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How to Refinish a Baby Grand Piano

The finish of your piano can affect its sound as well as appearance.
piano keyboard closeup image by .shock from Fotolia.com

Baby grand pianos can produce excellent sound and look majestic in your living room. But if the finish on your baby grand is aging, both of these effects can be diminished. Refinish your piano to restore the shine, beauty and great sound it had when it came out of the factory. The procedure for refinishing your piano involves disassembling the piano, removing the old finish and refinishing each piece. Disassembly assures that the piano will receive an even coat of finish while saving the heart of the piano, the action, from being exposed to dust, vibration and the other potentially harmful effects of refinishing.

Disassemble the Piano

Remove the key cover, the rotating piece that covers the keys of your piano. Locate the set screw on the sides of the cover, then turn the screw. Some pianos have a set screw on each side, some have a set screw on one side only and some have no set screws at all. If no set screws are present, your cover probably rests on two pegs. Rotate the cover to find the correct angle where you can lift the cover off.

Remove the end blocks; these are the “bookends” of your keys, the block to the left of the lowest key and to the right of the highest key. These are attached with a bolt on the underside of the blocks. Remove the bolts, then lift the blocks off the piano.

Remove the front board, the board immediately in from of the keys that measures approximately 2 inches high. Remove the screws from the bottom of the piano that attaches to the board or lift the board from the wooden pegs if there are no screws.

Remove the action, the assembly that contains the keys and hammers; the “interior” of the piano. Note that this assembly is very delicate, containing fragile pieces (such as the hammers) that can break if you don't take care to remove them. Take care not to strike a key, which will raise a hammer; this can break the hammer as there is little room above the hammer when you slide the assembly out of the casing. Place a table large enough to hold the action near the piano. Remove the action assembly by sliding it out of the casing, then place it on the table.

Strip the Piano

Purchase furniture stripper, such as a solvent stripper, from your local hardware store. Do not use a water-based stripper if your piano was built before the 1970s, as it was probably not finished with polyurethanes or epoxies and will not be affected by aqueous strippers. Also purchase stripping gloves, plastic scrapers, steel wool, a gallon of lacquer thinner, a mask and safety glasses if you do not have these items.

Move the parts of the piano to be refinished (all parts, action excepted) to a well-ventilated room with a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees F. Place a fan in a window of the room for increased ventilation. Cover the floor with newspaper. Put on your gloves, mask and safety glasses.

Apply the stripper to the piano parts liberally with a paintbrush. Allow the paint and finish to soften and then scrape off the stripper with your plastic scraper. Repeat until all the paint and finish is removed from all parts of your baby grand; this may take as many as four coats. Crumpled newspaper may be helpful in removing the finish.

Wash the wood with lacquer thinner and lightly scrub with steel wool to remove the stripper.

Buff the stripped parts by rubbing with 400-grit sandpaper or no. 000 steel wool.

Finish the Piano

Apply a grain filler if your piano is made from an open grain wood such as walnut, oak or mahogany. This step is not absolutely essential but it will yield more professional-looking results if your piano is made from an open grain wood.

Apply stain to even out the old stain and produce a more consistent finish.

Apply your preferred finish. Spraying will produce better results than brushing, so choosing a finish with a spray can is preferable. Some people choose polyurethane but it can produce unprofessional results, leaving bubbles on the surface and a generally nonuniform finish. Lacquer is a finish that you can spray from a can to achieve gloss, semi-gloss and satin finishes and produce professional-looking results.

Things You'll Need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Stripping gloves
  • Plastic scrapers
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Fan
  • Newspaper
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