How to Gut a Piano (a lifelong dream of mine)

Ok, let me preface this post by saying that I have been waiting to do this for nearly 5 years. I had to decide which type of piano to do it with, and I decided to look for a spinet. This allows me to lead worship from the stage and still be able to see over the back. After the piano gutting is completed, I replaced the piano with a full size weighted keyboard.

Why? Why gut a piano if your just going to put a keyboard in it? It looks cool. Way better than a keyboard and keyboard stand. And, you will never have to tune it or worry about mic placement again. So... here goes.

found this beauty on craigslist for free. Waited about a month to get the one I wanted. Lady said " My Grandma would have loved for a church to use her piano"... I never told her I would be removing the piano's insides

this was just after removing the lid

each key has a small dowel running up through them that needed to be detatched

the keys lift right off the balancing pin... no tools necessary up to this point


this is the table all the keys used to sit on

this is the view of the harp. that is the thing that really weighs so much

we used a piano tool to loosen all the strings

after they were loose we pulled the strings off with a pair of pliers

here is the cobweb of detached strings. 3 strings for almost every 88 notes on the piano

the large screwdriver was needed to remove 20-30 screws holding the steel harp in place
after wearing ourselves out turning the piano tool, I figured out that a faucet key for commercial garden hoses fits into a drill. the process picked up steam after that

every one of these tuning pins had to come out. That's where the drill and faucet key came in

here is the piano harp. It is very heavy, and cumbersome to remove, but once it was out, the piano was just another piece of furniture

I removed the old wheels and attached larger casters that will roll much easier

I vacuumed every bit of it out. There was sooo much dust and dirt in there!

The keyboard slid into place nicely. No new supports, just the original piano key table.

I wanted the piano pedals to activate my keyboard pedal. Once again, a roll of duct tape did the trick.

I widened a hole in the back of the piano to run power and mic cables through in an inconspicuous place.
this is where we filed away all the extra parts

here she is. side profile 1

side profile 2. Inside the old piano body is a set of computer speakers with a large subwoofer. It allows the keyboard to be played without a sound system if necessary.

from the back no one will know the difference... unless they read this blog.
and there she is... in all her glory



Feel free to comment and ask questions. I know when I was looking for info on the subject that it was hard to find. Most people who disguise their keyboard as a live piano don't want people to know they have done so. After looking closely at a few live shows, and youtube videos of live shows I have noticed a number of Christian and secular bands using pianos that were actually keyboards... and now I have one!

32 comments:

  1. i learn something, thanks

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  2. Jorbodo@rocketmail.com11:34 PM

    Hi Milo,
    Thanks for sharing the photos of your project.

    I have a couple of questions:
    1 - How much did it cost to move or did you move it yourself? I'm looking at "Free" pianos on Craig's List and finding that it costs around $300 to have a piano mover move an upright. (I'm looking for a full upright and they are too heavy for me and any of my buddys to lift up a flight of stairs without pulling out our backs.)

    2 - How long did the project take?

    3 - What size faucet key works on those pins? 6 mm?

    4 - Any advice on loosening the screws connecting the harp to the soundboard? Did you spray the screws with WD40 or anything like that prior to trying to remove them?

    5 - I noticed you have some wire cutters in one of the photos. Did you cut wires before you loosened them, or after? I've heard that cutting the wires under tension can be very dangerous. Did cut any wires under tension? If so, did they snap at you, or just jostle around inside the piano?

    6 - What sort of protective gear did you use, if any?

    7 - Did the piano come with a keyboard lid? Were you just not able to use it because the keyboard sits too high? I've heard of people gutting the "desk" part to make the keyboard sit a little lower to accommodate the digital keyboard.

    8 - What keyboard model is it? Are the keys weighted? Do you prefer that keyboard, or was it your choice because it fit in the spinet?

    Thanks again for documenting your project.

    Best Regards,
    Jor

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  3. Hey guys. Let me answer some of these piano questions. Jor first.

    1. The piano was free, and I had a couple buddies of mine help me move it onto a utility trailer. This is much easier than a pickup, because we didn't have to lift it as high. Why do you want a full upright again? Also, do the work of gutting the piano on a sunny day in the parking lot by a dumpster so you don't have to carry it up a stairs fully loaded.

    2.The project took 2 days just because I couldn't devote uninterrupted time to it. I think I could do it again now in an afternoon, now that I know where to start.

    3.Good question on the faucet key. The particular one I used had four sizes on the same key. I just found the one that fit.

    4.I didn't use anything to lubricate the screws. I did have a large flathead screwdriver, with a 2 foot handle or more that was able to break loose some of the tough ones. Then I would use the drill to spin them out.

    5.I did cut some of the piano strings but only AFTER I had loosened all the tension off of them. Please, please don't try to snip them. In afterthought, once I had the faucet key going, it was much easier to remove the strings that way. I ruined a good pair of snips.

    6. I used a pair of leather gloves, and occasionally some sunglasses/safety goggles. The gloves were a big help. Thee strings will cut you.

    7.The keyboard lid actually fit right into place nicely, but it covered up my view of the keyboard control screen when it was in the open position. So, I decided to just go without it.

    8. The keyboard is a 90s model Alesis with weighted keys. It was what I already had, so it is what I used. For this project I would prefer weighted keys, but I would not reccomend a high end keyboard. Really at the end of the day, the only sound bank I use is "Live Grand Piano"

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  4. anonymous,

    I found that there was one long bolt running through the harp into one of the support posts in the back about halfway up the piano. It was kind of hidden, so I missed it at first. Did you remove that one yet?

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  5. Stephcorbett, it a a 1/4 inch square, so an extender from a 1/4 socket put in a high power drill did the trick for me. Also if you have a tall model of piano the easiest way to get the harp out is really a hammer. Since it is cast iron it is brittle.

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  6. Stephcorbett, it a a 1/4 inch square, so an extender from a 1/4 socket put in a high power drill did the trick for me. Also if you have a tall model of piano the easiest way to get the harp out is really a hammer. Since it is cast iron it is brittle.

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  7. How much did this piano weigh once it was gutted? We're thinking of doing this in our student ministry, but we are limited on how much weight we can have on stage. We need the frame/body/casing to weigh as light as possible empty, before putting in keyboard(s).

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  8. Anonymous4:51 PM

    My piano looks like yours. I want to leave the keys in place as I intend on turning it up on end like you had it to vac. Cut the legs off and I will leave it like that and make a bookcase from it with the keys running down the right side. Will I have to remove the keys to do the other work first.

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  9. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Milo, I'm gutting a piano to convert to an interesting furniture piece. I'm considering leaving the harp because it looks so cool. However I want to remove the strings. When you used the faucet tool, did it damage the pins that the strings attach to?

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  10. Anonymous10:17 AM

    What kind of upright piano was this?

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  11. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Milo, what type and brand of piano is this?

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  12. I'd like to do this as well. Curious as to what kind of computer speakers and sub woofer you used inside the frame, and how they were mounted. Thanks!

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  13. This was a spinnet style piano. I am not sure on the brand.

    A guess on the weight is somewhere around 80-100lbs, still not as light as a keyboard stand by any means, but pretty easy to move around and lift when its on wheels.

    The speaker and subwoofers were by logitech. Spent $80 on them 5-7 years ago. The subwoofer sits in the floor of the piano cabinet, and the speakers were attached to the sides with simply wood screws.

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  14. Milo: I was very excited to find your project. As you say, there's not a lot of info on how to do this. Everything I found completely dismantled the piano and I want to keep my cabinet in tact as well,

    questions...

    1 - In the photo of you removing the keys, I notice the hammers still inside, but when you start discussing the strings and the harp, I no longer see the hammers. How do you remove those? tools?

    2 - Do you have to loosen / remove the strings in order to remove the harp or can the entire contraption be removed as a unit?

