Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Finishing re-staining an old piano top with the correct color

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  • #121687
    David R.
    Participant

    Hey folks,

    I have our piano’s mechanics overhauled by a specialist and had some water stains on the top I wanted to get rid of. The warped veneer was taken care of with a syringe and watered down glue; used some wax paper during clamping and it turned out fine.

    Today I scraped the old finish, probably shellac, and wondered how I would restore the correct color to the wood and also to keep it authentic. It’s from the early 20th century, probably between 1910 and 1930.

    What kind of stain would I use and how would I find out the best matching color?

    Anyone specialized in antiques? Thanks in advance.

    David

    from Germany

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    #121691
    Mer Almagro
    Participant

    I am not a specialist, that said, I think walnut husk dye (I think it is known as Van Dyke crystals in English) could be a good option, perhaps it is what was originally used, it has been used for centuries (probably millenia) as a wood stain, ink, etc. It is lightfast. I use it very often.

    You can make a mix from very light to very dark, and you can build up layers until you get the depth you want. It is water based, which is nice and easy, but also raises the grain a little. I don’t find that much of a problem, though. You can then flatten the grain back a bit rubbing with a bunch of straw.

    You just mix the crystals, which are quite inexpensive (I find them in bulk at the local drugstore), with lukewarm water, until they are dissolved, and apply with a brush or a rag. Careful to work fast, in the direction of the grain, and not overlap partially-dried strokes, then you may get darker marks. It is a bit tricky to apply, it behaves a lot like watercolour.

    Oh, I also use distilled water because the water in my area has a lot of solid impurities, but this is probably overkill.

    I attach an example, I dyed these oak floorboards with one layer of rather concentrated stain. In this case I used a very wide brush in nearly one stroke.

    Living in Flanders, Belgium

    Attachments:
    #121694
    David R.
    Participant

    Hello Mer,

    thank you for the information and images. That helps a lot. It seems to be a very good option. Can you tell, whether the dye would soak deep into the wood or only shallowly? I would like to be able to revert it if it turns out to ruin the piece completely.

    Best regards,
    David

    from Germany

    #121709
    Mer Almagro
    Participant

    Hi David, it does sink in, at least half to a millimetre I would think. You can test that in a piece of wood, dye it and then cut it, although different kinds of wood probably absorb it differently. I’ve found beech difficult to work with.

    If possible, I would try to test it first in a piece of the same type of wood and tone. If it is a thin layer of veneer, you probably wouldn’t be able to remove the dyed part without too much damage.

    If all the colour came off readily when you scraped the finish (from the images, maybe it didn’t? it is difficult to tell), they probably didn’t use this type of dye originally. I hear you can dye your shellac with an alcohol based dye, like for leather, but I haven’t tried it myself. That may work nicely, but other coloured finishes I have tried, they look to me like they just sit on top in a weird manner.

    M

    Living in Flanders, Belgium

    #121711
    David R.
    Participant

    It appears what is left is the wood color. At the border they used different wood and after scraping the finish it is light like pine. Maybe they used colored shellac after all.

    from Germany

    #121895
    David R.
    Participant

    Today I started to repaint the top using garnet shellac. By now I figure they used stained shellac, since the border doesn’t get as dark as it should and I won’t be able to put as much shellac on it as would be required for a matching dark color. The tint is probably off a little, but I hope not by too much. I’ll see as soon as I finish it and put it back on. In the end I can still remove the shellac and start again.

    from Germany

    #121898
    Mer Almagro
    Participant

    Let us know how that goes!

    Living in Flanders, Belgium

    #121926
    David R.
    Participant

    Very well, the top is polished with wax and reattached. The tone is noticeably warmer, but since the whole piano is not exact in color, it doesn’t matter too much. Most importantly, the physical damage is fixed and the top is protected again.

    from Germany

    Attachments:
    #121933
    Mer Almagro
    Participant

    Very nice, good job! Yeah on the first picture on the front it also looks like there’s two tones.

    Living in Flanders, Belgium

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