My Father has been given the task of arranging to have an old piano removed
from the Church basement and disposing of it. He suggested to me that it may
be a source of some decent wood. Has any one ever taken a piano apart ( I'm
concerned about those high tension strings)and is there enough usable wood
for the effort involved ?
You are right to be concerned about the tension on the harp (if there is one)
and soundboard created by the strings. It has been many years since I dug
around inside of pianos, but I seem to remember the number 1600 as related to
strings. I don't know if that was for a spinet, an upright, or a grand. Which
ever it was, if you decide to do it, use care and wear safety gear.
If you don't have a tuning hammer (most of us don't) releasing the strings will
not be easy. Cutting them will cause them to fly.
If I remember correctly, the process was to work the strings across the board,
one from each note at a time. Do not start at one end and work to the other.
This will create an imbalance that could cause things to come apart in a very
As for the wood in the instrument, again, depending on the type of piano, there
could be some useful stuff. The case, if it is a real good piano will be solid.
Otherwise, you will find that it is veneer over (most likely) spruce. The
soundboard will yield the biggest blocks, but the will probably be laminated,
and again will probably be spruce.
You will find that many of the parts will come off with a screwdriver. The
works should come out with a pair of pliers.
The main structure of the case will be glued, probably with hide glue.
If you manage to get it into manageable chunks, be sure to use a metal detector
on the pieces before trying to machine any of them. Nobody knows what hidden
treasures can be buried deep inside the wood.
Hope this is of some help.
New Eagle, PA
If you are not concerned about damaging the tuning pins the strings are
attached to, you can use a pair of pliers or a vice-grip to release the
tension on the string. Then, you can remove the string, or cut it safely.
The soundboards of old pianos are probably spruce, and that is typically
I found a piano once that had five-inch-think burl walnut in the side of the
case. That was marvelous wood.
Not sure the others have ever taken a piano apart. Strings are attached to
the "harp, " a cast iron framework, and not the soundboard. No way in hell
spruce could take the load. Leave the strings alone and hope that the
junkman doesn't notice, or get some 8-point sockets to loosen them. There's
good cast iron there.
Unless you have an absolutely top-end grand piano, it's not worth a nickel
for the wood. Spinets/uprights are all small pieces, usually glazed to hide
the poplar that edges the walnut veneer and such. Under the veneered
exterior you'll find it's pretty much like upholstered furniture, made of
any wood available, glue slathered all over it.
It's the church, so gather your recruits and get it out of there. That's if
it's not otherwise useful. Lots of schools would like a useable instrument,
though they probably wouldn't pick up.
George (in 43e09f6a email@example.com) said:
| It's the church, so gather your recruits and get it out of there.
| That's if it's not otherwise useful. Lots of schools would like a
| useable instrument, though they probably wouldn't pick up.
I like the way you think. So might another church, a nursing home, a
youth activity center, or ...
DeSoto, Iowa USA
I have .... when I was about 9 years old. It was being discarded and my
brother and I took it apart for fun.
True, that hunk of cast iron is at least half the weight of the piano.
IIRC, we used a socket wrench to get them started and a socket on a (good
ole pre-cordless) drill to finish 'm off.
Maybe I have not been around that many "good" pianos, but I would guess
veneer is used on nearly all exposed surfaces.
Buy hey, it still might be fin to take apart, and pianos are a b*tch to
move, so smaller pieces are easier.
I tune my own piano, and a 1/4" or 3/8" (I can't remember which) square
drive socket fits the pins just fine. I just took a 1/2" socket, stuck
a 1/2" allen wrench in the hex end, and use the square end to turn the
pins. Since tuning a piano requires very precise turns, I screwed a
1/2" diameter hole in a 2x2x3' piece of maple into which I put the
handle of the allen wrench. Presto, I have a long-handled "wrench"
which fits the piano pins.
I had a good friend who was a journeyman piano tuner, and he told me
that the cast iron harp inside the piano can have upwards of 20,000
pounds of force on it from the strings. Yes, that's ten tons.
Thus, I'd loosen the strings with pliers or the wrench as I described.
Just turn them to unwind the wire until there's slack in the wire. As
Bill said above, definitely stagger the strings as you loosen them.
Don't start at one end and work your way to the other.
Thanks for all of the input and advice(warnings).. I went and had a look at
it. Most of the veneer was peeling and blistering and yes there were small
steel pins in some of the wood. The cast iron harp was rusted as were all of
the tuning pins and strings. This piano has been sitting in the basement of
a country Church built in the 1800's and the dampness has taken it's toll
.I'll leave the dismantling and disposal to the pros.
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