Refinishing the Piano Case
By Don Teach
I have just refinished a small Western Electric piano. This was an
extensive refinish problem because the piano had been done before. The
crossbanding and veneer were missing and replaced with a piece of thin
I had to remove the plywood which was easy using lacquer thinner. They
had used contact glue. Never use contact glue for veneer gluing. It
will not hold as it was made for other uses. In a past MMDigest I
mentioned that we use either hot hide glue or white glue applied with
an iron. I then applied crossbanding and veneer using hot hide glue.
This is a time consuming task. I used a veneer hammer and a hot iron.
The only part of the piano that has the original veneer is the top
front. It has problems of its own. The identical piano is in the new
book by Art Reblitz. It is the Western Electric Race Horse model. If
you look carefully at that picture you can see the re finisher did not
get an even color and at the bottom left corner is a dark spot.
The piano I have had the exact same problem. I refinished the front
several times using every trick in the book. I finally sprayed the
color on the front mixed with lacquer. It looks great.
Matching the old veneer to the new veneer is a real problem. In the
past on mahogany pianos I have sprayed a light coat of sanding sealer
on the new veneer before I applied the stain. Most old books recommend
New veneer without a sealer coat will stain much darker than the
original veneer. The new oak veneer on this Western Electric was no
exception. In order to obtain a match in color to the original veneer
I had to stain it and then put a small amount of stain in a couple of
coats of lacquer. I am pleased with the results.
I have tried MinWax products and do not like them on piano refinishing
projects. The original veneer will not take the stain evenly and the
lacquer attacks the MinWax raising the colors into the lacquer.
I do not have a dust free shop by any means. My shop still looks like
a direct hit from WW2. I run a four foot exhaust fan when I spray. I
try to blow all the dust and sawdust out of the shop using a leaf
blower or blow gun on the compressor. Spray lacquer dries so fast that
any dust or sawdust just does not stick to the finish or can be sanded
My personal preference for stains is the Mohawk Wiping Wood Stain.
Mohawk can be reached at 800 545 0047 in the U. S. It is fairly easy
to use these stains and mix them to get a color. They cover well
without dark areas popping up which you do not need.
We use an air powered sander from the Cooper Tools industrial line to
sand out the finish. You will not find these sanders listed in the
tool catalogs. It is a Sthur 4000 model. Check them out.
(Message sent Wed 6 Feb 2002, 16:47:53 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)