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Harvesting a piano

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Forum topic by BrianA posted 644 days ago 1138 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BrianA

65 posts in 1655 days


644 days ago

I was wondering if anyone has tried ” Harvesting a piano” I see them on Craigs list for free, often And some of them have beautiful wood. It does seem like it would be a lot of effort. But great pieces of wood for lots of different projects.

Brian


11 replies so far

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pj9516

2 posts in 865 days


#1 posted 644 days ago

Those old pianos are always veneer, and in many of those pianos, particularly the best, there was virtually no surface not veneered. There might be only a few solid pieces, such as the strip on the bottom of the music desk, or the blocks on either side of the keybed. Usually underneath the veneer was a strong hardwood such as oak that is able to withstand the high tension of the piano. So I’m assuming you’re talking about harvesting the veneer?

I would imagine the veneer was put on with hide glue and maybe it could be taken off without too much damage? It is fairly thick. When I refinished a piano last year I had to replace some of the veneer, and the old stuff was probably somewhere near a 1/16” thick.

Patrick

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Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1476 days


#2 posted 644 days ago

I’m in the process now. Mine was free but I had to get help to move it, even though it is a spinet.

My idea is to put a TV on a lift inside. Ergo I removed all the mechanism (a zillion parts!) and the strings (much heavier than one would think, all bound together) and now I’ll be getting the cast iron out as soon as I remove all the tuning pegs which takes a long time.

I’ll be interested to hear about getting some wood out of one.

Kindly,

Lee
I’ll get some pix later.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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pj9516

2 posts in 865 days


#3 posted 644 days ago

You know, thinking about it a little more, there is some material on a piano you could easily incorporate into new work. For instance…

On an old upright, usually the most figured and beautiful veneer was reserved for what’s called the music desk, which is the large rectangular piece above the keys, and the kickboard, which is the large rectangular piece below the keys. Both of those are easily over four feet wide and around two feet high, and about 3/4” to 7/8” thick. You could easily take those off and inset those panels into a desk or table. You could also use the lid of the piano for something, though usually the veneer is not nearly as pretty on the lid. The old lacquer finish on pianos comes off with stripper fairly easily, and because of the thickness of the veneer you can do some sanding…

Hope this helps—sounds like a cool idea.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1476 days


#4 posted 629 days ago

Here’s a few pics. This will end up being a blog, but I wanted to add to the knowledge base here.

I’m told that one of the effects of the tragedy of TS Sandy was a large number of pianos that go to the dump. Some are worth saving I hear, but most aren’t.

A piano is a heavy object (recommended book) but it is made to come apart. Not always easily, but apart anyway.

As I looked at the beautiful veneered wood for potential salvage, I always ended up wondering how one would treat the cut edges to match. Or contrast maybe?

Just a couple of comments about disassembly:

1. If it’s older, be prepared for lots of slotted head screws.

2. The tuning pins were a challenge. They go through the cast iron frame and must be removed in order to get the iron out. A professional tuning wrench? A silly effort unless you have an apprentice.

Finally: a 1/4” drive deep socket, size 5/16. The drive side fits on the pins. I put a piece of 5/16 hex material in the nut side and chucked that in a drill. The 12v units: not enough torque. 3/8 Makita corded: still not enough. Porter Cable 1/2” corded: success! The result? exactly 9 lbs. of tuning pins!

3. Some of the parts were glued on the soundboard, which is 3/8 thick spruce. That is glued into the box.

As for my idea of putting a TV lift in it (Auton is one brand), I think that’s absolutely doable and would be way cool. I just have to find a commission. My house is not large enough for it.

Other interesting possibilities emerged, and I’ll deal with those in the blog.

The cast iron piece is quite interesting. Son Joe hefted one end and said, “About 100 lbs.” I put it on the scale, no, we did. 105. I took it home. That may have been a mistake.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Dragonsrite's profile

Dragonsrite

136 posts in 2023 days


#5 posted 629 days ago

A couple years ago I had someone drop off 25-30 pianos in various states of deconstruction. If you’re into veneer and know how to get it off the core; they’re a treasure trove. I’ve seen very little veneer on something like Oak. It mostly appears to be Poplar … VERY soft with frequent greenish tints … sometimes flat-out green in color.

If you want solid wood, there’s not much. The vertical beams supporting the pinboard (on the back of the piano) are usually solid .. 50%+ oak (or similar). The pinboard itself, and the other heavy “beams” have always been built up of ~3/4 to 7/8” boards.

The sound boards are real nice if you can get the braces off. I just ripped them off and salvaged what I could. I have not tried a heat gun.

Once the strings are removed, the harp (cast iron) can be removed (in my experience) ... very heavy even in pieces.

If you want a LOT of small diameter, short dowels … there’s a whole bunch in the hammer assembly (64 I think on a full size keyboard).

Hardware wise … sometimes there are some neat hinges … frequently a long piano hinge on the keyboard covers (of course) ... I have about 3-1/2 coffee cans worth of 99% slotted screws of various sizes. If you plan on disassembling a piano, make sure you get a metal detector. They liked to bury screws deep down.

I got a call here about 3-4 months ago … ‘twas the gentleman who provided me with these pianos. He had several more if I was interested. “Ummmm … no …. I’m doing pretty good for now. Thanks.” I finally got rid of all the stuff that I felt I couldn’t use … just this last spring. I think.

-- Dragonsrite, Minnesota

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Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1476 days


#6 posted 629 days ago

And this, dear reader, is exactly why LJ is such an amazing resource. Thank you for the fascinating and fact-filled addition to our world of information, Dragonsrite.

I’m thinking you need a bumper sticker which reads, “Just say no to pianos.”
Kindly,

Kindly,

Lee
p.s. my blog post is now up.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View JNP's profile

JNP

105 posts in 1203 days


#7 posted 629 days ago

Probably wouldn’t do it again but…

The 6 or so vertical posts supporting the sound board were about 4×4 hard maple maybe 4’ tall Lots of cutting boards out of that wood.

The sound board is cast iron. My brother took it to the recycler and got $20 for it.

There is a fair amount of brass (maybe 20lbs?) in hinges, pedals, bolts, etc. that I’m sure you could get some $$ of at the recycler.

Most is veneer, but good thick veneer. If you can get it off you have something there.

The veneer is over solid hardwood. In my case all oak and I have used a lot of that wood as well.

Just as important I learned something and found it very interesting to dismantle and learn how things were made back in the day!

-- Jeff

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1476 days


#8 posted 628 days ago

This subject is getting wider than the first Cinemascope screen you saw as a kid:

Piano Harp into Table

Pianos into Desks

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View BrianA's profile

BrianA

65 posts in 1655 days


#9 posted 628 days ago

I would love to do it, but the weight and lack of space is stopping me right now. But I better do it before my son moves out of the house!
I also love to take things apart and see what can be re purposed.

Brian

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1476 days


#10 posted 573 days ago

Prep for hanging the harp was paint. Linda chose a charcoal brown that goes very well with the gold paint. Black would have been a bit harsh and contrived, I think.

We got it hung in the music room last night. Took three people to do the hefting. There follows shots of the french cleat assembly on the wall. The screws made nice contact in the 3/4 thick furring strips and then went right into the cinder block behind.

Down low on the back of the harp are two blocks, screwed on, which hold it away from and parallel to the wall.

Embellishment will be over time.

Kindly,

Lee

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15582 posts in 1492 days


#11 posted 573 days ago

I’ve never thought about that but they are so heavy and hard to move from home to home that they are probably fairly readily available.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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