Cumaru: A Tennessee Country Music Star
After more than six decades of use by foot-stompin’, boot-scootin’ country music artists, the historic Ryman Auditorium stage floor was due for a makeover.
The 60-year old oak stage floor reflected the wear and tear of events ranging from simple acoustic performances to major theatrical, concert, television and film productions. Crews dragging equipment across the stage and performers setting up and taking down their gear had heavily scuffed and scarred the wood. The floor’s surface had been sanded and refinished time and again, and it was time for replacement and modernization.
The cumaru used to make the Ryman stage was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and sourced by Robinson Lumber Company. It is the same type of wood used to replace the Grand Ole Opry House stage after it was destroyed by the devastating 2010 flood. In addition to offering an improved performance surface, the new stage has a greater load-bearing capacity to ensure safety and increased durability to withstand the strenuous production requirements of modern events. The new stage can support up to 120,000 pounds, whereas the previous stage could bear 40,000 pounds of weight.
Cumaru or Brazilian teak is a South American hardwood with incredible strength. “This wood is a lot harder than we are used to working with. There were a lot of bent staples,” says Mike Bohler, Beech Construction. “Another challenge was finding the specified size planks.”
Cumaru is in the brunette color spectrum, ranging in tone from golden tan to dark chocolate brown. It retains its strength and luster with nothing more than a bi-annual treatment of a penetrating and hardening oil.
When the Ryman Auditorium stage was renovated in February 2012, a 36-inch-wide section of the much-beloved old stage was installed at the front. The original oak stage flooring is distinctly lighter in color than the cumaru floor, and the two woods complement each other aesthetically. According to Sally Williams, general manager of the Ryman Auditorium, the oak wood artifact pays tribute to the history of the building and to all the performers who have been there in the past. Today’s performers can stand where their heroes stood while breaking in the new stage for generations to follow. Tourists flock to have their photos taken on the oak strip as a memento of their country music idols.
“We were honored to be a part of history. It was a learning experience working with a new species of wood and a challenge to meet the tight schedule. Everything seemed to go so well during the entire project thanks to the help of the operations managers at the Ryman auditorium Gary Levy and Kevin Ferrell,” adds Bohler.
During the renovation process, around-the-clock security was present as the old stage floor was dismantled and the oak planks are moved to an off-site location. The Ryman’s old oak stage represents an era of country music that will continue to be appreciated and honored. Today lots of great music is being made on the new stage, and the integrity of this National Historic Landmark is preserved for future generations.