• Tommie James

Piano Restoration Lockdown Project

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

This arrived after a quick message on Facebook marketplace.

On first inspection, it was better condition than I expected! It was in tune (with itself), had 2 snapped strings at the top and just generally old and beaten up. It turned out to be 142cm long instead of 137cm so I'll need to shave some off the sides. Since I'll be redoing the finish, that's not a problem!

First job was to take it all apart...

After taking the keys off, there was about 5cm of dust with various copper coins, a greek coin and a Milky Way wrapper which was best before April 1980...

I needed to plane some wood off each side so the piano could fit in the alcove in our lounge..

After about 6 hours of solid cardio, eventually it fit!

There were some staples in the back of the piano with some old ripped fabric that probably covered the back at some point so they needed to come out with plyers in order to do the refinishing later.

Next, the Key bed was cleaned with a vacuum and then the 100 years of dirt was scraped off with steel wool.

Before & After:

Each of the individual keys would need cleaning too. Steel wool to take the black dirt off and then toothpaste and milk for the ivory. Unfortunately I couldn't get rid of the marker pen note names yet.

Each of the key pins (the bottom row) and the bridge pins (the top row) were polished with metal polish to get rid of some rust and muck that would rub on the keys when they moved.

Before (right) & After (left):

Then each of the pins are lubricated with dry PTFE to help stop any unwanted friction on the keys before they were put back on.

Surprisingly it didn't go any further out of tune after all of this which is a good sign!

Next job was sanding the hammers...

This was easier than I thought, just took a bit off to smoothen the grooves caused by the strings digging in, and took the dust layer off!

After all the keys were finished, I fitted the action back in

I gave it a tune, needed to be pitched up an entire semitone, but since I have the time to keep tuning it through lockdown, it may as well be in concert pitch!

Got it sounding pretty decent, still missing a few strings and the notes keep ringing after they've been played, so the cushions need adjusting. Since it's a rare birdcage action, it'll be a bit trickier to find out how to do that.

Meanwhile, I starting stripping the paintwork...

It's all pretty badly worn, going to sand it all completely down to the wood, re-laquer and polish it a nice gloss black (and hopefully keep that nice floral artwork).

Sanding the paint off this way seems to take forever!