Upright Piano Revival. A DIY Adventure.
I’ve been eyeing this DIY project up for years.
Painting an upright piano is not a small task, but it can be done.
However, time is not really on my side since I am gone more than home (and that is ok!)
As a travel writer, I am barely home.
Yet, when I am, I love to play my ‘out of tune’ 100 year piano.
There are knicks, and chipped chunks of wood on my upright piano.
During college, after a full childhood of musical training on the saxophone, and organ, I was classically trained on piano and would perform.
I don’t like being forced to play in recitals, but I do love the sound of a piano.
While my life has evolved, marriage, kids, and a job, my love of playing the piano has not.
This piano was donated to me, and my husband and brother-in-law picked it up and brought it home.
Why did I feel the need to dive in and start painting an upright piano?
My task of painting an upright piano to revive its look became a DIY Adventure.
I’m not a pro, I am just a girl with a paintbrush and the want to make my upright piano glisten from the outside.
Painting an Upright Piano To Revive Its Look. A DIY With DanaVento
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In short, this was an adventure of how-to, what-to, and also history.
I had no idea that my piano was created during the great depression.
As a result, I kind of halted the thought of DIY.
However, we’ve had a few piano tuners come in and tell me that ‘she’s hopeless’.
Her soundboard is ‘cracked’ and that they can’t come to find replacement parts.
But, I’ve got to tell you, she’s been mine for a while now and this piano moved from one home to another.
Since I can’t have a baby grand (like I played on in my home and at school), this upright piano is what I own and must care for.
The sound is raggedy and off-tune at best, but it’s still a piano.
With a child in law school, one is nursing school pursuing a BSN, and another still in high school who wants to be a medical professional, I can’t just obtain a baby grand (sigh).
What we give up for our kids right?
Painting an Upright Piano ~ The Bench
Before I started painting an upright piano, I started with the bench.
Wait, let me back up on that statement.
As a result of about 20 trips to home improvement retailer aisles (sorry guys for ALL the endless questions), I began with the bench.
Painting a piano bench would allow me to gain technique and see if what ‘in-theory’ was planned would work.
Also, did I mention that the Piano bench provided did not seem to MATCH the piano?
That annoying little factoid has bothered me forever.
Each the piano and bench never matched.
Of course, I had a plan of attack, and as I gained knowledge of what I was working on, my DIY changed course a few times.
Painting an Upright Piano Bench
Before the project started!
Well, I’ve seen plenty of people tackle DIY’s and one thing I learned is that color can bleed.
So, my first thought was to get rid of the color underneath.
I started with fine sanding to rough it up.
Why did I even care if the color bled?
The result I wanted to be was a better, deeper color and a cleaned up piano.
But… I did it anyway.
However, that was not a requirement, because I used Primer by Zinsser.
My thoughts were that the paint was ugly, chipped, and needed to be refined.
In the end, it was double work, and I just should have eliminated the use of Zinsser.
All I wanted was to freshen the look and smooth out the knicks.
Save yourself and if you are just updating color, let them blend, it looked great anyway as it was dark on dark.
Make sure to tape off the hardware so you don’t paint it too!
I also tightened the interior board so I could store sheet music in there.
The Piano DIY
Let’s take a look at the Before.
Now that you see what I am dealing with, there are watermarks, and stains as well as chips.
So, this time, I filled in the wood and sanded.
I wiped it all down with a clean cloth and water on the cloth.
Next, I vacuumed all around my workspace and the tarp.
Paint the pedals before you do anything.
First I scrubbed them.
I took as much of the ‘uck’ off as I could,
Remember this piano is over 100 years old.
Next, I sprayed them GOLD with spray paint that adheres to any and everything.
The paint was Rust-Oleum Pure Gold Spray Paint!
Allowing that to dry I then began taping off all the hardware on the top of the piano and the keys.
Once the pedals were dry, I moved on to the main painting.
Painting the WHOLE Piano.
Rather than fight lighting, I worked during specific times and days (sunny ones!)
In fact, I used the sunlight to ensure my project would be evenly coated and no areas were missed.
Additionally, to avoid paintbrush strokes I used a 4″ roller.
So, I worked from the bottom to the top and by the time I was done with that, it was time for coat number 2.
Please note, I painted the key area a day later, allowing the paint to dry on the entire piano.
In order to give it a boost of a shine, I added a clear finish.
Therefore you can see the step by step process on my video, I am hoping it is up when I publish this, but it will be shortly!
Parts of the DIY I Disliked.
There are parts of this project I really did not like.
For instance, my least favorite part was filling in the missing wood.
Truly this was a learning curve and even though the fill turned from pink to brown, it made a mess.
Sanding is messy and I don’t like doing it but it is a necessary evil, but the wood filler was key to the project.
Besides, the wood filler made the whole project come together.
What is more, without filling, the project would have been incomplete.
Since I have not worked with filler before it turned out a bit rougher than I wanted, but that is on me.
Overall, the piano itself looks 100% better!
