Upcycled Piano Art

A bench top that had been in use at the store for over 100 years for regulating actions was finally deemed too pitted and worn to do the job we needed. It’s history actually predates Paul Hahn & Co. Before Paul Hahn Sr. opened this store in 1913, he worked as a the Head Salesman for Nordheimer Pianos. When he left Nordheimer to set up this store, he purchased some old equipment from the Nordheimer factory, which included this regulating bench. Pretty amazing then to think that this bench top was in continuous use in Toronto for action regulation for over 130 years. Possibly longer. 

So we were faced with the same dilemma that many of our customers face with their pianos. What do you do when something is beyond reasonable restoration, and yet the idea of parting with it is heartbreaking? I was particularly drawn to the wear on the bench top. Every nick, every divot, every chunk missing tells part of the Great Toronto Piano Story. So I asked our finisher Roy to spray over the top with a clear lacquer. It preserves the top, and helps it ‘pop’ a bit. I was puzzling about how to acquire a keyboard – and then the phone rang. A nice lady said that she’d taken apart a player piano, and had a perfect set of ivory keys. Would I be interested? Yes, absolutely! She delivered them to the shop in exactly the condition she’d described – a rare event in the piano world. Once the lacquer had dried on the benchtop, some contact cement to the back of the keys and voilà! 

It’s hanging in the small office area at Paul Hahn & Co. and I’ve been flattered by many compliments. But it did get me thinking. Perhaps there is a way to preserve a piece of the old family piano, even after the heartbreaking decision to send it to ‘piano heaven’ has been made. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Before the piano walks the plank, send us a picture. We could put our heads together and come up with a concept to create something beautiful – something that offers the same emotional connection, without the burden of guilt many feel when looking at their old, beat up, out of tune piano. 

For anyone who decides to do this, they’ll be investing in a skill set that needs support, and is disappearing. Many of the processes associated with doing this require the attention of our workshop and finisher. The finished product will be beautiful, and you’ll feel good knowing that part of the old family piano lives on. 

  • Jeremy Elliott