Most case mods involve tweaks to a small computer case. Today's workspace features a vintage piano shell, completely gutted and restored, turned into a complete and concealable workstation. Peek inside for pictures and a detailed explanation of the build.
Lifehacker reader David Scothern shares how an eBay piano purchase, intended for actual piano practice, became a stealthy workstation tucked right away in his living room.
My wife wanted a piano to practice on. We weren't too worried about either the quality or the condition of the piano, so on that basis were happy to buy one off eBay that was for sale locally. When I went with a few friends to collect it, it was clear that not only was the piano really badly out of tune, but worse, it had severe woodworm. I didn't feel I could leave the owner with it—they were unaware of the infestation and had wooden floors!—so we very nearly drove it straight to the dump. I finally decided to take it home and stored it in my garage.
My first priority was to make it safe, so I ripped out the worst-affected pieces (one of the feet, plus the structure supporting the keys) and remade them. As a precaution, the rest of the structure was also treated. The foot is cut from an unused railway sleeper and then veneered; the key bed was initially remade from big chunks of softwood. I got the piano roughly in tune and set about stripping it back ready to refinish, along with re-making and re-veneering some of the smaller exterior pieces that were battered beyond repair.
About this time, we moved house and the piano was stored, untouched, for some months. In the meantime, we bought an electric piano. At this point I was still intending to restore a piano rather than convert it, but as work progressed it became obvious that the pin block was cracked in several places, meaning that it couldn't stay in tune as the pinblock could no longer keep the strings taut. I worked on other projects for a while.
With a new year beginning, I was inspired to sell one of my other toys to finance the conversion of the piano into a PC case. I unstrung it, then ripped out the pin block, the sound board and the frame. In fact, I reduced it to a stack of panels awaiting refinishing—the piano ceased to exist as a complete item for a while. Sanding didn't cut it, so I used a chemical paint stripper to prepare the surfaces. The keys were cleaned up, treated to repel worm and then waxed. I used flex ply and veneer to dress up some keyboard shelf runners to support the pull-out shelf, then made some custom mounts to support the monitors. The wood was less than pretty where the innards of the piano had been, so I upholstered it, securing the leatherette with almost nine hundred pins. No, I'm not quite certain where they all went either.
The base unit is a mid-range system:
Base model Core i7 (from back when they were relatively cheap)
6GB RAM in a triple-channel arrangement
1TB SATA HDD
GTX275 primary card and 7600GT to drive the third screen
The monitors are twin HP2009 20" (bought on clearance) and a LG2453TQ 24" in the middle (also end-of-line).
It's all built into a case made from the remains of a home cinema amp; I've modified another amp to fit in front of the base unit and drive my speakers (which again are pretty basic - 70W Acoustic Solutions floorstanders).
Still debating what my next project should be. There's room in the bottom of the piano to incorporate the speakers if I rebuild the cabinets...
Thanks for sharing a detailed writeup and great pictures David!