Soundboard is one of the hardest parts to cull from the piano, but it is so beautiful that I cannot bear to see it go to the landfill. All the action has to come off first, including the keys and any wood boards screwed in place above them. Then every single tuning pin (upwards of 300) gets a partial turn to loosen the tension on the strings.
Next, I cut the strings with heavy-duty wire cutters or bolt cutters, saving the copper strings and disposing of the rest (which are often too rusty to work with anyway). Next, I remove all the tuning pins. Having been previously loosened, I can often get them out with my cordless drill and a special bit designed for this purpose, though sometimes I have to loosen them a little more with the tuning hammer before letting loose with the drill.
Once all of that has been removed, it’s time to “drop” the piano. I do this on an old mattress. With the piano lying on the ground, I can then remove the board along the bottom, and get the pedals off. Then it’s time to work on loosening the gargantuan bolts that hold the cast iron plate to the soundboard and case. I usually need help with this from my husband or son. My son also wields a sledge hammer to break up the cast iron plate into manageable pieces, as he gets to recycle this as part of his pay for helping me move the pianos.
Finally, I have access to the soundboard—but it still isn’t ready yet. The soundboard is actually a series of thin strips of wood, usually spruce, held together with glue and cross pieces. Letting it sit out in the Florida sun helps to loosen the glue. I also remove any further screws that may be holding the pieces together, and then proceed to gently break the panels apart. Some of the soundboard inevitably gets lost to the sledge hammer, but the parts that are salvageable are then cleaned and cut into diamond shapes. When the edges are sanded and a small hole drilled through near the top, the piece is ready to be painted and made into an ornament. This is the only thing I do with soundboard wood.