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The Key Points of Piano Refinishing

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By Edited May 14, 2015 0 1

piano refinishing
Credit: www.paulsfurniturerestoration.com

Antique furniture restoration is a meticulous craft which, when done with the love and attention to detail that it demands, can revitalize a beautiful piece to its former glory.   Although all antique furniture requires patience and a comprehensive understanding of the art of antique restoration, many people do not appreciate that an antique piano is in a class all its own, which sets it apart from other types of antique repair.  If you are considering the restoration of an antique piano, you may be wondering why it is more difficult than normal furniture repair.

Before embarking on the antique restoration of a piano, it is important to know if you are working with a piano that is worth it.  If the thing is just ugly and black, and the veneer worked loose, it can probably be brought back.  However, if it looks like a trash pile, you are wasting your life, to go to all the work to restore the cabinet.  It is also important to know if the brand you want to repair is worth the cost of restoration.  Start with a piano that has some promise -- one worthy of restoration.

Once you have decided to move ahead with a restoration, it is important to know that a piano is more than a piece of furniture; it is a musical instrument.  As such, there are inherent challenges and demands involved in restoring not only the cabinet and legs, but the musicality of the instrument itself.  The action and music making parts need to be repaired.  Many antique refinishers may be ignorant of the intricacies involved, so it is crucial to find an antique restorer who is familiar with the finer intricacies involved in making a piano truly sing once again.

This is actually the first step in piano restoration: making sure that it is musical.  This involves disassembling the piano so that the inner works can be cleaned and tuned properly.  If you approach the restoration in reverse, by restoring the cabinet first, you may only be later told by a piano tuner to haul it off to the dump.  It is much more difficult and costly to restore the musical aspects of a piano after the cabinet has been restored.

Once you have the musicality restored, there are many aspects to piano restoration that must be handled with patience.  The key points, no pun intended, to the body’s restoration are to make sure that the veneer is firmly attached.  With an upright piano, if there is scroll work on the desk, it can probably be matched by removing the same piece on the other side.  With a grand piano, if the lure, lid and desk are solid, they can be restored with tightening.  Ruptured wood at the hinges is very difficult to repair and may not be restored properly.

Then there is the consideration of whether to paint the piano, or give it a natural finish.  If there is no water damage, but the finish has been damaged badly, it needs to be stripped, and the damaged wood filled with wood filler.  Then it needs to be sanded and painted.  With a new decal on the name board, this can be very rewarding.  The piano must be stripped, for the best results. Paint on top of paint looks terrible.

A varnish can also be applied, to restore the natural color of the piano.  But, before this can be done, a solvent must be applied to cleanse the wood, and then it must be buffed.  All areas that will be re-touched need to be buffed, until the wood shines with a near furniture finish.  Only then, the piano is ready to have a new finish applied.  When the veneer is all dry, the piano is finally ready to be reassembled. This is accomplished with great delicacy, to ensure that there are no scratches to the new veneer.

There are numerous intricacies involved in the antique restoration of a piano.  It is a beautiful musical instrument that must be restored with knowledge, patience, and an eye to detail, to fully revive it to its former glory.  This work is best performed by an individual who has the passion, commitment and experience for this sort of detailed antique restoration.



Aug 17, 2012 4:54am
Our piano is over 100 years old so I was very interested in your article. Thanks for sharing.
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