Introduction: Building a Piano Bookcase for Free!

About: I'm an actor/tech/IT/graphics/editor/writer kind of guy. I do a fair share of voice over work and have the full time gig at Bard College at Simon's Rock. While waiting for machines to do things, I hit the wo…
Ok, I blame this one on my mother. She saw somewhere online this idea of taking an old piano and creating a bookshelf. She sent that idea to my wife, who forwarded the idea onto me.

My wife then jumps onto CraigsList to find a free piano. And of course, she finds one.

Now, before the Piano Police show up and give me flack for doing what I did, the piano was free because it was damaged, the sound board was split, the keyboard was missing and it looked like it had been someplace a little leaky.  So we moved it out of their house onto our trailer and brought it home.

The first step was removing the harp. Almost 300 pounds of cast iron.  We loosened all the strings to get at all the bolts and unbolted and pried the harp off the piano.  The harp was donated to an artist who wanted to use it as a rose trellis.  

1 FREE grand piano in poor-non functioning condition
Assorted screws and TimberLock® screws. (amazing self drilling long screws. used in deck building!)
Wood glue

Tools for dis-assembly:
small sledge hammer
various wrenches and ratchets
flat blade screwdriver

Tools for building:
Table saw
Compound miter saw
Circular saw
Jig Saw
Finish nailer
Screw gun

Step 1: Bringing the Case Inside.

Without the harp, the case is a lot lighter. Not easy but manageable with two people.  You can see the close up of the water damage, the piano was a Marshall and Wendell built in Albany NY.  It had seen better days...

Step 2: Removing the Sounding Board

This was kind of crashy bashy time. From the bottom of the piano, we knocked the soundboard out. It was already split in a few places and warped, so it didn't need much help.

Step 3: Cleanup and Sanding.

It looks to me that the original finish of the interior was shellac, it sanded off quite easily and years of dirt and water stains were sanded off.  Not perfect, but the wood had a nice patina.

Step 4: Fresh Coat of Shellac

Boy shellac dries FAST! a small sponge brush and a few wipes and it looked great! I used a mouse type sander to sand away the glue left behind by the sounding board on the lip of the frame. 80 grit made quick work of the dried 100 year old glue.

Step 5: Using the Lid As a Back

So far, we haven't wasted any wood, aside from the sounding board which we could have used, perhaps even framed the logo, but it was so far gone, we just tossed it.

by placing the piano lid on the back of the piano, I could see it would overhang the end too far. So we cut 2.5 inches off the straight end which moved everything down nicely. There's a 3/4" overhang which looks fine.

Step 6: Attaching the Back

A nice bead of wood glue and a series of finish nails around the edges.

Step 7: The French Cleat

This is going to be heavy still, the piano case probably weighs in close to 200 pounds so we're going to want to mount it securely. No goofing around.  I used a combination of a French Cleat with a bottom support and then for added security, a couple of timberlock screws through the piano itself into studs.

Step 8: Hanging the Case.

The case was hung on the wall with the French Cleat, then the bottom support brace was installed.

Step 9: Makeing the Shelves

Next was shelves, the lower shelf would be right where the piano pin block would have been, the next shelf at the large cross brace, then one more upper shelf. We used the rest of the piano lid, and the cover which would have hidden the keys.

The pieces were ripped on the table saw and then trimmed on the miter saw. Where it hit the lower frame, we notched the shelf with a jig saw so it would fit around.

Step 10: So Far So Good...

So we put a few books in and it looks good so far... but it needs keys!

As I mentioned, it didn't have any, the keys, hammers and entire action assembly was missing! (I did say this was a FREE piano right?)

Step 11: Keys!

I have access to a 44" wide printer, so I grabbed a picture online of some piano keys, (Thank you Yamaha!) brought them into Photoshop and created a 44" wide print. The space for the keys is 48" wide, so I printed out two copies.

I did some manipulation to yellow the keys a little and give them swirls as if they were ivory.

Then I ripped a piece of luan, 7" by 48" and glued the print to it. On the piano, I added a couple of blocks to raise the level so the "keys" would sit where the old keyboard would have been.

Step 12: Done!

That's it!  It looks fantastic and is rock solid mounted to the wall. We saved an old beast from heading to the dump or being beaten up by a sledge hammer. It's art, it's a bookshelf, and it's pretty cool In My Humble Opinion! (Those are my wife's Toccata Blocks on the top shelf, you should buy some.)

Very little was wasted and the piano gave us most of the material to complete the job. Well load it up with some music books and some sheet music scores and call it a day!

Fun project. Go rescue a free piano!

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