Desk-size Grand Piano Bookshelf




Introduction: Desk-size Grand Piano Bookshelf

Have you ever wanted to get that music lover in your house a gift they will remember without paying between $15,000 to $150,000 for a concert grand piano? Well here is your chance! I wanted to build a bookshelf that would sit snuggly on a desk and look nice enough that you would not get tired of staring at it day after day. Although this piano does not play or make music in anyway, it does hold books very well. If this classy but practical bookshelf seems like something you would like, read on dear reader!

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Step 1: Plan

The first step is to plan the dimensions and design of your shelf. The person I built this shelf for will be going to college next year, so I built the shelf to sit nicely on your average dorm desk and also hold your average college textbook. First I drew a rough sketch of how it would look upon completion. From there I decided on what dimensions I would use. The bookshelf I built was two feet wide, roughly 22 inches tall, and 11 and a quarter inches deep. Depending on where you want your bookshelf to sit, you may want to change these dimensions to something more to your liking. After deciding on dimensions I drew a full scale plan so I could see what the finished product would look like. It probably isn't necessary to draw the life size plan, especially if you don't just happen to have a 2*2 foot piece of paper lying around, but for me it was very helpful. If you compare my drawing to the final completed shelf I extended the keyboard (which doubles as a drawer) there by shortening the pieces on the sides ( which open and double as small storage compartments.) After spending hours drawing it was time to make a list of what supplies would be needed to complete the project, which leads us to...

Step 2: Spending Money!

To make this project you'll need a variety of standard woodworking tools including
  • radial arm saw or table saw
  • jig saw or band saw
  • router with various bits
  • belt sander or other sanding equipment
  • biscuit jointer
  • dovetail joint jig
If you do not have all of the above tool, don't give up just yet! It is still possible to make this project, you may just have to get creative, or, if you have a few thousand dollars to spend ( which brings up the question, why didn't you just buy an actual grand piano? ) then you could buy all of the tools listed above and be good to go! Along with those tools you also need these supplies, this is where the spending part comes in.
  • Wood.
    • For the body I used 1*12 ( actual dimensions 3/4 * 11 and 1/4) red oak boards. You could glue scraps together to get this size, or you can do what I did and go to most stores that carry lumber and buy already planed and cut to size boards. You will need roughly 15 feet of boards, but I recommend getting 16 just in case. I bought four 3 foot long boards and one four foot long board.
    • For the drawer behind the keyboard I used 1/2*4 inch oak. You'll need roughly 5 feet of board for the drawers, this will depend on how big you make them compared to how big you made mine.
    • Quater inch plywood is used for the back of the bookshelf and the bottom of the drawer.
  • Stain and varnish
    • I used a black gloss stain and varnish combo for the outside and clear gloss polyurethane for the inside.
  • Drawer sliders
    • I used 10 inch full extension ball bearing drawer sliders, but there are many other kinds you could use.
  • Small hinges (for the doors on the side of the keyboard, if you choose to install them)
  • Black and white paint for the keyboard
  • Wood putty. If you're a better craftsman than me you may not need any, but I personally made more than a few mistakes and used almost a whole container to fix them all. wood putty is my hero!

Step 3: Cut Boards.

The next step is to cut all the boards to size. I used a table saw to do this because my radial arm saw choose a very bad time to stop working. If you have a radial arm saw or any saw that can cut the width of the boards other than a table saw I recommend using it. The table saw led to a few uneven cuts. Above is the length that each piece should be. All boards should have an actual thickness of 3/4 and width of 11 and 1/4, except for boards E, D, and the H's. Those boards need to be a 1/4 less wide ( so 3/4 by 11 ) in order for the plywood back to be flush.

Step 4: Delicious Biscuits!

Next I cut the biscuit joints. If you do not have a biscuit joiner a rabbet joint should do fine. When cutting joints remember that boards E, D, and the H's will be a quarter inch short on one side and flush with the other boards on the other. The flush side will be the front of your booskshelf.

Note- The name biscuit can be misleading. You would think these biscuits would be fluffy and taste delicious but unfortunately they taste like saw dust and leave a weird taste in your mouth. Be warned!

Step 5: Install Drawer Sliders

Before assembling the bookshelf attach your drawer sliders to the H boards. It is best to do this step before assembling and gluing otherwise you'll have to attach them in a small four inch space. I placed my sliders right in the center of my boards. If you have not worked with drawers or sliders before (like me) here is a video I found helpful.

Step 6: Glue and Assemble.

