Lacquer or polyester finish

Posted by: ClassicU3

Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/16/13 08:40 PM

I have a 1963 Yamaha U3 that's been fully restored. The finish is a very dark high-gloss polished mahogany. In fact, unless there is light shining directly on it, the piano looks black. In the light, you can make out the beautiful, rich dark brown mahogany wood grain. Is there a way that I can tell if the gloss finish that was used on the piano is polyester or lacquer? I'm trying to determine the best way to care for it.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/16/13 08:59 PM

The best way would be to contact the restorer or refinisher.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/17/13 08:54 AM

I do not think a 1963 U3 would have been originally polyester. I also did not think they were making deep mahogany finishes then either, though.

Marty may have given the best advice. If you cannot ask the refinisher, any piano technician can tell the difference between poly. and lacquer in a moment.

Good luck,
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/17/13 12:08 PM

Thanks for the advice. I don't know who the refinisher was in this case. I will be having a tech come out to go over the piano and tune it in the next few weeks. I'll ask him when he comes.

I'm also uncertain if a 1963 Yamaha would have a mahogany finish. I'm wondering if the restorer might have taken the piano down to bare wood and then finished it with a dark, but translucent finish that makes it look as it does. It's very dark, with the wood only visible if you shine light on the piano. My other thought was that maybe the original finish was just buffed out, and the buffing cut the original black lacquer down so thin that the wood grain is now visible through it.

The piano also has "YAMAHA" in gold lettering inset into the finish at the top right corner of the piano body. I'm wondering if this was an original feature in 1963 or if it's something the restorer took creative license with when refinishing the piano. I've never seen any other U3 with this feature, but I'm not sure how many early 60's U3 pianos are around. My other thought was that maybe it was a feature of pianos built for the Japanese market.
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/17/13 10:31 PM

take a small piece of fine grit sandpaper (600) and rub it in a small inconspicuous place. If it turns light grey, it's polyester.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 06:34 AM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
take a small piece of fine grit sandpaper (600) and rub it in a small inconspicuous place. If it turns light grey, it's polyester.


That would work. smile
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 08:01 AM

If the mahogany finish is so dark that it looks like black unless there is light shining directly on it, I think there is something wrong(or at least not ideal)about the finish.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 08:40 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
If the mahogany finish is so dark that it looks like black unless there is light shining directly on it, I think there is something wrong(or at least not ideal)about the finish.

And how does this matter? The owner likes the finish and wants to learn the best way to care for it.
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 10:52 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. I think at this point I can most assuredly say that it's not a polyester finish. I believe it is either lacquer over very, very dark wood or black lacquer that has been buffed thin as to be translucent, thereby allowing the wood beneath to show through.
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 11:01 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
If the mahogany finish is so dark that it looks like black unless there is light shining directly on it, I think there is something wrong(or at least not ideal)about the finish.


Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Is there something "wrong" with the finish? Maybe, but even if there is, it looks very, very cool and is a good part of the reason I bought this particular piano. It's unique, and quite interesting. The finish is very high-gloss and the color is quite beautiful, especially if caught in the right light. There are some minor places where I can see some buffing marks (mostly in corners and places that were probably hard to reach with the buffer), but overall it's very attractive looking.

Is it "wrong" or a "mistake"? Maybe, I don't know. It could be just a custom finish that the restorer applied, or maybe just the way the finish happened to turn out after refinishing/buffing. Is it "ideal"? Well, I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. To me it seemed ideal or I wouldn't have bought the piano! It has a definite "cool" factor to it and the wood beneath the finish is wonderfully grained/figured. To me, a custom 1963 piano has a certain appeal that makes me enjoy it that much more, especially one that's been restored to such good playing condition. Even the guys who delivered the piano to my home commented about how it was one of the cooler pianos they'd seen.

