The Iowan

Grand Display

Making A Grand Display 'Baby' Grand That Is

By Brandon Taylor

Village, Village everywhere. Looking for another place to display? Why not on the top of your piano. Whether it’s an upright or a grand, you can make an amazing display and find more room for your collection.

We bought this piano for the display — yes, we bought a piano for a display. We were at an estate sale where a baby grand was for sale. No one was interested in it, so we got it for $62.50. It wasn’t in the best condition because it had been used by a movie production company, so I didn’t mind covering the top with a display. 

I also researched the piano manufacturer and found out that it was made by the award winning piano crafting company Alois Kern, in 1878 in Wien, Austria. That’s why I decided to use Alpine Village to make a small Austrian hamlet.

When you start planning your display, the first thing to consider is how to handle the building cords. Unlike a normal display you can’t drill holes or run your cords under the display. It takes a little more pre-planning. Take into consideration the direction your piano is facing and put the cords out the side that is closest to the wall. 

To protect the surface of the piano, glue felt to the bottom of your Styrofoam™ layout. This will keep the piano top from being scratched or scuffed up. You can use many types of glue, but if you use a spray, which I usually use, spray it on the felt not the Styrofoam™. Some glues will eat through Styrofoam™.

Determine your layout. Nothing is different here, use the same procedure you generally use with your displays. 

Stephen Pepin’s display in the June/July 2012 issue of Village D-Lights inspired me to try working with orange peal spray … it fell for me. But, it did give me the chance to get out the plaster again. I haven’t used plaster on a display in almost 20 years. I suggest trying it. 

Plaster of Paris comes from many different companies and can be found at craft, discount, and hardware stores. Depending on which brand you use, colors range from an ecru to white. You will want to paint it to help keep it from cracking and to extend the life of the plaster. 

Plaster is messy! So be prepared. After deciding what shape and where I wanted my mountains, I laid Plaster Cloth to shape it. Plaster Cloth is made of strips of mesh that have been dipped in plaster. To use it, cut it to length, soak it in water, and then lay it. This cloth has holes, so you will need more plaster to lay over it. 

Notice one thing missing from the display? Ground covering. I wanted the areas other then the road to be covered in snow, since the village was in the mountains. A short cut would have been to just put Fresh Fallen Snow down. But, I had more plaster. The directions on the plaster call for one part water, two parts plaster. I wanted the “snow” to flow, so I mixed in a little more water. Then I poured the plaster mix over the area where I wanted snow-covered ground. It gave the illusion of mounds of snow. 

Progression into each level in a display has often been debated by collectors. How can the people on the first level get to the second and so on. 

Don’t get hung up on it. Suspend reality. In this display, level one has only plaster snow to connect it to the second and third levels. The second level has an incline with a road to the third level. 

A road can be built up by 1) using the plaster, 2) cutting Styrofoam™, or 3) laying multiple layers of masking tape and laying the ground cover over it. 

For some of the levels, I just carved “slate” walls. The slate-like appearance was achieved by bending the wire square on my hot-wire cutter. Be sure you have your cutter off and unplugged when you do this. The wires are delicate so take great care when bending. Cut the Styrofoam™ in lines and crossways, make a few jagged cuts here and there for a natural look. 

Paint it dark gray. Once that dries, dry brush lighter gray and white on it to give it depth. Dry brushing is a painting technique that uses a very small amount of paint on your brush. Constructing these walls makes it look like your villagers have cut them right out of the mountains around them.

After all the plaster/paint dries, finish by adding your houses and accessories.

A piano display not only adds more space for your growing collection, but also makes a “grand” statement on a piece of furniture that is beautiful in itself. 

Until next time … keep your eyes open for more display ideas.

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