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#1168267 - 04/30/04 01:42 AM DIY help for Piano refinishing
*** Shoes *** Offline
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Registered: 03/12/04
Posts: 2078
Loc: The Shield's Edge, Canada
DIY help for Piano refinishing

I thought I'd step out my guitar forum and ask the experts a question. I rank about a 1 out of 10 on the keys so bare with my ignorance.
I saved an old Heintzman Model E baby grand from a trip to the dump when a local school was tossing it out. Everything to the best of my appreciation is perfectly fine, soundboard, pegs,hammers & astonishingly every key is perfect. No sign of replacements after being in a school for decades.

I just want to refinish the exterior to remove dozens of names from the varnish and fix some of the mahogany where it's terribly worn.

I asked some pro shops who treated me like an absolute idiot who should bring it to them and hand over $10,000! That was a consistent starting estimate for an overhaul. Toronto pricing!

Are there any sources of information that any of you would recommend to assist me and help me avoid destroying this instrument?

I can qualify myself by stating that I have a completely outfitted workshop, fine woodworking experience as well as with refinishing. But never anything like this.

Do's, don'ts & where help can be found would be appreciated.

Thank you
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#1168268 - 04/30/04 01:56 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing
Tom Fiala Offline
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Registered: 06/06/03
Posts: 1264
Loc: orlando, Fl
I have a rebuilt / restored Steinway (model S). I was able to tour the shop where they did the restoration. It was a very impressive thing to see for any piano lover.

They removed the keys, action, frame, soundboard- everything out of the external case - prior to refinishing it. (Is this something that you you feel comfortable doing?) Next, the case was repaired & restored & refinished like a piece of fine furniture.

And that was just the first step.

Personally, I don't have the skills, tools, space or time to do this. Although $10K is a lot of dough, I would still take it to a professional if you really care about this piano, or its value as an investment.
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#1168269 - 05/01/04 12:16 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing
Wewus432 Offline
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Registered: 03/12/02
Posts: 18989
I've done a lot of piano refinishing. First thing you need to do is remove the action, and completely disassemble the piano. If you don't know how to do this you may want to hire a piano technician to do it, because you can break hammers off when removing the action.

Take all the hinges, and other hardware off, and put them in a jar, or somewhere for safekeeping. You may want to have seperate jars with labels for different items. It really stinks to start putting the piano back together and not have all the screws, or to put the screws in the wrong places.

I also take the legs off and put the piano onto 3 small saw horses. Just build them about the height of the legs, slide one under each section and remove the legs. The legs are held on by screws, and/or lock plates. You'll need to screw the lock plate pressure screw coming into the side of the leg, in, and then tap the back of the leg towards the inside of the piano to release from the lock plate. Sometimes you need a rubber mallet to get it to release. If you need any help removing the legs, consult a piano technician.

Now you have the piano unassembled you refinish as you would any other wood. Strip, sand, repair any holes or other bad spots in the wood, sand some more, apply pore filler, sand, and then apply whatever finish you want. Pianos traditionally have a lacquer finish but anything works as long as you've done your surface preparation correctly.

It's a hell of a lot of work refinishing a piano correctly. Really not worth it unless the piano is in decent condition. I'd get a piano technician to look at the piano before I spent that much time on it. It may have some serious flaws that aren't visible, or that you just haven't noticed yet.

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#2274967 - 02/17/11 05:48 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Wewus432]
LX88 Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 10/16/10
Posts: 1149
What type of finish do you plan to use?

Black lacquer would probably be best to cover imperfections.

I am experienced in this. I did restoration for 10 plus years. Got away because of hazardous materials risks.

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#2275248 - 02/18/11 09:33 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: LX88]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 4417
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
Originally Posted By: LX88

I am experienced in this. I did restoration for 10 plus years. Got away because of hazardous materials risks.