I'm going to post some pictures of it over the weekend. Then everyone can judge for themselves if there is something wrong with it, if it's just a cool finish, or if it's actually not that cool and I'm just crazy! grin
Posted by: PianoWorksATL

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 11:05 AM

Originally Posted By: ClassicU3
...or black lacquer that has been buffed thin as to be translucent, thereby allowing the wood beneath to show through.
This is my belief. Cory Piano products are always a safe bet as is a higher grade furniture polish like Guardsman. It helps lacquer but doesn't hurt poly anyway.

Most of the time, I suggest dry dusting with a soft cloth or one of the many modern "feather" dusters.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 11:21 AM

The most likely finish is polyurathane.
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/18/13 01:23 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoWorksATL
Most of the time, I suggest dry dusting with a soft cloth or one of the many modern "feather" dusters.


I have a "California Car Duster" available at any Walmart for twenty bucks. Hands down the best thing I've used to dust mine. It comes in a big and small size, with the big one being perfect for grands. For a U3 the large size might be a bit unwieldy and you might be better off with the smaller size, like the one pictured here:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Original-California-Car-Duster/14294929
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 06:29 AM

Originally Posted By: ClassicU3
I'm going to post some pictures of it over the weekend. Then everyone can judge for themselves if there is something wrong with it, if it's just a cool finish, or if it's actually not that cool and I'm just crazy!


I would like to see it. It sounds interesting and different. Thank you
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 05:11 PM

OK, I have some good light in the room today, so I took some pictures after the piano tuner left.

I think that Steve Cohen might be on to something with polyurethane as the finish. Looking at the piano today, I no longer think that its just heavily buffed black lacquer. The finish looks too uniform and nice to be a mistake, IMO. I think it's very likely a dark mahogany with several coats of clear or tinted polyurethane applied by the restoration company. I love it and it's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. I can't believe that I randomly found it with the first piano looked at a university charity piano sale.

Anyway, here it is.





















Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 05:22 PM

I think that finish is simply beautiful. In the very first photo, it did look like an ebony polish. Then with the close-ups, WOW!
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 06:00 PM

I like the finish, although if I was looking for a mahogany finish I would choose a lighter one.

When I indicated earlier in the thread that a mahogany finish that looked like an ebony finish unless there was a lot of light on it might be "wrong"(perhaps too harsh a word, sorry), I based the statement on the idea that finishes are usually light enough to see the grain easily. I really can't decide whether your piano meets that criterion because it changes color like a salamander. It's certainly unusual in my experience to see a mahogany piano with such a dark finish, but if you like it then that's by far the most important criteria.

Is it possible that the piano was first finished in a lighter mahogany and then some additional finish coats on top of that were ebony?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 06:04 PM

Originally Posted By: jawhitti
Originally Posted By: PianoWorksATL
Most of the time, I suggest dry dusting with a soft cloth or one of the many modern "feather" dusters.


I have a "California Car Duster" available at any Walmart for twenty bucks. Hands down the best thing I've used to dust mine. It comes in a big and small size, with the big one being perfect for grands. For a U3 the large size might be a bit unwieldy and you might be better off with the smaller size, like the one pictured here:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Original-California-Car-Duster/14294929
My guess is that those dusters are fine for poly finished but because they contain wax should not be used on lacquer finishes.
Posted by: ando

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 07:08 PM

Originally Posted By: ClassicU3


The piano also has "YAMAHA" in gold lettering inset into the finish at the top right corner of the piano body. I'm wondering if this was an original feature in 1963 or if it's something the restorer took creative license with when refinishing the piano. I've never seen any other U3 with this feature, but I'm not sure how many early 60's U3 pianos are around. My other thought was that maybe it was a feature of pianos built for the Japanese market.


