Piano Key Box...huh? #1: Disassembly of piano and idea

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Blog entry by BarryW posted 03-31-2008 01:14 AM 21667 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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When I picked up the old upright piano from a lady up in Deadwood some months back I promised her I’d make something out of the old thing for her. Sheesh….months of disassembling an old piano whose soundboard is cracked…the tuning pegs can’t hold a tune….most folks would toss the old piano out at the dump. Not BarryW….I have to disassemble this piano piece by piece. Some time ago I blogged about using the bottom half of the piano for a workbench support. I’m not there yet…but getting there. Yesterday and today, I have been disassembling the keys. Aren’t they just wood? No…there’s some lead weights…alot actually. I removed all of them from the individual keys to make a little container full of lead. They’ll come in handy casting balls for my .50 caliber black powder rifle and my .44 caliber 1858 New Army pistol. Okay, the keys…so they’re not more than an inch and a quarter wide. After bandsawing the curved ends…and removing the pin supports, I’m going to glue these “slats” together to make sides of a box. Alot of work for not much…and then I’m going to cover the box in either the white and black key tops or…or…the birdseye maple veneer found on the inside of the piano. Recycling it. That sounds pretty, too.
Yeah, way too much work for a simple box…but I’m a glutton for punishment. Pictures coming up in part two. I will mention that I have alot of nice screws, hinges, pins, etc from disassembling the piano. Gazillions of pieces of this and that. I’ll make use of them someplace.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

11 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3951 days

#1 posted 03-31-2008 01:43 AM

If it’s old piano the tops of the keys might be ivory and the sharps might be ebony.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View waylan's profile


5 posts in 3746 days

#2 posted 03-31-2008 02:09 AM

Hmm, my dad did piano tuning a few years back. Well, actually quite a few years back. Anyway, he also did some minor repairing. Once we got to tour a pro’s shop. It is absolutely amazing what kind of damage can be recovered from. I suspect that the piano you’re ripping apart could have been completely restored with a little knowledge and elbow grease. Yes, that includes the cracked soundboard. When we toured the pro’s shop there was a major soundboard fix in progress. Of course, the cracked soundboard significantly increases the price and skill level, so I’ll forgive you. At least your repurposing the wood and other parts, not just scrapping it. Hope we see something good come of it all.

-- Waylan Limberg, Warren PA

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3686 days

#3 posted 03-31-2008 02:30 AM

I got an old player piano a few years back that had had the player mechanism removed many, many moons ago. It was a big heavy piece that sat around and collected dust in our living room. My son didn’t play this piano too much (this one made three that we have) so I was talking to him about what to do with it. He told me he wanted a shelf made from the key-board, so I disassembled the piano and built a shelf our of the keys and a shelf out of the top for my wife to discplay her grand-mothers momento’s. I still have several other pieces from that piano lying around my shop. When you take one apart, that is only when you realize just how much stuff goes into a piano. Good luck with the box.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3785 days

#4 posted 03-31-2008 02:40 AM

Hi Barry,

Nice post. I like to see re-use of materials. What you are doing is a lot of work but it sure beats sitting in front of the television all day. Keep us posted on your progress. You might want to post some pictures as well.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3870 days

#5 posted 03-31-2008 04:59 AM

Just to let you know that I snatched this from the hands of a “tuner” who was going to “throw it on his burn pile.” Since I met him I’ve kept in touch. He keeps asking me if I want other pianos because I know he burned five or six recently. Yes, I suppose one could put a great deal of effort into refinishing/repairing/restoring…but the “tuner” I know is one of this area’s experts. I think restoration depends on the materials and on the piano brand. A higher quality piano with a brand name should be seriously considered for full restoration. But there were so many piano companies and not all instruments were created with the finest of materials. I’ve discovered that just in my dissection of this instrument…cheaper woods covered with more expensive veneers ON THE INSIDE! Meaning…and I don’t think I’m blowing this out of proportion…that the factory was hiding the poor quality of the instrument. I’m certain it played…and I’m certain many enjoyed it in it’s heyday…but I suspect that after 100 years of service it’s time to purchase something newer…something of better quality. The woman who gave up the piano to me was a bit teary eyed…and her husband was a successful businessman. I’ve often thought of saying to this woman to go buy this or that brand of grand piano knowing their quality as I do…(I sold pianos for awhile while learning the art of sales and I’ve played numerous concert instruments as a budding pianist through my first year of college.) I want to assume nothing, but I think from the house where I picked up this instrument…I should think the people could afford a nice…and I mean nice….grand piano. I was hoping this instrument was better made and of higher quality when I agreed to pick it up. It wasn’t. But there are parts and pieces that can be reassembled, reused, repurposed. Knowing what I know now about this instrument…the time I’ve taken to disassemble it…I know that I might refuse to pick it up upon examining it closer. Now that I’m committed on this instrument…to recycle some of it…I think I’ll do my best…but I know a great deal more about how factories hid poor quality materials…and how to tell if the effort would be worth it. In other words….everything about this has been a learning experience…learning about manufacturing…learning my equipment in my new shop. And isn’t that what we’re all here for? Why even today I got a question answered by reading past posts on this website….just by a search here. That alone makes Lumberjocks valuable for me. When I have nothing else to learn I’ll move onto another website or set of forums….if there is a better one? So far I think y’all have alot to teach me.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3838 days

#6 posted 03-31-2008 11:02 AM

I am glad you saved it from the burn pile. I’d be interested in seeing some pictures.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#7 posted 03-31-2008 12:52 PM

very interesting.
Our old piano has seen better days. We just put up with the negatives. Some day perhaps I’ll see about getting it fixed – or maybe I’ll find that it’s one of those cheap ones made to look expensive

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dooley's profile


85 posts in 3686 days

#8 posted 03-31-2008 07:02 PM

I’ve done this exact thing too Barry, and you are completely right, at the turn on the century there were over 100 different piano manufacturers in the U.S.

Remember before TV took over the American living room, the piano held the distinction.

Great news on harvesting some quality parts.

-- Dooley

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4023 posts in 4027 days

#9 posted 03-31-2008 07:38 PM

Great post Barry. I was looking to get into the recycling of pianos at the time you first posted. I think what you are doing is a heroic and Herculean effort. Can’t wait to see what has come out of your hard work.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3864 days

#10 posted 04-01-2008 05:33 PM

This will take you to my effort at a piano key box (or two) Barry.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View olivia's profile


2 posts in 3427 days

#11 posted 12-01-2008 01:14 AM

Hi everyone, Iam getting ready to attempt to turn our old studio piano into a snack bar coplete with popcorn maker and candy shelf. The hardest thing will be getting all the works out! I hope I can manage! We ordered a tv projector and I want to surprise my husband for Christmas, Wish me luck! Will post picture when complete.

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