Making jewellery from a dead piano – Step One: Be Prepared

tealightA long while back, I wrote about the piano donated to the Kitty and Cadaver jewellery project by Eddie Tichelaar of abc Pianos. The piano is warped beyond repair or salvation and would otherwise have been chopped up for firewood.

At the time, however, I hadn’t found a craft jeweller to work with, so the piano (maker unknown, but Eddie says it dates from 1900-1915) has been sitting in Jess Harris’s shed since 2013 waiting for its chance.

Well, not only does the project now have three craft jewellers (Hello Breanna, Amy and KRin!)  but Jess is about to move house, so dismantling the piano has become an urgent matter.

The piano - BeforeCoordinating our schedules so we could all be at the shed at the same time was difficult, so Jess and I decided to make a start one afternoon after she’d finished work for the day.

Here are a few things you need to know about dismantling a piano.


  • It’s best not to do it on a winter afternoon when you lose the light at about 5pm.
  • If you have to dismantle a piano on a winter afternoon after 5pm, it would really help if there was an electric light in the shed where the dismantling is to take place.
  • If you don’t have any such electric light, some candles would be helpful.
  • Tealight candles are not much good for the purpose.
  • With or without adqueate light, having the right tools is essential.
  • A simple flat-head screwdriver and a rubber mallet are not really the right tools for the whole job, though they’ll do in a pinch to get started.
  • Dismantling a piano in the dark by tealight on a cold winter evening with only a flathead screwdriver and a mallet is not the brightest idea Jess and I have ever had.
  • Once you get over how cold it is and how difficult the task ahead, dismantling a piano in the dark by tealight on a cold winter evening with only a flathead screwdriver and a mallet is a pretty bloody funny.

keysWhich is to say, Jess and I laughed a lot that evening while trying to work out how to dismantle the bloody thing. Some parts are held together with screws but I knew that other bits were held in by clever carpentry alone. The trick was working out which bits were which. By tealight candle in a dark shed.

Did I mention the shed was full of straw? Because one of Jess’s flatmates was rather ill-advisedly given a sheep as a pet-come-lawnmower.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

It’s illegal to keep a sheep in the suburbs like that – even in Boronia – so the sheep was re-homed. The hay was not.

Given how ridiculously ill prepared we were, Jess and I managed to pull apart a good deal of the piano, including the individual keys – before the competent people arrive.

The competent peopleBreanna and Amy were the competent people. They had pliers and a spanner and several clues about how to dismantle a piano.

They also discovered the electric light switch in the shed.

Yes, there was a light all along. Jess, who has lived in that house for a year, never knew it was there.

There’s still a bit to take apart – piano wire and metal pegs, mainly, but also more wooden panels and maybe the pedals, if the craft team can think of something to do with them.

JessWe’re also discussing how to use the ivory from the piano keys. As it’s a very old piano, we can legally re-use it, though we’d need paperwork to get the permit for it to be take  or sold overseas (ivory being, very properly, illegal otherwise). There are some ethical issues to consider though, so we’re talking about what approach we might take.

NarrelleShop at our KittyandCadaver Etsy store! New jewellery just added!

Interested in donating to or being part of the Kitty Jewellery Project? Visit the jewellery project page.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.



Eddie Tichelaar and the Unhaunted Piano

Kitty's piano

The piano for the jewellery project! Thank you Eddie and abc Pianos!

Recently I had the opportunity to pop out to abc Pianos in Montrose and meet the owner, Eddie Tichelar, who has donated a whole piano to the Kitty jewellery project! In due course we’ll be dismantling it to use the walnut panels, ivory keyboards and various strings, hammers and fitting to make decorative arts.

I had a lovely afternoon with Eddie, and discovered that repurposing dead pianos for jewellery isn’t the only use for the instruments he picks up.

Naturally, he restores and reconditions a lot of pianos – the ones that are salvagable at any rate. Others that can’t really be made servicable again get stripped for parts, like an old car! Ivory keys, brass fittings and especially the matching stools get used to match with pianos of the same vintage and wear to bring that back into shape.

But of course, many pianos have been left too long without tuning or care. With the strings not maintained at the correct tension, and the pianos sometimes stored where temperatures vary too greatly, the wood warps and the instrument becomes irretrievably out of tune. There’s nothing much to be done with the oldest and most out-of-tune pianos except toss them. Eddie only has so much room to store pianos for parts.

Some pianos get a second life as props. They might be emptied of metal frame, strings and all and sit on theatre or film sets, or in museums, looking the part without needing to be played.

IMG_3309Yet others can be made into something non-musical yet creative. Eddie’s own home features a few pianos that have been turned into display cases, and he tells me that FEral Arts Studio turns piano parts into art. He showed me pictures of piano frames used as headboards, garden beds and other decorative items as well.

When I asked Eddie if he had any ‘haunted piano’ stories, he laughed and took me to his store room. As we walked in, an ordinary piano (as opposed to the kind that have music rolls) began to play. There was a trick to it, which you can see here, but it was a wonderfully creepy moment.

So: if you have a piano that needs tuning; if you want to rent a piano so you can learn to play; if you want to talk to Eddie about parts and art or renting a dummy piano for a production, get in touch with abc Pianos in Montrose!

Interested in donating to or being part of the Kitty Jewellery Project? Visit the project page and stay tuned for details.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.