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Restoring Finish

Posted By: Camlotshadow

Restoring Finish - 01/19/02 09:09 AM

My piano is 70 + years old and the finish had gotten swirl/line indentation crackings.
I thought at first it might be the age of the varnish but the finish inside is good.
I was told this might be cracking of a build up of paste wax over the years.

If this is just old cracked wax I would like to remove it with a wax/wood cleaner.

Would applying tung oil after provide a good finish?

Any advice tips concerning the finish?
She is a lovely cherry mahogany and would be glorious.

Posted By: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/19/02 03:40 PM

It is almost certainly cracked finish. The reason it is not cracked on the inside is that the inside was not subjected to years of environmental abuse (sunshine, smoke, etc.) It is definitely not wax; wax buildup is a myth. Tung oil is not appropriate for a piano, or really anything else that requires that the wood be protected. Tung oil is more decorative than protective.........Sam
Posted By: Camlotshadow

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/19/02 06:52 PM


Well, in any case it is a spectacular design and I was hestitant in loosing the embossed look.
I'm sure there must be layers of clouding dirt and wax on top of the finish.
I bought a wood cleaner to try to clean the surface. I definitely do not want to hurt the original finish but if it is cracked what is the likelihood it goes does to the wood?
I tried a little 600 sandpaper wet with lemon
furniture oil and it smoothe the surface a slight definitely improving the appearance.

I was thinking of trying to use the wood cleaner with 00 fine steel wool to take off a layer of dirt and clouding wax.

Any suggestions for sprucing up the original finish?

Posted By: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/19/02 07:22 PM

Using a detergent and steel wool to clean is OK, but if the finish is deteriorated to the point that it allows water/soap to get to the wood, it can definitely create further finish problems. Using the 600 grit paper and/or the 00 steel wool is a fine idea. As with any unknown quantity, test an inconspicuous spot first........Sam
Posted By: Camlotshadow

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/19/02 08:15 PM

It's a wood cleaner designed to remove wax from floors. I just want to be as non evasive as possible. The 600 with lenon oil justs smoothes. 400 takes a fine whitish/yellow powder off. Appears to be a wax or possibly varnish. I do believe there was an excessive amount of paste wax applied to it over the years because I have seen hardened streaks of it that I removed.
So someone polished her to death.
Such Love!

Hours later my little fingers numb!
It's wax and it's petrified. Manually only able clear a small section. Not physically possible within a lifetime to buff without
a power buffer. Seriously perhaps months of work. I guess that's why they strip and refinish. I don't want to do that. Just want to bring out the best in what I can.

No miracles beeswax or tung oil? Will they bring up the appearance. I looks glorious wet.

I guess some more experimentation is in order.


[ January 19, 2002: Message edited by: Littlebit ]
Posted By: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/20/02 12:09 AM

Naptha (at any hardware store) will remove any wax that remains on the piano. The only way that wax would remain is if it was caked on there by the previous owner, and not rubbed properly. The beeswax or oil that you want to use will not hurt, so if it looks good, go ahead, no harm..........Sam
Posted By: Camlotshadow

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/20/02 03:43 AM

I might try that naptha.
Would a wood cleaner (petroleum distillate)soften varnish or an old finish? This this cracked hard substance did come off with repeated rubbing.

This procedure as it is now is much to much to attempt the whole piano unless I find an easier way.
Seriously hours for a small section.

My fingers are tingling and it's not from playing the piano.

Years and years and a heavy wax build up...
She once was the most beautiful satin mahogany I have ever seen.

Thanks :rolleyes:
Posted By: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/20/02 04:03 PM

Old finishes can soften with cleaning, if they are weak enough already. You're always taking a chance. Ask at hardware or antique stores for "Howards Restore-a-Finish". It may help with this chore. Ask them for a demonstration. It will remove the crinkly finish easier for you, but is not as strong or dangerous as stripper. Still a lot of work, but may be what youre looking for.......Sam
Posted By: Niles Duncan

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/20/02 09:00 PM

Littlebit, this is the voice of cold unsentimental realism. Please stop frustrating yourself with this. I've rebuilt and refinished many pianos over the last twenty years and I know what you are looking at. You have a finish that is cracked and checked from years of exposure to the environment. It's not at all uncommon to see a piano of this age where the finish is totally deteriorated on the outside surfaces and pristine on the inside surfaces simply because the outside has been exposed to sunlight and other enviromental ravages and the inside has not. The yellow-white dust you get when you sand it is simply the old lacquer that composes the finish.

