Step 5: Removing the Strings

A quick internet search and you can find any number of theories and warnings about how to remove the strings on a piano.  Uprights will have anywhere between 15 and 20 tons of tension on the harp and not handled properly, could  break and release all of that force at one time.  Obviously this would be a less than ideal situation so with a little common sense, proper tools and some protective clothing, most anyone can handle this task.

Method #1: (potentially the safest method)  You could, if you were patient and had the right wrench, loosen each of the strings evenly across the harp gradually lowering the tension.  If you decide you don't want to buy a special wrench and still want to go this route, I found that even if you have no regard for the tuning pins and find a socket to fit, you will almost certainly strip the square pins because they're tapered and are made with soft metal that deforms without the correct size of wrench

Method #2: (Outright dangerous and I strongly warn you not to do it!) An adventurous person who had the right combination of testosterone and stupidity might find it entertaining to remove the harp with the strings intact (more on that later) and bash it with something heavy and hard like a sledge hammer to release the tension.  The metal is brittle and will break for you if you are tough enough with it, BUT you will also send 180 or so sharp bronze wires flying about whatever space you are working in and potentially hurt yourself or others severely.  So don't do it!

Method #3: (Method that I actually used) Loosening the strings slowly would have taken me a couple of days (even with the right wrench) so I decided to cut the strings with cable cutters.  You can't just go cutting all willy-nilly because doing so could cause the tension on the harp to become unbalanced enough to break the brittle metal.  To keep it all safe I cut the strings at intervals, spacing the cuts about every 15-20 strings, thus keeping the tension relatively even across the harp.  This worked really well and the whole process took roughly an hour once I got going.  After the strings are cut and removed you can use a pair of pliers to pull out the short ends from the tuning pins.  Also note the strings don't go too far when they are cut but they definitely have potential to hurt you so safety is essential during this step and I highly recommend full protective clothing.  Side-note: I have a friend who took a piano out of his basement and decided to just cut the strings straight across w/o staggering the cuts and the harp did not break on him.  While the harp is brittle, it's also quite strong.

Required gear for this method:

•   sturdy long sleeves (think carhart, thick shirt or possibly welding jackets)
•   leather work gloves
•   EYE PROTECTION! goggles and a face shield are ideal.  Glasses are OK but wires could get behind them.
•   good shoes
•   good pair of wire cutters.  ( I'm a bicycle mechanic and I had a pair of bike cable cutters that worked perfectly for this job.  Side cutting pliers or other cable cutters will work as well, just keep in mind the strings are close together and may be hard to access.)

**You'll find that when you cut one wire the ones next to it or a couple down will go slack.  That's because the wires are wrapped from one tuning pin down around a pin at the bottom of the harp back up to another tuning pin.  Keep this in mind when you are spacing out your cuts.

Steps for cutting the strings:

•   Cut the strings evenly across the harp.

•   Remove the cut strings and bundle them carefully

•   You can then remove the short bits of wire from the tuning pins if you don't want to risk sticking yourself later on. (Just a thought)

