Transforming Junk Into Art

January 21, 2021

Written by Juanita Fox

In September 2020 Garden Spot Village CEO Steve Lindsey sent Bob Winegardner an email. The gist of the note? I have a broken piano and I thought you might want to refurbish it into something meaningful.

Steve’s parents had recently moved and in helping to clear out of their home, he had discovered a baby grand piano in disrepair. With an eye for art, Steve knew that the piano had a bright future, if the members of the Garden Spot Wood Shop worked on it.

“Sure, why not?” was Bob’s reply.

The piano was missing the keyboard and soundboard, but had some serious potential for a unique bookshelf.

Because Bob, a Garden Spot Village resident since August 2004, and the other men in the Wood Shop were finishing up the Wood Shop renovations, the piano sat for about a month, awaiting attention. Every time Bob walked by the piano on his way to the Wood Shop he thought, “What are we going to do with that?”

With inspiration from Pinterest and a rough idea, Bob recruited master woodworkers Jim Sturgis, Garden Spot Village resident since May 2018, and Rolf Fehrenbach, Garden Spot Village resident since August 2020. The trio set to work.

They carefully deconstructed the piano, saving the frame and the lid. Along the way they identified pieces of the piano that would benefit from being laminated. They added a small piece of trim, which need to be heated and steamed so it could assume the curves of the piano. The shelves, made from a wild cherry tree harvested at Sycamore Springs in 2019, required planing and routing to fit just right.

Some false starts and missteps led to the best part of the Wood Shop, Bob says. “Whenever you are working in the Wood Shop and you say, ‘oh no!’ a group of eight to ten men will immediately surround you with good ideas to fix the problem.”

He continues, “Bill George always said, ‘It’s not a mistake if you can fix it.’ In the Wood Shop, you always have ideas how to fix it. It’s sorting through those ideas to find the one that works, that can be the challenge.”

At one point a miscalculation appeared to be insurmountable. The men wanted the lid of the piano to be the back of the bookshelf—but when they marked the base, they didn’t double check the measurements for the piano lid.

As they were nearing the end of the project, they realized the mistake. They had an 18-inch gap between the first and second shelf. It was an “Oh no!” moment.
Men immediately surrounded them to brainstorm ideas. But—it wasn’t until a day or two later when Harry Black, a Garden Spot Village resident since October 2003 said, “Why don’t we use the new CNC router to create a design–a keyboard or music notes?”

That idea stuck. Gordon Lash, Garden Spot Village resident since October 2016, took a photo of a baby grand piano keyboard and the first line of “How Great Thou Art” and programmed the CNC router to create the design. The custom art design was the crowning touch, transforming the mistake into beauty.

The timing of the project also struck Bob. Through the process, surging COVID cases and political unrest was plaguing the outside world. But in the Garden Spot Village Wood Shop, the men were focused on a common goal—to transform a useless instrument into a work of art that would benefit their community.

NOTE: The final bookshelf measures 78” tall by 55” wide by 16” deep and includes six compartments with a total of four shelves. The refurbishment took an estimated 700 hours. The bookshelf is for sale and all proceeds will benefit the Garden Spot Village Benevolent Fund. To learn more, contact Allison Cuthie, associate director of development at [email protected].

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