Yes, many of these pianos had beautiful mahogany veneers and look glorious when freshly finished, but there is simply no way to restore your piano's finish to former glory other than by stripping it and refinishing it. You can't go from caterpillar to butterfly any other way, and it's expensive. "Restore-a-finish" type products which dissolve and redistribute the old finish are not likely to produce anything more than a mess. A proper refinishing job would cost about $2,000 for an upright piano, not something I would advise doing on this piano. If you insisted on spending $2,000 on this piano I would recommend spending it on rebuilding the action or restringing instead.

As I understand it you had a very limited budget and picked up an old upright piano that you could afford. Nothing wrong with that. The best thing to do is accept this piano for what it is, keep it tuned and do minor maintenance to fix some of the glaring problems like the hammer shank that needs repinning without spending any major money on it, make music on it, and save your money for a better piano in the future.

I'm adding to this post because I noticed your questions/photos regarding the cracked bass bridge. The suggestion for repair using cyano-acrillate glue (super glue) will work, however that's something the tech should do - not a do it yourself job. I think the benign neglect suggestion is very much to the point. It's very likely that this may have occurred many years ago, possibly after the piano was moved from Montreal to Southern California and has not changed in years. If the bass strings hold a stable tuning I would leave well enough alone.

Niles Duncan
Piano rebuilder, Pasadena, CA www.pianosource.com

[ January 20, 2002: Message edited by: Niles Duncan ]
Posted By: Camlotshadow

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/21/02 01:27 AM

Thank you very much,

I think I've come to the conclusion that it is best to keep the embossed look. It is really quite atractive. I would however like to find something cosmetic to bring out the color as best as possible.
I never wanted to take off the finish I thought perhaps it was just wax. Oh well,
I tried.

Very good advice and I totally agree with you.
That was my plan of action. I am waiting to see how she holds tune and bridge stability wise. I'm glad that in your opinion you believe the bridge to be a old and stable defect. That would make me very happy.

I will do what you said and perhaps in the furture if I still like her I may have the action rebuilt. She has a wonderful sound
and I really don't want a new piano and if I get another used one it is certain to come with it's shaer of problems too.

I like the ivory keys and all wood construction so I am staying in the pre 1940
period. Any piano that old is likely to be
in just the same state.

I would probably only opt for an old Mason
Hamlin. Still I'll look around and adjust my ears and see. There is nothing wrong with learning.

Thanks for all the help.
Posted By: Shadorunnr

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/21/02 07:47 AM

Littlebit, It looks like we are in the same boat, I have been keeping up with your posts, and it seems we own the same piano. smile The finish on mine is so cracked it actually looks like it is SUPPOSSED to have a krinkle finish! When I bought it some time ago, it loked horrible, but I used Scotts Liquid Gold and it cleaned up quite nicely. (krinkles and all) The texture adds a unique antique quality to it, far better than those old pianos that people have painted with that multicolored "antiquing paint". (can you say TACKY? and in some cases TACKY and UGLY!) On the unexposed places I can see it is a very beautiful wood....such a pity to hide under "texture". When this piano dies, I will serously consider converting it into a pianodesk. If you deside to do this as well, refinishing now may be worth it as this may lower costs later on.. you only will need to finish the added desk and shelves later. Now if I can only convince my wife to let me refinish it..... after I win Publishers Clearing House's speepstakes....and my cat learns to fly..... she (my wife that is not the cat) likes the texture finish. I guess I will settle for retopping the keys.
Posted By: Camlotshadow

Re: Restoring Finish - 01/21/02 05:32 PM

That's what happens if we are lucky enough to get old...we all get wrinkles. smile

I have learned to appreciate the patina that has taken 90 years to develop and it kinds of gives it personality.
Afterall we know what is important is not appearance but what is inside.

I can add my finish has developed a lovely swirled pattern like a paisley and is very attractive. The Scott's is good, if you want more color try a Minwax stain of comparable color it fills in the scratches and adds more depth. Try it in a small inconspicuous place first. I however am still looking for more. I will give this some time because I too am dealing with reglueing some keys and that takes precidence over the cosmetic.

I appreciate her sound the most she really is incredibly rich in tone.
Heck they don't make them like this anymore.

Take Care eek
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