Thursday, June 7, 2012

Piano Desk Project (Part 2 Day from Hell)

Part 1: Piano Desk Project Part 1
Part 3: The Finale

Another day down, very little accomplished. With how fast the first days worth of work went I had high hope for finishing up the breakdown quickly today. That was not the case. After 6 hours of work I finally had my one major goal for the day accomplished. With some research my knowledge of piano innards has probably tripled, I still don't know enough to speed up removing a harp. For those who were in my boat here's an explanation. I've found that (generally speaking) the cast iron piece of a piano with the strings attached is referred to as a harp, because essentially that's what it is. If you could tune it and keep it in one piece, outside of the piano you could set it up and sort of play it. Dates back to harpsichord days. Once you remove it all and take the strings off it's usually considered a "plate". Also, being cast iron... it's pretty darn heavy. This one I'm guessing was somewhere between 200 and 300 pounds.

So the first few hours were slow going, I was trying to figure out how it was all attached. Finally I got it laid onto it's back with the desk removed and had access to lift it straight out once I had it loose. There were about 30 giant lag screws and I removed all of them and it still wouldn't budge. I had been trying to keep all the strings intact if I could but that didn't happen, which ended up making this the more dangerous day. I had snipped a couple of strings in this picture to access the covered screws but it was still solidly attached. It was around now that I decided to try to loosen one of the tuning pins to see if I could just take the strings off without cutting it. That's when I realized they were almost 3 inches long and went into the wood, serving as screws to hold it all on. There were about 300 of them. The danger here is that now I knew I had to snip all the strings, some of them were under pretty serious tension, so if I didn't put anything on top to dampen the snap they would shoot about 30 feet out the shop door or until they hit something. Safety first here.

Now I started to remove the pins one at a time, but they are square headed so I had to use vise grips and spin one at a time. I did about 15 of those and thought "there has to be a better way" I sat and thought for awhile, I had already tried sockets, but they didn't fit because it was square. Then I had the idea to turn it upside down because a ratchet is square, and it fit! But I still didn't have a way to turn it any better. Then I had the bright idea that I could reverse a bit in the drill so it would fit the socket end, and magic, now I had a powered way to remove the pins. Thought it still took about an hour.

Here you've got square peg, square hole.

And here you have round peg round hole?

I just matched up the right size socket and put it in a a corded drill (if you're actually doing this you need the extra power)

About an hour later I finally had everything removed and the harp free. Then I could just lift it out, which was awkward because of the shape and weight, but not too bad compared to how tiring the rest of the day was. If it weren't so heavy it would be a great piece of something. I'll ask Nancy if she wants it for her class to use, but it's so heavy you can't have it stand up on it's own, can't hang it on a wall, can't do anything much with it except sit it on the ground and be glad you don't have to take out another one. With that out I decided to call it a day and stop working since technically the breakdown is done now. Anything else that get's removed will be because I want to change the shape or put in shelves or do something along those lines.

Here it is, standing back up, with the desk back in. The "lid" to it, the top piece on hinges actually fits pretty nice still and makes a good top shelf. I'm not sure what to do about the back still. I kind of life the curved soundboard pieces that are left over, and the curved holes from the tuning pins, but I may open all of that up to expose the support beams on the back and have it open completely

I like the look of the supports from the back and think that seeing those open from the front would look really nice. Pros and cons of that are:

A: it would lighten the whole thing even more which is good and
B: I think it would look nice

I'd lose the curved pieces.... though I'm not entirely sure that bothers me. The bottom is the cracked one that started this whole project and I cracked the top right corner of the curve trying to pry the harp up.

Something to think about. I'm also leaning towards stripping it all down and staining it an almost black brown, that would let just a show the wood grain on it, the downside of that is I'd lose the fancy script name, but I'm not sure how I'll be using that piece anyway. I'll give it some thought while I start to lay out the actual desk tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. This is probably one of the coolest things I've seen. Can't wait to see the final product!