Nutcracker Museum

Bavarian Leavenworth, Washington

The Nutcracker Lady's interview with Herr Steinbach discussing wood used for Nutcrackers

In the 1980's, on one of the signing visits by Christian Steinbach, I asked him about the wood used in the Steinbach nutcrackers. As fast as I could, I wrote down the remarks he made about the subject of wood. When I read these notes, I can almost hear him speaking.

Wood is a living raw material. Cells in a tree can live as much as 15 years after the tree is cut down. Drying time is not counted until the wood is cut into lumber, then it must dry for at least 2 years. It is easy to dry water from any rain that may fall on the lumber, but it is the sap that must be dried. Proper wood dried correctly will not crack, and it is this quality of wood that is in Steinbach products.

There are different kinds of wood in each nutcracker. Woods that are used are from deciduous trees. Woods must be homo-genius, that is the rings must be even, not drastic changes in the rings. Beech, lime, maple, linden birch and white poplar are used. Needle trees are never used as they have holes in the knots. Leaf trees do not.

Tree limbs have wood stronger than that near the trunk. Outer limbs cannot be turned by machine, but only by hand.

All the trees used in the Steinbach factory are grown in Europe. they come from certain areas about 600 to 800 meters in elevation. In flat land the trees grow too fast because of the good ground, and there is too much separation in the rings and the wood is not as compact. In the upper lands the trees only grow so big and the rings are closer together making for a better wood to turn. Trees used are between 80 and 150 years old and are between 15 and 20 inches across.

Those who cut the trees must know the way it grows to know which way to cut. First all knots are cut away. These can break the woodworkers tools. They must also be careful of gunshot in trees, or other metal that is imbedded in the trees.

Wood is sawed in slices 85mm, 40mm, 30mm, and 24-25mm (which is about 1 inch). Every tree cuts differently according to the size of the tree. The sawmill will make packages and bind them and they are loaded with a forklift for transport to the factory. Each piece is measured on arrival at the factory.

A wood turner has 2 years of training, and then in the 3rd year becomes the 1st grade of wood turner. Then they can turn by hand and by machine and will understand all kinds of wood, and their different characteristics such as softness. They must understand their machines, how different speeds of the machine will affect the wood. they must have an eye and a feeling for good wood. They must keep their tools sharp--sometimes after 3 hours they must be sharpened.

The workers must know the wood and how to cut and turn it so there will be no cracks and no twisting. Today many of the workers do not take the time to understand the wood, and it is difficult for the factories to always find enough of the good workers. Too many are going out of the trade.



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Federal ID #91-2143303

A Non-Profit 501(c)3 Organization


Contact Us

735 Front Street
P.O. Box 2212
Leavenworth, WA 98826

(509) 548-4573

Open 7 Days a Week
1:00PM - 5:00PM

Nutcracker Museum Mission Statement:

"To foster and encourage the interest of the general public of the importance of nuts in the diets of humans throughout history and in the evolution of the nutcracker. No other tool or collectible has shown such a wide diversity of material and design as the implements used to crack the hard shell of a nut"

Museum Admission:

Adults  - $5.00  (Ages 17 - 64yrs)
Seniors - $3.50  (Age 65yrs +)
Youth   - $2.00  (Ages 6 - 16yrs)
Child    - FREE   (Ages 0 - 5yrs)
Active Military - FREE (Spouse & Children Free with ID)