Olinda resident making ‘preposterous’ phoenixes from pianos

David Cox with one of his impressive 'phoenixes'. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

Pianos are renowned for their intricacy and grand appearance, often made with over 12,000 parts, thousands of them moving just to make music.

A creative Olinda resident has found an impressive and similarly majestic way to repurpose and salvage pianos that are out of use, including one that he recently picked up after it was spotted off the Warburton Trail.

David Cox makes decorative ‘phoenixes’ from pulled-apart pianos and said he’s been a collector of junk for as long as he could remember.

“As a kid, I used to collect junk and make stuff out of it, I’ve grown up making all sorts of bits and pieces but it was probably two years ago, I got my hands on a set of piano keys and wasn’t sure what to do with them,” he said.

“A friend of mine is an acapella singer for a group called Suade and was building a recording studio and wanted a bit of a decorative sound baffle and hit me up, so I took the piano keys and thought I’d glue them together as a wall feature but wanted to make something interesting from them.”

The recently discarded piano became a bit famous on Facebook after residents noticed it on the Warburton Trail and wondered where it came from and where Mr Cox expressed an interest in it. Mt Dandenong band Open Kamodo came out to clear the air, informing everyone they had been using it for a music video but couldn’t transport it back off the trail after they finished in the dark, returning to pick it up in daylight instead. Mr Cox got in touch and popped over to dismantle the piano on Wednesday 21 June.

Mr Cox said the first incarnate of the ‘phoenix’ seemed completely preposterous.

“I’ve since made about 40 of them for different people and the designs seem to be getting more and more elaborate,” he said.

“I’m not militant in promoting that every single piano part should be recycled because it’s just not possible, but it’s nice for something to be treated in the way that it should be for something that’s 100 years old and would have entertained for many years.”

While he has had suggestions from some to see what could possibly be made from the neck of a cello or thought about if he could repurpose drums, his instrument of choice, Mr Cox has kept to pianos and organs so far, finding them to be like a ‘goodie box’ to open up.

Mr Cox said he likes that he can help people hold on to memories associated with a piano.

“When I pull apart the piano I like to get to know the person and who it belonged to, for example, if it was Nonna’s piano that has been sitting around, I want to make it an ode to Nonna and the memories of her playing it,” he said.

“A lot of people wanted a piano in their house in the late 1800s and early 1900s so we have a massive quantity of pianos in Melbourne, it’s definitely the place to be if you’re wanting to experiment with pulling one apart and doing something magical with it.”

Mr Cox generally works with people who come to him wanting to repurpose their personal pianos but on occasion will frequent a business in Braeside called Pianos Recycled that similarly salvage unusable pianos and have an abundance of parts if someone requests a phoenix but has no piano.