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New Brunswick Woodworker Transforms Old Pianos into Unique Creations

by Madonna

Jim Allison, a skilled woodworker from New Brunswick, Canada, has gained attention for his innovative approach to repurposing old pianos. Rather than restoring them, he meticulously deconstructs the pianos, salvaging their wood to craft jewelry boxes, miniature furniture, and even new musical instruments like strumsticks, harps, and banjos. Over the years, Allison has dismantled 42 pianos, each one yielding valuable aged wood.

Allison’s journey into the world of woodworking began in earnest a decade ago upon retiring from his career as an automatic transmission specialist. However, his unique foray into piano deconstruction for their wood commenced eight years ago when he recognized the potential value in the materials.

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The pianos Allison works on, often procured for free from sources like Facebook Marketplace, are typically old and out of tune. He carefully takes them apart, removing the heavy iron frame, strings, hammers, keys, and pedals, while preserving the wood. This wood, which often comes from the likes of maple, birch, American chestnut, cottonwood, poplar, spruce, and fir, is aged and dry, making it a joy to work with. The pianos he deconstructs range from 100 to 130 years old.

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Allison’s work carries a sentimental weight, as many of the pianos he transforms have been treasured family heirlooms passed down through generations. He often receives stories of grandparents, parents, and children all playing these pianos. While families may have to part with these beloved instruments due to downsizing or changing circumstances, Allison’s creations allow them to retain a tangible connection to their cherished piano.

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For families who want to remember their pianos, Allison crafts boxes from the wood of the piano and personalizes them with inscriptions indicating the piano’s history. This gesture serves as a testament to the value he places on the wood’s origins and the sentimentality attached to these instruments.

Despite his immense success and the considerable wood he’s accumulated, Allison has decided that this summer will mark his last endeavor with deconstructing pianos. He’s come to realize that he possesses an abundance of wood, which will last him for years given the small quantities he uses in his projects.

Though he doesn’t play the piano himself, his deep appreciation for music and his craftsmanship have given him a unique connection to these instruments. When he hears piano music, he envisions the intricate mechanics and components that he’s encountered through his woodworking process.

Jim Allison’s inventive approach not only breathes new life into old pianos but also transforms them into cherished keepsakes and artistic creations, allowing their legacy to endure in new forms.

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