“Do you paint pianos?”. That was how my first commission came about. I cannot lie – it terrified me. But now, with several more years experience, painting pianos is becoming my new favourite thing.
Before you throw your hands up in disbelief, hear me out. You see, I don’t just go ahead, all gung ho and think of the bank account. I still love old furniture in its original form. In fact, my own home sports more original pieces than painted. But brown polished wood just doesn’t cut the mustard in so many modern family homes. The pandemic is thought to have seen an upward trend in folk wanting to bring a piano into their home again. Just not necessarily, in their original form. And so, clients come to me to see if I can make their family heirloom, or a bargain acquisition, suit their own space.
But before I agree to anything I do my homework. I love researching the origins of all my furniture – pianos are no different. It’s important to me that customers understand the potential value of something out of the ordinary so they can make an informed decision. If you want to know more about my latest piano then you will find info at the end of the blog 👇
Meanwhile back to my latest piano painting project
When my client told me it was ‘granny’s piano’ I felt an extra responsibility to do it justice. I feel privileged to be asked to work on something which has so much family love and history. Choosing colours is only a very small part of the care that goes into making it into a piece the family will continue to treasure. Knowing that granny’s fingers, and even a parent’s fingers, have tripped across the ivories carries sentimental value which can far outweigh the price tag.
I do an initial inspection to help me see how it is ‘behaving’. Any sticking points, surfaces rubbing together, will only get worse as I apply paint layers. It’s also a good opportunity to dismantle anything that comes off (knee board, lids, front panel etc. Super handy to get those back to the studio as they act as the first canvas. Not all pianos and surfaces are created equal. Some are downright naughty! So having the space and time to work through any issues, prior to moving on site for the main work, can save time in the long run
The process of painting pianos is then much the same as for any furniture. Cleaning and scuff sanding. I also prime all my pianos. Often the surface is pretty glossy. It’s a fine balance between sanding to key and sanding so far the tannins in the base wood start to bleed through. But a good primer is your best friend. I also love to introduce a poly topcoat into the final paint coat (or two). No matter which paint brand I am using. I find that gives it a super tough shell. Often the piano isn’t in its final position when I work on it. And I want it to have its ‘hard hat’ on for the day the heavies come in to move it into its new home.
The finished article
Wherever you stand on the side of painting pianos or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there are probably hundreds if not thousands of pianos, stuck in garages. Unloved, yet calling out to be played again. And we are the guardians. We have this one chance to give it another life, or weigh it in for scrap metal (yes indeed, those things are seriously heavy).
We might well think some piano makers might turn in their graves to think their prize piece of workmanship is now sunshine yellow or lipstick pink. But there is a part of me that suspects they rather see it used than not. Painting pianos ensures they get to live on to another generation. And let’s not forget, the bodywork is a practical (albeit sometimes stunning) armour. It’s what’s underneath the bonnet that makes the tunes that made Chopin’s music so memorable 😉
The history of the piano
‘Granny’s piano’ was a Weber. The Weber name was bought by the Aeolian Company (New York) in the early 1900s, who had worldwide subsidiaries (manufacturing plants) which included The Orchestrelle Company in Hayes, Middlesex (1909 onwards) – which is where granny’s piano was made. Then I found this site (https://www.total-piano-care.com/Weber-Pianos.html) which dated the piano back to between 1910 and 1920. More searching turned up literally no similar pieces on collectors or auction sites – and that tells me it’s unlikely to be of great value now. But what a treasure. How many fingers have skipped over those keys?
And the true value is to see granny’s piano now taking centre stage inside the home, and knowing it will get its first retune in several decades (yes, even the dates of the tuning are under the ‘bonnet’). Now that, to me is priceless.
If you would like to discuss giving your old piano a new modern look, and live in either Moray, Grampian or the Highalnds, then get in touch via any of the methods on my contact page