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Boone piano technician creating outdoor piano with 3D-printed keys to withstand Iowa winters

Chuck Behm's new piano will be able to withstand Iowa's harshest weather.

BOONE, Iowa — Chuck Behm has been working on pianos for nearly 50 years. Now, he's building his second outdoor piano, which will be able to stay outside, uncovered for 361 days of the year.

The piano will just need four days of maintenance each year.

"Most street pianos, the big majority are just ordinary pianos, consoles, uprights, even spinets that are just painted, put outside, they'll be lucky if they're tuned," Behm said.

His first outdoor piano lasted three summers outside with no cover before the wood started to rot away. Behm wants this one to endure even more.

"I'd like it to be able to stay outside for five years minimum," he said. "The longer the better, but with the materials we're using, I'm pretty sure it'll attain that."

Behm tried several different materials for the keys, including aluminum and liquid plastic, before settling on 3D-printed keys. He said you can't tell by the sound that the piano doesn't have its original keys.

"So the keys we have put in so far are five different colors starting with blue and then green, yellow, orange and red. And they're being made as we speak," Behm said.

Now, he's working on climate control. The piano will have two small heaters dropped down from the key bed.

In the meantime, Behm is still tuning up to 15 pianos a week.

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