Before actually gluing the shelf I suggest test fitting all your joints to make sure they all fit together well and give you square corners. Once you have glued and clamped the shelf body it is time to sit back and wait for the glue to dry. If you're getting tired of wood working by now do to unfitting seams, glued together fingers, or just to much saw dust, now would be a good time to do something else. Maybe take a walk, get some fresh air,sit back and admire your gluey masterpiece that is kind of sort of starting to look like a piano, or enjoy a bowl of ice cream! If you do want to continue working the following steps can be done in a variety of orders as long as they're all done before you stain and varnish the finished product.

Step 7: Remove Glue and Sand

Once the body of the bookshelf is fully dry you can unclamp it and get scraping! In order to avoid unseemly blemishes when staining and varnishing you need to remove all glue that will be visible when the bookshelf is complete. This step should be repeated again once the project is assembled completely and before varnishing.

Step 8: Cut and Attach Top Pieces.

In order to give the bookshelf the curvy look of a real grand piano I decided to place boards at the front and back of the shelf. This leaves the middle open and available for storing thing or the perfect place for a desk lamp. To make a pattern to cut these boards I went on my computer, found a picture of a grand piano from above, then edited the picture until it fit the dimensions of my bookshelf. It would also be fairly easy to simply draw the curves if you have more artistic talent than I do. Once you have your pattern, cut the pieces out. I used a jigsaw to cut mine, but a band saw or even a scroll saw should all work fine. Once the pieces are cut out you can attach them to bookshelf. To attach mine I countersunk two holes for each piece on the inside of the bookshelf. These holes can be plugged later or left alone since they are hard to see anyway. Alone with the screws I recommend glueing the pieces in place. Another option would be to cut multiple ( 10 to 11 ) boards into an inch or so thick curve and glue those together. Doing so would give you an open compartment rounded on top instead of a flat space like I have. After this step your bookshelf will actually start looking something like a grand piano!

Step 9: Attach Back

You could leave your bookshelf open, but I think putting a back on the shelf improves the look. To do this you will need to router a groove all along the inside edges of the outside boards on the back. The groove should be a quarter inch deep, the same size as the gap between the boards on the interior you cut shorter than the rest. Depending on what type of bit you use, you might ( like me ) run into a slight problem where your router wont reach far enough. To fix this I switched to a straight bit and just freehanded the groove. This step is basically why I needed so much wood filler. Once you router your grooves, measure and cut your 1/4 plywood to fit. I used a jig saw to cut the wood. Test fit the back, if it fits, good job! If it doesn't you may need to either router and expand your grooves or cut your back piece again. Once you get the back to fit into the bookshelf, get some glue and attach that thing! Along with glue I used finishing nails and an air nailer to secure the back, but I feel as long as you put some weight on the plywood to clamp it while the glue dries the nails are an unnecessary pain.

Step 10: Attach Hinges

When I built this bookshelf I didn't want the keyboard to cover the entire front of the bookshelf, which left two small almost two inch spaces on either side of the drawer. I decided to put small doors over these small gaps so they could be used to house letters, pens, stacks of cash, or other small things. To do this I routered four grooves, two on each side of the drawer. You will want to router to the size of your hinge so that it fits flush, in order for the door to close completely. The door should be cut to cover up to where the drawer will sit. Make sure you measure precisely so your routered grooves match up with where you install the hinge onto the door. If everything does not line up your door may not shut all the way or it may hang crooked. I installed the hinges onto the doors and from there screwed them in place in the grooves. If the doors do not seem to sit correctly you can take the hinges off and try cutting the grooves a bit larger.

Step 11: Making the Drawer

This step was the hardest. It probably did not have to be the hardest step, but when you've never worked with dovetail joints, figuring out how the jig works can be slightly confusing. The first step is to cut your 1/2 inch by 4 inch boards to size. When measuring how big your drawer will be, make sure you measure the distance in between the sliders and not the distance from board to board. Once you have your boards cut follow the instructions provided with your jig. I used a half-blind dovetail joint. If you're assembling your drawers using some other method, such as rabbit joint or just tons of glue, you can ignore all this talk of doves and tails. Once I cut the joints I dry assembled them to make sure they fit correctly, they didn't. For some reason my joints were all tight and wouldn't ft together. Luckily this problem was quickly solved by scraping away some of the wood and by hitting (possibly excessively) with a hammer until those darn piece fit together! Once you've fit the pieces together, take them apart again. Once they're apart you'll need to cut a 1/4 inch grove towards the bottom of each board for the bottom. You'll also need to cut the bottom piece out so it slides in snuggly from the same plywood you used for the back. Once you've got everything cut, dry fit the entire drawer one more time, then glue that sucker together!