Do allow time for the filler to dry, then sand, and you might have to fill again.
This adds at least an hour to 2 onto your timing depending on the depth of the knick it could be longer!
Painting an Upright Piano
Did I know how long it might take? Nope and I did not care.
Additionally, ‘Yes’, it took a few days to complete, but starting with the bench allowed me to see the results of the paint, color, etc.
Simply put, learning not to use a primer first, was a massive time-saver.
Knowing what I learned I would definitely paint other older pianos.
Again, the piano is more out of tune than in.
Remember, I am not sure what is wrong with all the piano, and in fact, the soundboard may or may not be cracked and it is over 100 years old.
Considering that, I had nothing to lose except ugliness on antiquated furniture.
To make the overall room flow, this was a necessary evil.
However, it was fun, shows great results and yes the piano still plays exactly the same.
Had this been a newer piano, a baby grand, or a better-functioning piano I would not have been so cavalier.
I’ve read that you can change the sound of the piano by painting.
Do a little bit of reading before you delve in.
Personally, I am happy I did this refurb! ~ Dana XO
Painting an Upright Piano To Revive Its Look. A DIY Adventure.
- Sanding Paper
- Paint Scraper
- 4" roller
- Tray for Paint
- Blue Tape
- Drop Cloths
- Zinsser Primer *Optional
- Fine Sanding Paper
- Face Mask
- Paint Brushes 1", 2 1'2 Inch
- Roller for Pain
- Tray for paint
- A hand scraper
- Painter's Tape
- Drop Clothes
- Color-Changing Wood Filler Minwax
- Rust-Oleum Metallic Antique Brass 260728 Universal All Surface Spray Paint
- Plastic Wrap
- Assorted foam wedge paint brushes 1/2" & 1"
- Minwax Satin 356050000 One Coat Polyurethane Quart
- Before and After You Can Do This!
- Again, read my disclosure about the age of my piano and WHY I did this.
- Not all pianos should be refinished.
- If working inside, or outside place painting floor covers down to catch spills, sanding dust, etc.
For Piano Prep And Bench Prep
- Tape any brass, hinges, exposed areas that are NOT to be painted with painters tape.
- For the Piano keys, take care to not only tape the area but to cover with plastic wrap (I used plastic wrap and carefully tucked around the keys to ensure no paint would touch the keys.
- Don't forget to tape off the key and surrounding area.
- The bench, again tape off the hardware so that you don't paint it over (it may not function well if you do such)
- Because my bench and piano were a mess (stains, knicks, wood missing) I actually LIGHTLY sanded each.
- Enough that if you blew on those surfaces, sanding dust would fly (just to give you an idea).
- Be aware, you will be lightly sanding (if you don't use Zinsser) therefore dust will be in the air.
- You may want to tape off the area with plastic and tape to keep debris limited
- First, lightly sand the entire area using fine sandpaper.
- Next, wipe the sanded areas down.
- Areas must be clean and free of debris before painting.
- *If you are using Zinsser, you may not want to sand, that is fine, I did it both ways, sanding and not. Also, after the Piano Bench, I did not use Zinsser on the Piano. As I said, I changed things up a lot along the way.
- For any chips and knicks, use a wood filler, to repair such areas.
- Allow the wood filler to dry and then sand it down.
- Yes, I first sanded everything, and then went and filled in the knicks.
- I wanted the edges to be smoother before filling knicks.
- Then, I sanded the filler and wiped it down as well as the surrounding areas.
- No sanding debris should be on surfaces that will be painted.
- The Bench Process.
- First I cleaned the bench.
- I wanted to see exactly what I was working with.
- How many chips, and what repairs were needed?
- Beginning by sanding.
- Then, I wiped it down again.
- Using Zinsser to cover the color.
- One time over as plenty in my mind and I would not do the priming ever again, it was a waste of time on this project, and I quickly came to learn that!
- However, wanting to share my full story, I am disclosing that I tried it and did not like this step, it's not the product, just not a needed step.
- Using a 4" brush and a 2" brush is how I spread the Zinsser.
- I allowed it to dry per the directions on the can.
- Since I originally began working outside on this project, I was able to use the light to see the area I was covering.
- For the Piano, I actually used a small 4" foam roller and loved the results.
- I simply painted starting with the bottom and working my way to the top.
- Once it was dry I repeated the process to achieve the color I was looking for.
- However, I did NOT paint the keys or the cover to the keys.
- Key area painting: I painted the cover for the key a day later, as I needed to be able to open it.
- Following ALL painting I then covered it with ONE COAT POLYURETHANE with the windows OPEN.
- These were a mess, so first I washed them.
- Then I sanded the grit gunk off them (you don't have to, I don't like that 'popping' look so I did.
- Next, I covered the surrounding area and painted them.
- Make sure to cover below and around.
- The windows were open again as fumes are strong.
- Once dried I repeated to achieve the look I wanted.
- I do suggest this process BEFORE you paint any other part of the piano AFTER you have sanded the piano itself.
- If you are sanding.