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)