Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 2

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.

26128601301_91f72fb2d0_oThere are 88 keys in a piano…each one has a string and a rusted out pin.

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.

26102463192_e2da6889ce_oOne 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…

25922046180_d830ff7655_o 26128578981_eafb826214_o 25922041350_93b6b3c45a_o…we also took off the lid, front panels on the top and bottom and the keyboard cover.  26128587951_b5ec385498_o

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…26194868095_4685e12503_o …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.

26102410122_e87992ab6c_oThen we took a little break and had a bond fire with all the combustible parts.  😀

26102408232_6f8a5aea3e_oIt’s possible we inhaled some really toxic fumes, but it was fun nonetheless.

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.

26102517322_a63a12bfc1_oThis picture shows how streaky the paint was and the odd plastic-like
appearance of the sheen is an indication of the poor quality of the paint.

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.

26128172711_a17f197928_oAnd 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.

25591180443_e66396a595_oWe also installed new casters to the bottom.  Having the piano on wheels made it easier to work on and we were able to reclaim the garage during the week and pull the piano out on the weekends.

Even after stripping the piano three times and scraping and so on, it still looked a little rough:

25591179913_11bed9755b_kSo 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.

26167915406_a2cf05f75f_oWhile Luke sanded for days and days, I put the piano bench back together, spray painted some of the hardware black, and cleaned up the piano pedals.

26193817945_5b47e772de_oI would have left the original patina, but some of that horrible red paint had gotten on the pedals too.  The only way to remove it was to sand away the top layer of the pedals.

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.

2 thoughts on “Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 2

  1. Pingback: Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 3 | Marriage Material

  2. Pingback: Re-purposing an old piano into a bar, part 1 | Marriage Material

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