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Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary #3007536 09/11/19 03:08 AM
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DanSteinberg Offline OP
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Hi there everyone. I recently built a custom wood cabinet for my home digital piano, and thought it might be fun to share some photos of the build process with everyone.

I bought my digital piano (a Roland F130R) in 2014. It has a very realistic keybed feel and great quality piano sound, but is built into a very small and modern looking cabinet, which is what I wanted at the time, when it had to fit into a small space.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

Fast forward to now, we are in a somewhat bigger house with a larger living room, and I now was wishing I had bought a more traditional “console” type digital piano. Besides looking nicer, it also gives you a more traditional top surface, which is useful to me since I like to have sheet music on top AND an Ipad on a stand to use with music software, all at the same time. Not to mention the obligatory framed picture or miniature bust of Beethoven.

I decided to build, with my father-in-law’s assistance, a hardwood piano shell to install the Roland in. Here are some pictures and notes of the process.


I knew that I wanted the piano to have a clear type stain that would let the wood grain show through, so I used mahogany boards since they can have a nice looking grain. My local hardware store sells 1” thick boards in assorted lengths and widths, which worked pretty well. Here’s a pic of some of the raw boards.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

The first part of the project was to assemble the two side panels, one of which is seen below.

Before any buying of wood or cutting happened, I had to make some computations to make sure:

1-The height of the piano keys, when bolted to the panels, would be at the correct height from the floor.

2-The height of the top surface was at a good height for sheet music, when resting on the top panel, to be at eye level

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]


Since the wood boards only came in a maximum width of 1 foot wide, the upper part had to be rotated 90 degrees, compared to the lower section, to make the side panels “deep” enough.

This meant that the wood grain of both sections would run in different directions. Knowing this, I meant to pick side pieces that had a “boring” grain appearance so the the 90 degree contrast would not be very noticeable.

As seen in the picture, I failed miserably at this objective, somehow picking pieces that had big fat stripes of different grain coloration. Best laid plans smile

The two pieces were joined on the thin edge with a tool called a “kreg jig” which I had recently learned about, it worked very well for that particular job. If the joint looks a little ragged, that’s our fault for holding the 2 pieces freehand when drilling the pocket holes, as opposed to clamping them together on a flat surface first.

For the curved line in the top, we:

-marked intersecting lines of where we wanted the curve to be

-used a water glass to trace the circular curve

-used a handheld jigsaw to cut along the pencil lines. When doing so we clamped both of the upper pieces together so we knew the cut would be consistent for both curved cuts

The pocket holes you see form the kreg jig got filled in later with wood filler, and are on the inside of the piano so you don’t really see them anyway.

For the bottom feet, we used skinnier “trim” pieces of mahogany, screwed into the vertical side panel from the bottom. I used a countersink drill bit when doing so, so the screws on the bottom would be flush and not make the feet wobble or scratch the floor. Later on we also used a sander to round and taper the front edges of the feet.


The next job was to “uninstall” the Roland digital piano from the frame it came in.

-First we unscrewed the piano from the frame it came in by unscrewing the “L” brackets

-As a 2nd step we had to unscrew some additional plastic “side cheeks” that were still on the piano, when they were removed it looks like you see below.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]


Once we had both side panels built, it was time to attach the “top lid”. In the pic below you see the lid before its length is cut to size.

We cut it so that the top lid extends beyond the side panels, just a 1/2” or so on either side, to give a more decorative appearance. To attach it, we screwed it down from the top, into the top of the side panels, using a countersink bit, then wood screws, then wood hole filler that was sanded down flush.

The piano is not yet bolted to the side panels with L brackets yet in this photo, so to hold it in place while checking everything it is sitting on the piano bench, with some books underneath to get it to the right height.


[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]



In this next pic, we have also rounded off the top corners of the side cheek, to make them look less boxy. The curves will be rounded out better later on with sanding.

The piano is now also bolted into the side panels/top panel with its L-bracket, but still does not look very good because of the big empty space above the piano itself.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]



This issue is solved, partially, by installing a vertical piece of wood that comes down from underneath the lid.It was attached by screws coming in from either side, on the side panels, again using countersink bits and wood filler.

In this photo I have also re-attached the pedal board that came with the unit. Like the piano itself, it attaches to the legs with l-brackets on either end.

Lastly, we have now made another set of rounded cuts, on the bottom of the side cheeks, to again make things look less boxy and square.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]



Now that things are starting to take shape, it’s time to sand the wood and get it nice and smooth. Some trash bags and painters tape cover the piano so saw dust does not get into the keybed or electronics.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

At this point some may be asking “why did you not sand and stain the wood before assembling everything, it would be easier”

The reason for this is, I was not sure if this project was going to come out looking halfway decent, or look like a total mess, in which case I would undo it all and put the piano back in the stand it came with.

