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#89719 - 05/21/02 11:55 AM Painting a baby grand
Heath Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 89
Loc: Nashville, Illinois
I have been lurking around here and at another forum for several months now. I was searching for a new piano for several months, but that purchase has been put on hold because I bought a Honda S2000 about a month ago. \:o

Anyway, I picked up a 1925 Wurlitzer baby grand (under 5') for $100. Despite extremely rusty strings and some rodent havoc, my tech was able to get it tuned and all of the keys working. The tone is not very good, but at least I have a piano to play for now. The finish is mahogany, and someone attempted to refinish it. However, they did not get all of the old finish off before they put a new finish on. Therefore, there are black spots in the finish. The lyre has been partially stripped, but has no finish on it at this point.

Although we have red mahogany furniture in the room where the piano resides, I am afraid that I will not be able to get all of the finish off if I try to strip it. In any event, I am afraid that removing the finish would require more work than I am willing to put into this piano. I would like it to look a little better in my house, though. I wonder whether I could just skip the stripper, clean it really good and paint it black and put some kind of protective poly finish over the black paint. If so, what kind of paint should I use? Water based, oil based, flat, satin, gloss? Can it be brushed on or will I have to use a sprayer? What kind of protective finish? Is polyurethane okay or is an old varnish or shellac or something else better? I know that new pianos have what is called "polyester" finish. Is that substantially different from the polyurethane I could buy at a paint store?

Thanks for any suggestions. \:\)
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Heath
---------------------------
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#89720 - 05/21/02 02:03 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Karl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/07/01
Posts: 46
Loc: Pennsylvania
How much work are you willing to invest? Painting anything (piano, cars, houses, rooms) depends on the prep work. If the color or finish is even marginally acceptable, you might get away with some Bruce One Step Floor refinisher. Try it on a small area first (inside of a leg). If it does not work, you are looking at a lot of work, if you do not want it to look like a hand painted car.

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#89721 - 05/21/02 02:20 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Heath Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 89
Loc: Nashville, Illinois
The problem is that someone has tried to strip the finish and only partially removed it. Then, they put on a new finish over the partially removed finish. So, it has dark spots where there is still clearly the old finish underneath. Will this refinishing solution get rid of these spots?
_________________________
Heath
---------------------------
Baldwin SF-10

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#89722 - 05/21/02 03:26 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
JohnC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/02
Posts: 1672
Loc: Lower Left Coast
Spend $100 on a piano cover. Leave it on all the time. Just lift it off the fallboard to play. Let everyone *think* it is a shiny new one! \:D

BTW, my piano has a new finish and I still keep it covered almost constantly.
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#89723 - 05/21/02 08:29 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1757
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
Heath,

I recall mentioning how I would bring an old upright up to date by having it refinished the way I described; the surface prepared and sealed to accept a new coat of paint, black, and then covered with a polyester high gloss sealer. What I had in mind is to let someone who knows how to do this do it. There is no way in this world that I would ever take on the refinishing of a piano, a piece of regular furniture yes, a piano, no. Why? Because Iím a poor half blind guy who canít see well enough to make a finish look as good as a sighted guy can make it turn out. For the job required to bring that upright back into something spectacular, Iíd hire the right people with the skills to do the job right.

And you shouldnít either. A $100 piano is in this case a $100 piano that will not get any better no matter what you do to it to try and make it look better. Wurlitzer certainly had the name and the distribution, they didnít have the quality, except in their theatre organs, but they are an entirely different breed from a piano.

Best thing to do is plan on replacing it with something better, perhaps a genuine $200 piano. Better than wasting your time and money on a piece of junk.

Sorry, but I donít mince words when it comes to Wurlitzer. Is that old upright that much better than a short Wurlitzer baby grand? It would be if I rebuilt it the way Iíd like. It would sound so big it would bury the Wurlitzer, you see it is so tall that it would be like having a 5í10Ē grand piano on end in your living room.
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#89724 - 05/21/02 09:17 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Niles Duncan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 513
Loc: Pasadena, CA
I've refinished a lot of pianos in my life. There's no way to make one that looks like s**t into something that doesn't look like s**t without a lot of work. All the quick solutions give you is something that looks like a different kind of s**t than what you started with. Oh, and piano finishing is an incredibly messy business, not something you would want to do in the same space you are trying to live in. But if you must do something, I would say just get some flat black enamel and paint it. Don't put any kind of coating over the black - just an absolutely dead flat black that doesn't have the slightest sheen or reflect any light. That will probably make the current mess on the surface of the piano less conspicuous than any other quick solution.

