How do I restore a 60 year old piano?

by Plm33883687

My son was shocked when he was quoted $10,000 to restore my piano I bequeathed to him. Yes 10 thousand dollars! Anyone got a better CHEAPER idea? He doesn't play it; it's just for looks mostly. I know some people paint pianos but the woodgrain is beautiful after all these years. Any suggestions are wellcome. Thanks friends! See photos...

  34 answers
  • 2dogal 2dogal on Nov 03, 2018

    Are you talking about just restoring the wood or the whole innards including tuning? Big difference.

    As far as the wood is concerned, I'd clean it well. then put lots of lemon oil on it to soak in. Maybe a few coats, depending upon how dry the wood is. After it won't take any more oil, buff it to a nice soft shine.

    Begin with the least invasive tactic on the wood before you take more drastic measures to restore the wood.

  • Fiddledd224 Fiddledd224 on Nov 03, 2018

    I would get several least 3 for this price range. I would ask local music teachers for referrals since they have access to these types of repair pros and should be familiar with costs...and contractors don't want bad reviews from musicians they do business with.

  • Carla Boyle Carla Boyle on Nov 03, 2018

    Be careful because the "finish" (ie paint) can affect the sound. A musician will notice the subtle difference in the voice of the piano. Remember a Piano is a percussion instrument. It reverberates and part of it's "voice" is the wooden box.

  • Lisa Lisa on Nov 03, 2018

    Thanks for saying that Carla. Wood instruments need particular care to ensure wonderful sound. I would have a professional make a recommendation as to what is best to clean it with.

  • Cyn Cyn on Nov 03, 2018

    Remember not to get stripper on the NAME of the Piano

  • Joyce Joyce on Nov 03, 2018

    a wonderful polish + cleaner is vinegar and olive oil. 3/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup white vinegar, spray on clean soft cloth. will remove dirt and wood will shine. may take some elbow grease but could result very well. don't use on the keys! if the keys are plastic, damp cloth will work. If ivory, don't know.

  • Cyn Cyn on Nov 03, 2018

    Not sure Why the effort if no one plays it.

  • Oliva Oliva on Nov 03, 2018

    If your son was quoted $10,000, the sound board may be cracked. If it has ivory keys, there is another expense. Moving the piano will mean it would also cost to have it retuned.

    Refinishing may indeed affect the sound, so if your son doesn't play, he may wish to take on the project, himself.

  • Lj Lj on Nov 03, 2018

    If you want to restore the wood, have a professional do it. No exceptions. Get several quotes. 10, 000.00 tells me the person making the quote doesn’t want the job.

    The piano may not be played now but it could become a collectible in a few short years. Pianos are sensitive and hard work to restore. They have many hidden places.

    Also any time you remove the original finish on any old piece of furniture you deminish and lower the value substantially even though you may think it looks better in pristine condition. You have changed the patina of the Wood.

    Howard’s lemon bees wax cream has done wonders for many of my antiques and vintage pieces of furniture. I let it sit for a couple of days, wipe it off and buff it out by hand. Howard’s also makes a excellent pure lemon oil if you prefer straight oil. Don’t use a cheap lemon oil. Other wise consult a antiquities dealer for advice.

  • Lj Lj on Nov 03, 2018

    I forgot to add that you need to clean the surface of the wood first very carefully before applying any oil or wood preservative.

  • Carla D. Carla D. on Nov 03, 2018

    $10,000 doesn't sound bad to me. We had a baby grand restored about 20 years ago...stripped of its ebony paint, new pin board, etc. The cost at that time was right around $10,000. It's a family heirloom and a beautiful piece. No one plays it, but we still have it tuned every 6 months. It took soooo long to get it back to concert pitch that we want to keep up with the tuning. Missing one ivory covering on a key...very hard to find.

  • Hipshot1960 Hipshot1960 on Nov 03, 2018

    This may sound strange but KIWI shoe polish does an amazing job. My in-laws were from Holland and their furniture always looked brand new. My Mom-in-law said her secret was those shoe polish waxes. I tried putting the clear stuff into a crack in the sound board of a piano (I did not plan to tune again) and was surprised when it fixed it and restored the sound. If you choose the color that best matches the (outer) finish, it adds just the right amount of moisture and color. Miracle!!

    • See 1 previous
    • Gail Gail on Nov 04, 2018

      You are so right on target with this. I've done this before many times with old furniture pieces & even a couple old pianos. I couldn't have said it better!!

  • Nancy Slattery Nancy Slattery on Nov 03, 2018

    Any suggestions what to do with a piano from the late 1800’s from England. Beautiful buried wood and inlaid pattern. No one in my family wants it. Pretty sure the keys are ivory. I hate to junk it.

    • See 5 previous
    • Pilgrim Pilgrim on Nov 04, 2018

      Some are saying old pianos aren’t worth much, but I would have it appraised after I cleaned it up.

      Use 1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar in 1 cup of olive, lemon or orange oil and apply with soft cloth. Some elbow grease might be needed! Several attempts might be needed depending.

      on “dirtyness”. DONT get on keys or metal parts. Use a

      damp cloth on keys and Brasso on metal parts. THEN: Get it appraised and find out if sound board is cracked. DON’T paint it!!!