So, I did not want to take the time to sand and stain (which is pretty time consuming) until I had it put together and knew I would be happy. Even knowing that both of those tasks would be harder when it’s all put together.



So now it was time to stain and seal the wood. Originally I was going to stain it a “gunstock brown” like we did on some bookshelves we made out of the same wood, which came out nicely. But then I thought I wanted a lighter, more golden color, where the wood grain could be seen better.

The last piece of wood I attached, not seen in previous photos, was a “cross bar” at the back to give everything more stability. On the back of it (which would not be seen since is against a wall), I tested what it would look like with no stain, but instead just an application of “tru-oil” sealer, a tung-oil variant that a lot of guitar refinishers use that deepens the color of wood and gives a nice satin sheen (or high gloss if you do more coats).


[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]


It looked like exactly what I was going for, so I decided no stain, just 1 or more coats of the tru-oil.

So, here are a bunch of pictures of the piano once the first coat of tru-oil has been applied. I have also applied a thin layer of mahogany veneer to the front “lip” of the digital piano, which helps it looks more integrated with the piano shell than before.


[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/eN65zm3.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/CMzlesx.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/htS0nb4.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/plW54Sx.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/dSBdY7o.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/OiPKPlt.jpg[/img]


[img]http://i.imgur.com/rXYloMY.jpg[/img]



EDIT: I am not sure for this group of images why the forum is embedding the first one but not the rest. They are all using the same link format from imgr.



Once I did put on the first coat of tru-oil, I pretty quickly had some second thoughts and was wishing I had stained it a darker brown after all, for the following reasons:

-The tru-oil alone did not get it as dark as I was hoping. It did so on the test patch I did on the back, but that piece of mahogany was darker and richer than most of the other pieces, so the rest of the piano did not look as good once oiled.

-The side pieces, with their wood grain running into each other at 90 degrees, would not look as odd with darker stain covering up more of that issue.

-The black sections of the digital piano still visible might have blended in better with a darker shade of wood

Overall though, I am still fairly happy.


Steps left still to do:

1-Unscrew pedal assembly from the black particle board assembly that they came with, and attach them to a pedalboard made out of the same mahogany wood as the rest of the piano. I can do this by taking 3 skinnier boards, and gluing them together into a single “block” that has the same dimensions of the black pedalboard bar you see right now.

2-Make a music stand on the top shelf out of mahogany wood. If anyone can help give some guidance on what type of hinges I would use to make a lid that stays up when you want it to, but can also fold flat, I would be very grateful. I’m not sure how that works exactly.

3-Install one more piece of wood, laid out horizontally, to cover up the remaining black-colored top panel of the digital piano. Right now that last big chunk of black piano is still visible and makes the whole thing look less intergrated than I would like.

It would need to be on some sort of hinge, so that it could be momentarily flipped up when I need to get to the piano’s button controls, which are located on the left side of that section.

4-More coats of tru-oil and more buffing between coats. I’d like to get it to a better level of “polish” like you see a real piano have.



Anyways, thanks for listening to my long-winded ramblings, feel free to comment or ask questions if you have any!

Last edited by DanSteinberg; 09/11/19 05:37 AM.
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Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007538 09/11/19 03:11 AM
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No questions just always as impressed as hell with anyone that has these skills thu

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007544 09/11/19 04:36 AM
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like


Moe
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"FWIW, I believe all your shafts should be the same." - miden

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Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007545 09/11/19 04:40 AM
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Great first post. Thanks for sharing!


Eric
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Rhodes Mk 1 Stage 73; Hammond M3; Kurzweil SP-6; Roland FP-4, Juno-106; Nord E3-73; Studiologic Sledge; DSI Mopho KB; Moog Minitaur; Stuff
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007572 09/11/19 12:53 PM
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First time I've ever seen an e-piano "chop job" -- or was it "unchopped" ? ? wink

Seriously though -- well done! Looks great!

Old No7

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: Old No7] #3007575 09/11/19 01:03 PM
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PianoMan51 Offline
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Dan,

This is a forum for obsessed folks.

Welcome!!!

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007579 09/11/19 01:16 PM
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rickzjamm Offline
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Nicely done!


Plan your work & work your plan.
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: rickzjamm] #3007604 09/11/19 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by rickzjamm
Nicely done!


agreed. Next time you are in DC, let me know and I'll buy you a beer. cheers


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007610 09/11/19 03:58 PM
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Absolutely fantastic!

