need advice for finish on 1921 upright piano


I bought a 1921 Bell upright piano at an estate auction for $300 (Bell was a Canadian company that made very good quality uprights).
Mechanically, it seems to be in excellent shape. However, the finish is in bad shape- dirty, dull, and cracked (looks like reptile skin). The hammers are also dirty from eighty years of dust.
You can see pictures at:
http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/~mrubinst/piano/index.html
Here are my questions:
1) What should I use to clean all that grimy dirt (as in the 3rd and 4th images) without further damaging the finish?
2) How can I restore the finish without stripping the current finish off. I'd like to just wipe something on that will make it look nice and
get rid of the cracks, as in the 6th image. Searching around on the web
I came across: Fromby's Furniture Face Lift Kit, Howard's Restor-A-Finish. Any thoughts about these products? What about tung oil- would tung oil by itself do the trick or would I need to apply something first before putting on tung oil? Any other ideas?
3) There are some places where the finish is missing (for example, lookat the 5th image). What's a good way to touch up those parts?
4) Is it possible to clean the hammers without damaging them, or should
I just leave them dirty? I already tried to vacuum the top surface. of the hammers.
Thanks for any suggestions.
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Hi, Haven't used either of those refinishing products, but I don't think you want to use tung oil. You need to remove the wrinkly old finish first. Also, in case you didn't know, most of the panels on a piano are removeable, except the sides. So, you don't have to refinish it all in one piece. Bob

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Caveat: I'm not a professional restorer by any stretch - just a hobbyist woodworker. Given that, I think you're going to be disappointed with anything applied on top of the old finish. Just wiping something on to get rid of cracks sounds easy, but I'd be amazed if anything actually did this. "Restor-a-finish" and similar products promise to cover up cracks and make your furniture look like new, but I'm afraid the main ingredient in these is snake oil. Kind of like the stuff that is supposed to renew your hair if you're bald, but actually just dyes your scalp? If you really want your piano looking like new, the best option would be completely stripping off the old finish (some combination of chemical stripper, scraping, sanding, more sanding, etc.) If the finish is shellac, denatured alcohol will soften the finish. If it's NOT shellac, rubbing alcohol would be a decent cleaner to remove dust, grime, etc. I don't think tung oil would be a good choice to apply on top of a previous finish. If you really don't want to strip off all the old finish, I'd say you'd still have to clean all surfaces very thoroughly with furniture cleaner or maybe mineral spirits and then wax it and learn to appreciate the "character" of the cracks. You might also sand the whole thing lightly before adding a new coat of varnish or some other clearcoat finish. Have you looked online and at your local library for furniture refinishing books? Good luck, Andy
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Visit www.refinishwizard.com and look around. Lots of questions similar to yours.
On 21 Jun 2006 20:30:32 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote in

I refinished an old piano that looked like yours except it had been painted an ugly cream color. I'd go easy with sandpaper. the panels are plywood with a thin veneer. Formby's works by disolving the old lacquer finish. You may or may not like the results. Try it on one panel. If you're not happy you'll probably end up stripping it anyway. I used a paste type paint remover and steel wool. Practically everything but the basic frame can be disassembled with a screwdriver.
I wouldn't mess with the hammers. You might affect the way it plays. No one will see them anyway. Check all the glue joints in the wood mechanism. Some of mine were loose and had to be re-glued.
Good luck with it.
Don
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

The first two products are probably ok, don't use tung oil.
For the missing finish spots and the cracks you use shellac sticks but that takes a lot of skill and experience. There are books on how to use it.
To clean the hammers just blow them with a compressor. In fact, the whole inside of the piano should probably be blown out, just be careful when you do it. If the hammers are really worn you might want to recover them with new felt, but if the sound is ok, forget it.
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On 21 Jun 2006 20:30:32 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

<snip>
You can very lightly sand the felt to clean it, adn the hammers if they have hardened over time can be softened a bit by carefully pricking the felt.
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