Starr piano keys interior (C) D Friedman

Asbestos Used in Pianos & Piano Parts
When and in what forms was asbestos used in pianos and similar instruments?

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Asbestos piano components: this article describes the common forms in which asbestos was used in pianos and gives the brands and dates of manufacture of asbestos-containing pianos using Starr pianos as a key example.

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Asbestos Used In Pianos & Piano Parts

Starr piano keyboard (C) D Friedman

Reader Question: Did the Starr Piano company use any asbestos in any part / parts in there Star Remington Model?

Reply: Here are some example photos of standard, non-asbestos piano materials found in Starr pianos as well as advice on where to look for asbestos products

Thank you for the interesting Asbestos question about pianos. Certainly where asbestos is a general concern, an inspection onsite by an expert will provide far more assurance about asbestos risks than we can provide by web discussion. That said:

Asbestos was used in some piano padding. I have not found a referral to asbestos specifically used within pianos themselves. However it wouldn't surprise me if pianos made for humid climates didn't use asbestos millboard for some component parts.

Starr piano case (C) D Friedman

According to our research, The Starr Piano Company was established in Richmond, Indiana in 1872. The pianos were manufactured and distributed under the labels of Cumberland, Duchess, Gennett, Krell, Minum, Tayser, Royal, Pullman, Remington, Richmond, Coronado, Schmoller & Mueller and Starr Pianos.

Some Starr piano owners and references refer to these labels as "models" of the Star piano line.

While asbestos was widely used in many products at that time, the Cumberland photos we've seen, at least of piano exterior, use the expected wood case and hard white and black keys that may be ivory and ebony or celluloid, typically glued over wood.


Some Places to Look for Asbestos Material in a Piano

Starr piano keys interior (C) D Friedman

Key hammer felt: The white piano key hammers (photo at left of a Starr piano interior) could have been made of asbestos as that product was listed by Rosato. Key hammer felt in most pianos is more typically organic fibers.

Cement asbestos millboard: Does your Starr Remington model piano include the lighted music well unique to the Starr piano line? Without having found details about the construction of the light well, I pose that a manufacturer might have used cement asbestos millboard as a light well liner for fire safety.

Light wells & light wiring: You'd want to look inside an antique piano for any questionable material such as asbestos millboard such as hidden structural components in a piano made for humid climates or around electrical components - look at the surrounding material used in the luminous music well if your Starr piano has that feature.

Because theatre wiring often used asbestos insulating jackets and because the light wiring on a piano light well might be subject to high temperature, that's another place to look.

If you have specific materials in mind from your piano then, can you send me [CONTACT] some sharp photos of the whole piano, its identifying marks/labels including inside the unit, photos of the parts in question. I can thus advise you about further sampling and testing as well as considering the question about whether or not testing is warranted.

Do not disturb asbestos unnecessarily: Finally, as with many asbestos-containing materials, especially non-friable materials like asbestos cement millboard, the more significant asbestos hazard would arise if you were demolishing or grinding or cutting the material. Leaving it alone or coating it in place are usually advised.

Starr piano keyboard details (C) D Friedman

References for Star Pianos and Star Piano photos

Web search 08/13/2011, sources:

  • and pt=Keyboards_MIDI&hash=item3f0bfe2cce - where a photo series showed only conventional piano materials at both the piano exterior and interior
  • who provided some photos of a Cumberland model Star piano from 1909-1910 vintage.



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