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Education Antique wood refinishing/restoration?

Discussion in 'General' started by Mister_Tad, 20 Aug 2021.

  1. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    Proactive-TLDR: Any pro-tips, products, techniques or resources anyone can recommend for refinishing ~100 yr old rosewood, cautiously - that in some places is in great shape, but in others (i.e. the side the was sitting in direct sunlight for decades) very much not.

    The item in question is a 6' grand piano, so plenty to refinish. It has recently had some expert attention and is now mechanically, structurally and functionally in tip-top shape. Just not cosmetically.

    Before anyone says "are you kidding? don't touch it leave it to the experts", I thought the same, but having spoken to a few experts they advised (paraphrasing) as long as I'm not an idiot, go for it - given the state of the one side, plan B if I wasn't happy with the results would be a full professional refinish anyway.

    I'll spend the next several weeks researching, but any pointers in the right direction would be appreciated.

    What is believed to be the original finish
    [​IMG]

    General worn corners and edges everywhere, but the worst of it is...

    [​IMG]

    The ivory came up beautifully fortunately (not me, I didn't dare). I've had instruction on how to remove this piece so don't need to worry about the keys getting in the way.

    And what 60+ years of direct sunlight will do

    [​IMG]
     
  2. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

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    Dang, that side looks like it's flat out flaking paint or lacquer. Guessing lacquer based on the flat surface in the last picture

    How old's the piano? Is it back into the timeframe where nitrocellulose lacquers might have been used?

    The bit behind the keys might touch up with some sort of fairly common finish - But lord knows what kind they used. I'd look into boiled linseed oil (Stinks, though, of fish oils for some reason), tung oil, or danish oil and try 'em out on an edge that's hidden for which one most closely matches the front. Possibly whip a little 240 block over the edge too? Looks kind of rough, but that might be the picture.

    Maybe a hard wax oil?

    Honestly the part that would intimidate me the most is the side. If you can't make it feather in, or match outright, it's always going to look odd until the whole thing is finished the same way.

    Is it possible to get some of the same breed of wood for testing finishes on without touching the piano itself?
     
  3. mrlongbeard

    mrlongbeard Multimodder

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    Nope.
    But I'd look into mixing up your own finish from Shellac flakes, it'll be trail and error to get a match but should get closer to original than any off the shelf finish in a tin.
     
  4. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    1926/27. The restoration chap believed that it was partially refurbished in the 50s (felt, hammers, strings), but that the finish is original.

    Which also gets me thinking - I should probably check that there's not likely to be any nasty things in the finish before I do anything given it's very much of a pre-health/safety era

    It's out of sight, facing the wall - I wasn't about to attempt to blend just the one area, rather that would be a full-on refinish. And I've built or refinished furniture before and had good results so that doesn't terrify me, but it's a biiiiig job.

    If I could do some minor repairs to the worn corners/edges, the knock here or there, I could be tempted to ignore that side.
     
    Last edited: 20 Aug 2021
  5. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

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    I can't imagine there's much good in the finish, definitely a respirator and thorough vacuuming of any sanding I reckon.

    I mean, if it's going to be a full refinish, I dare say there are better ways to get a similar finish than there were in 1926. But on the other hand, knowing how long it takes me to sand stuff and finish it, I can't help but wonder if a professional might be slightly less hassle from a time perspective, and a finish perspective.
     
  6. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Unrepentant Savage

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    That will be shellac. Not much nasty there. It's a minimal finish to not affect the tone of the wood.
     
  7. Cookie Monster

    Cookie Monster Multimodder

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    Have you tried finding a french polishers in the Yellow Pages?
     
  8. MiNiMaL_FuSS

    MiNiMaL_FuSS ƬӇЄƦЄ ƁЄ ƇƠƜƧ ӇЄƦЄ.

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    It'll never match unless you re-finish the whole lot. That said, a top that looked as if it purposely didn't match the sides could actually be quite fetching.

    I'd strip the whole lot to get the rest of that paint/lacquer off. Then 160grit with a mouse sander. Refinish with a high quality wood oil.

    That said I've only ever really worked with much more modern surfaces and finished (I recently sanded and refinished our dining table and coffee table). The wood oil I use is excellent, but not cheap, I'll dig out the tin and take some pics.
     
  9. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    This is quite true, but a professional refinish would also be something in the ballpark of £10k - no exact quote until it gets in the shop (in itself a £1000 round trip) and stripped down, but he couldn't commit to whether it would be a 4 of 5 figure order of magnitude.

    On one hand this piano would be theoretically "worth it", value wise.
    On the other its largely irrelevant since A) it ins't being sold, it was inherited and will be inherited and B) its first and foremost an instrument, after it's recent TLC it plays wonderfully and any cosmetic work has no bearing on that.

    Nonetheless, it would still be nice to bring it somewhere nearer its former glory than it is today.
    Maybe I'm biting off more than I can chew and need to focus on spot repair though.

    Yep - suggestions abound of "proper" piano restorers.

    Yes please, and a pic of the finished article if you would be so kind.
     
  10. ElThomsono

    ElThomsono Multimodder

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    This didn't get the recognition it deserved.
     
    Arboreal likes this.
  11. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

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    Sweet zombie jesus, that's not cheap. But then. If it's lasted in the ballpark of 100 years, and the refinish is likely to do the same, then... That's a hundred notes a year not to have to deal with it. I'd entertain it.

    If I was in your shoes I'd start on the most inconspicuous spot possible.

    To my mind the choices are - Try something on the most evidently worst part of the thing, which is that massive side. Or try something on the significantly less worse part behind the keys. Might yield more positive results, but the screwups will be far more noticeable what with the company name right there, and obvi where all the looking happens.
     
  12. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    Those two bits are the standouts. The rest is just general wear - corners and edges where the finish is thin/faded/worn, the odd knock in the finish here or there, and anything that gets touched, like the cover on the keyboard which has probably been opened or closed 100k times.

    For edges which have just rubbed through/thin over the years - are those "crayons" any good? We got a set with some furniture a while back but never had to use them - and I'm sure they're long gone. Worth a try maybe?
     
  13. Arboreal

    Arboreal Keeper of the Electric Currants

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    Not sure if Mr_T was here in the 80' so that may have been a tumbleweed moment for him...

    I was going to say something about marker pen removal, but felt it was a bit 'deraily' :p
     
  14. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    Ah. Was there a reference I was supposed to get there?

    I wasn't anywhere for a good chunk of the 80s, but the bit I was around for was stateside.
     
  15. Cookie Monster

    Cookie Monster Multimodder

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    My humour is wasted here. I tried to add the YouTube video but I’m on my phone and it didn’t like it. I’ll see about sorting it when I get home.
     
    Last edited: 20 Aug 2021
  16. Arboreal

    Arboreal Keeper of the Electric Currants

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    I'll get my violin...

    For your education @Mister_Tad

     
  17. Mr_Mistoffelees

    Mr_Mistoffelees The Rotary Cat.

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    Sadly, I remember that advert...
     

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