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  • Dec 7th, 2012 11:56 am
Apr 16, 2012
8 posts

scrapping a piano

Thought I'd post this as a tip here, since it worked out well enough for me. I had an old piano with a cracked sound board, and couldn't get a quote for under $400 in Toronto to remove it. One 'junk' company said they don't even do pianos for any price. Compared to the hourly equivalent of my salary, I thought there's no way I can pay $400 to have a piano removed for scrap so I decided to just do it myself.

The green aspect of this exercise was to save the cast iron harp from landfill. If you have ivory keys, they have value too.

Based on my Williams piano, made in Toronto, here's what I learned:

1. You can quite easily get a few front/top/side panels off. Don't take too many off as the integrity of the structure should be largely preserved for step 5.
2. The keys can be removed
3. the playing action can be removed.
4. before moving it as described in step 5, I wanted to detension the strings. The tuning knobs are square pegs of soft metal. Big- a$$ Crescent vice grips were perfect for this. Wear leather gloves and serious eye protection! The 200 odd strings at full tension are not to be treated lightly.
5. With about 50-75 pounds of the weight removed, and considering that a scrap piano doesn't need to be babied, my wife and I were easily able to manhandle the thing to the door and over the lip onto a jury-rigged ramp on the back steps. We lined it up and let it go. The LZ in the back patio was protected with a big sheet of plywood. Nothing, not even the remaining structure of the piano, got busted during this process though there was a slight risk of accident to be sure.
5. Remaining panels can then be removed, and then the frame with harp laid down on its back.
6. Removing the strings can be done with or without cutting them. I avoided cutting as much as possible, and having already detensioned them in step 4, I found it was possible to slip the string off its peg at the bottom of the sound board, fish up it from underneath a metal bracket at the top of the sound board, and then literally unwind/yank each end out of the tuning pegs with a violent circular motion. Use leather gloves, and pliers as needed.
7. Removing the 20-odd screws that held the harp to the frame was slightly difficult. Launching the unit down the ramp, combined with leaving it to sit in the rain for a day, had seemingly distorted the wooden frame relative to the iron harp, such that huge shear stresses had developed on the various screws. First I bent a screwdriver tip from a multi-bit screwdriver. Then, I got a regular chrome-vanadium screwdriver, 6"x1/4" slothead, clamped the handle with aforesaid vice grip for a 10-fold increase in torque, and bent that one too. Went to the store for a 12"x3/8" monster slothead, once more with the vice grips, and this time got all but one of the screws, which I stripped. One remaining screw is easy though, since I could just pry it out by lifting the harp itself away from the frame.
8. A quick post on craigslist for free scrap iron yielded two hits within 6 hours. If you tried a bit harder you might even get a bit of cash for it. I also kept one or two of the larger wood panels for future projects. The rest of the wood will be fed to regular garbage pickup every two weeks.
9. Total time was about 5 hours, or $80/hr. Comfortably more than my hourly income. YMMV.
3 replies
Deal Addict
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Dec 3, 2004
4671 posts
Didn't read your post, but figured this video was fitting :lol:

Deal Fanatic
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Jan 18, 2004
6546 posts
Kijiji...someone would have bought it or taken it away for free.
This space for rent
Apr 16, 2012
8 posts
Haha, the video is awesome! Re kijiji and craigslist, can't sell it in good conscience with the damaged soundboard and the scrap value doesn't come close to covering the cost of recycling so a scrap dealer won't take an intact piano. If it's in good working condition, yes you could quite possibly get someone to take it for free at curbside (I personally would not trust someone coming to take a 400 pound piano for free to get it out of my house safely without damaging something, or worse still, injuring themselves and suing me) but given the quality of digital pianos these days, you'd have to be pretty desperate to want an old but quite ordinary acoustic.