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I'm planning on having my 1902 piano refinished. It's old Brazilian rosewood and since it will be my practice and teaching piano, it'll get a very occassional nick or scratch here and there. What are your thoughts on using oils/waxes as a finish that can easily be reapplied if damaged. I've used Osmo wax on windows and countertops but I'm not sure how it will work on piano veneer. Does any here have experience using these hard waxes? Or Danish/Tung oil or any non-standard finishes? Are the standard finishes of lacquer, shellac, and polyester more stable and 'trap' the existing moisture into the case?
Also, I've read that rosewood is an oily wood and requires a strategic approach but after 120 years, is the rosewood on my piano still considered oily?
I take your point about ease of touch-up, but wax and oil are some of the least protective finishes. What's on it now?
According to Understanding Wood Finishing, for rosewood "it's usually best to wipe the wood with a fast-evaporating solvent, such as naphtha, acetone, or lacquer thinner, just before applying the finish. This will temporarily remove the wood's oil for the surface. If it's applied quickly there-after, the finish then has time to bond well and cure thoroughly before more of the wood's oil seeps back to the surface."
I really think your best bet is to strip it and varnish with a thick coat.
Thank you. I'll have to read the book your referenced. Also, the wax I was considering was Osmo; for those interested, here's a video on Osmo being used on kitchen countertops (). I assume if it can handle countertops, it can handle overly aggressive students and accidental scratches. But any ideas on if it will be an good application for pianos, where the subject of moisture and humidity is so important?
Hi Student Have you considered consulting with an experienced piano refinisher? I would think it souls be very helpful
"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin "I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
I've spoken in-person with a couple but they don't have experience with this wax but are willing to try it. I'm also waiting to hear back from other refinishers. There's very little information the web, possibly for good reason or perhaps it's just unexplored.
I've used Osmo oils for doors, countertops and floors but, good though they are, I don't think I'd want that for my piano. Danish and Tung oil I use to maintain the wood gunnels of my canoes but they are I think even less suitable for fine furniture.
Is your old rosewood left in its natural colour or is it stained? If it is natural it should be easier to touch up if scratched . I'm no expert on wood finishes but I was once very pleased with the finish I put on a hand carved oily hardwood nut bowl that had to stand up to wear, on that I used polyurethane varnish diluted at 25% varnish to 75% white spirit to penetrate as a base then shellac on top.
I build hardwood furniture, doors, chairs etc. I only use Danish oil now. Easy to apply and scratches can be fixed with light sanding or steel wool and more oil. It is not a shiny finish look that most are used too in manufactured glossy furniture. Definitely easy to maintain. The idea that finishes provide some protection is a bit laughable.
This veneer around the shift lever on my old car was cracking and the polyurethane(?) was lifting, so I tried sanding it back and applying Danish oil instead. I like the look (and the smell), so I probably won't bother getting the veneer replaced.
This has no relevance to pianos really.. but I'd like to see photos of a piano with an oiled veneer. Please experiment for us.
Thank you for all your responses. I'm learning quite a bit here.
Gwing, I believe the current finish is stained but it has darkened over its 120 years. I'm intending to refinish it so I can highlight the rosewood's contrasting black lines and brown/red/orange base. I'll have to get a rosewood sample somewhere and try out your suggestion.
BenZ and Drewpianoman, your suggestions sound very easy to apply and low maintenance. That picture of the burl in your car is quite incredible!
One of the issues with finishes is that you cannot as a consumer buy the types of finishes that are applied in factories. Most of the hard finishes I used to use (Behlens Rock Hard for one) can no longer use the drying agents and additives due to EPA regulations. So they are not as effective as they used to be. Laquer is fine on small projects but not suitable for big projects without specialized equipment and filtration systems.
As long as you don't mind not having a super glossy finish, Danish Oil is great. I use a product called Tried and True for my projects now. It has some wax in it, so you can apply multiple coats with steel wool, maybe a very light (400-600 grit in between) then buff after it is very dry to bring up the shine in the wax. You can also use a wax application but I don't think it is very helpful. Be careful about sanding too much, certainly there is some laminate on the piano and the Rosewood could be sanded through.
I also do not stain wood as I really like the natural colors and grains.
If I wasn't so lazy about computers, I would upload some photos of furniture but I guess you'll have to take my word for it.
fyi - after re-reading the posts. I use Danish oil on a wood Called Sapelle (african mahogoney). I put it in as counter tops in my kitchen. it is an extremely oily rich wood. I had to wipe the oil multiple times after applying but it is completely resistant to stains. So I would suggest that Rosewood would be a great candidate.
BTW - my personal experience with shellac is that is not very useful for large surfaces as it dries very quickly during application. It will also melt with exposure to alcohol, so don't put and beer cans on the piano
why don't you get some small pieces of Rosewood and experiment with
I used to know a chap who often used Danish oil on uprights, it looked....not too bad but not really comparable to a French polish (shellac) finish. The veneers that are used on pianos are not the same as a kitchen worktop made of solid wood. The way that veneers are made (think of a pencil sharpener) means that the grain tends to be very open and if you do not fill it properly before starting to put on a finish you will get a 'spotty' finish which never looks very nice. Veneers are also pretty thin (although not as thin on older instruments as on new ones) and tend to be brittle; using a power sander will make it all too easy to go right through to the carcass wood. You ought perhaps to investigate cabinet scrapers and sanding blocks.
If the veneers are intact and there is still a reasonable amount of shellac, you can improve the look of a piano by using a mixture of methyl alcohol (methylated spirits) and linseed oil, worked into the finish with fine steel wool. This dissolves the surface and you can spread the resulting goo around before it dries. Put like that it sounds dreadful but it can make a real, quick and cheap difference. If I were you I'd try this first; if it doesn't work out you are going to have to strip and re-polish anyway so you won't have lost much. Wear rubber gloves or you'll spend the next month picking shellac out of your finger nails.
Sauter Alpha 160, Yamaha N3 Avant Grand, Sauter Studio Upright (1974)
To get any sort of decent finish you're going to have to go through roughly the same preparation; dismantle the instrument, strip the old polish, sand or scrape it level, fill the grain, fine sand overall....this will take a fair time to do properly. Personally, I wouldn't want to do all that work and then slap a couple of coats of kitchen varnish over it. French polishing will probably add a day or two to the job but the result should be so much better that the time will be well-spent.
Sauter Alpha 160, Yamaha N3 Avant Grand, Sauter Studio Upright (1974)