Welcome to the Stand Crafting group smile

Seriously, that is one hell of a job.


David
Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Yamaha MODX6 |

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007687 09/12/19 12:37 AM
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DanSteinberg Offline OP
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Thanks everyone for all the kind words! I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

As mentioned, I do now wish I had stained it at least a little darker. Too late now though, since the tru-oil has sealed up the wood' "pores".

Still not sure why all the photos of the finished product are not embedding properly like the other ones. But at least the links to the un-embedded pics do work when clicked on.


Although this is my first post, I am a longtime reader (lurker?) of these forums, under all its ownerships, for a long time, decades even. I remember some old and memorable threads (I think they were from this forum) about:

-Some folks moving a 2nd hand purchased Leslie cabinet down the river "Deliverance" style

-A request for the "tab" of the keyboard part to Van Halen's "I'll Wait", which was then delivered complete with knife and chicken foot symbols

-The Seussian post title of "Dave Bryce, I Need Advice!"'



Last edited by DanSteinberg; 09/12/19 12:59 AM.
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007700 09/12/19 01:49 AM
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Well done I like what you did.

I probably would of done something like that back when I was in school and taking shop class, these days I would just look at this an excuse to buy and new piano.

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3007711 09/12/19 03:00 AM
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Very nice. Welcome to the forum.
Your post reminded me of my friend Lenny LeBlanc, who was always as good with a wood working tool as he was with a vocal and a song lyric. He had the same thought as you and did this!
[Linked Image from jubilee-live.flickr.com]


"What's the point of living longer if you have to give up everything that makes life worth living to do so?"
Einstein (supposedly)

www.stevenathanmusic.com
https://www.musiciansforpensionsecurity.com/
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: Steve Nathan] #3008073 09/15/19 04:06 AM
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DanSteinberg Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Steve Nathan
Very nice. Welcome to the forum.
Your post reminded me of my friend Lenny LeBlanc, who was always as good with a wood working tool as he was with a vocal and a song lyric. He had the same thought as you and did this!
[Linked Image from jubilee-live.flickr.com]


Steve, that setup your friend Lenny built is beautiful looking! I have been officially upstaged. Or maybe I should say "upshelled" smile

Do you happen to know if he made that piano shell from scratch, or is is re-purposed from a real piano that he removed the keybed from?

I always thought it might be cool, if I ever had an unlikely amount of free space and free time, to try the following project:

-Find an old baby grand on craiglist that has wood in great shape (or could be refinished), but not worry if the strings were shot, soundboard was cracked, etc. I have seen listings like this before where the piano is free for the taking.

-Refinish the wood of the piano as needed

-Remove the keyed and strings/harp

-Install a weighted 88-note MIDI controller (I see listings for old Fatar and Kurzweil controllers with well regraded actions fairly often for $100-$200

-Build in an Ipad, near the music desk, with the usual apps for piano sounds and other

-Install a triple pedalboard unit into the real pedalboard (this could be tricky)

-Underneath the piano somewhere out of sight, install a small class D digital amp to amplify the ipad sound output

-Install speakers connected to the amp's output to logical spots inside the piano shell (where the strings/harp would normally be). This is an approach you see done from some high end digital pianos

Some of the small class D amps (like the ones form a company like MiniDSP) also contain guilt in multi-band EQ designed for room correction. Perhaps you could use this to "tune" the amp's output so that the response from the speakers mounted in the piano shell sounded as piano-like as possible.

And then if one's time were worth anything whatsoever, by the time they finished such a project, they will realize they could have just bought a baby-grand shaped digital piano from a company like Roland, and come out ahead even if those ones are something like $8000:)

Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3008074 09/15/19 04:07 AM
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DanSteinberg Offline OP
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I reposted the image links of the finished products to a new post and now the embedded images seem to work. Easier to see than clicking on each one in the earlier post.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Last edited by DanSteinberg; 09/15/19 04:08 AM.
Re: Custom Wood Shell for Digital Piano: Photo Build Diary [Re: DanSteinberg] #3008149 09/15/19 09:52 PM
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Quote
Do you happen to know if he made that piano shell from scratch, or is is re-purposed from a real piano that he removed the keybed from?


Lenny is a master craftsman in every sense of the word. He has always built fine furniture and many things that are simply stunning. He built his own houses several times as well. He told me this "shell" was from scratch, built with some mahogany he had "laying around".


"What's the point of living longer if you have to give up everything that makes life worth living to do so?"
Einstein (supposedly)

www.stevenathanmusic.com
https://www.musiciansforpensionsecurity.com/

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