Starr piano keys interior © D Friedman at Asbestos Used in Organs, Pianos & Piano Parts
When and in what forms was asbestos used in pianos, organs, and similar instruments?

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Asbestos found in some piano and organ components:

This article describes the common forms in which asbestos was used in pianos, player pianos, and organs. The article lists common uses of asbestos in these musical instruments and gives the brands and dates of manufacture of asbestos-containing pianos using Starr pianos as a key example. Asbestos was used in some piano padding and may have appeared in several other forms such as fiber cement asbestos millboard in instruments built for use in humid climates.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Asbestos Used In Pianos & Piano Parts & in Organs

Starr piano keyboard © D Friedman at

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

Starr piano case © D Friedman at 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.

[Click to enlarge any image] 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.

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 © D Friedman at

Piano 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. See Rosato's reference at REFERENCES. Note that most piano key felts are and were fabricated from wool.

Piano key hammer damper felt or cloth: the damper felt used under or behind piano keys may have contained asbestos, as cited above.

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.

Dampness controls in pianos: including cement asbestos millboard components used for the construction of pianos intended to survive in damp envronments and dampness removing systems in pianos such as "Hydroceel" tubes. (Den Boer 1973 cited below).

Insulation used in some pianos included vermiculite. Depending on where the vermiculite was mined it may contain asbestos. See VERMICULITE INSULATION

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.

Music racks on pianos: some piano music racks included asbestos in the 1940's, and other music racks that included lighting may include asbestos in electrical wiring insulation or heat shields. (McKenzie 1911 & Janssen 1942)

Player piano parts, incuding the piano suction turbine, discs, and other parts (Cushing 1964). Asbestos is cited as a component in the suction pump assembly of [presumably] some player piano brands and models. (Kinsler 2002)

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.

Starr piano keyboard details © D Friedman at 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.

References for Star Pianos and Star Piano photos

Web search 08/13/2011, sources:

Reader Question: asbestos in 1920's Janssen Piano?

I am restoring an old Janssen piano circa 1920. I was reading your article on Asbestos in Pianos and wondering if you would please tell me if my piano may have asbestos? - Anonymous, by private email 2016/05/21

Possible asbestos in 1920's Janssen Piano (C)


I can't know just from your e-text. The article above lists some of the ways asbestos may have been used in pianos.

Asbestos was widely used in many brands of Pianos and may not have stopped in most countries until the late 1970's in North America or as late as the 1990's in the U.K. and some other countries.

However some piano manufacturers indicate that their pianos never contained asbestos.

If you can, send me some sharp photos of the piano and of asbestos suspect parts, I can comment further, and course know for sure you have to obtain a lab test. [Done, above].

Piano Manufacturers Who Did Not Use Asbestos

Piano Manufacturers Known to Have Used Asbestos in Piano Parts

Research Citations: Asbestos Use in Piano Construction

McKenzie asbestos-containing piano lamp - InspectApedia.comShown: the McKenzie piano lamp that preferred use of asbestos for heat shielding.

[Click to enlarge any image]


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