steinwayLet’s face it, pianos are small elephants.  You put them in the room of a house and they will ALWAYS draw attention – whether good or bad.  If you have a beat up piano, you already know that it makes the room look blah.  On the contrary, a spectacular looking instrument improves the look of a room and makes it more classy.  If you’ve been thinking about refinishing your piano, there are some basics that you need to be aware of.  First of all, the wood on a piano most likely is veneered.  I say most likely because in 20 years, i’ve had 2 solid wood pianos.  Now before you start saying to me “OH NOT MINE… mine is SOLID WOOD”… i have to strongly disagree and say that in 20 years in the business i’ve had only 2 solid wood pianos come into my possession.  Why is that?  I used to employ a french polisher.  French polishing is the art of painstakingly applying shellac by hand.  It’s an INCREDIBLY slow process but worth every hour.  Anyway, he used to own an antique store.  This man was at best abrasive… at worst… rude.  He would tell me about customers coming in his shop “Yes i have solid wood furniture” to which he would reply “oh i’m so sorry to hear that madame”.  They were always taken back by his response.  I think it’s in our nature to want something to be solid and sturdy.  But he educated me and said “the best furniture in the world is all veneered”.  For those who don’t know, veneer is a thin layer of wood glued on to another ‘substrate’ or solid core.  Y’see, cosmetically beautiful wood usually is the WORST choice for construction.  What makes beautiful cuts of wood are quite often rippled pieces or trunks or trees to create ‘flamed’ or ‘ribboned’ effects.  No one in their right mind would think about building out of that.  The other problem is also warpage.  Solid wood will warp whereas veneered wood glued cross grain can be made straight.  And above all that, let’s say you wanted a piano out of rosewood.  Rosewood is so scarce and expensive, even small pieces of veneers will run into the hundreds – let alone solid pieces.  Well at this point, i usually hear the re-buttal “but my piano is older than that…. long before veneers were used”.  Again, not to pick a fight, but the oldest piano i’ve had in my shop was 1855 – brilliant rosewood cabinet on an Broadwood 8 foot grand (30 years newer only than Beethoven’s!)  And guess what? it was VENEERED! In 1855!  So to recap… pianos are built with a solid CORE…they’re made beautiful using lovely cuts of veneer – usually about 1/16th of an inch thick.  Oh and BTW, those 2 pianos i had in that were solid? They were so utterly BORING in the cuts of wood, you would have passed by them without batting an eye.

OK one more story from the french polisher… i love this one.  This lady comes into his antique shop… would like her Louis XV chairs refinished.  She says in a whisper “they’re authentic”…. hoping to get at least a raised eyebrow from him.  He so much as threw her out of the shop stating “no they’re not.  You mean to tell me that you have chairs dating back from the 1700’s – each one worth into the hundreds of thousands? possibly museum worthy? Well if you do, you sure don’t want to be refinishing them now do you? Good day, Madam”… oh he was feisty, i must say…lol.  Anyway… onward to the next part of piano refinishing…