<p>I'm astounded! I really thought it was a piano before I saw the pictures of the unit opened up! I suppose the fact that it's been hollowed out means you don't have to get professional removalists to more the things around now right?</p>
<p>Now if only moving a piano was as easy as it looks in these photos haha! Still can't beat us trying to haul a 3 seater sofa up by the balcony a few years back!</p>
<p>Phish814, great idea and love the finish product. Thank you for posting. </p><p>I am working on a tear-down of my piano too, for a same type of project. Just thought I would share. I read somewhere, that once you remove the tuning pins (and all the screws too) the harp just lift right out . I found for me, taking a any 1/4&quot; socket, and turning it around (using the square end) in a hammer drill at a low speed worked perfect. Only took about 2 hours total to remove all the pins and string.</p><p>Just thought I would pass on that bit of information for anybody else doing this.</p><p>As for if it lifted right out, I haven't got that far yet, so I can't say if it will work or not.</p>
<p>What lowpro said!! Also, in the process of dismantling the piano, did you gather enough information to do the next one without tearing up the case (hammer wounds, etc.)? Honestly, I don't give two poops about the piano itself, but the reclaimed tone-wood from those old beauties is of a quality that almost brings tears to my eyes and I'd rather see it re-used than incinerated or land-filled.</p>
This is what inspired my own piano bench! Man, its been years since I made this desk. Using it right now!
I am not excited for this day to come. Thanks for the great suggestions to prepare. Hopefully our <a href="http://www.moving.ca/ottawa.htm" rel="nofollow">moving companies ottawa</a> are just as ready!
This is beautiful. It most definitely should belong in the <a href="http://www.cunninghampiano.com/" rel="nofollow">Steinway piano gallery in Washington DC.</a> It's really cool to be able to see all the different kinds of pianos. It's wonderful.
I'm sure that <a href="http://www.moving.ca/ottawa.htm" rel="nofollow">moving companies ottawa</a> wish that they knew about this kind of stuff.
Thank you so much for sharing this article, its been most helpful. I have been stressing out about how we were going to move our piano. Its been in my family for as long as I can remember. I was going to have the <a href="http://www.bc-albertamovers.com/cities/lethbridge" rel="nofollow">movers Lethbridge</a> help us out but I need to save as much money as possible. I really hope this works out!
Thanks for sharing this great instructable! I was wondering how easy is it to load up <a href="http://www.movingorbit.com" rel="nofollow">moving trucks</a> with that lifting tool? Thanks in advance for any feedback.
As someone who has moved several times, I can vouch for all of your tips here. Preparation is definitely the biggest key to a successful and timely move. We also hired a <a href="http://www.packingandmovers.com" rel="nofollow">moving company in Dallas, TX</a> for our last move, and it helped us out a ton.
Oh man, I wish I had one of these when we were moving my piano. Why are pianos such a beast to move? They are so heavy! Where can I get something like this? If I had one of these I could rearrange my living room anytime I wanted. Thank you for your help!
I think for something as fragile and old as that you would want a bigger, more secure <a href="http://www.moving.ca/ottawa.htm" rel="nofollow">moving truck</a> wouldn't you?!
Up cycle strings to make cheese cutter? I knew someone who made an old piano into a bar. Makes for a great conversation starter. I used to work at a yamaha piano dealership. I liked studying the inside of the piano and playing with some hammers that came in for repairs (not hired as technician) than teaching music to children (hired as piano teacher).
I think that we will end up having to hire a <a href="http://vicks-expressmovingsvs.com" rel="nofollow">long distance moving</a> company. It seems like $200 is too bad for having someone help you move. I just wonder how much it will be to hire someone for long distance. We don't have much extra money to spend on moving help, so hopefully we can afford it.
Heh! I gotta extol the virtue of a good angle grinder &amp; cut off wheel here. You can make sectional cuts without burning/gouging up the wood then take the casting out piece by piece (close to wood cuts can be partials &amp; use a 2.5Lb sledge to fracture the rest of the cut,,, just don&acirc;€™t miss, or use a cold chisel to transmit the force). <br /> <br /> Also, getting the tuning pegs out can be fairly easily (but still time consuming) by using a 3/8&acirc;€ hex(allen) drive bit in your drill, attach a quarter inch drive 6 point 3/8&acirc;€ socket BACKWARDS to the drive bit, and the square drive hole should let you back the pins out fairly easily. The pins usually have very fine, subtle threading on them that will help w/ the removal. <br /> <br />Hope this is useful. Thanks again for the instructable. <br />
Just an FYI. I once used an angle grinder w/ a cut off wheel to remove the strings. It worked real well, but wore the wheel down so fast I can only liken it to trying to cutting with a spinning soda cracker. <br /> <br /> Thx for the instructable.
like to add i am a custom car audio installer so automation n motorization will go into my build. stay tuned, i may post an ible or at the very least a finished product
