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Repurposing Pianos

My wife and I are a real pair, I tell you.  Those of you that know us are nodding your heads in agreement right now, I'm sure.  And, those of you who don't know us would be nodding as well, I'm certain, if you did.

Our most recent undertaking is adopting old pianos that people are practically begging others to come take off of their hands.  People just don't want them anymore.  They're heavy.  They're huge.  Most are slightly out of tune or have keys that are stuck.  And who needs a piano these days anyway?  It's much easier to iToss the iPod in the iHome and iRock out to iMusic.

Despite our lack of appreciation for them, pianos are a really interesting instrument inside and out.  Most people haven't bothered to check out the insides of pianos, but it's shameful that their evident internal craftsmanship remains hidden behind its external shell.  I did some reading about the manufacturing process of pianos and found that they are incredibly more difficult to manufacture than I had even previously thought.

A piano is essentially an ornate cast iron harp that is mounted to a very thick quality-built hardwood soundboard.  This soundboard is designed to take the resonance of the strings transferred through the harp and through the bridge.  It doesn't absorb the vibration like virtually any other material would, but rather it continues to maintain the resonant pitch from whichever string is struck.  The strings are hit by a felt hammer.  Each string has its own hammer that is sized and weighted specifically for that string. The action, the intricate mechanism that translates the pressing of each key to its respective hammer, is a work of art all its own.  It's a beautiful piece of mechanical engineering that not only is delicately made with precision, but is surprisingly built with such quality that most of these have lasted well over a century in excellent working order.

Here comes the crazy part.  In the last few weeks, Jodi and I have quickly amassed a small collection of six upright pianos, all of which were free for the taking.  It'd be seven if we hadn't already found a home for one of them.  Well, I take that back.  One of them, we already had and another we got for free last fall.  So, really we just got five and gave one away immediately.  So, you're probably wondering what we're doing with them.  Well, many things actually.

I've decided that we'll be using all of them, not unlike how the Native Americans used every part of a buffalo.  I already have two desks in the works that will display the harp beautifully while creating a unique workspace that will inspire creativity.  Jodi made a cute pair of "kissing songbirds" from two of the hammers.  At least one of the actions will remain intact as a display piece.  We've already converted two of the keyboards into hanging art pieces.  The player section of one of the player pianos will become a unique wall shelf complete with a loaded music roll still mounted and "ready to be played".  We're making another wall shelf out of the player's bank of air diaphrams.  We have several other art ideas and and will no doubt come up with many more as we continue.  What I love about this more than anything is that it's yet another thing that Jodi and I are finding that we love to do together.  And, that's what truly matters.  Stay tuned.  Photos to come as projects are completed.

2 comments:

Love Love Love Love Love. These photos are amazing. The first one, amazingly sad, makes me wanna cry. The other, just amazing. I wonder what it's from.

Levi,
you don't know me, but I stumbled on this when I was looking for pics of repurposed pianos. For what ever reason, (i know at least in part why) I was very drawn to your site. I even read some of your blog (if you knew me you would understand I take very litte time to read anything). I also have repurposed a piano, and it was just delivered to my house. I had done all of the work on it myself but at least, for once, I knew my limitations and I paid someone else to shoot the finish on it for me.
I will be preseting this to my stepson this Sat. 11/01/2014 (if the Lord is willing and I live) in honor of him completeing a Bachlor of music education, a Bachlor of piano performance, and his masters in music education.
I would love for you to see it, and I would imagine (just from reading about your adventures and projects) you would also love to see it. But how, you might ask? Well, it may be a lot easier than you might think. The irony, of all of this is while I was looking at pictures of repurposed pianos from all over the United States I "stumbled" upon yours from ,are you ready? Right here in good ole Springfield Mo. Yep, of all the places to find a picture from, right here.
That just blew my little mind away, but once again, knowing the incredible God that apparently we both serve, I should never be suprised, but alas, He does it once again.
I would love for you to stop by our home, around Campbell and Plainview, and see this (off and on, a year and a half) project before he takes it to his house.
I know this sounds kinda stalker/creeper stuff, but it sounds like you know Christ well enough to know it is just like Him to put something this far fetched together.
Please contact me at rickoowsley@sbcglobal.net I would love for you to see this and maybe even talk about the wonders of Christ a little. (:o)
Also, the "sarcastic and you don't know why" (in your profle) well, sarcasim is also another service I offer, and yes, I have the shirt. Maybe for our wives sake, we shouldn't get together after all. (:o)
In Christ,
Rick Owsley

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