Before I put my Yamaha S6 up for sale going on 6 years ago, I had a piano restoration guy over to buff out all the tiny surface scratches on the lid and music desk that accumulate over time.

It cost me around $500 to get the high gloss polyester Yamaha finish looking like new again. I took all sensitive electronic gear out my studio because there was very fine dust flying around everywhere, it was a big mess.

The guy did an amazing job, the piano looked brand new, so it did help with the sale. But I'd walk in a few times during the three hours or so he was there to check on him. There was no way I could hang in the room, it was really intense, the fumes and dust.

About half way through the job the guy said..."I'm going to take a break". He went out on my patio, which adjoins the studio, and lit up a cigarette. cry
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#2275252 - 02/18/11 09:51 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Dave Ferris]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Registered: 03/05/07
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Loc: Glendale, Ca.
I'd actually like to have my D's finish worked on at some point. I think the day they were applying the final coat of lacquer at the factory in Long Island, they must've run out.
The guys doing the finishing probably said, "well we can go out and get some more lacquer or we can go to lunch now". I think the foreman must've said, "this is good enough, where are we eating today? " laugh

I mean for the flagship instrument that at that time cost around $113,000, you'd think they could add that one more coat. It's beyond lame the flaws in the finish. On top of that, the movers put a gouge in the lid when moving it from Iowa.
In my euphoria at actually seeing the thing sitting in my studio, I signed off on it and didn't notice the big gouge until 10 minutes after they left---too late, they denied my claim, even with the photos.. mad

Someday I'd like to get it looking as good as it sounds .
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#2275255 - 02/18/11 10:04 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Dave Ferris]
Joe Muscara Offline
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Registered: 02/21/05
Posts: 15835
Loc: Heaven, Hell, or Houston
When someone like LX88 revives a seven year old thread like this, how does he even find it? Why did he reply to it as if the OP was even still active here or might check it? Of the three original posters, I only recognize "Tom Fiala" and him barely.

Not that the topic isn't somewhat interesting, as Dave Ferris can attest. I just find it odd when a thread like this is revived as if it was current.


Edited by Joe Muscara (02/18/11 10:05 PM)

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#2275256 - 02/18/11 10:11 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Joe Muscara]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 4417
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
Wow, I didn't even notice it was that old.
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#2275288 - 02/19/11 06:06 AM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Dave Ferris]
Joe Muscara Offline
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Registered: 02/21/05
Posts: 15835
Loc: Heaven, Hell, or Houston
My alarm went off when I saw the avatar for the first post, which/whom I did not recognize, yet the forum took me to a later post. That made me scroll back to check.

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#2275334 - 02/19/11 10:37 AM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: Joe Muscara]
bourniplus Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 373
Loc: Québec
Originally Posted By: Joe Muscara
When someone like LX88 revives a seven year old thread like this, how does he even find it? Why did he reply to it as if the OP was even still active here or might check it?


My guess is he was searching on Google for 'piano refinishing' and found this post, clicked on the link and was automatically logged in to the forum, and didn't notice the date...
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#2275343 - 02/19/11 11:04 AM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: bourniplus]
LX88 Offline
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Registered: 10/16/10
Posts: 1149
Nope.... it popped up as current for some reason and I did not look at the date. I did a google for Keyboard Corner and all kinds of differntly dated topics must have been listed but I didn't catch it.

But yeah, I spent 10 plus years doing sales and finish work when there still was a piano shop in Salem Oregon.

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#2275370 - 02/19/11 01:50 PM Re: DIY help for Piano refinishing [Re: LX88]
Dave Ferris Offline
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Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 4417
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
LX, do you know Dennis Haley by any chance? He's in Salem. Dennis and Jill make the finest piano covers in the world. His company is called "Instrument Covers". They make covers for anything really---organ, harpsichords, vibes, tympani,Leslie speakers. He made one for my both my C7 & S6.
My D came with a cover, nowhere near the quality but good enough for the infrequent times I use it.
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