    3 - I want to keep the keys in place - they'll add to the "cool" factor of my intended project - is that possible? I'm assuming I have to remove them to complete the "demolition" but can I just reseat them afterward?

    4 - what kink of assistance was required to remove the harp? tools? a friend? something else?

    Again... thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to your answers and to getting my project completed.

    Judy


    The piano that I want to gut is an antique English upright that can no longer be tuned without cracking the sounding board (and wouldn't get played even if it could be)

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  15. My husband and I are planning on 'gutting' our old Doherty upright soon. We've watched lots of videos and hope it's not as daunting as it looks. Your instructions seem easy and straight forward. Thank you for all your input.

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  16. Wow, I've never thought about doing this, but it's actually a great idea. I own a bunch of keyboards, and the one thing I hate about them is that they don't look authentic. I want something I can have in my living room and show off, but a regular keyboard stand looks like an eyesore. I'm going to look on craigslist and see if I can find someone giving away an upright for free. Great idea!!

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  17. Anonymous2:07 PM

    What kind of speakers do you use? And how did you mount them inside?

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  18. Wow! This literally my exact same dream! Thank you so much for sharing! :D

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  19. Hi Milo,
    Just wondering how you attached the piano pedal to activate the keyboard pedal?
    Do you have any other photos/instructions?
    Thanks
    Jordan

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  20. t a piano if your just going to put a keyboard in it? ... kelectronicpiano.blogspot.com

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  21. t a piano if your just going to put a keyboard in it? It looks cool. Way better than a keyboard and keyboard stand. And, you will never have to tune it or ... ekbpiano.blogspot.com

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  22. Wow this is amazing! You should really consider doing this for a living (or as a side gig). I would easily pay several hundred dollars to have this done for me instead of doing it myself...

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  23. Anonymous1:20 PM

    Thanks for sharing your project, I've wanted to do this for 20yrs now. I'm glad to see someone else feels the same way. I just found the right donor piano last month, Made in 1892, an upright, very nice case. I'm pulling the harp out tonight! the rest I stripped last weekend. Hope mine turns out nice like yours.

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  24. Very inspirational! I originally wanted to get a Tom thumb piano to play some outdoor gigs. But now I am convinced and motivated to gut a piano just like yours, to house my keyboard. Thank for sharing!

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  25. Thanks for your extremely helpful information. I also want to remove my strings of my upright piano. But why don’t you offer a video that is whole process of gutting your piano? I think it will be easier to follow.

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  26. I am looking for most reliable best electric piano although there are many companies providing electric piano but they all are not focusing on quality usually.

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  27. Anonymous6:00 PM

    How did you remove the harp? Did you keep the piano vertical and lift it out with some sort of mechanism? Did you put it on its back and slide it out with the help of friends? I hear they are super heavy.

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  28. Tony Bacon3:57 AM

    I know you have said the speakers were attached to the side of the piano. Did you attach inside the lower part or the upper section and is the sound muffled at all?

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  29. Anonymous10:34 PM

    Milo, you wouldn't happen to still have that harp lying around would you? I'm a young woodworker and I'm thinking about constructing my own piano from scratch.

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  30. Anonymous8:03 PM

    dumbest thing I've ever seen... buy a keyboard stand...

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  31. I'm currently taking our old piano apart to "donate" to my kids' piano teacher for a project. The harp has two projections on it that extend under the woodwork that supported the keys. How did you remove the harp from your piano without needing to cut notches in the key area? Will I find that the harp can be negotiated out once I've got it detached? Right now I still have about 2/3rds of the strings & tuning pegs still left to remove.

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  32. Great post!! thanks for sharing!
    It would be great if you'd completely hided the buttons and plastic parts into the wood and only revealed the pure keyboard.
    I'm planning to do that!! This post has been very inspirational for me!
    I'll put this sampled Fazioli inside :)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKdlNXa5v2Q
    Jesus loves you!

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