Piano Bookcase

5 Materials
$100
3 Months
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I had seen a number of pictures of pianos repurposed into bars and bookcases. I made the mistake of telling a friend that I was considering doing one myself. Very shortly afterwards, he called me and told me there was a baby grand available for a mere $40.

Piano with most of the working parts removed

It was a Cable Nelson and the serial number suggests it was from the late 1930s. I failed to take before photos only in progress photos, but they are available on the internet. It had seen better days so I had few reservations about converting it.


Even after I dismantled it and removed the large metal harp I was amazed at how heavy it was. YouTube has multiple videos about dismantling pianos, but one should pay special attention to the safety precautions because the strings are under extreme tension. 

Carcass with the cabinet added.

Once I got it dismantled it sat for several months before I returned to the project. 

When I returned to it the the major steps (hurdles) were:


Removing the bridges. A chisel and brute force was required because even with the screws removed, the bridges (which support the strings) were still glued to the sounding board. 


Repairing the carcass. The interior of the piano and the sounding board required considerable filling/sanding with auto body filler. 


Adding a cabinet. There was a depth difference in the area between the keys and the sounding board so I added a cabinet. Luckily I was able to cut panels from a door to make the sides and used plywood to make the top, bottom and back. My wife had the idea to put a door on the cabinet using another door panel. Bun feet were added to raise the bookcase slightly off the floor. 

A good representation of the before keys.

Re-doing the keys. The white keys were in terrible shape . I removed the ivory that remained and gave it to a friend for use in his luthier hobby. I then recovered the keys with iron-on oak veneer. 

Keys after veneering

Covering the sounding board. Because the sounding board had so many repairs, I decoupaged it with very old sheet music I purchased for a song (pun intended) on Craigslist.

Inside the cabinet

Creating shelving. The cabinet and bookcase shelves were cut from the original piano top and the front edges were veneered to allow them to be stapined and varnished. 


Painting and finishing. As mentioned earlier, the interior back was decoupaged with sheet music, The interior was painted black, and the exterior and shelving were stained. Everything received several coats of urethane varnish. In hindsight I think I would have done the finishing and painting and then the decoupaging. 

Finished bookcase with the door closed.

Conclusion

It is designed to be a bookcase, but could serve as a back bar. I am happy with how the project ended up, but it took much longer than anticipated- primarily because of the head scratching required, and the cooler (winter) temperature in my shop made finishing difficult. I hope to share a photo

 of it “at home” with accessories after I find a buyer. 

It was a challenging project and I still have parts and pieces of the piano I hope to incorporate into future projects.


Thanks for viewing,

John


UPDATE: 4/21/2019





  • Most of all I wish to thank everyone for the interest and kind words.
  • This piano sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2018 and another person asked me to repurpose their family piano. I was reluctant, but they already had a new piano and sincerely wished to keep their old one.
  • It is a baby grand that will be a bookcase, yet with a different orientation and details. I was able to remove extra pieces of the piano to lighten it up. I should have it done and posted in the next couple weeks and will provide a link on this posting.
  • Once again, thanks to everyone the support.

John


6/14/19 I have posted the new piano repurposing project, see link below.

Suggested materials:

  • Baby Grand Piano   (auction house/consignment shop)
  • Oak and walnut iron on veneer edging.   (Menards)
  • Stripper and finishing supplies
See all materials

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  15 questions
  • Sharon Nave Porter Sharon Nave Porter on May 05, 2017
    I love this! My husband is minister of Music for our church and Band, choir and music director for our local high school. May I ask how much you are wanting for it?

  • Val Val on May 05, 2017
    Just curious, how much? Family of musicians here...it's beautiful...
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 05, 2017
      I really don't have a firm number. Based on what I saw on ETSY I am thinking in the $3000 to 5000 range. Your response/opinion is appreciated.
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 07, 2017
      My wife informed me that I am shooting for the moon and $1000 to $2500 is a better estimate.
  • Marilyn Cappadona Curson Marilyn Cappadona Curson on May 05, 2017
    I have the two sides of very intricate matal from a park bench. Any ideas what I could make with these that us not another bench?
    • Dottiewilkie Dottiewilkie on May 05, 2017
      I did a "park bench" with a glass seat, used on covered patio for plant stand. I'll try to send pic later.
    • Martha Jay Martha Jay on May 05, 2017
      Headboard?
    • Wyldecent Wyldecent on May 05, 2017
      Make each piece a side of a split gate?
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 05, 2017
      I have metal supports from some theatre seats. Someday I will use them as wall brackets to hang signs from chains. if you need a photo, I can probably find one.
    • Sheila D Sheila D on May 05, 2017
      You could incorporate them into a flower garden to look like an entry gate or mixed in with flowers as a trellis.
    • Inspired Spaces Inspired Spaces on May 09, 2017
      I think they could look stunning as supports for a garden sink, or bathroom sink basin.
  • Melvin Dinsmore Melvin Dinsmore on May 05, 2017
    I have been interested in the old piano's. I would like to get one and make something of it. I was always wandering how much they weigh when the inners are removed. I would like a upright piano. Thanks Mel
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 05, 2017
      My experience is limited to one upright and one baby grand that had "the innards" removed. I am guessing taking out the soundinfd boards and some of the working mechanism reduces the weight by one half. Intact it takes about 4 able bodies to lift them, stripped two can do it. This is a best estimate and I hope it helps.
    • Susan Susan on May 07, 2017
      I'm trying to GIVE one away and can't. Gee I don't know where you're located but my luck says nowhere near me! Ugh
    • Mar22613609 Mar22613609 on May 28, 2017
      Pianoadoption.com shows free pianos by state. Inspecting and moving them is the hardest part. Need professionals to do that right.
  • Angie Arelliano Angie Arelliano on May 07, 2017
    I love this idea! I have an upright piano that's about 60 years old, keys gone flat and been wanting to sell or donate it. Seeing your idea, maybe I could refurnish it, too! Just don't know how to start! Any ideas?
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 07, 2017
      Start by looking at photos of repurposed pianos on the internet and see what others have done with some uprights. I don't want to discourage anyone from venturing out, but repurposing a piano isn't an easy task. Primarily because the are so heavy Then you have to make the decision of what to keep and what to remove throughout the process. Youtube.com has some videos.
    • Jane bohlen Jane bohlen on May 08, 2017
      You are very talented. I have never seen a repurposed piano. I would like to see the keys white just so I could make a comparison.
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 09, 2018

