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Restoring a 94 Year Old Piano – How We Did It! – Part 3

posted by Julie February 10, 2016 0 comments

This is the final post on our piano restoration. Click here to read part one and here for part two.

At this point, with the outside restored and the inside vacuumed, the piano could have been left as it was. But it was still dirty. We tossed around the idea of getting the piano restrung and having the insides completely cleaned.  Unfortunately, that was not really an option for us due to the cost.  So we went back to our original plan of getting creative and just cleaning it ourselves.

Even though we used the vacuum as much as we could, cleaning around the edges of the insides, I had this nagging irritation at the amount of dust, pet hair, and filth still on the piano. I had to find a way to clean those tight spaces. Even trying to clean the soundboard (the wooden “floor” under the strings) was incredibly difficult. We ended up using a wet microfiber towel taped to wooden shims to try to wipe it clean. Obviously, creativity was key to this process! It was a huge relief when all the dust, hair, and grime were finally gone and you could see the beautiful wood underneath. Here are photos before the inside of the piano was cleaned:

So I began with Krud Kutter and Q-tips. Since the piano was so dirty, I could only use 1-2 swipes on each side of the Q-tip before tossing it out. Otherwise I was just spreading dirt around. Hours and hours of wiping and rubbing, cleaning in tight spots, all the while trying not to damage or disturb the inner workings of the piano. Here are a few photos of the cleaning process:

Cleaning around and under the strings took days, hours of work at a time. There were many times I was ready to give up and say “good enough,” but the piano kept calling me back to finish the job. When I finally finished cleaning every area inside the piano, I decided to try matching the paint on the cast iron plate, to do touch-ups. As I painted, I realized that the new paint looked a lot better than the older paint. (All I was using was an acrylic paint from a local craft store.) So, I ended up repainting the parts of the cast iron plate that I could reach.  Most of the area that I couldn’t reach wasn’t too tarnished so it all blended well.  I also repainted the name on the plate in black.

There are still a few things inside this 94 year old piano that I would like to replace – such as the dirty felt that’s under the strings in a few places and some of the hardware, but since it’s functional and sounds well, I’ll have to overlook those imperfections as of now.

When the piano was mostly done, I tackled cleaning the feet and the pedals.  The pedals were dirty and worn from time and age. After using a brass polish, they shined up quite nicely. On the other hand, the feet and wheels were covered in a dirty, uneven patina. They didn’t polish up as nicely. After using abrasive pads, cleaners, and polishers, this was the best they looked (see below). Eventually I also painted the feet and wheels just to give it that finished look.

Overall, it was a very rewarding project for us, especially considering it was for our daughter.  She’s pretty happy playing a real piano these days and not a keyboard. I’m sure there are things we probably shouldn’t have done or cleaning that was done wrong, but it got tuned, it plays great, and we’re all happy.

And that’s really all that matters, doesn’t it?

Happy Travels!

Julie

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