Look at it this way. You had the choice between getting a hot piano or a hot car and you chose the hot car. Nothing wrong with that, but obviously you can't have both. So enjoy the car and don't put too much effort into the piano because this one isn't worth it. Save your money and get a real piano when you can.

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

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#89725 - 05/21/02 11:18 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
MacDuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 560
Loc: Southeast, U.S.A.
I'm currently refinishing a mahogany end table with tung oil (it was water damaged and has to match its undamaged twin). Easy to use, smells, stays sticky FOREVER, needs a whole bunch of coats to look good.

I think I would try to put some kind of stain and finish on the piano's lyre and leave the rest alone.

There are places in H^ell for people who paint brick, put vinyl siding on a house, and refinish antique furniture! ;\)

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#89726 - 05/22/02 12:07 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
Heck Niles, I thought sure this one was a candidate for a French Polish......... \:D
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Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#89727 - 05/22/02 12:10 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
JBryan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 9798
Loc: Oklahoma City
Or a fireplace. Sorry, did I say that? \:o
_________________________
Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness.

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#89728 - 05/22/02 01:14 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Heck - I think he should just paint it green! ;\) Jodi

Seriously, just enjoy the piano, don't waste too much time or money on the finish, (throw a nice antique shawl over it) and start putting a little away for something nicer once you get your car paid off!

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#89729 - 05/22/02 07:29 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
JBryan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 9798
Loc: Oklahoma City
Listen to Jodi (not my evil twin). \:\)
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Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness.

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#89730 - 05/22/02 10:44 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
Heath Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 89
Loc: Nashville, Illinois
Thanks everyone for your comments.

David,

I realize that what I have is probably worth what I paid for it, if not less (although it is difficult for a piano that can at least be tuned not to be worth $100). Maybe someday I can dream of the genuine $200 piano.

Niles,

Someone else told me to use a gloss paint because it would hide imperfections in the finish better than flat. You think flat? Also, won't the paint be more succeptible to chipping off if there is no protective finish over it?

MacDuff,

I agree that there are places in Hell for these people, and I always seem to end up trying to fix what they did. My house is an 1880's brick victorian, which had about five different colors of paint over the brick. I removed all of the paint and tuckpointed, a project which took me over 2 years. One could say that I am the perfect candidate for this piano, but I blew all of my energy on the house.

Thanks everyone,

Heath
_________________________
Heath
---------------------------
Baldwin SF-10

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#89731 - 05/22/02 11:12 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
"My house is an 1880's brick victorian"

Pictures, we want to see pictures! Sounds like my dream house. (and my husband's nightmare...) I'm sure your piano will look fantastic in it! \:\) Jodi

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#89732 - 05/22/02 11:27 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14036
Loc: Louisiana
I agree with Niles. I know that in refinishing furniture or in painting houses, flat hides imperfections better than a high gloss. I believe I might choose a satin rather than a flat to give it just a little shine, though.

If it was me I'd tape it off, make sure there was no way anything could get to the action, and get my spray cans out.

Besides, how can you mess up a $100 piano? ;\)
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#89733 - 05/22/02 06:37 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3288
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:

Besides, how can you mess up a $100 piano? ;\) [/b]
I agree!

This might be an excellent opportunity to try something avant-garde. Maybe a spatter finish, marbelizing or a stipple kinda thing like they do on BHGTV. Just make sure that the paint you want to use will actually stick (might have to wipe it with something to get the wax off) and go for broke!

I have always been a fan of Zolotone (anyone else remember it? Kind of like the speckle finish on turkey roasters?). A Zzolotone piano might be just the thing!

Go for it!
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Defender of the Landfill Piano

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#89734 - 05/22/02 07:06 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Our first piano had a Zolotone finish! One of those mondo old uprights painted grey with all these multicolored raised up speckles. My parents paid $100 for it - it lasted 23 years and three moves, the last one through a third floor balcony window with a crane. At some point, my mom painted it white. It finally croaked, and got replaced by a Yamaha. What a great old piano it was. \:\) JOdi

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#89735 - 05/23/02 10:22 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Oh, have some fun!

Get some friends, some piant, and a keg of beer.

While the paint on the piano is still wet, open up some feather-down pillows and have a pillow fight.

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#89736 - 05/23/02 09:35 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3288
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by kenny:
While the paint on the piano is still wet, open up some feather-down pillows and have a pillow fight.[/b]
Aw heck, Kenny.

You stole that idea from Liberace.

\:D
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Defender of the Landfill Piano

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#89737 - 05/23/02 11:17 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3910
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Miller:
Aw heck, Kenny.

You stole that idea from Liberace.

\:D [/b]
You wouldn't say that if you had seen Liberace's piano close up. It was on display in the Smithsonian Piano 300 exhibition, and its presence was so awe-inspiring that I feared violation of constitutional prohibition of government mingling with religion.

;\)
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#89738 - 05/24/02 03:18 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Heath Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 89
Loc: Nashville, Illinois
I've been out of pocket since Wednesday afternoon, and boy what "unique" ;\) suggestions I missed. Thanks everyone for your responses. I'm pretty sure I'll have to pass on the feathers, but I'll keep you posted about what I decide to do and how it turns out. \:\)

Heath
_________________________
Heath
---------------------------
Baldwin SF-10

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#89739 - 05/24/02 05:48 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14036
Loc: Louisiana
You know, if this is one of the "workhorse" models with the plainer woodwork...

Just think what you could do with some Delmar drum coverings and a little contact cement. A WMP or perhaps a gold glitter finish. Maybe black oyster. Or what about a green pearl?

Remember Ludwig's Psychedelic Red finish from the 60s?

Ok, does anyone remember the 60s? Tune in, turn on, and drop out! ;\)
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#89740 - 05/24/02 06:01 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
the artist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/02
Posts: 757
Loc: Tulsa, OK
What about those kits that give you a 'crackle' finish?? - (Or Fleckstone?).
I would imagine that would entirely cover the 'partially' refinished part.

& I've seen some pretty amazing work done with crackle finishes..

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#89741 - 05/24/02 08:01 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
Here's a suggestion on how to refinish the piano in satin black without having to spend a fortune or have a spray booth. It will take some time, and you'll have to have a place like your garage or somewhere so that you can step outside when applying stinky stuff. But if you do it like I'm going to show you, your piano will look almost factory finished.

Take off every piece of casework that will come off, and leave the main body of the piano til last. You won't have to strip the piano at all. But it is *important* that you remember that if it will come loose, you take it loose. Don't try to leave two pieces of wood attached to each other. Get you a box of ziplock bags and put all the screws and other hardware into baggies, separated by where they came from, and write it on the baggie with a felt pen. If you don't, you'll be standing there looking at a pile of different sizes of screws and won't know which one goes where.

What you'll need:

A worktable on wheels that puts you at a standing height. (mine is just a plywood airfreight crate that I put wheels on. All it cost me was the cost of the wheels.)

A few screwdrivers, small and medium sized in slotted and philips heads.
An empty Windex spray bottle.
A couple of cheap plastic putty knives
A perfectly flat sided piece of 2X4 1' long, and another one about 2' long.

Supplies:(you'll need to find a professional refinisher's supply house. Don't bother looking for some of this stuff at the do-it-yourself stores)

1 pint catylized Bondo (and a tube of hardner)
2 gallons of sanding sealer (maybe more)
2 quarts of gloss black lacquer (I like ML Campbell)
2 gallons of clear gloss lacquer (ML Campbell)maybe more
A couple of empty paint cans and lids
a couple dozen foam sanding blocks, medium grit (about the size of a bar of soap, they are washable and reusable)
220, 400, 1000, and 1500 grit wet or dry sandpaper.
1 roll of 0000 steel wool (don't bother with pads, there's a reason you'll need it in the roll)
A few cheap paintbrushes, and 1 good quality paint brush that won't shed.
1 gallon of cheap grade lacquer thinner
2 gallons of spray grade lacquer thinner
one box of Scott "Box-o-Rags" paper towels
Various old rags as needed.

