Piano recycling initiative staves off landfill warning

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Above: Mike Hendry, Piano Recyclers with some of pianos destined for recycling.


“The Garden of Eden is no more” Sir David Attenborough, World Economic Forum, Davos, January 2019

Well, the Garden of Eden may not be any more, but some of its fruits are definitely still available.

Generations of woodworkers have learnt that success in their craft comes not only from good preparation but also in choosing the right wood for each project. Every tree, board, and species are completely different and those differences really matter.


Stunning timber veneer from an old Nanon piano

A piano’s many parts also require many different types of wood. Over the 300+ years since the invention of the piano, piano makers acquired an intimate knowledge of the characteristics of timbers as well as a high-level of expertise in wood selection – both critical to producing the best quality pianos. Timbers commonly used in pianos include birch, maple, fir, oak, mahogany, ebony, spruce as well as many other exotic woods.


Dining table made from an entire piano

The period from the 1870s to the Great Depression were the halcyon days of piano making. The seriousness that piano makers took their wood selection can be seen in the making of soundboards. Craftsman demanded 70–100 years old timber from spruce trees grown at an altitude of 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level in mountain districts of temperate zones and which were then air dried for anything up to 10 years after logging.


Bedside table made from Renardi piano parts

Unfortunately, since the turn of the 20th Century many of the European and North American old-world forests that these timbers came from have been depleted or do not exist now. What is also tragic is that unwanted pianos made up of these old-world timbers will end up in landfill.


The Pianos Recycled team

Pianos Recycled is a 2-year old circular economy start-up who estimates that in the next 8 years the volume of pianos that will be dumped would fill the MCG! Their mission is to stop that happening by extending each saved piano’s life through restoration, recycling, or repurposing. Pleasingly, Pianos Recycled is finding an increasing interest from creative artisans, particularly woodworkers, in the potential to repurpose piano materials.


An invory necklet made from piano keys

Based in Keysborough, Pianos Recycled determines the provenance of each piano during the deconstruction process so that the original source of the salvaged timbers can be identified as accurately as possible and the history of the piano’s timber can be carried forward in the next stage of its life.

Ben Reddan of Soul of Bespoke Cabinet Furniture Artistry in Healesville is one of a new generation of enlightened and concerned artisans who understand that recycling, re-use and re-purposing are much better for the environment, economy and society and are collaborating with Pianos Recycled to do something new with old materials. In a recent stunning bedside lamp tables project Ben creatively re-used the c.1890 Hamburg manufactured piano’s burl walnut veneer for the outside tops, outside sides and outside drawer fronts as well as using its ivory, ebony and maple in constructing handles. He also respectfully integrated the piano’s name badges so its heritage lives on.


Deconstructing pianos

Believing that only a willingness to be curious and creative stands in the way of repurposing an entire piano, Pianos Recycled is collaborating with artisans working in fields ranging from furniture, stringed instruments, to fine jewellery.

In an effort to encourage even more repurposing creativity, Pianos Recycled is partnering the Victorian Woodworkers Association in an upcoming competition and exhibition. The challenge for competitors will be to use any or all of the components of a deconstructed piano to create items that best demonstrate great design, creativity, innovation, functionality, and/or skill. The competition is called The Piano Transformation Challenge and will start 5th March 2019 with entries closing 26th July. An exhibition will be held at the North Melbourne Meat Market October 21 to November 3, 2019.

Pianos Recycled’s founding partners are piano tuner Mike Hendry, environment scientist Sandra Klepetko, and innovation and transformation consultant Peter Humphreys who believe that stopping unwanted pianos being dumped in landfill can be achieved through innovative and creative thinking and design.

If you’re curious about Pianos Recycled or if you’d like more information about competing in or becoming a sponsor of The Piano Transformation Challenge, email Pianos Recycled info@pianosrecycled.eco

Learn more at: www.pianosrecyced.eco

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