Old Piano Project

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Forum topic by Wags1776 posted 08-04-2018 12:22 AM 770 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 541 days

08-04-2018 12:22 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi Everyone

First forum post. Fifthish wood project.

I was wondering if anyone had some advice on refinishing a piano. It’s about 100 years old and mostly broken. I plan on gutting it and turning it into a wet bar / hidden cabinet. I like the color of the wood and the antique look, but it’s not in super great shape and I would like to make sure it looks good in the living room and is safe for drink storage. Any advice helps!

Thanks in advance!

11 replies so far

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3849 posts in 2861 days

#1 posted 08-04-2018 01:10 AM

Most pianos are solid wood covered by veneer. If you don’t replace the veneer, you might have to think of other options to cover up any issues with the veneer. Also, when you gut the piano, be careful with the strings. There is a lot of tension in the strings. Best wishes with the project.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View JCamp's profile


1040 posts in 1160 days

#2 posted 08-04-2018 01:28 AM

Pictures would help but I’d think a real good cleaning along with light sanding would b the hardest. Then after that try to get some wipe on stain that’ll blend in to make it all mostly the same color. Then try whatever sealer or poly that you want.

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Walker's profile


197 posts in 1082 days

#3 posted 08-04-2018 03:55 AM

Gutting a piano is an extensive project. But if you have a destructive side it can be great fun. Here’s a good video with all the basic parts:

I gutted an old upright to make it into a keyboard shell. Getting the action out is not difficult, but the keybed itself might take some patience. There can be screws that are very difficult to reach, since these things are pretty much built from the inside out. I’d avoid cutting the strings, instead loosen them. You’ll want a piano tuning pin socket for a drill. Sometimes a drum key is the right size. This is the first one on google, probably cheaper options.

The harp (big metal frame) is the heavy part. Once I got it loose it required a forklift, some heavy duty rigging steel, and a friend to lift it out. The plus side is you’ll have 250lbs or so of cast iron to scrap.

-- ~Walker

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5 posts in 541 days

#4 posted 08-04-2018 09:26 PM

We’ll see if this picture goes through.

I think I might keep the harp inside for the visual, it is heavy though.

Thanks for the advice so far!

View Wags1776's profile


5 posts in 541 days

#5 posted 08-04-2018 09:44 PM

Here’s a close up of the keys and primary cavity

I suppose part of the refinish issue is that there are a lot of different imperfections, from coating flake, and nick to gauges and chips. I’m fine with a weathered look and like the logos painted on it. I’m most interested in it looking fairly clean and consistent, while protecting it from further deterioration.

The refined goal is to cut up some slabs of butcher block countertops material to replace keys and make a shelf. To install an Edison bulb or two, and If that’s all too easy, mabey a tap.

1. Gut
2. Clean
3 size keyboard and shelf area for butcher block install.
4. Figure out hinge
5. Stain/coat inside
6. Stain/coat blocks
7. Mock up block shelving and lights
8. Restain/cost piano
9. Install block shelves and lights

Any glaring errors so far?


View JCamp's profile


1040 posts in 1160 days

#6 posted 08-04-2018 11:58 PM

If is a 100years old are the keys real ivory? If they are I don’t know if it’s legal to sell them but I’d save them an use them for some projects. The elephants are already dead so you might as well use them
I’m thinking most pianos seems to have a large piece of maple in them or on the back. You could remove it and make your own butcher block out of it

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Wags1776's profile


5 posts in 541 days

#7 posted 08-05-2018 06:20 PM

They are ivory, but only the top, the body of each key is wood. I can imagine people wouldn’t let these go for close to free if they had pounds of ivory on them.

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5 posts in 541 days

#8 posted 08-06-2018 05:12 AM

It’s coming apart nicely.

Any advice on the cleaning? Water with some vinegar mabey? This has been great fun so far!

View MrRon's profile


5812 posts in 3853 days

#9 posted 08-06-2018 06:35 PM

You may find a shop that repairs/makes musical instruments that could use the keys to repair a piano. It really looks a bit tall for a bar; just saying.

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2377 days

#10 posted 08-06-2018 07:29 PM

I come across these all the time; free, just haul it off. The ivory is cool but I think it is illegal to sell. The strings can be used to make some weird musical instruments (on my list). The foot pedals are solid brass and the soundboard is cast iron. The hardest part is getting the strings out. However, the pegs are almost as big as a standard screw bit holders. If you hold it just right, it will turn the pegs loose. Plan on recharging the drill if using a cordless. The wood is junk.


View JCamp's profile


1040 posts in 1160 days

#11 posted 08-06-2018 08:15 PM

I’m watching this progress closely cause I always want to try to take one apart for the wood.
For cleaning I’d say a damp clothe is preferred. Vinager will kill any germs that might b left. If it’s “gummy” in areas you can try rubbing alcohol but becareful not to use to much or it might take the finish all off
You might be able to sell some of the stuff to a piano shop OR take it to a scrap yard and sell it by weight.

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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