Dining room piano windows

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Project by Dave Polaschek posted 12-27-2017 02:09 PM 1581 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These are two piano windows from my dining room. Last summer I had the exterior windows replaced while I was getting new stucco on my house, and I thought that I should clean up the interior windows too. I started by stripping the majority of the paint off the windows and inspecting them.

They were in pretty rough shape, but I don’t think I have the skills to recreate them from scratch yet. So out came the glass, and I stripped them a few more times to get as much of the paint, plus various patches done by previous owners of the house off. That’s picture 2 in the gallery. The windows were rotted in spots, and some of the muntins broke when I pulled the glass, so I glued them back in and cleaned things up with scrapers and knives to get the windows as bare as possible (picture 3).

Then it was time to stabilize the rotting wood. My hardware store guy recommended the Minwax Wood Hardener (picture 5). Since he’s been glazing and repairing windows for nearly fifty years, I figured I’d listen to him. It took a few applications, but basically you slop on the wood hardener, letting it soak into the rotted wood, and then let it dry. Sand off any excess or rough spots. Repeat until you’ve got solid wood and hardener composite. I think it took three applications to get to picture 4, which felt solid enough that I felt comfortable calling it good.

A coat of primer (picture six) and two coats of paint later, and it was time to take the windows to the hardware store for glazing. Then I needed to strip the dozen or so coats of paint from the hinges and latches. The hinges were cheap plated steel under all the paint and thin brass plating, so I ended up buying new hinges, but the latches were more sturdy construction. I may brown them with Birchwood Casey Plum Brown come warm weather, but for now everything is back together and the windows are keeping he cold at bay.

Not so much a wood-working project as a restoration, but it was a good learning experience. I had dozens of hours spent with these windows through the year, and there are two more similar windows (but in even rougher shape) left in my house. I might rebuild those from scratch, as I think I’m close to knowing enough to build and assemble all the pieces from scratch now.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

9 comments so far

View doubleDD's profile


10918 posts in 3377 days

#1 posted 12-27-2017 03:19 PM

They almost look like new Dave and will be a big improvement. Keep that cold out. That hardener is good stuff. Glad you have them done since the weather is in the minus. But hey, better late than never.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9320 posts in 1916 days

#2 posted 12-27-2017 03:28 PM

Thanks, Dave. The outer windows are double-pane gas-filled high-tech glass, but with temps down to the teens below, a third pane sure doesn’t hurt. They were “done” back in August, but I never got around to sorting out the hardware, so I was running around on December 23rd trying to find new hinges that would fit the old hinge mortises and weren’t bright brass. Oh well. As you say, better late than never.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View PPK's profile


1879 posts in 2143 days

#3 posted 12-27-2017 03:30 PM

Great job Dave. Necessary even if not fun!

-- Pete

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Dave Polaschek

9320 posts in 1916 days

#4 posted 12-27-2017 03:36 PM

Thanks, Pete. Actually it was kinda fun. I had some time off this summer, and spent a lot of mornings out in the garage stripping or scraping or one thing or another on the windows. When I had them down to bare wood, I spent a couple days just figuring out how they went together and what profiles I would need for my beading plane in order to recreate the muntins and various profiles on the window. As I said, there are two more like this that are in even rougher shape. I slapped a coat of paint on them and had them reglazed this summer, but in a couple years, I’ll probably build a couple replacements. It’ll be interesting to see how close I can get to the originals (the house was built in 1929) using only hand tools.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View ralbuck's profile


6795 posts in 3600 days

#5 posted 12-27-2017 09:52 PM

Another wood rescue—just a different kind. Good work!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

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Dave Polaschek

9320 posts in 1916 days

#6 posted 12-27-2017 11:41 PM

Thanks! It’s an old house, but it’s got good bones.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4200 days

#7 posted 12-28-2017 02:33 PM

You did a nice job on these windows.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View duckmilk's profile


4947 posts in 2658 days

#8 posted 12-28-2017 10:33 PM

Nice job Dave. Why are they called piano windows?

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

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Dave Polaschek

9320 posts in 1916 days

#9 posted 12-28-2017 10:52 PM

Thanks, Duck! Piano windows are called that because they were typically set high enough that you could put an upright piano below them. Like so:

They were popular from about the 1880s until the 1950s. Sometimes they’re placed flanking a fireplace (that’s how my other two are), and it would be tough to put a piano there, but they’re still called piano windows. Here's a blog post with more info, and an article about how transom windows and piano windows were a sign of bourgeois striving or some such.

Given the history of my house (started in 1929, owned by three different banks before it was finished in 1933), I suspect there’s never been a piano under my piano windows.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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