i have a great shop...but its yet to be heated. so i have been looking at rolltop desks for my computer desk, due to the massive size of the desk i am sitting at now. i tend to &quot;tinker&quot; inside during the winter months, and this would rock my interior design as well in my house. desk/bench, n winter workshop in one....AWESOME!!!!!
Well, I suppose if you aren't going to take the time to learn to play the piano, you could turn a beautiful stand-up model into a workbench. Kudos!<br>
I love this project! Thank you so much for the idea!
foot pedal wireing .works but needs straightened up. the silver tube is the linear actuator
monitor in down position
my piano desk ,I rigged the foot pedals to turn on lights and raise and lower monitor on a linear actuator
What have you started ? I just picked up a second piano and haven't finished the first ! I think I've become a piano junky. Help , <br>my garage and marriage may suffer because of my new addiction!
I hope you're marriage stays healthy but I think garages are made for suffering. Haha
Is the piano very heavy now that you converted it into a workbench?
The harp in mine weighed in at exactly 250 pounds at the scrap yard. with that out and the front panels removed it can easily be moved by a couple of adults. I would guess it's a bulky 75-ish pounds-so pretty easy for two.
Ps I didn't see anything as beautiful as the piano you used ,good score !
After a long search and probably 9 pianos I finally found it on craigslist Picking it up wednesday ,free , no steps ! <br>I am making a desk , hoping to keep the keys and cover them with glass. <br>I am also planning on some lighting in the top switched on by the foot pedals, unfortunately 2 of the 3 are broke off. <br>Although I did see some plans on here for an awesome desk lamp, hmm .<br>Will post some pics later,<br>Thanks all and keep posting those great ideas !<br>Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery !<br>
I have an old Jewett upright piano that I am getting rid of if anyone is interested. In the RI area. We have tried having it tuned and it just doesn't hold. Please feel free to yell at someone besides me for turning an old piano in to something else. You would have to move it. I don't want any money but would like a trade. That may end up being something you made or a shovel or a screwdriver or.. well you get the idea.
Brilliant! <br><br>I'm about to graduate and begin studying on the east coast, so this might just be the new workbench I've been dreaming up. Simple, functional, yet very elegant and easy-to-hide. I love it!<br><br>Props to you, my friend.
This is fantastic. I'll be keeping one eye out for old pianos wherever I go from now on, just so that I can try to replicate this project.<br><br>Well done!
This seems so Bat-Cave somehow LOL! Totally awesome reuse project.
Wow. Reminds me how it was a little crazy to once remove a piano from second floor with only two people. We destroyed nothing but one stair case post though, the piano was fine. Oh, maybe it was because we WERE a professional moving company as well, although we usually just moved art pieces, paintings and such...<br>
Very nice job. Looks great. Agree with a comment lower down, foot pedals for the vacuum, or emergency stop power would be a nice touch. Thanks for sharing.
This is a fantastic idea! Thanks for posting it.
freekin awesome!!!
Wow! How great is that? You got my vote. Don't forget to recycle those piano <br>wires...garrotes for the gentlemen and Vegas V-panties for the ladies.
your work as destruction of an old piano reminds me a short story, happened in the early 90's. A farmer had an old piano like yours in his garage. one day he decided to make woods for the fire of his piano...when he destructed it he found a label of his piano...the real value of the piano was about 12,000,000 USD. Was the third piano and the last one builded from a european house at 1750. Museums in europe where seeking the third piano...but was boughted from a french farmer in an auction just to play her dauther. After years the piano was kept in the garage when the old farmer desided to make woods of it!!!!<br><br>
good story I'd be sure I didn't destroy a treasure if I ever did something like this. I remember an episode of home improvement they had a piano with a fish tank and a train in it.
Hmm, Am I the only one that thinks this would make an awesome computer desk for those people that don't like or don't have room for a separate computer room.<br><br>Nice work!
I was thinking that, or as a really cool sound mixing station. Cept I don't do sound work, I just thought it would look really cool sitting at an old piano in a sound booth.
Brilliant! If only I had a piano!
If you are in the states, definitely take a look on Craigslist http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites --find your state and area and type &quot;piano&quot; into the search bar. Near Cleveland Ohio there are 4-5 decent candidates. Have fun!
even better, add the word &quot;free&quot; to your search (free stuff often goes fast though, so call same day postings first)
any local piano dealer probably has 2 or 3 of these monsters lingering around the back dock
I've got an old piano (around 100 years old) in my garage, much like yours. My husband and I were hoping to fix it up, but it looks like our soundboard won't take any tighter tuning without cracking. This might have to be my summer project! This would make for a great work bench for soldering!
simply brilliant. you should rig teh foot pedles to controll the lights and vaccume if you put in power

About This Instructable


217 favorites


More by phish814: Vanilla Infused Balsamic Ice Cream The Hide-a-Beard: A Sneaky Travel Storage Solution Mason Jar Candle Chandeliers
Add instructable to: