It’s always exciting when someone asks for a custom order. Such was the case with the headboard. I had made a mirrored coat rack from the music shelf of the Lyon & Healy piano and took it with me to a craft fair. A lady saw it, and it gave her an idea for something special she could do for her mother, who was a retired piano teacher. Her mother lived with her in her home, and she slept in a hospital bed to aid in her comfort. But the bed did not have a headboard. So the lady visiting my craft fair booth wondered if I could make a headboard from a piano music shelf. I told her I would try.
At home I looked at the other pieces I had from other pianos. Most of them were in poor condition, and I was inexperienced at that sort of restoration. So I began to shop around, mostly looking at the local listings on Craigslist. Pretty soon I found a piano near me at a price that I could afford, and I purchased it. So it was that I came across this beautiful Royal Cabinet Grand. Incidentally, this is also when I learned that the tallest of the upright pianos are actually grand pianos built vertically—hence the term “upright grand.” I call this one a cabinet grand because that is the name so designated on the piano.
My sons helped me get it home, and I went to work right away to build the headboard.
The first question to determine was how long the headboard should be. It was going to be longer than the bed was wide, no question about it. I removed the music shelf and the side pedestals from the piano, laid them out on the floor of my studio, then took pictures of them to send to my customer to show her what I had found. I also wanted her opinion as to whether to include the pedestals as part of the headboard. They would add visual interest, but they would also add width to an already too-wide headboard. She liked the look, however, so the pedestals stayed.
As with the coat rack I had built from the other piano, I flipped the music shelf upside down so the actual shelf would be up top.
On the piano, the music shelf had been hinged near the center, and the pedestal had been attached to the cabinet. In order to attach the pedestals to the shelf, I used key extensions on the back, which were secured with screws (from the piano action) and wood glue.
The headboard was not going to be attached to the bed, but was only going to lean against the wall behind it. Since the headboard had a gorgeous red mahogany finish, I went to the local hardware store to purchase a length of mahogany 2×4 wood to make the legs. They would be hidden by the bed, but just the same, I wanted them to suit the headboard. With a coat of stain for the legs and the key extensions on the back, everything was beginning to look quite nice. I attached the legs with antiqued brackets, and moved on to the finishing touches.
The next step was to conceal all the minor scratches and flaws. Then taking some green felt that I had removed from the piano and cleaned, I applied it to the places where the headboard would rest against the wall, to prevent any marks on the same. We bought a set of sliders to go under the legs, and the headboard was finished and ready for delivery.
It was a happy day when I got to meet the lady who would enjoy this piano headboard. I put it in her room, and listened with delight to some of her stories of her glory days as a pianist and teacher. My friends, that’s what piano art is all about.