How To Take Apart An Upright Piano In 10 Steps

For the last 12 years, this has been my piano.
It has helped me release pent up emotion, it has helped me think, and it has especially helped me break through spiritually . About two years ago I commissioned a local furniture refinisher to give it a face lift – and it has been our front entry statement piece ever since. We love it – and you can see why!

Life has changed a lot for us recently, as it has for many. We made the decision to downsize from a large home into a condo/apartment for the next couple of years. This decision left us with many things to ponder, but one of my biggest questions was “where do I put my piano?!” I broke it down to two options:

  1. Try to sell it and toss it if not sold.
  2. Try to lessen its weight for potential storage.

We attempted the 1st, but with COVID being a thing still, no stores are open (and many small shops have been forced to permanently shut down), so it was a long shot that anyone would take this as a decor/show piece. I really did not want to toss it- though I came close to it during the dismantling process). We made the decision that IF we could remove some of its weight, we would put it in storage and once in our forever home, we would replace the keys with an electric piano (some of the keys were too damaged to tune, and replacements were too expensive).

I called my most trusted helper (my little sister), we brain stormed, and we got to work. Here are the steps we took and some lessons we learned.
DISCLAIMER: we did not know what we were doing and you should consult a professional before getting into this to avoid injury.

Want to watch us do it all? Here is our YOUTUBE VIDEO!

Tools: safety glasses and other gear, screw drivers, sawzall, hammer, pry ba/crowbar, cutting pliers IF you cannot get a piano tuning hammer to release the tension on all strings

  1. Remove the upper panel, lower panel, top, and fallboard.
  2. Remove the keys (one at a time) and key bed, leaving just the key frame (wooden base)
  3. Play one last song
  4. Remove the hammers/action/dampner (this one big unit, I called it “the spine”)
  5. Use a piano tuning hammer to release the tension of each string. This is where we should have thought ahead and bought one of these guys. We had to instead cut each string in order to safely remove the harp and backing. If you do not remove the tension you can have devastating injuries occur if a string snaps while trying to remove/move the piano further.
    (THIS VIDEO gives you options on potential fits for the pins, we were missing some tools so it was a no go for us. Fast forward to minute 7:45)
  6. We used cutting pliers and made sure to put the lower panel and upper panel back on in order to protect us from any snapping strings. Do not skip this step, we also learned the hard way that is is a MUST for safety.

7. Learn from our mistakes: we first cut out part of the key bed and trapwork area thinking we were going to remove the cast iron harp by pulling it forward and up. This will never happen, even after removing all of the screws. Why? Because they used some insane industrial crazy strong glue to keep it all in place. This is when we decided to just cut out the back instead. Now, the back portion weighs (we estimate) around 250lbs/113kg. If you are going to attempt this, do not have anyone or anything behind it in case it collapses, and get the muscle help needed to be safe.

8. We used a hammer and baseboard pry bar (because we do not own a larger crowbar) to separate the side of the piano from the back portion. We did have to come in with the sawzall on the one side, but the other side just pulled apart.

Here is where awareness and safety is a must again- we are talking about 250lb of dead weight potentially falling.

9. The back portion of the piano has the two posterior wheels attached to it, so if this falls the wheels could keep it moving. We chose to tie it up so that we had some where to hold that would not cause our fingers to get crushed. Do not try and hold it up with your leg or leave someone alone at this point, we are again talking about serious harm. We had one person could control weight from the front while two others controlled weight from each side.

10. We had great success on Kijiji and Marketplace when it came time to do something with all the left over “insides/garbage”. Woodworkers want the wood, scrap metal collectors wanted the cast iron/strings/screws, a craft maker wanted the keys, and a piano ethusiast wanted “the spine” for display.

We will now store the piano shell until we have our final home.

Have you taken apart a piano before? What are some tips you would like fellow readers to know before hand?

With love,

Ashley –

One response to “How To Take Apart An Upright Piano In 10 Steps”

  1. Hola Ashley: Tengo un piano muy antiguo pero no quiero desarmarlo. Tratare de venderlo a las tiendas de antiguedades o coleccionistas. Dios te sigs Acompañando en esta nueva etapa. Cariños para ti y tu bello bebe.


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