From piano to podium

Oak wood reclaimed, reworked from vintage instrument

After Eleanor Bulman

The Watch Lake Hall now sports a handmade podium with an illustrious past.

Watch Lake & District Women’s Institute (WLDWI) treasurer Lynda Krupp says Helmut Sander volunteered to build the podium out of an old piano that had been in use at the hall for many years until it was damaged about 30 years ago.

“It wasn’t new then. It was really a wonderful, charming piece and it was often used for various events.”

After it was damaged beyond repair in an unfortunate mishap, the broken piano was stored in the hall until Sander was approached three years ago and was asked for his time and expertise.

“He’s got some wonderful skills and he saw there was still some terrific wood he could use; there wasn’t a lot, but there was some.

“So that’s what he did … he went ahead and made this beautiful podium. It’s got a little cover on top that you can lift off and put music sheets, or whatever, inside. It is pretty awesome.”

The WLDWI wanted to recognize his contribution, and seized the opportunity at the recent grand opening of the newly renovated hall, she explains.

Krupp adds a descriptive plaque was added to the podium and a short speech was made about his handcrafted gift to the hall.

Helmut says he did not expect to receive such recognition.

“I was quite surprised. I did it just because I like carpentry, for one thing; and I helped with the building of the new section of the community hall and, you know, money was short.”

The broken old piano pieces were brought to him by Eleanor Bulman, he explains.

“She came to me and asked if I could use the wood, which was in quite bad shape, and could I make a podium out of it. So that’s what I did.”

Sander says he reclaimed as much of the original piano wood as possible, both oak veneer and solid oak, and used only minimal pieces of other wood.

“The wood was [fairly] destroyed because I guess it got wet, and then the veneer went.”

He tackled the scratched and delaminated oak, and successfully restored it with a lot of sanding and re-staining in the original colour, he explains.

“It was quite a job – I liked it.”

When the time came to begin the latest hall renovations, Bulman says she had helped remove and dismantle the damaged old piano stored there.

“We found we could take all the wood off … but the harp we moved into my backyard and covered it with a tarp. We uncover it in the summer time and the neighbourhood kids … sit there and strum it with sticks.”

The keyboard was badly damaged, although a few years back someone did manage to play it for fun, she notes.

“The strings and the leather are too delicate, they are just deteriorating. So that’s just hanging in my shed now until we figure out what to do with it.”

Bulman says the podium lid uses the piano hinge with the original boards still attached to it, while the heavier part of the piano was used for the legs.

She explains her idea to approach Sander came about after she had been wondering how to reclaim some of the old oak and the need arose for a lectern for the hall.

“We did a dinner show there, called Aunt Martha’s Funeral, and they needed a podium for it, so we asked him to do it.

“Helmut [Sander] is very handy for woodwork … he is a talented man. He did a marvellous job with it – he deserved the plaque on it.”


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