Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Forte Piano

One of my biggest worries going into our production of Amadeus, was the forte piano. You simply can't do the show without it, it's the focal point of several scenes and needed to be beautiful. 
Our costume designer proposed a brilliant solution. As it turned out, one of the local universities was planning to do Amadeus this coming school year. She put me in touch with the set designer there and we decided to share the work. The University paid for the materials (about $200), and gave me their shop space to work in for the day. They also sent me a student assistant for a few hours to help. I did the research, shopping and building, and the set designer at the university did the painting. 
 The piano was built with a plywood base and lid. 1x12 framing, and bendy-board for the curved side. There is a 1 inch plywood curve, cut to match the curve of the base of the piano on the top edge of the bendy board which helps it hold it's shape. 
To create the keyboard I used a single piece of 1x12 and ran it through the radial arm saw at 3/4 inch increments. Each cut only went about half way across the width of the board, leaving everything attached on one edge. This allowed me to only worry about attaching one piece, and allowed me to keep even spacing along the keyboard. 
The black keys were cut from a piece of 1x which had been ripped on the table saw to the correct width I needed. The ends were curved down by briefly running them past the belt sander. 
 The legs of the piano were Oak railing pieces purchased at Menards and cut to length. They are attached with long lag screws going from the inside of the piano (attach these before the keyboard) down almost 5 inches into the leg. 
 I used an extra leg, hinged to the inside of the piano to hold the lid open when needed. 
 I ended up having to cut the lid twice. The first lid I made from immediately tracing the base, when I initially drew it, and cutting both at the same time. Unfortunately, since my carpentry was not perfect, and the sanding and smoothing of the curve after cutting each piece was not exact, the first lid didn't fit at all. I traced the top of the (almost) finished piano to create the second lid and the curves matched much better.
 And here is the finished piano onstage, finished and painted. 
 I was very proud of how it turned out. 

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