      DON’T take innards out!!! Consider selling it or donating it to charity

      If you want to keep it, then refinish it. You can repurpose it according to Kelly n Tony into a bar, bathroom sink or display area.

      I have used Fornby’s Refinisher with great results. You’ll need rubber gloves, fine steel wool, rags and plastic sheeting. I’ve never used Restore a Finish so can’t give any input. Usually I’ll let an item sit for a day or two before applying several coats of tung oil. No special reason for letting it sit. I just need to pause for awhile.

      Use Formby’s and ting oil according to directions.

      Beaut eeee. full

  • Jean Bassett Kinyon Jean Bassett Kinyon on Nov 03, 2018

    I agree with everyone that says to use some kind of oil to "touch it up." I had a Steinway upright from 1900. It had ivory keys and a great sounding board. It also was that black finish. I was told by several specialists not to touch it and they were very excited that it still had ivory keys and was in the condition it was. There were a few knicks, but that meant it was well loved. PLEASE, PLEASE don't do anything drastic lest you do damage to the sound. recheck with your restorer that gave you a $10,ooo quote. Find out why it was so high and what was needed. Over 3o yrs. ago we paid $2,000 for new felt pads and a good going over as well as a tuneup when it was back. Fixing them up and keeping them in good shape is not cheap.

  • Trish Trish on Nov 03, 2018

    I used a product called "Restore a Finish" on a badly damaged bedroom set and then waxed it with the same brands wax and it looked like it had been refinished professionally! Even my husband was impressed and he's very particular! You can get it at Home Depot or Lowes. My bedroom set had deep scratches on it from moving and I didn't think it was salvageable but I did the treatment a few times and it was magic! It comes is different wood finishes so you chose the wood for your piano. I highly recommend! Its a little work but it worth it when they are quoting you those kind of prices!

    • See 2 previous
    • Trish Trish on Nov 05, 2018

      Yes! That is the brand name I used- IT WAS AMAZING!- It didn't require any sanding nothing difficult and you dont alter the wood on your piano at all- I used a VERY fine steel wool to apply the product(see instructions on bottle)- let it soak in and then I actually did that again because my wood was soo bad- after that I applied the Howards Feed N WAX- and it looked like new! Honestly I cant say enough about this and its the least expensive and invasive way you can restore something! I highly recommend!

  • Nic Nic on Nov 03, 2018

    Several years ago my son and I refinished an upright piano that had been given to me by my mother. My dad used to play it when he was alive. It is a player piano but a prior owner had taken the innards out. The finish was badly alligatored in places. We took a product called Formby's (it's made for refinishing wood by dissolving the varnish without stripping the wood) and some steel wool and refinished the piece. It took a little while but the effort was more than worth it because of the beauty of the wood grain. Afterward we put several coats of wood oil on the piece in lieu of varnish. Back in the day, most middle class families, and every elementary classroom, had a piano.

  • K K on Nov 03, 2018

    My husband restored ours and if is that old. Had sat under the ceiling vents and waxed was like black paint. He used Formbys refinished and stripped off all that old black guck and then coated it with Formbys lemon oil. What an amazing transformation. Our friend and cabinet maker checked on it in progress and said the wood was Honduras Mahogany, that you can no longer get. It was worth the 1000 man hours and we still enjoy it!!!

    • Dixie Dixie on Nov 03, 2018

      We used Formbys on our early 1900s piano... finished it with tung oil. It took a while, but it was worth it... turned out beautiful!

  • Reenaroc Reenaroc on Nov 03, 2018

    I purchased an old upright piano once for my husband's birthday. I went downtown to all of the old Piano stores and found a reputable tuner that came to my house and did the best he could for around $100. Turned out that there was a bad crack but by the time he was done you really couldn't tell. But since no one is going to play yours I guess you really don't have to worry about it. I would use the Formbys like K suggested (not the stripper) the Lemon oil after I cleaned it with Murphys oil soap. I've used Murphy's on a lot of wood straight from the bottle no water. Then rinse with damp towels, let dry & then the Formbys. And like someone already said be careful not to take the lettering off. Good Luck (This way would not take very long either).

  • Ida9464 Ida9464 on Nov 03, 2018

    get quotes from professional piano, not furniture restorers. Pianos are to be kept in a very limited temperature and humidity environment. Some are ruined if kept in garages or storage buildings. Moisture is deadly. Get multiple quotes. It is expensive and a novice can make things worse, actually ruining a piano.

  • Tom Stuart Tom Stuart on Nov 03, 2018

    You have a Henry F. Miller piano. Miller was a classical pianist who designed and built quality pianos which were pleasing to his sensitive ear. His designs also were more esthetic than other pianos. His soundboards were also made of spruce.

    $10,000 for restoration includes all internal parts and action. This includes hammers, felts, strings, and everything which makes it a piano.

    Remember, if you have a classic car you can get a wash and wax for $50 but a restoration returning it to its original condition will also be at least $10,000 or more.