      I just saw a repurposed upright on Hometalk (https://www.hometalk.com/20058240/how-to-repurpose-a-piano-into-a-bar-drinks-cabinet?r=2). It looks good.

  • Mcg9273985 Mcg9273985 on Jun 12, 2017
    This is an amazing project!
    Gorgeous, if only I had the room...
    I'll have to keep dreaming lol

  • Peggylu42 Peggylu42 on Apr 20, 2019

    Such a neat project, beautiful work John.

  • Zona D Zona D on Apr 20, 2019

    Comment...this is awesome..I had an old Wing upright and let someone have it..Wish I had kept it...Such a neat idea!

  • Ellen Morrison Kelley Ellen Morrison Kelley on Apr 27, 2019

    You took the ivory off the keys. Then what did you do with the keys?

    • Lizettemwright Lizettemwright on Apr 27, 2019

      Look at the place where the keys belong - to the right; they’re still there!

    • Daphne Daphne on Apr 27, 2019

      I love this. But would have left the key's their natural color. Beautiful work!

    • Marilyn Marilyn on Apr 27, 2019

      What did your friend do to repos the ivory keys you have her?

    • Lupe Lupe on Apr 27, 2019

      He said he gave them to a friend for his craft project.

    • Lupe Lupe on Apr 27, 2019

      He says he gave them to a friend

    • Michelle Lemon Michelle Lemon on Apr 28, 2019

      I want to see the craft project done with the ivory keys

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Apr 28, 2019

      Lizzette is correct- I removed the thin ivory (white) key covers and veneered the wood keys with oak and returned them to the bookcase. If I were to do it again I would have used birch veneer and kept them much lighter in color.


      The friend I gave the remaining (salvageable) ivory covers to is a luthier. He makes stringed instruments (guitars, banjo,, and mandolins. He will use (probably has used) the ivory in intricate inlays on the finger boards. I'll see if I can get a photo.

    • Debra Johnson Debra Johnson on Apr 30, 2019

      Beautiful job!!!

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 17, 2019

      I am going to do a postings on what: my friend did with key covers from this project; and what I did with these keys. Here is a sneak preview of some of his inlay work on a banjo.

  • Maria Maria on Apr 27, 2019

    Comment GREAT JOB

  • Donna Donna on Jun 02, 2019

    Incredibly creative! The keys especially, I LOVE them!! Cant wait to see your next piano project. Following.

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Jun 02, 2019

      Thank you very much. The new piano should be delivered and installed this week so I can get some after photos and post it.

  • Jennifer Wright Bandy Jennifer Wright Bandy on Jun 02, 2019

    Was the piano not playable anymore (before becoming a bookcase)?

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Jun 03, 2019

      I am not a musician so can’t really say. It made noise, but it was lingering in an auction house and wasn’t getting any bids. I paid $40 so I just have to assume its musical life was over and it was unwanted. I have an opportunity right now to get a beautiful looking upright, just for picking it up. This happens quite often. I am struggling with passing on it.


      Not being defensive, but this is a common concern when one repurposes/transforms an item. If you follow postings here, people are often scolded for painting wood furniture. I lean to towards the person doing the work, making the call.

  • Scott Scott on Aug 21, 2019

    Did you ever end up selling this one?

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Aug 21, 2019

      Yes.

      Currently there is a beautiful upright available just for hauling. If I can sneak it home I think it will be a fall/winter project for a bar, a desk, or a workstation.

  • Kit Flanagan Kit Flanagan on Oct 26, 2019

    What does the inside shelf’s look like ? This is an Awesome Idea 🍀

  • Freda Freda on Dec 15, 2019

    How do you use a small up right piano

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Dec 15, 2019

      The internet is full of photos of desks, benches, bars, aquarium stands, etc all made from pianos. Pinterest has pages and pages of them. Search “repurpose pianos”.


      There are also ideas for using the “piano parts” that are left over.


      My only a caution is to realize that a piano is very heavy and comprise of parts that are individually heavy by themselves.


      Good luck.

Comments

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3 of 226 comments
  • Brandy Rahim Brandy Rahim on Dec 29, 2019

    Such an amazing shelf that you made thanks for sharing.

  • Marsha Marsha on Jan 13, 2021

    Fabulous! Definitely you hit the “high note”👏👏 Wish I lived where you do……you’d have another customer!

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Jan 13, 2021

      Thank you. I truly thought this would be the only one I would do. If you check my postings you will find another piano bookcase and some about repurposing the keys.

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