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Old pianos for quality lumber?

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Forum topic by bigblockyeti posted 02-27-2014 05:37 PM 1139 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


02-27-2014 05:37 PM

I see with some regularity people giving away pianos on various sites, usually Craigslist. Just wondering if anyone has disassembled one just for the lumber? While most are probably out of tune and in need of some work, it seems to me there would be a decent quantity of good quality lumber. Most are upright pianos, and the logistics of acquiring one has many considerations, ironically that’s the one thing that poses the least concern for me.


14 replies so far

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mahdee

3553 posts in 1232 days


#1 posted 02-27-2014 05:46 PM

I have disassembled a few upright 1940’s ones; you know, the L shape ones. No lumber worth doing any thing with except the “hammers” for making instruments that I make for fun. The only valuable things are the brass at the bottom and the real elephant husk ivory that was used on the keys. They ivory is illegal to sell and possess, I think. Forgot to mention the wires. The sound board is cast iron.

-- earthartandfoods.com

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#2 posted 02-27-2014 05:56 PM

Hadn’t thought about the metal, I suppose it would have some scrap value, I was hoping there would be more good wood within, aside from what’s on the outside.

View alohafromberkeley's profile

alohafromberkeley

257 posts in 1868 days


#3 posted 02-27-2014 07:11 PM

It’s more work than it’s worth, IMO. There is the soundboard and the keys. Keys can be Ebony and Ivory. Ivory is not illegal to own but is HIGHLY regulated. If you get an old piano get an itemized receipt for it stating date of sale and if possibly when previous owners bought it then get it notarized. The Ivory can land you in jail with a huge fine if you try to move any of it over international borders without complete documentation. For documentation look up CITES and The Lacey Act. (Lacey is what got Gibson into legal problems.)

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

879 posts in 2282 days


#4 posted 02-27-2014 07:34 PM

I’ve been wondering about this myself. My sister’s thinking about getting a new piano. The soundboard’s shot on hers, and I was wondering if it would be worth dismantling it to get the wood from the sides, top and front. Of course the logic of people who like working with recovered/recycled wood is not the same as those who prefer to simply buy their wood in a store in terms of the way we value our time…
Good point, though, about the ivory.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Tim's profile

Tim

3115 posts in 1426 days


#5 posted 02-27-2014 07:38 PM

I would assume if you could find a very old one you’d have better luck finding one made of more desirable wood. 1800s and early 1900s they didn’t really care about cutting down the last of any old growth mahogany, etc. The mahogany and such that the H.O. Studley chest is made out of was apparently scraps available to him from his work at a piano factory. Not sure if any of that would have gone to upright pianos though.

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alohafromberkeley

257 posts in 1868 days


#6 posted 02-27-2014 08:01 PM

I strongly believe in using recycled/recovered wood. If you have the time and inclination, I say go for it- it’s free wood. Keep in mind that uprights weren’t in the same league as grand/baby grands. The wood I’ve seen in uprights seem to have thick finishes on them and it will have to be dealt with. But there is a good amount of flat wood in them…..Interesting about the Studley Chest, not sure if I’ve ever seen “mahogany” and “scraps” in the same sentence!

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

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Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 2828 days


#7 posted 02-27-2014 08:04 PM

+1 to mrjinx. A lot of the upright pianos form the 30-50’s were veneer plywood. Not a whole lot of salvage value there in the wood. You need to go back to the turn of the century and earlier and you would find solid QSWO, but would you really dismantle an antique for some bits of wood?

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mahdee

3553 posts in 1232 days


#8 posted 02-27-2014 08:04 PM

Most of the upright ones are plywood.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4454 posts in 3425 days


#9 posted 02-27-2014 08:07 PM

The sound board is most likely a good quality spruce which was the norm. Sound boards were NOT cast iron. The string frame or “harp” was cast.
I have found some solid woods in the body, but most are veneered.
Uprights were often converted from player pianos. Actions were made from maple.
The pin blocks were heavily laminated maple, and can be used for other projects. BTW, the pin blocks were/are where the tuning pins for the stringing are attached.
First job I had was in a piano shop. Saw a bunch of extremely high quality as well as some average stuff.
Need more info? A pic or brand would be helpful.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#10 posted 02-27-2014 11:02 PM

Don’t have any specific piano’s in mind, I see an average of one a week being given away and just thought if there’s any valuable wood within that it might be worth my effort.

View alohafromberkeley's profile

alohafromberkeley

257 posts in 1868 days


#11 posted 02-27-2014 11:28 PM

Bill, I’ve thought of getting an old soundboard from an upright with the idea of making a guitar- the wood looked nice and was spruce. Older is better but if it still can be tuned then it seems sacrilegious to break down an instrument that still has life. One’s I’ve seen built WWII and later had black stained accidentals and plastic naturals (and the sound wasn’t impressive). My Roland Synth sounds way better…LOL…Wes

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#12 posted 03-02-2014 06:40 PM

Just saw another one: http://cleveland.craigslist.org/zip/4356021904.html This looks like it has nice oak on the key cover and in a few other area, plus it’s only about 25 minutes away.

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mahdee

3553 posts in 1232 days


#13 posted 03-02-2014 06:46 PM

Bill White, I stand corrected on the sound board.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Loren's profile

Loren

8306 posts in 3112 days


#14 posted 03-02-2014 07:14 PM

I doubt it’s worth the hassle for just the wood, but if you
are into harvesting the keys that’s something.

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