Here's what to do:

1>Take some dry 220 grit sandpaper and sand the pieces until the finish is smooth, and nothing looks like it will separate from the finish. Don't worry about getting it all off. You're going to be doing it in black. You just want to make sure the old finish isn't going to fail underneath the new finish. In fact, the more of the old finish you can leave, the better, as long as it's solidly stuck to the wood.
2>If you have any chips or small dents that need filling, mix up a little Bondo and fill the spots. Use a cheap plastic putty knife to smooth it down. Let it set for a day, then recoat if needed. The first filling might sink a bit.
3>Let the second coat sit a day, then dry sand with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth.
4>Using a cheap paintbrush, apply a coat of sanding sealer. Let it sit for a day.
5>Fill your Windex bottle with plain water. Spray water liberally on an area of the piece that has been coated with sanding sealer, and take a sanding block and sand in a circular motion, sanding til the surface is dull and as flat as it will get. Wipe up the white slush and let the piece dry. Apply another coat of sanding sealer with your cheap paintbrush. You can sand just as soon as the sanding sealer is dried now - maybe a few hours. Keep applying coats of sanding sealer and sanding them until the surface of the piece is smooth as silk to the touch when dry. Once you've reached this point, let the piece rest for a few days.
6>Now apply one last coat of sanding sealer, only this time cut it by 30% or so with spray grade lacquer thinner. Use one of your clean, empty paint cans to hold this mixed sealer. Don't pour it back into the main can of sealer. Let dry. This time instead of a sponge sanding block, take a piece of 400 grit sandpaper and tear it in half longways. Wrap it to your perfectly flat piece of 2X4, spray the piece liberally with water, and gently sand the piece using the flat 2X4 acting as a plane to get the high spots sanded down to the low spots so that you end up with a flat surface. Once you're satisfied that the piece is flat, clean it up and put it away til it is good and dry.
7>Using a cheap paintbrush, apply a thin coat of black lacquer, cut in half with spray grade lacquer thinner. Again, use on of your clean, empty paint cans to hold this mixed paint. Don't put it back in the main paint can. You don't need any more than it takes to get even color coverage. Let the piece dry til the next day.
8>After it has rested overnight, spray it liberally with water and sand it smooth with a sanding sponge. Use your old ones, since the grit is a bit worn down. When finished, wipe it clean and put it away to dry.
9.>Inspect the piece to see if you sanded through the black anywhere, and recoat that spot as needed. Let any touched up spots dry, then wet sand, repeat until you have a smooth even coat of black. Let it rest a few days.
10.>In a clean, empty paint can, mix half clear gloss lacquer and half spray grade lacquer thinner. Apply evenly with a high grade paintbrush. The fewer strokes with the brush the better. The paint will settle down as it dries.
11>The next day, apply another coat of the mixed clear gloss lacquer.
12>The next day, spray small areas liberally with water, and sand in a circular motion, using a light touch. Sand until the surface is uniformly dull and smooth.
13>Apply one last coat of clear gloss lacquer. Let it set for a day.
14.Examine the piece to make sure you don't have any spots with no black color, and that the surface is good and smooth other than the few brush marks left from the last application of lacquer. Then get ready to sweat.....
15.Tear a piece of 400 grit sandpaper into four equal parts. Fold the piece of sandpaper so that you have two folds that meet on the backside, giving you sandpaper on both sides. Otherwise, the sandpaper will keep wadding up in your hand as you sand. Wet the piece liberally with water, and wet sand in a *straight line* this time, not in a circular motion. You can fold the sandpaper around an old sponge sanding block if you want, to keep it sort of flat. Taking a section at a time and keeping plenty of water on the piece, sand in a straight line until all the brush marks are sanded away, and the surface is smooth.
16> Once you've done the entire piece with the 400 grit, switch to 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper, and repeat step 15. Don't be stingy with the sandpaper. You'll go through a lot of it.
17>Switch to 1500 grit sandpaper, and repeat step 15.
18>Wipe the piece clean and dry. Inspect it to make sure that the finish is smooth, and there are no sanding scratches showing, or other imperfections.
19>Take the 2' long piece of 2X4 with the flat surface, cut a 2.5' length of the 0000 steel wool off the roll, and cover the *perfectly flat wide side* of the 2X4 with the steel wool, wrapping it over the ends. Wet the piece liberally, and in long, straight, light strokes, rub the piece down with the wet steel wool until you achieve a nice satin lustre.
20. The 2X4 allows you to keep a straight consistent look to the satin lustre. Small areas need to be wet down and done with a small piece of steel wool folded in your hand. Just watch to see that you're blending the "satinized" look into the rest of the piece you did with the 2X4. When you're done, there shouldn't be any glossy look left anywhere, you should have a nice smooth satin finish with no brush marks and no sanding scratches showing.