Yes, the restorer has taken a bit of creative licence with those letters. Those are actually the original fallboard brass letters which have been relocated! Most of the 60's Yamahas had smaller squarer letters with wider spacing than the later Yamahas. Your restorer has put the modern (current) decal on the fallboard and relocated the solid brass inlaid letters to the upper panel. It's quite a job to do that well, so it speaks to the quality of your piano's restoration.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 07:17 PM

I doubt it was refinished. I think it is an original finish, polished up. Yamaha did put the name on the front board on some of their vertical pianos.
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/19/13 09:26 PM

@Minnesota Marty - Thanks so much for your comments! That's exactly what I thought when I first saw it on the sale floor. "WOW! That's exactly the kind of piano I'm looking for!"

@pianoloverus - Yes, colors and finishes are certainly a subjective matter. And you're right, the piano is a chameleon. In low light it looks black or very dark brown (no grain visible). If it weren't for the bench, which is ebony, you wouldn't notice that it's not black. But in more light, the grain comes through as seen in the photos and it takes on a whole different look. I don't think the piano has any ebony coats on it. A local piano store owner told me that mahogany can darken with age. I'm guessing that this just happened to be a dark piano and they then put a few coats of urethane over it and polished it. Unless I can find out who the restorer was, I guess I'll never know the truth on how it was finished.

@ando - my piano tech who came today to evaluate and tune the piano told me that he has seen other old Yamaha uprights with the "YAMAHA" name on the front board as mine has, so I think that is an original feature. Also, I'm not sure, but the fallboard logo on my piano appears that it might actually be inset brass letters as well, rather than a decal. I could be wrong, though.

@BDB - Could be, but it's in awfully good condition for being 50 years old, likely having had a life in Japan before being shipped to the US, and living another life here in the US until being restored in the last couple of years. Could an original finish such as this really last that long with no dings, dents, scratches, etc.? I guess it depends on where it lived its life all those years, but the finish really does look newer.
Posted by: ando

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 02:47 AM

Originally Posted By: ClassicU3

@ando - my piano tech who came today to evaluate and tune the piano told me that he has seen other old Yamaha uprights with the "YAMAHA" name on the front board as mine has, so I think that is an original feature. Also, I'm not sure, but the fallboard logo on my piano appears that it might actually be inset brass letters as well, rather than a decal. I could be wrong, though.


The letters on your fallboard are definitely decal. When it's done well, it really does look like inset brass letters - they are thin leafs of brass anyway. They stick them on, then paint a clear coat over them. The narrower letters on yours are the modern type like they still use today. They are all decals. My 60's U3 has a modern decal on it, but they didn't want to go to the trouble of pulling the old inset brass letters out, so they painted black over them, then laid the modern decal over it. I can see faint outlines and a slight raise where the letters are. You don't notice it unless you look for it, but they are there. I don't know why they bothered really. I think a previous owner wanted it to look newer than it is.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 08:24 AM

So ClassicU3,

Who did the work on this piano? The finish choice is not original, but I like the final product.

Did a piano technician do this finish or was it a finisher?

Just curious,
Posted by: jshelton

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 11:02 AM

[/quote]My guess is that those dusters are fine for poly finished but because they contain wax should not be used on lacquer finishes. [/quote]

I don't understand this statement. There's nothing wrong with putting wax on lacquer. It's a good way to protect the finish.
Posted by: ClassicU3

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 03:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Rich Galassini
So ClassicU3,

Who did the work on this piano? The finish choice is not original, but I like the final product.

Did a piano technician do this finish or was it a finisher?

Just curious,


That's the $64,000 question, Rich, and I don't have the answer. All I was told was that it was a New York restoration company and that its an "A+" restoration. The latter is confirmed, as every wearable part has been replaced. It's essentially a new piano. I assume that the restorer did the finish, or subbed it out to a finisher.
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 04:16 PM

Look, clearly this colour debate is troubling you a wee bit. I've given it a lot of thought and I've kindly decided to take this ebony/mahogany/polyurethane/lacquered/polyestered mess off your hands, ok? When can you bring it round?
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: Lacquer or polyester finish - 01/20/13 04:21 PM

This new finish might just become all the rage very soon!