They can be repurposed and reshaped to continue to be used a long time in your kitchen!