Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Piano Desk Project (Part 1)

Part 2: A day from hell
Part 3: The Finale

Here's the background, the school has 4 or 5 pianos, 2 of them are always in our practice rooms and aren't in great shape. We've got one of those however that simply can't be tuned anymore, the soundboard is cracked and there are various other issues with it that we decided it has reached the end of it's life. So, because we're a crafty bunch we've decided to save as much of it as we can. Which is where I come in. Yesterday I started to strip the piano down and take out the guts inside. All of the keys/hammers/etc everything I can pull out will go to Nancy and Janet and be used in 3D art pieces. The rest they've left to me. Once I get it all apart I'm going to turn the frame into a desk (which may be a little less work than I had originally thought, more on that later).

Here is where I started, around 2pm yesterday. I have a picture of the registration tag on the back, and I've saved it to reapply to the new desk when I'm finished, but I can't figure out how old the piano is. Partially because Chickering and Sons doesn't exist anymore, they were bought out by Baldwin, and Baldwin is owned by Gibson guitars, so there are a few layers of obscurity there and I can't just enter the number anymore and find out the details.

Though once I get back down to school I can check the serial number and have a general range that should  give me the approximate age of the piano and then I can do some more research.

This was an easy level to get to because all of the pieces here that are gone are made to come off. The face just clips in and out and the bottom section just slides in and out, the nice part is I think I'll leave the bottom open for storage which means the front panel will make nice wood to turn into shelf pieces or drawers.

Here you can see all the pieces I've laid out. I've got them sorted with all the hardware I've removed and even though I'm almost done breaking it down I'm 90% sure I could reassemble it all successfully and have it back to working order again if I had to. The keys here are on a sort of tray, it's part of the mechanism but once you remove a couple of screws the whole thing can lift out.

This is what the frame looked like at the same point in time. (almost) the green felt and frame are the tray I just mentioned. In the previous picture the keys are all resting back on top of that frame. The only pieces left to remove at this point really are the hammers which you're staring directly at, and the cast iron (that's where the weight comes from) Plate that the strings are attached to. I haven't really figured out how I'm going to remove that. It's screwed to the frame with big lag screws and some of them fall under the strings so I don't have access to them. I'd like to keep these all intact and not have to cut any strings so I may try to drill out the screws that I can't remove. If that works the only remaining hassle will be actually pulling the cast iron out. Though I may sit the piano down on it's back which would allow me to pull the iron out the top.

Here's what it all looks like with the key frame removed as well as the hammers. The hammer mechanism is pretty complicated but it also is one solid unit. So it's held in by a couple of thumb screws for adjusting (which will make nice pull knobs for drawers on it) and once they are removed the whole thing lifts out. I was actually pretty surprised at what a solid desktop it already makes. I thought I'd have to make a new top, but other than some screw holes in it, that is a solid smooth piece of wood. I'll sand it down and find some stain that matches the rest of the piano and the top may be done. I'll leave the rest of exact what I'm planning to do a secret for now since I haven't gotten around to testing any of it or sketched anything with measurements yet. I am however, confident that I'll be able to reuse about 98% of this piano. In this picture and the last you can see 3 strips of what I think is poplar which connects all the pedal mechanisms, I'll even be able to use those. The only stuff I'll be throwing out is some of the old hardware and maybe some small scraps once I start cutting pieces down. ALL of the rest will become art projects and so this whole thing will get a brand new life. I'll leave here with some final pictures of pieces. Everybody may have seen them on facebook already but I think I'll have to print and frame a couple for my office because of how they turned out. I only wish I'd had my real camera and not my ipod camera. Boooo.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Can't wait to see the finished project!