I had always wanted to repurpose a piano into a bar or a desk. I finally found one that I could experiment on and finished up a piano bar a few weeks ago. You can see the final piece here.
Here are some of the things I learned along the way that will help me in future projects:
Practice on test pieces before committing to the whole thing
I decoupaged the working surface but never had done it before. I should have read up more on decoupage and watched YouTube videos. The surface at first had a lot of air bubbles and this could have been prevented if I had practiced a bit on some test pieces. I lucked out that it turned out well.
Get started more quickly
The piano was in the garage for a couple of months before I started. Not only did it take up a lot of room but it could have easily been damaged by things falling against it or putting things on top of it.
Finish the project more quickly
I should have been done in a couple of weeks but I kept procrastinating. A couple of years ago I moved too slowly on refinishing some chairs and ended up having to do the final finishing in my kitchen when it got too cold to do it in my garage here in Colorado. The one advantage to taking my time was it allowed me to ruminate on ideas and come up with some different approaches. But overall I should have kept moving more quickly so I could get the piece finished and sold.
Give myself freedom to try new things
This was the first time I repurposed a piano so every aspect was new. I liked having so many parts and pieces I could use to experiment. And I wasn’t afraid to take off things I didn’t like, like a wine glass rack that didn’t work very well.
Ask others what they think
I asked my wife’s opinion and she thought my wine bottle rack needed to have dividers. So, we came up with the idea of using some of the leftover keys as dividers and then making them more prominent by moving them forward. This is one of the coolest aspects of the piece.
Use gloss or semi-gloss paint on the furniture if you’re painting it
The quality of the wood on the piano wasn’t good enough to refinish so I mixed up a couple leftover paints I had around the garage. One of them must have been a flat finish because it was showing too many fingerprints and dirt. I had to put polyurethane on the whole thing to protect it. This wasn’t a horrible thing but I would have saved time by using a gloss or semi-gloss paint, to begin with.
Only use things that come from that piece
I like collecting things that I might use someday in repurposing projects and keeping them on my shelves in the garage. But with this project, I challenged myself to only use pieces from the actual piano. I bought the lights and some brackets but that was it. I found it interesting to look through the leftover pieces to see what could be incorporated into the whole piece. I enjoyed the challenge.
Put pieces in a baggie and document where they came from
I had good intentions that I was going to be able to remember where things would go on the piece. It didn’t happen. I lost some pieces that I wanted to use. Next time I’ll keep some baggies and a permanent marker in my work area to keep pieces together. I just did this yesterday with a Midcentury Modern dining table I’m refinishing.
I need to figure out how to do things more easily
Removing the harp was very time-consuming. I would take out certain screws and think for sure I was going to be able to remove them, but then would learn I needed to remove a bunch of other pieces. I should have researched more about how to do demolition when repurposing a piano. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe I wouldn’t have ever done the project if I knew how much work it was.
Use the right tool for the job
I used a lightweight wire cutter to cut the piano strings. Boy, that was difficult. I should have bought a more heavy-duty one. Better yet, I should have bought or borrowed a hand grinder to just cut the strings after taping them down (otherwise they fly all over the place). And I should have used a bigger drill with the right bit so I didn’t have to loosen them by hand.
Do more than one project at a time
I work on projects in my garage and there is usually waiting I have to do while something is drying. Even though space is limited I could have been working on another project while the glue set or paint dried.
Outsource some things
If I’m going to be repurposing more furniture then I should look into outsourcing the striping to a company that has the resources and space to do it better. Taking off all the finish was messy and smelly. Sure, it would have cost me money but it would have saved me a ton of time and would have come out better. I could probably also have them do the final finishing. This would allow me also to work on other projects while that’ was being done.
Take more pictures
I regret I didn’t do any “before” pictures. I have one picture of it after I took out some of the guts. I need to have more pictures to show the transformation. I’m thinking of getting a cheap digital camera I wouldn’t mind getting a bit dirty. I would also want to have some good lighting so the pictures come out better.
Overall the project turned out well. I’m already applying the lessons I learned to my next project, which is refinishing a dining table. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?