Saturday, March 9, 2013

Little Smokey

Let me tell you about my friend, Little Smokey. Do you need a visual?

Aw! Isn't he cute? I know you might feel bad for him. He's a little charred and his ivory isn't so pretty any more. But he has a good story...him and his little brother Smokey Jr. 

The piano keys, need I remind you, were in anything but tip top shape. The edges were jagged and mean. Horrible for playing the piano, really. As any good piano fixer-upper would do, we decided to replace the tops. 

Replacing the tops:

# step 1: warm up the piano key so that the glue underneath the top will relinquish its hold on the wood and allow the top to be removed

# step 2: using a sharp knife, peel the top off of the warmed key

# step 3: sand

# step 4: apply glue

# step 5: replace top

Well, as you might suppose, step one did not go exactly as planned. In fact, warming the keys has been quite the adventure. The first key was warmed using the hair dryer on the carpet...

...sideways glance to E with a little eye roll

Yes. Our carpet in that spot is now melted.

The second try used the stove burner. This worked ok until I was not paying very close attention and managed to allow the key (inadvertently) to catch fire. And what was my reaction? AH! BLOW BLOW BLOW while I was heading towards the sink. [This key was Smokey Jr.]

The third try? The iron? It worked well. And we only did a few keys and then we went to bed.

Now let's go to the second night of removing key tops. Let's say we wanted to try a few different methods.

Fourth try: broiler. This worked great until we realized that we had fried the top of the keys like a melted cheese sandwich. (I've never had much success with the broiler. I always overestimate the time)

Fifth try? This is where our stupidity shows. We went back to the stove top. E was doing it and low and behold POOF! Little Smokey was born! haha. Makes me laugh thinking about it.

Sixth try was the charm. The iron again. But this time E set up a whole lil' contraption for the operation.

Please notice (a) the iron (b) the piano key hanging from the cupboard (c) E and his work glove using (d) a "sharp" knife to peel the piano key off. 

It has not been an easy journey but now are keys are fresh and white and aside from needing to file down 8 octaves of keys so that they fit just so, we are one step closer to our masterpiece.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Piano painted? Check.

I don't want to spoil the surprise. I want you to see it at its finest. It'll be soon. Don't fret. Just hold on and you will be so happy you did.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


I felt a little hesitant last night about this whole piano experience. What if we can't even get it tuned?

Call a tuner, you may say. Or, did you not look into this before you started such a crazy project?

But I'm here to yell you that even with a jerry-rigged wrench, I have successfully fixed the high note that used to sound really bad. We have discovered all the notes are a half step flat-a true alto paino, but they are mostly in tune with each other...until you drop low.

So we will press forward.

And just you wait. The color is something far as pianos go.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Some Basics

I don't want you to feel like you are coming late to a party so I thought maybe I should give you a little info about the art of obtaining things 2ndhand. Don't be overwhelmed. Take it slow and assess your ability to take on something 2ndhand. It might not always be fit to use "as is" = big fat project. But if you start here a little and there a little, you might find some lovely treasures!

# your home: The first place you might want to look for something 2ndhand is in your own home, especially if you are looking for a project. What is hiding in a corner or covered with a blanket of which you are ashamed that could have potential as your pride and glory?

# freecycle: Let me tell you, the person who told me about freecycle changed my life forever. Everything is and must be FREE! is the starting ground if you are new to freecycle. It is a little bit different everywhere you go. In my region it is a group on Yahoo. I get emails everyday from fellow freecyclers of stuff they want or are offering. Take advantage of your email's filter power or else you will get 50+ emails a day. You do have to register and be approved and there are some rules, but it is pretty nifty.

# craigslist: I'm a craigslist lover. It is classifieds online. What is not to love? is, again, your starting point. I have found everything from apartments to rent to people to tutor to shelves filled with 100+ books. And don't forget to barter. Make an offer if the price is a little too high for what you want. craigslist also has a FREE section. Peruse it every once and awhile!

# thrift stores: Never underestimate the power of a good thrift store. If you are near a thrift store and are in need of something, stop by and take a look. Things come and things go and frequency is key.

# friends: One man's junk is another man's treasure. And so it is with the piano and with our dining room table and with our couch. If someone is getting rid of something and it fits your need, don't be shy!

# yard sales, curb sides, and dumpsters: Seriously. You never know what people are getting rid of and what mode they use to get rid of it. Keep your eyes peeled!

+ Do you have any experience obtaining items 2ndhand?

+ What are your best tactics?

What has been your best find?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Retraction on the Desk Part

There's a phenomenon sweeping the 1939 Wurlitzer piano nation. It's called "What Once Seemed Broken Now Is Fixed". For reals. And this is leading to the first proven theory of projecting: no project ends how it began, or in other words: scope change.

Here's what happened:

We thought a lot about this new and upcoming piano desk. I wrote a little story about it and I published it on this blog. And then I started taking the piano apart to prepare it for its new life as a desk. But here's the thing...when E came home from school he said, "Oh look! The piano's not broken any more." And me in my making-dinner stupor said, "Yeah, whatever."

But then, really, E was right. I investigated the piano, and what do you know?! The keys that used to not play, played and the hammers that were once a little wanky were all straight!

Do you need proof?

This picture I took at 4:04 PM on February 26, 2013.

Your focus should be primarily on the hammers that are not aligned. THIS IS NOT NORMAL and it leads to a not normal piano playing experience.

This picture I took at 2:13 PM on February 27, 2013.

Your focus should now be on the beautiful alignment of the hammers (aside from the G below middle C hammer, which is in fact the low low low C hammer that was called in as a replacement...and what is one its butt? A clothes pin. That's how we role here in 2ndhand land.)

The difference? I unscrewed the bridge that sits behind the keys. Woops!

The piano will no longer be a desk. It will remain a piano. But it is still in for a good make over and a great project. Stick around and see what we have for you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

the Piano Project

"What do you do with a broken piano?"

This is the question we have been asking ourselves for awhile.

And now you might be asking, "How do you know your piano is broken?"

Well, there just comes a time in your life when you know your piano is broken. 

Some clues that might tip you off that your piano is broken?

# your keys do not sit evenly...they are always perpetually doing the wave
# you thought just the "G below middle C" key was broken until you fixed it and 20 other keys broke
# it's from the Great Depression era
# your good friend gave it to you for free and she got it for free from someone else
(just to name a few)

Back to my original question, "What do you do with a broken piano?" I am sure you think the answer is give it to Goodwill, freecycle it, craigslist it, or put in the dumpster (let's not start on the fallacies of putting it in the dumpster...sorry Mom).

But a little more ingenuity would lead to a better idea. An idea that may change your life forever. And this is it: why not make it into a desk?

You see, we have been living 2ndhand for awhile now and the desk we found for free by the dumpster is kind of getting old, not to mention ugly and un-ergonomic. So, let's make a project out of the piano and make it useful in this house of ours.

One man's junk is another man's treasure. In our case we happen to be the same "man". Stay tuned to see how it turns out and feel free to offer suggestions to make it even extra shnazzy-er!

What color would you paint your piano desk?

Would you take the keys out and put a wood surface in or would you leave the keys and put a glass surface over the top?

Do you think we're crazy?