Step 12: Making the Keyboard

This step is the one that will turn your pile of wood and random curves into something that actually resembles a piano! To make the keyboard I cut out 25 white keys ( 3/4 inch wide, 1/2 inch thick, 4 inches long ) and 17 black keys ( 1/2 inch wide, slightly more than 3/4 inch tall, 2.5 inches long.) In hindsight, cutting and assembling all the keys separately may not have been the easiest way to do this, but I'd say it turned out looking nice enough to be worth the work. I took each of the keys and used a belt sand to round over the two longer sides and to round the front side. With the black keys I rounded the front a little extra, making it more angled like actual black keys on a piano. After all the keys were sanded I glued the white keys onto the drawer face. The keys should hangover slightly on each side. This is to cover up the gap where the slider is. Depending on the size you made your drawer you made need more or less keys. Above is a Pdf image that has the keys roughly to size so you can figure out how many you'll need. I had to sand my right end key slightly in order for the entire keyboard to be the right length. Once the white keys are attached to the drawer, its time to make them actually white. I used white spray paint for the keys and painters tape to cover everywhere that wasnt supposed to be white. Make sure you tape 1/2 inch strips where the black keys will be placed. This is because wood glue doesn't bind very well to spray paint. While your white keys are drying on the drawer, you can use black spray paint and paint the black keys. Once all keys have dried, glue the black keys onto the spaces that you had taped earlier. Once the glue drys you should have a very solid wood keyboard drawer!

Step 13: Varnish!

Whoa Whoa, hold your horses cowboy. Before you actually begin staining or varnishing your project make sure you sand the entire bookshelf smooth and fill in whatever cracks or dings you may have made with your wood putty. Following sanding clean off all the dust. Now you can begin to varnish. I varnished my project in two steps. First I put the black coat on the outside, then I put a clear gloss coat on the inside. Before varnishing the outside tape everywhere you don't want black (such as all around the inside). The less of a Picasso you are with a paintbrush, the more tape you're going to want to use. Once you're through taping you can finally start varnishing. I put on two coats of black gloss stain/varnish and it looked very nice! When the black outside varnish was dry I set the bookshelf on the back and put one coat of black on the bottom and one coat of clear on the inside. If you have more time you may want two or more coats on the inside, but because of time restraints I had to settle for one. It still looks very nice!

Step 14: Finish It Up

The final step is to attach your drawer sliders to your drawer. I centered my sliders so the drawer is centered with a small gap above and below. This allows the drawer to slide in and out very smoothly. Once the drawer is in place, you're done! Fourteen steps, a few dollars of wood and supplies, and hopefully not to many curse words later, you have yourself a very fine bookshelf that any music or piano lover would love to own! I hope you've enjoyed this instructable. If I've failed to explain anything clearly please let me know. I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavorers, happy building!

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    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 12

    Hi. I'm working on this project over the summer. I'm being lazy and using screws instead of gluing it all together (I just use screws, but drill them in a little deep and cover the little indent with wood putty and then paint or stain or whatever. I'ts pretty magical. Lame, but magical all the same).

    Anyway, I was wondering, what type of the boards did you use for the keyboard keys? I'm kind of assuming it's from the 1x12, since, following you're instructions, you have a bout 4-5 feet of it left over at this point. But I just wanted to make sure.


    Reply 5 years ago on Step 12

    Hello! I'm excited to hear you're trying out my project! I think screws are pretty magical myself and I hope that works for you.

    The keys really can be made out any wood scraps left over. I believe I did use some of the 1*12, but any scraps could do as long as they're thick enough.

    Another possibly easier option would be to take a solid piece and just router the lines between the white keys, then glue thin pieces where the black keys should be.

    Best of luck on your project! If you have any other questions please let me know and ill do my best to help.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    My dad and I made a Lord of The Rings themed version of this off this pattern- Do you mind if I upload it (with full credit given, of course).

    It's 100% okay if you're not cool with that, I won't upload without your permission.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure what a Lord of The Rings version of this would look like, but I would love to see it!

    I love it! I am a piano player and this would be great for holding sheet music, a metronome, my hubby's guitar picks, and our tuner. Love it love it!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    It definitely works well for holding things! Thank you for the comment!