Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 2
In Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 1, I shared how we came to have an old player piano in need of some major TLC. Here are the steps we took to get the piano ready:
1. Gut the piano
This used to be a player piano, so it has a very large cabinet in the top, and lots of space at the bottom too. Still, we knew we needed to gut it in order to have as much space for the bar as possible.
Everything I read online said to be very careful with the piano strings, because they’re under such high tension if you just cut them they’ll whip around and decapitate you. I dutifully borrowed a piano tuning hammer from a local piano tuner and began unwinding the strings.
This was going to take a while. Luke decided to proved all the websites wrong about the strings decapitating you…so he took wire snips to the strings.
At least he wore gloves…
Our neighbor, Steven, got in on the action too.
One of the best parts about this experience is that as Steven helped out and lent us tools we got to know each other. It’s good to be friends with your Neighbors. (Capitalized because that’s also his last name. :D)
After the strings were removed, we pulled out the hammers, all the keys, the keyboard, basically anything that we could remove…
This is what it looked like after we removed most of the stuff.
See that giant thing along the back? That’s called the harp of the piano and it’s made of cast iron. It’s really big and thick so that it can withstand the force of the tension on all of the strings. It’s also incredibly heavy. We knew we had to remove it, but how to do it was another matter.
It took several days, and a little manhandling, but Luke finally figured out how to pull it out. He did end up having to remove each and every pin like I had started to do at the very beginning… …and we ended up breaking the wood panel along the back…but we got it out. We ended up removing the wood backing panel and just left it open.
2. Strip the piano
Ugh. This step took FOREVER! At some point in the past, this piano was painted an orange-y red. It was poorly done, and the paint was a pain in the a$$ to remove.
Some pieces we were able to use sand paper to remove the paint. This worked especially well on the piano bench.
It did not, however, work on the body of the piano. So we moved on to a paint stripper. Initially I bought a low-odor brand.
And it did NOTHING to this paint. It maybe dulled it a bit, but we definitely had to move on to something stronger. I went back to the store and got the strongest paint stripper I could find. Then I did TWO applications of the stripper and a whole lot of scraping. It was a lot of work, and Luke was in and out of town, so there’s no pictures of me doing this part. Just trust me, it sucked.
We then took two months off. Partly because it was the holidays and we were busy traveling to visit family and such, and partly because we were burned out. Oh, and also because we binge watched all five seasons of Game of Thrones in two weeks instead of working on the piano.
After New Years we knew we needed to make a push to finish this project. It was taking up a ton of space in our garage, and we’d already come so far. Also, after a mercifully short winter, the weather was starting to get nice again. Alabama goes from summer to sort-of fall to winter back to about a day of spring and then back to summer pretty quickly. We knew we needed to get this done before it got too hot to work in the garage.
3. Final prep
First, we needed to fix a few things on the piano. The bottom had started to pull away from the rest of the frame, so we added some screws to strengthen it.
Even after stripping the piano three times and scraping and so on, it still looked a little rough:
So Luke attacked the piano with the sand paper. The combination of an electric sander and brute strength (he had to push down hard on the sander to get it to really work) finally removed most of the remaining paint.
After months of hard work, three coats of paint stripper, and several days of sanding, the piano was finally down to the bare bones!
From here on out, we knew it would be a lot faster. All that remained was to assemble the piano, paint it, and put polyurethane on it.
Read Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 3 to see the final steps of the project and the finished results.