    I’d start by finding having it tuned and evaluated. No one is happy with an out of tune piano, imagine a guitar not tuned between sessions. The piano tuner will be about $100 depending on your part of the country. He can make professional recommendations.

    You can start by getting the serial number and establishing the quality of this model.

    For further information:

  • Chris Gignac Chris Gignac on Nov 03, 2018

    In my opinion, clean it as best you can without destroying to finish. Then I would have it appraised. You seem like a logical folks because you’re asking questions on home talk. Take your time to decide what’s best for you.

  • Tom, Kermit , or Snoopy Tom, Kermit , or Snoopy on Nov 03, 2018

    I don't play mine either, but linseed oil is cheaper than any other for wood and it has worked for me on refinnished wood and bare wood. I haven't done anything to my piano or quitars though. I think you shoud not do anything to the sound board in it, that would effect the sound.

    MY PIANO is not worth more than $1500.00 SO i would not spend any money.

    EVERYBODY IN MY TOWN already have a piano and guitars too.

    I say don't buy a uekelele either, they are pushing those too right now.

    • Kermit

  • Rub large amount of old English oil (clear no stain) You will need to rub it in. I would use old towels and rub hard. I would do this till the towels com back clean. After you do this you can use old English with a stain color. Hope this work for you.

  • Wanda Joy Brock Wanda Joy Brock on Nov 03, 2018

    It looks like a spinnet. Find out the price of a Henry Miller spinnet piano similar to the one you have. Refinishing by a pro may cost more than the piano is worth. It looks like a polyurethane finish which is probably not a wise thing to fool around with. If it has a shellac finish (piano finish) there’s a lot you can do to spruce it up. Please post pictures of top, sides and legs so I can see what you’re working with. I have done professional work for antique shops in the past, now more as a hobby.

  • Tom Detomaso Tom Detomaso on Nov 03, 2018

    Get several quotes, But if it is just for the looks and don't play it, then lemon oil. and some brass cleaner. and let it sit by the side

    If you are going to use it then contact me again, then I can give you several connections. 4 less

  • Old man Old man on Nov 03, 2018

    These type pianos are not worth much anymore. They are certainly not worth restoring. I would find another piano in good condition. You can usually get one for around 300.00 and buy it. If you are in love with this piano then rub some old English furniture polish/Scratch cover on it. You'll be amazed at how good it will look.

  • Leann Leann on Nov 03, 2018

    i restored one that was built in the 1800's. It is not difficult at all. It had bee not ain't edit green then later painted blue. I stripped the paint sanded it then chose a stain, stained it and put clear varathane on it. It is beautiful.

    is the sound board cracked? If so, I would transform the piano into something else.

  • Kelly-n-Tony Kelly-n-Tony on Nov 03, 2018

    Old pianos and organs aren't worth much and can often be found free or vey cheap. If you want to keep it because it's a family piano but no one plays I wouldn't tune it. Instead just make the wood look great with Old English then display decor on it. Another option is to repurpose it such as make it into a bar, a bathroom sink, etc. They look amazing!

  • Penny Hoerauf Penny Hoerauf on Nov 04, 2018

    Howard's wood restoration! My piano is over 60 years old and looks great. Keep it tuned every year and place in on an inside wall in your home.

  • Cyn Cyn on Nov 04, 2018

    I’m a Pianist. I refinished a piano with candlesticks on it. Made before electricity. It was a lot of work. It ended up not being able to be tuned. I was sorry I had worked so hard refinishing it.

  • Kate Kate on Nov 04, 2018

    I understand about refinishing a cherished piano and not planning on playing it but it would be an interesting event if someone came into your home and wanted to play it. Piano's need to be played.

  • Doug L. Bullock Doug L. Bullock on Nov 04, 2018

    This is an inexpensive spinet piano that was intended to have a lifespan of 30 years tops. At age 60 the piano will need a whole lot of interior restoration as well as exterior work. It may be an heirloom but in our shop restoring an upright piano costs about the same as what this one will cost. Stringing runs about $3,500 which includes standard soundboard repair. If soundboard should need more extensive work which is very likely for a cheaper piano like this, then expect to spend $500 all the way up to several thousand more for a new soundboard to be installed. Piano action may be okay but it also may need replacement which would add $2500. to the price. Refinishing any piano nowadays costs me from my finisher around $3500. As you can see it all adds up. Don't put lemon oil or any oil with silicon on any piece of furniture you want to keep. Also avoid old English furniture product on it. If you want to do anything strip and refinish it in the right way. No shortcuts. Best outcome would be give it to a young pianist and buy a newer better quality piano with another 30-40 year lifespan.

  • Evelyn Milne Evelyn Milne on Nov 04, 2018

    I restored an old piano that had been painted red and with another coat of black paint on top. I Stripped and sanded it and found a beautiful burled walnut underneath. I hand rubbed it with six layers of linseed oil and it turned out beautiful.

  • Snips and Snaps Snips and Snaps on Nov 08, 2018

    Skidmore's Restoration Cream is a great product. Check out their website to see if it is something you would consider.