I Finally Tackled the Piano

A few years ago, The Husband helped a fellow Tae Kwon Do instructor in exchange for an old piano. This massive old upright spent most of its life in a Masonic lodge. It was big, dark and heavy, and it was walnut. I may have mentioned before that I have a weakness for walnut. Please note, I said walnut, not walnuts. The former is beautiful wood for furniture. The latter is a cruel culinary joke.

It took 4-5 grown men to get the piano down the stairs and into the waiting horse trailer, then a slow trip on gravel roads, and finally 2 grown men to get it off the trailer and into the house (no stairs involved this time). I wiped it down with oil soap and furniture polish, and it sat undisturbed for a couple of years.

I eventually grew curious about its age and history, so looked up its serial number online. The piano is a Victor, built in 1902 by the Bush & Lane piano company of Chicago. Their pianos have been compared to Steinways for sound quality. This company, like many others, went out of business during the Great Depression.

We were able to get the piano tuned a couple of years ago (getting the piano tuner to come out here is a community event), and it sat quietly for a couple more years. The finish wasn’t horrible for being 110 years old, but it was dull, worn off in some places and gatored in others.

Since The Taterbug is finally old enough to start piano lessons this Fall, I made time to get out the products that I used on Grandma’s furniture, and see what I could do to spiff up the finish.

First, I washed it down with Murphy’s. My children don’t appreciate the aroma of citronella, so they left me in peace. Then I got out the rubber gloves, Restor-a-Finish, shop towels and the #0000 steel wool. I spent about an hour wiping down the piano, and being reminded just how smelly this stuff is. A half hour later, I wiped it down with Feed N Wax, which smells much better than the restorer.

The scratches are now camouflaged, and the wood grain is visible again. I still had to use a stain marker on some of the worst spots, but I knew to expect that.




I could never afford the price of a full restoration, but for the investment of a couple of hours and some product that was left over from a different project, my 110 year-old piano is looking mighty fine. Now, I just need to dust the lamps and polish the silver pieces before I put them back on top.

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7 Responses to I Finally Tackled the Piano

  1. abbey says:

    This looks awesome! I may need some tips for some kitchen table troubles I am having.

  2. Alesha says:

    I have a piano just like the one above. Did you ever have it appraised? I was just wondering how much its worth.

    • mel says:

      Hi Alesha-
      I’ve never had the piano appraised. Apparently, appraising a piano is a tricky thing as there are so many moving parts in addition to the cabinet that have to be considered. I decided to be content that it looks and sounds beautiful, and can be tuned. I did use this website: to find out how old my piano was. I sent them the serial # and other information that was on the piano, and they were able to tell me when and where it was manufactured.

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  4. bonniekirk says:

    I’ve heard that a complete piano refinishing can also change, even ruin the sound. So I would get some expert advice before having it refinished. Especially as beautiful as it looks after your efforts!

    • mel says:

      Not to worry. The expense and logistics of either getting somebody out here to do the work, or worse, hauling it to somebody , make it more likely that the piano would be struck by lightening than that it would ever get refinished in my lifetime.

  5. Pepe Romeero says:

    I have that exact same piano! My grand father (the greatest music teacher ever) gave it to me as a gift, last year. It is so cool to see that someone has the exact same piece! I just wanted to share my excitement and to tell you that you did an amazing job and motivated me to, at least, take a couple of hours to clean it and hide the scratches.
    Almost every day for 10 years, I sat down and played this Victor piano for an hour, sometimes more. It’s just so full of memories.
    Well, thanks for posting this! Great job!

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