Lockin' Down the Lid on a Baby Grand
February 3, 2009 8:21 PM   Subscribe

PianoSecurityFilter: How to lock down the lid on a Steinway grand piano?

I have an interesting challenge. I need to be able to lock just the top lids (the part that opens up) on several Steinway baby grand pianos. My piano technician tells me there is no easy existing solution to this challenge, but I don't believe this is necessarily true. Barbaric options are off the table (i.e., we'd like to avoid drilling into the wood). Have you ever seen this done? It seems like it should be simple and involve some sort of clamp . . .

The lock does not need to be highly secure. It just needs to discourage casual users from opening the lid and defeating our humidifiers in the dry heat of a NYC interior in winter.

Ideally, it should be easy to remove and replace the locking solution with a key.

Improvised solutions are more than welcome.

(to be clear, I do not mean the keyboard cover lid; I mean the large slab of wood covering the soundboard and strings, that is propped open by a leg when raised)
posted by fourcheesemac to Grab Bag (23 answers total)
Can it be ugly?

If so, find yourself a QuickGrip clamp of the appropriate length.

Drill a hole in the bar at the appropriate location underneath where the movable jaw would be when the clamp was squeezed slightly on the lid and the underside of the piano.

Place a padlock through that hole after you have clamped the lid down.

If this solution is too ugly for you, a decent carpenter could build something a bit sexier out of wood and steel (I have already built it in my mind, it wouldn't take much)

Note, I am not a piano technician type guy, you should check with one of them to make sure that this isn't going to damage your piano in some unforseen way.
posted by davey_darling at 8:29 PM on February 3, 2009

I'd just wrap a tie-down strap around the whole piano, lid and all, with a couple layers of towels between the strap and the piano.

Maybe put the actual ratchet mechanism under the belly of the instrument.
posted by notsnot at 8:30 PM on February 3, 2009

Not quite what you asked, but are these pianos housed in small enough spaces, like practice rooms, where it might be feasible to use small room humidifiers rather than piano humidifiers? I'm thinking clamp-like solutions would be a real bear to keep from either damping the sound board or, worse, sympathetically vibrating and potentially marring the wood finish.
posted by dr. boludo at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: dr. boludo, no, these are in large classrooms with very poor climate control options.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:40 PM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: Uh - carefully unscrew the top-stick hinges, and hide the top sticks till spring?
posted by nicwolff at 8:43 PM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: Here's a ridiculous photoshop image of what I described that I just threw together. I think you will find it rather elegant...

(all images are random google image searches, that's not my messy piano)
posted by davey_darling at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: nicwolff, that is a compelling idea indeed. thank you!

And davey, that's above and beyond, so thank you too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:52 PM on February 3, 2009

Hmm, it would seem that nicwolff has sliced my idea to bits with Occam's razor.

Good luck!
posted by davey_darling at 8:58 PM on February 3, 2009

Making an assumption here that people with access to play these pianos are at least music students and not just your basic mouth breathing wanderers-by, I'd try a simple sign. Something along the lines of "Please don't raise the lid for any reason. It defeats our humidification scheme, will damage thee lovely instruments, and make the baby Jesus cry." If that doesn't work, clamp'em...
posted by jwhowa at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2009

Taking the sticks will discourage people from keeping the lids open, but won't stop them people from opening them. I think Davey's solution with Jwhowa's sign is the best solution. But heck, why not take the sticks too, just in case?
posted by dirtdirt at 9:35 PM on February 3, 2009

Seconding tie-down straps. With proper padding at the points of contact, and by hiding the ratchet mechanism underneath, you'd discourage all casual openings. It would still be easy to get into the piano if necessary, and there's no hardware additions or alterations to the piano body whatsoever.

Can you tell I like tie-down straps? They're the duct tape of tying thing together.
posted by Aquaman at 10:11 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: jwhowa, you'd be amazed. Signs we have. Many signs. And email reminders. And some level of access control (but it's not perfect, and unauthorized users frequently sneak in to practice or jam, folks we have no way of communicating with or sanctioning.

The problem with removing the lid-stick, as I think about it, is not just that people would still try to open the tops, probably injuring themselves in the process, as dirtdirt says, but because legitimate reasons to raise the tops arise nearly daily.

(Since posting the question, I've discovered online that a company called Renner makes -- it seems -- a lid lock for grand pianos, but I have not been able to locate a dealer or see a picture of the mechanism. They're German, complicating any effort to deal with them as a supplier (I can barely get weird things purchased from major US vendors, let alone small German piano parts makers). They may have a US distributor, however. )
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:34 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: Aquaman, some kind of strap does seem like a reasonable solution, but the typical tie downs I know -- 1 or 2 inch wide canvas with big hardware -- would not fly aesthetically in this situation (nor would a big old carpentry clamp!). Any idea if there's a more genteel version of the tie down strap?
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:36 PM on February 3, 2009

Sandbags or something heavy. You don't need to make it impossible to open, just a pain in the butt, so nobody will bother for the short time they're there. You could put a nice cover over the unsightly part, with a sign.
posted by ctmf at 11:16 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about putting an alarm (light-sensitive?) in it? I'd imagine a loud screeching would discourage people from opening it.
posted by malevolent at 11:27 PM on February 3, 2009

You might use locking security straps. I believe you can use as many as you need, mouth to tail, to get the required length.
posted by spasm at 12:47 AM on February 4, 2009

Put something heavy on top. Maybe the body of the last person who opened it?
posted by Hali at 5:51 AM on February 4, 2009

Magnetic Secret Latch.

(That's just an example and may not be suitable, but there are others out there.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:55 AM on February 4, 2009

Frame the do not raise the lids signs and put them on top of the pianos. Then, the frames have to actually be moved in order to open the lids without breaking the frames.

That's easy enough when you actually need to open the piano lids for a reason, but should keep all but the most assholish lookie-loos from doing it.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:19 AM on February 4, 2009

Best answer: How about a 20lb. bust of Beethoven on top of every piano ala Schroeder?
posted by mimo at 8:37 AM on February 4, 2009

Make long sandbags the size of the lid, or get those doorstoppers that are sand-filled. Place on lid, along with a motion detector that makes a loud noise when moved. Museums use these to keep people from touching artwork. And remove piano benches, so people can't settle in.
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2009

Tie down straps are what I first thought of. McMaster has some light duty ones that might be pretty inconspicuous, and you might even be able to get them in black.
posted by RobotNinja at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2009

You're in NYC. Heck, Steinway headquarters are just a subway ride away. Go ask them!
posted by exphysicist345 at 2:01 PM on February 5, 2009

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