I hope that someone will come up with a way to put some new walnut
veneer into these someday.
The original brass panels were more deeply etched at first, then walnut
veneer was probably coated with shellac and pressed down over it and
into more shellac or alcohol-activated glue of some kind and held down
until it was dry. Probably heated or something while under pressure.
Without a press, you would have a hard time.
I would also suspect that the upper platen had a reverse impression,
like a reverse rubber stamp. The walnut possibly was pressed with a
thin rubber mat, giving clearance for the legends. Then the whole
thing was flat-sanded, cleaning off the legends down to the brass.
Maybe someone knows how they were done. I'd like to find out, and also
if there is any way to restore them with wood.
Meanwhile, here's the way I'd do it:
1. Mix up some body putty, lots of it, and pile it into the brass
plates, higher than the legends. Flatten with a trowel or tape knife.
Let it dry good and hard. Do another board the same way, to make your
color/method test on.
2. Put these gloppy'ed up panels on a belt sander and flatten them
*very carefully!!!* Do not completely clean off the letters, but just
so you start to see the edges of a few.
3. Do the final graduation sanding by hand, finish with a 600 grit
over the letter areas, until all the letters and numbers are again
visible and they look perfectly flat with the brass being very bright.
4. Dry-polish the legends until they are reasonably polished.
5. Start with the test board and some quality dye stain. That means,
something like Campbell or Behlen. Use dark walnut. If there's too
much red in the walnut initially, kill the red with some green dye
stain. Be sure your dye stain is acid stain and NGR based. Otherwise
it may not be very light-stable over time. Stain the panel a medium
6. You will use a Q-Tip cotton swab to get stain off the legends. It
will soak into the surrounding buddy putty but while wet, it will come
right off the brass.
7. Now comes the artistic stuff: Using a variety of brushes and some
red and some orange dyes too, along with the walnut, faux in the grain.
Start with the large sweeps of grain. Shade appropriately, as though
you are looking "into" the wood. Keep the legends as clean as practi-
cal as you go, and occasionally spray with clear lacquer to seal each
The last thing you will do is to put in the little black grain lines.
Some people aren't too good at this, I realize that. And there's no
sense going into too much detail. If you haven't done all kinds of
finishing before, I definitely don't recommend starting with Ampico
panels. They'd give me a cold chill, too.
It's much easier to faux an entire piano -- which I've done -- than
those two little Ampico B drawer panels. I've made a common upright
with poplar veneer look like a mirror finish special order rosewood
fancy case piano, but those two panels, to do a credible job, will
require a lot of work!
Note this too: Don't use hardware-store type faux kits and supplies.
Those are fine for walls and furniture, but are not translucent, and
won't work very well, particularly with the fine detailing you will
need to do.