1884 G. Schwecthen Piano - Reclaim Project #1: Destruction

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Blog entry by Jerome posted 02-27-2015 05:05 AM 1383 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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My aunt and her family purchased her home back in 1974. The piano came with it. At the time the piano was said to be over 75 years old. I lived there for a while and remembered it being a desk in the basement for over 17 years. I thought the actual tree or trees that were used to make it had to be maybe 30 years old at the time, plus drying time would make the wood age around 1840 or so. She decided it was time to clean out her basement and there sat this piano, or what was a piano! A man offered to dispose of it for her and I took it upon myself to reclaim what i could. I enlisted my neighbor to assist with the deconstruction of the piano, but, this piece of art was not on the same note as we were.

I thought this piano was made of anything other than pine, but sadly to my surprise, it was made of spruce pine. I thought i’d stumbled on something good. Well after a few hours of trying to nicely dismantle the piano, my neighbor gave up, never to return. Still i persisted with coddling the deconstruction and soon became less kind. I’ll give it to the builders back then, this piano was beautifully crafted and very sturdy. So, with my crowbar in hand and a hammer i tried to take it apart. I just didn’t have the tools…lol. After repeatedly breaking away at it and slamming it on the concrete slab about 30+ times, I was able to disassemble it. All the wile i was in awe of its construction and learned a valuable lesson about German craftsmanship and craftsmanship back then. I was truly honored to do what i did and actually felt bad for such a work of art…but it didn’t last long!

I did become less attached to pieces I would have trouble using and kept the remainder. I originally thought the beams in the back were solid 4×4 beams, only to find out there were 3 peices of laminated spruce pine. There are 5 of these beams. My intention is to make a nice set of picture frames for my aunt when i have what i need to make it look good, in terms of tools. I will also make something for myself. There was plenty of old hardware that I kept like the old brass handles on the side and the old brass screws.

There is also about 225 pounds or more, of cast iron that i salvaged. I considered taking it to a metal salvage shop but i may not. The iron back them is far more “purer” then cast iron today and i dont want to overlook that. So maybe i can have it melted down to make a nice cast iron table or something that could be of use. In the meantime they make awesome weights!

-- Jerome, Marietta, GA

6 comments so far

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2754 days

#1 posted 02-27-2015 10:21 AM

In case you get a ‘deconstruction’ project again it is worth knowing that the glue joints are all hot hide glue which can be soften with heat and moisture, although with those thick pieces it would require some time and patience to get it done. I can see where spruce wasn’t the worst choice for a piano as it magnifies sound nicely, much like the spruce used on so many string instruments.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View parsonpaul's profile


29 posts in 663 days

#2 posted 02-27-2015 01:14 PM

As they always say, experience is a great teacher. But, those German craftsmen were/are something special. Today wood is a precious commodity in Germany.

View chrisstef's profile


15459 posts in 2426 days

#3 posted 02-27-2015 01:17 PM

The last piano I tried to take apart ended up chained between two forklifts, wishbone style. Even then she was a bear to get apart. Nice salvage.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Jerome's profile


119 posts in 1549 days

#4 posted 02-27-2015 02:59 PM

I did hear about pine being a good sound conductor. I have since came across many pianos people wanted to give away and passed them up. They are a hassle to deconstruct.

-- Jerome, Marietta, GA

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3127 posts in 3132 days

#5 posted 02-28-2015 07:27 AM


I, too, have deconstructed pianos. Your assessment of difficulty is pretty accurate. After flooding in the basement of the church I attended, I was told they were going to discard all the pianos in the classrooms. I hate to see anything thrown away that can be used and, being musical, I wanted to somehow preserve some part of the pianos.

To explain further, I’m a small, wimpy, non-athletic woman and the scene was much like yours. After just a few minutes, everyone deserted me. After taking apart what I could from the front of the piano (which really wasn’t all that difficult), I decided to lay the piano down on the front and see what I could dismantle from the back. Somehow (I’m not just certain how) I was able to lower the piano to the floor without crushing myself under it. I started to attempt to remove the 4×4s in the back and found it was an impossibility for such a weakling as I. So after totally exhausting myself with the attempt, I decided I should return it to upright. DIDN’T HAPPEN! I couldn’t budge it. All of that iron is HEAVY!!

After I dismantled that piano, they decided not to discard the others. BUT, I came across an old piano in the alley near where I lived at the time. I had determined that I would dismantle it before it was hauled off by the garbage collectors. When I went back the following day, it was raining buckets; the veneers were buckling and I was disappointed. However, I was able to remove all the ivories without any effort because of the rain so I have two sets of ivories and one of ebonies. Now I just need to use these parts for some projects instead of storing them!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2619 posts in 2529 days

#6 posted 03-01-2015 02:00 AM

My neighbor across the street moved and gave me a small, broken, Yamaha upright. After a little poking and prodding, I cut the strings and then using my Bosch battery powered drill, wire cutters, a 2 pound sledge, my 5-foot pry bar and my Japanese pull saw, I got about 6 pounds of copper wire (wraps the lower frequency chords) which I can easily unwind and use on my copper projects. I also got some blocks of Port Orford Cedar, by chopping up the structure. I had never heard of this species, but really like the little flecks in the grain. It seems that the majority of it is shipped to Japan (where the piano was built) for use in musical instruments. I will probably carve these blocks into something eventually. The cast iron part (I think it is called the “harp”), I had to have my youngest son help me to carry to the curb for pickup. I used to be able to carry that kind of thing, but those days are gone. It was about 160 pounds, by my estimation. I used to be able to dead lift 325 pounds. Getting old.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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