Refinishing Mahogany Piano - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 09-15-2008, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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Refinishing Mahogany Piano

Hello. I'm new to the forum and appreciate any advice you might have for my project.

I'm refinishing a 100-year-old grand piano with mahogany veneer. Based on my research, my inexperience with lacquers and my workspace (which is a relatively dusty garage) I planned to finish the piano using Formby's Tung Oil Finish. I understand that the tung oil finish is forgiving (good for beginners) and that if I am patient and apply enough coats of it then I can achieve a deep satin finish that brings out the natural wood grain.

An acquaintance of mine that has refinished a few pianos suggested that instead of using just the tung oil finish, I should apply one or two coats of Deft Clear Wood Finish Brushing Lacquer, sanded with very fine sandpaper between coats, and then apply the Formby's Tung Oil Finish until I reach the luster I like.

He suggested that a Deft/Tung Oil process would be an improvement by:

(1) increasing the consistency of the tung oil finish. I'm confused by this, because I thought lacquer would make penetration of the tung oil finish impossible and the tung oil finish would just sit on top of the lacquer. Is that right? Does it matter? Either way, after speaking with him I'm concerned that using the Formby's alone could produce splotchy results,

(2) increasing protection of the wood and reducing its sensitivity to humidity/temperature changes. Ok, that makes sense since lacquer is hard,

(3) filling the pores of the wood for a more mirror-like finish. That makes sense too and is probably desirable, although I fear that dust getting into the finish and any uneven application by me could ruin the look in the end, and

(4) make the process a lot faster, since I could apply the Deft fairly quickly and reduce the number of coats of tung oil finish needed.

So, what do you think?

I am willing to try the Deft/Tung Oil process if it is really better. I would probably apply the Deft Clear Wood Finish Brushing Lacquer with an air-powered spray gun that I've used to paint furniture. I think I would probably do a better job with the spray gun than with a brush, although I'm still worried about dust.

If, on the other hand, using the lacquer will just complicate things then I'm happy to hand rub with only tung oil until the cows come home.

Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated. Many thanks for your time.

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post #2 of 3 Old 09-15-2008, 10:34 PM
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What you apply will depend on the finish you're looking for. Lacquer in conjunction with an oil is not a recommended method. If you are looking for a high gloss piano finish, using Tung Oil you'll think the cows got lost before they get even near home. If you are looking for a natural wood look and feel, the Tung Oil Finish, which is really a 3 part mix of basically a varnish, boiled linseed oil, and mineral spirits, will provide a natural look and feel with a shine. It can be wiped on and after each coat is dry sand with 320x. You can judge the look you're after with subsequent coats.

Applying an oil over lacquer will do nothing as a finish. If you are spraying lacquer in a garage that's dusty, you'll definitely have a finishing problem.

If you want a high gloss polished look, you should first use a paste wood filler. In using lacquer, there has to be a substantial build of coats. In between coats should be wet sanded with 400x to 600x wet-or-dry silicon carbide sandpaper and water. The final coats should be wet sanded up to 1800x to 2000x. It then can be polished out to a high gloss using a smooth pumice and then rottenstone. Or, ordinary automobile rubbing compounds can be used finishing with a ultra fine polish. Other compounds can be used in graduated smooth grits of rouges.

Each coat application should be cured before wet sanding.

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post #3 of 3 Old 09-15-2008, 11:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. That's much more in line with my original understanding. I'm comfortable with an open grain oil look, so the Formby's finish should be just fine. In your experience does Formby's tung oil finish come out splotchy, or is it just a question of adding oil to drier spots to the point of saturation on each application?

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