Repurposing Ivory Piano Key Covers: Banjo Inlays

John Biermacher
by John Biermacher
2 Materials
2 Months

I have done some projects that involve repurposing pianos and/or piano parts. A piano that I repurposed into a bookcase was featured on Hometalk’s daily e-email ( and generated many kind and supportive comments. There were also several questions and comments on the keys.

On that particular project, the keys were in bad shape, so I removed the ivory covers, veneered the keys with oak, and used them in the bookcase.

The ivory covers I gave to Tom Frost, a friend and a luthier. A luthier is not a member of a religious sect, but someone who makes string instruments, typically violins, banjoes, guitars, and mandolins.

The purpose of this posting is to share some pictures of some of his instruments and show how Tom inlays the ivory. I can’t say for sure which project the ivory came from.

Banjo with ivory inlay.

Tom is a retired tool and die maker and the detail and exactness is obvious in his work. 

A closer look at the neck

Carved sides.
Carved back.

Tom calls this banjo a potty resonator because it incorporates a bedpan. He has also made a banjo using an antique Ford hubcap.

Inlay on the neck of the resonator.

I can’t provide much discussion about his work, because it is way beyond my level of detail. I do know that: much of his work requires the use of a magnifying headset; and that he is a talented wood worker and musician. 

Suggested materials:
  • N/A
  • N/A
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • Meem Kaplan Meem Kaplan on Aug 08, 2019

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people "see" something and make it!!! Being a crafter my entire life, I value all his excellent work. I hope neither of you mind my adding both those posts to my "Favorites" as every time I look at them, it inspires me yet again!

  • Gig69451122 Gig69451122 on Apr 30, 2023

    I'm a guitarist & have never seen work like this. Qwite remarkable. I'm curious... does the bed pan , have a tinny sound? Or, additional vibration? Thank you 🙂