Repurposing A Piano

LaurieLovesLearning ModeratorManitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin
edited July 18 in Building Projects

We got a new to us, free 1900 Heintzman to replace our slightly newer old piano. The old one had cracks forming in the soundboard & was at a place where it no longer made sense to keep it hanging on.

Instead of moving the whole (retired) thing out at once, we decided to dismantle it instead. We have been trying to figure out how to repurpose as much of it as we can.

The main body may be useful as a deep bookcase. I thought of creating a blanket chest, but the one part that could be used as a front is actually two, so it would complicate that idea. The front leg area might work as part of a console table. The bottom cover could make a headboard. The upper behind the books part, I thought could be a coat rack/shelf, but it is pretty heavy for that, I think. The keyboard cover leaves me stumped. The felt hammers could be keychains or Christmas decorations. The strings might be able to be formed into musical Christmas decorations. There are bead like parts that could be beads for something, but I don't know what.

The ivory & ebony haven't yet been checked to see if they are authentic or not, but it is possible. I understand that sometimes the ivory can be used as inlay on instruments and the ebony might be able to be carvable. I've read that the wood behind the harp can sometimes be used for instrument making.

If we had a playroom, the harp part would prove popular for kids. Ours have been strumming and gently hitting the strings with the hammers with ear pleasing (for them) results. It has gotten a little overwhelming at times for us adults. I don't know if it could be donated somewhere for a purpose like this?

I checked Pinterest and a few other places for ideas, but wondered if any of you might have additional ideas.

I will leave you with a bunch of old piano pictures and a picture of our new to us beauty.


  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 4,096 admin

    I can't imagine... I have an old Brambach built in 1900. It is a massive beast with extremely thick oak. I want to refurbish it. The hammers don't fall back back. Other than that, it just needs tuning. I do recall there was an electric guitar (etc) builder who used old pianos for their tone woods.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin
    edited July 18

    @judsoncarroll4 Could you share a picture of it here?

    If you can refurbish it, do so. This one was past that point and there is no way we could ever do so considering what the price would likely be to get it redone. Ivory key replacement alone could cost $1000 US from what I had read, and that's if it could be found and that could also take a long time to find.

    I just don't want it to go to waste. Some people just throw them out! You are fortunate if you can give one away AND not have to move it to its new home also for free.

    I want to honor the builders by giving new life to as much of it as I can. We kept it as long as we could as a piano & I had to make peace with the thought that it was its end of life as a piano. :(

    I see the hand painted flowers on the metalwork inside and wish I could save that too, but that is not likely.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 4,096 admin

    I will try to do so soon... it is in storage, at the very back. The ivory has a few very minor chips and a scratch from someone who wore a ring doing the glissando like Liberace at some point inti its musical life. Other than that, there is no damage. The sound board is solid. The insides are all very, very heavy brass. The pedals work. The veneer is actually tiger oak! She'll be a beauty if she survives summer in the South in storage! I paid a dear old lady in a nursing home $400 for it. We both thought it a fair price. The shipping label from 1901 was still inside. It says the piano is an "upright grand"... not sure what that means exactly, but if you take the front panel off, it does look just like a grand piano inside.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin

    @judsoncarroll4 I really don't know what they meant by upright grand unless it was just a marketing thing. An upright takes way less space than a normal grand. I suspect it was used as optics to sell more pianos to the less wealthy that had less room.

    Our new piano also states "Upright Grand" as well.

    The Heintzman is a good brand, respected still today.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 4,096 admin

    Unfortunately, Brahmbach was never a true brand name. Back then, a lot of instruments were made by small factories or artisans and then sold through department stores and such, who would brand them under their own trade names. Some of the finest instruments of the 1920s or so where made by immigrant craftsmen in Chicago and even sold though the Sears Catalogue! IN the 50s-70s, many of those names were sold to Asian companies who made very cheap, low quality instruments... Brahmbach was one. So, the amount I paid was well worth it for the quality and the work entailed, but I'll never be able to re-sell it, even if i wanted to. I did find that Jerry Lee Lewis played an almost identical piano on this album:

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin

    Canada had its piano making heyday back in the day as well. I believe Toronto boasted quite a few world class piano makers. It is interesting where the piano makers (some former furniture/organ makers...I can believe that) were drawn to work their magic.

    As I researched various pianos that we were considering (and we missed a really good one about 2 months ago). I learned a lot about various pianos & the histories behind them. You are right that some were certainly cheaper made and that happened especially as the companies got sold to Asian companies.

    There is just no comparison to the great workmanship of old in pianos today. They may have some "improvements" but the sound is nowhere close to the pianos of yesteryear in their prime. I'm absolutely sure of that.

  • water2world
    water2world Sherry Jochen Sevierville, TNPosts: 507 ✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning The old pianos are wonderful. One day, I decided to refinish ours. I was amazed at how may parts I could remove! That little project become huge, but I was able to refinish it piece by piece!

    Can't wait to hear what you did /what you used the parts for.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,659 admin

    We tore a piano apart one time and used so many of the pieces. It was a hard decision to take it apart but it needed so much work and we had another piano.

    Most of the family has some part in taking it apart it was a family event. My mother also used parts of the piano in some of her artwork.

    I see a lot of pianos around her for free. Now that I have a truck I can go pick them up - as long as I have a purpose for them.

    This was on shabby creek cottages site and I saved it. I have many seamstresses in the family and thought they might enjoy this

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin
    edited July 21

    @Monek Marie Just think of all the extra storage space in the lower portion. I would make sure that was used as well.

    Haha, just looking at the picture, you'd better use the correct pedal if you want the machine to work.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 292 ✭✭✭

    I woulda turned it into an herb garden, put the legs in planters and plant beans or loofah and let them run all over the piano. That would look so cool. Now I'm gonna google it and see if anyone has done it.😂

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 471 ✭✭✭✭

    We paid to move what we were told was a great piano- and it turned out to be a beautiful piece of total junk. Pretty disappointing. I keep thinking maybe I can turn it into a bookshelf somehow, and right now it is draped with drying herbs, beans, and the family board game collection. I LOVED the sewing case idea. I have my grandmother’s sewing machine in the garage and need a way to get it in the house attractively.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,659 admin
    edited July 22

    @LaurieLovesLearning yes, I looked at the lower part of the piano and thought about all that storage space

    @nicksamanda11 I have seen pianos as indoor gardens and out door gardens, Outdoors they would fall apart fast. They are stunningly beautiful

    @Megan Venturella I have seen bookcases made from old pianos. Since I have enough books to cover walls a piano would be a cool idea. I also love the sewing case idea. I showed it to family and they all loved it. We do a lot of sewing in our family

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,636 admin

    One reason I didn't consider the garden idea is because many pianos were built with really good woods, & in some cases, exotics. The exposure of wood to high moisture would destroy that wood quickly and that is why I would choose to use it in a different way. I would like to see it last.

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

-Mahatma Gandhi