Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 1-background
Back in September Luke forwarded me an email from someone in the math department where he is a professor. They had an old piano they were giving away to a good home. Knowing that I’ve been wanting a real piano for the house, he asked me if I wanted it. I said sure…after all, if it wasn’t in good shape, we could always convert it into a piano bar like I’d seen on Pinterest (ha ha!).
Ah, Pinterest, land of amazing projects you will never actually tackle
and recipes you will never actually make.
We rounded up our neighbors–including our wonderful neighbor across the street who also happens to have a truck and trailer–and headed over to pick up the piano. I was hopeful that it would at least be usable, even if it wasn’t the prettiest thing.
It was painted red! And missing a caster (we tore up their floor getting it out of the house). And was missing a small side panel that had been replaced with some makeshift piece of wood. And weighed about 600 pounds. And the left pedal was broken. And it used to be a player piano–but someone removed the player mechanism 40 years ago! It *was* technically in tune…but I doubted the ability of any piano tuner to get it back in tune once it made the trek to our house.
But here’s the kicker! After huffing and puffing it onto the trailer (well, Luke and the neighbors–I mostly observed and picked up pieces as they fell off), the previous owner tells us that it’s been in the piano department for something like 60 years (they’d owned it for 20 years and it had at least two previous owners from the math department) so it needs to stay in the math department, so whenever we get sick of it we should find some other sucker….er, eager young professor and his wife…to take it. Yikes! We’ve been gifted a white elephant!
I wouldn’t let the boys bring it into the house. It sat in the garage while we figured out what to do with it. First, I had to convince Luke that we should take a (technically) functioning piano and convert it into an especially large piece of furniture. We agreed to get an appraisal to make sure we didn’t end up regretting re-purposing it (it might be worth something… bwahahahaha!!).
I found a company online that was willing to do a basic appraisal and report some history on the instrument based on pictures and the make and serial number for cheap (I think I paid $20). Here’s the appraisal:
TYPE OF PIANO:
P.J. Boller Full Size Upright (ex-player)
DATE OF MANUFACTURE ACCORDING TO SERIAL NUMBER:
The P.J. Boller brand name of pianos were manufactured by the Cable-Nelson Piano Co. of Chicago, Illinois.
In 1903 Fayette S. Cable, a distinguished leader in the piano industry, purchased 2 well established Chicago piano companies: the Lakeside Piano Co. and the Sweetland Piano Co. These were merged into the Fayette S. Cable Company. H.P. Nelson joined in 1905 and the name changed to the Cable-Nelson Piano Co. In the late 1920s the firm was taken over by the Everett Piano Co. and pianos were manufactured in South Haven, Michigan. In 1954 the Hammond Organ Co. bought the Everett Piano Co. along with the Everett and Cable-Nelson names. Finally in 1973, it was sold to the Yamaha Corp. who stopped production of these pianos in 1981, and later resumed production at their Thomaston, GA plant in 2000.
CURRENT FAIR MARKET VALUE RANGE:
$50 – $150 (U.S. Dollars)
The condition and the beauty of the piano’s cabinet, finish and keys – as well as a piano that is in tune and in decent working order – are the most important factors that will affect the final selling price in a private sale.
Due to its age, its value as an instrument is still questionable until a comprehensive inspection of the piano’s structure and inner parts is conducted by a qualified piano technician. Because of structural aging of the tuning pin block, soundboard & bridges, pedal trapwork etc.; strings that are well past their life expectancy; and a piano’s some 12,000 inner moving parts (including felts, wood, brass and other materials), pianos of this age are most certainly worn to some degree and may require minor to major work done to bring them up to their optimum playing condition.
Your money would be better spent finding another piano altogether. Any repair costs would far exceed the value of the instrument after repairs/restoration.
The red was their addition, not mine. The history on the instrument was interesting, and it was worth the $20 to have piece of mind that we weren’t about to destroy a valuable antique.
The next issue was figuring out where to put it in our home. We have lots of wonderful windows in our house that afford a great view of the lake behind our house. However, this means that there aren’t very many solid walls in our house…especially downstairs. And since this 600 lb monster wasn’t going to make it upstairs, we were going to have to find a space for it downstairs. The piano is also 56.5″ tall, 57″ wide and 28″ deep…so it’s really big…too big to fit in a hallway for example.
My in-laws came to visit the week after we got the piano, and it was my lovely mother-in-law, Barbara, who found the perfect spot. There is a mostly solid wall (it has a door, but no window) in our sun room/dining room that is 60″ wide. After taking a few measurements, I determined that the piano would fit perfectly without blocking the view!
After discussing it a little longer, Luke finally relented and agreed to this crazy project!