Introduction: MINI-PIANO

About: A retired electronics engineer -motorola. delveing into new craft ideas and contest entries.

    This Instructable illustrates the steps in making a stringed instrument to which piano keys are added and played like a piano over 2 octaves. This Instructable  is based on my earlier Instructable on making a mini-zither {posted Aug.5, 2009. but adds keys.

Step 1: MATERIALS-Preliminary Instructions

This step will describe the device . I initially made a stringed instrument  I called a zither in my earlier Instructable titled "how to make a mini-zither of 2 octaves" Please refer to it for basics of using elastic poly-string materials and tuning. However, I included another resonating box construction that is of a smaller dimension for this piano project. After making the assembly, stringing, tuning, etc. the final step is to add piano-like keys which I have outlined in my Lab-Book pages here for ease of assembly.
   A little input here is required. A true piano has keys that strike the wire strings. I have deviated from this mechanism by inventing a different method of sounding the string note. It entails a novel method of grabbing the string with an adhesive pad that then pulls the string up , releases it to sound a note.The adhesive I have chosen is Uglu (r) by Mactac {} .Packages for  a dollar  are available from craft stores.
Packages  contain enough adhesive strips for several instruments. Other adhesive tapes (two-sided) can be used as Scotch[R] mounting adhesive or Foam- tapes  for mounting pictures on a wall.
      Lifting arm- Use coffee-stirring sticks of wood.See details in note book.
      Tubing - again I found stir sticks of plastic would work that a coat-hanger wire would feed in-to. Wire is used as an axle for the keys to rotate on.
       Gluing the wood sticks to the tubes is done with paste type adhesives as two part epoxy. {Eclectic Products  Super-mend epoxy.}
       Keys- Use vertically mounted wood sticks  glue to end.
       Weights- used for application of downward force to the glue tipped wood sticks onto the strings.I found Plumbers solder to be easily formed to correct weight. I experimented with wire springs  and found them hard to set correct down pressure.
       Overall covering- any plastic and cardboard to locate the keys  as in a piano.



A hole was drilled in one side about 1 inch diameter. With this I could place a wireless Mike and get a very loud musical sound. I used a Hanna Montana  mike for $6.00 .
     To repair-  Remove the wire axle carefully  from one end and lift off the key that needs repair.


Assembly of keys and  adhesive tapes.

1-layout  of sticks for each note.
     Apply a square of tape to ends of all sticks
    lay sticks side-by-side  so they are spaced  1/2 inch apart , with one end  with adhesive  touches a string. Apply a strip of  scotch clear tape over the sticks on the arrangment outlined.Carfully remove the assembly of sticks  and lay  on a flat surface.Dont let the adhesive stick tips touch anything.
2- Assembly of sticks to the plastic tubing-  lay tubing across sticks and apply glue under each stick and over the tubing .
3-sepparting  sticks- Use Exacto blade and cut beteen each stick. Run  the coat-hanger wire through the tubes after the assembly is placed into mounting rsonator.
4-Weights are added-Cut to length and fold 3 times and glue to ends of sticks.
5- Keys. cut some sticks and mount  sideways  with Goop adhesives.


Complete the assembly- This  box design uses  cross bars that support the  the wire  axle.
        Test the sticks and adhesion to the strings.It should be a sharp release note that sounds for 2 seconds until the key is released and  is now non-vibrating state. Use a block
of Poly foam[urethane] to stop the down word travel of the keys.  see note book pages and pictures..
Add a piece of card board above the keys and mark the sharps notes locations.




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    26 Discussions

    The idea is fairly cool and creative, my only complaint is that this is technically not a piano, it's closer to a harpsichord in the sense that it plucks the strings as opposed to striking them which isn't a bad thing just factual. I'm hoping I can find the time to make this

    1 reply

    Hi0;; I agree. others have made similar observations and I will be sure to call it the harpsichord project.
    I have made another "piano" oops Harpsichord " too later. see Inst'bl.
    It included the half notes [ # b] keys. Still sounds good after 3 years use.

    I am glad i have found this, your lap piano instructable is good, but something about it irks me, no offence to you, i just can't place it. I plan to possibly look through this and see if i can alter it back to strike the keys instead of "plucking" them. I've always loved homemade instruments, and a homemade piano couldn't make me happier.

    2 replies

    sorry I could not answer sooner. Striking the string with a hammer is something i have tried .It wont make a sufficiently loud sound unless an amplifier mike combo is used. It is possible though. The key to hammer mechanical concept is possible but complicated and i gave up on that. Then i just went back to plucking using the adhesive tips and simple levers.
    let me know if you have any leverage ideas to strike.
    I experimented with reverse of the pluck from string by having the lever suspended above the string and the key would push tthe adhesive tip down onto the string and then pull up and release to cause the string to vibrate.How ever i could not mute the string vibration when i want a quarter note.

    hm well as for the loud sound part, i think you would need a bigger/thicker/better(take your pic) sound board, the small thing is cool. Definitely works, and i know you want the thing small, but for a louder/richer sound, you'll need a nice sized sound board.

    I have been studying upright mechanisms for a few weeks(on and off) and have come up with a design or two, but i have to get the materials to make it before i can test it. If you know a program that could do that, it would be very appreciated.

    they can be played using the finger pressure on the string at the top.
    Press 1/2 inch down from top on Cnote.. strum it- presto you hear a C# note.

    Does this work by plucking or hitting the strings, with a tangent that remains in contact or a hammer that goes back in place?
    Does it have dynamics?

    1 reply

    hi- the finger  rests on the string until plucked.The return is automatic when the keys are released.

    Hi O- I was hoping that the Notebook pictures would give the details in depth . I may have to generate these plans using Paint or other software.
    I will let u know.and I will add to the Inst.

    I have made additional refinements to the keys but I have not edited the figure yet.
    Basically, I added steel pin dividers between the keys to allign them more easily on the strings. Also am learning to draw blueprints using Paint.Net.

    you should change it to mini-harpsichord as it should be plucked

    2 replies

    thanks, we will definitely  tell people it sounds like a harpsichord  too..

    A friend  sent me a note that this instrument  sounds like a clavichord since the strings are plucked. Interesting observation.

    I have actually made  some mini-zithers and lyres that are strictly string instruments that are played with the fingers or strummed with a pick. I have pictures of these if any one is interested. .