It is always best to spray sealers and lacquers, but what you get in spray cans isn't fit for anything. And while it is far more preferrable to spray these finishes, in your situation you *can* achieve a good finish with a paint brush. You just have to learn how to use sandpaper.

In broad steps, you are simply cleaning up the piece and dry sanding it smooth, building a film of sealer that will level out the surface, coating it with color, then building up a layer of clear coat lacquer to protect it all. You don't want the layer of sanding sealer to be any thicker than is needed to get a smooth surface. And remember, the key to the whole thing is the prepwork *before* the clear lacquer goes on. Don't rush those steps.

Also, things that require paint on both sides get tricky. I suggest that you finish the underside of the lid, the lid flap, and the inside (decal side) of the fallboard first, then put them away to let them cure for as long as possible before you try to do the other side. Even after you're done and it looks perfect, it will be weeks and weeks before the finish is hard enough to allow you to sit the piece down on the new finish.

Once you've got all these pieces done, then you can take the piano itself to the garage and do this process to the rim and the legs. Once you've finished the rim, let it sit for several weeks and cure before you have anyone move it back into the house.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought this might be of interest to lots of people.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#89742 - 05/24/02 08:43 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13965
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Larry....

..I'm gonna ship all our [to be refinished!] pianos and grands, from now on.... to YOU!!

W H O W !!
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www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#89743 - 05/24/02 09:27 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
This was just a "down and dirty" list for getting a decent finish on an old cheap piano without a spray booth, Norbert. It's nowhere near what I do in the shop on a good piano, where I have a spray booth and a drying room.
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#89744 - 05/24/02 09:43 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Wow. I have a nice antique desk that desperately needs refinishing that I'd like to send you, Larry. ;\) JOdi

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#89745 - 05/25/02 02:53 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13965
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
I have someone else do our refinishing.

Now I can see why it takes months to get it back.

"Years" [seemingly!]....if there's a line up........

OUCH!!

Norbert
[not 'nuts'... on refinishing....]
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#89746 - 05/28/02 10:30 AM Re: Painting a baby grand
Heath Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 89
Loc: Nashville, Illinois
Larry,

Thanks for the direction. I appreciate your thorough response. I'm not sure whether the piano is worth the time this will take, but I think I might try a small piece first and see how it goes. If I'm pleasantly surprised, I might decide it is worth it. \:\)
_________________________
Heath
---------------------------
Baldwin SF-10

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#89747 - 04/14/08 03:43 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
stevenee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/14/08
Posts: 2
I too am trying to restore a piano that was originally wood grained and will soon have an Ebony finish. I found a detailed post that had
instructions very similar to the brief synopsis you gave below. I already have the piano completely disassembled and have applied 3
coats of sanding sealer, with more than 30 hours of sealing and sanding.

My instructions were to apply semi-gloss black lacquer (cut by 50% with thinner) after the last coat of sanding sealer (after 400 grit
sanding), but when I tried this, the black lacquer would not take, it is almost completely transparent.

Would you have any suggestions on how to make the lacquer cover the old color of the piano.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Steve

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#89748 - 04/14/08 05:55 PM Re: Painting a baby grand
S. Phillips Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/15/07
Posts: 199
Loc: Forte Farm, Lexington, KY
Steve,

Why don't you send us some pictures of what you have already done so we can see where you are in the process. I'm not sure what the problem is except that you probably over thinned the lacquer. Let us see your progress and we can probably help. You didn't say that you stripped the original finish. If you did not that might be the start of the problem.

This probably needs to be moved to the tech forum. There is lots of expertise there to help.
_________________________
Sally Phillips
Piano Technician
One can always find something to improve.
2 Steinway Os, Steinway B & C, C. Bechstein A
Phillips Piano Tech

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