Not too many years ago, refinishing, rebuilding and restoring furniture and other items was the norm. Things weren't quite so disposable then and they were made to last for years, if not forever. There were also more craftsmen available then, too, it seems. There were professionals who prided themselves on being able to make or remake just one thing, whether it was a piece of furniture, a pair of shoes or an engine. Most people today choose to sell or give away a piano that is in poor condition, often replacing it with a new model or not at all. Piano refinishing doesn't seem to be as in-demand or common as it used to be.
Piano refinishing is a good deal more complex and involved than refinishing a table or an armoire. Very often, the entire piano will need to be taken apart, refinished and then re-assembled. A thorough knowledge of the mechanical workings is necessary in order to do this properly. This may be one reason why there don't seem to be as many people doing it today.
Piano refinishing is a very painstaking and time-consuming process, much like learning to play the piano. It requires patience, commitment, attention to detail and perseverance, as well as a healthy respect for the instrument itself. It's ironic that our ever-increasing busyness, dependence on more disposable objects and tendency towards shorter attention spans seem to affect not only the craft of Piano refinishing, but also the art of playing the piano. Fewer children seem to be spending regular time each week practicing chords and scales. Fewer families seem to gather round the piano for an evening of homemade music and fewer professionals seem to be willing to undertake a Piano refinishing project.
Perhaps the recent trend towards simplifying, slowing down and revisiting old skills and pleasures will have a positive effect on both piano playing and Piano refinishing. Many families are turning off the television, the computer and the cell phone to spend time together doing things our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Many craftsmen are returning to more artisanal approaches to creating and recreating everything from furniture to jewelry to bread. It would be good to see the piano take a more central position in the family and in the lives of our children. It would also be good to have Piano refinishing professionals on hand who understand the value of a quality instrument.
As a society, we may never go back to the old days and the old ways completely. However, evenings spent together at home, lazy summer days on the front porch and time to appreciate the simpler, more enduring things could only add richness and value to our lives.
If you have an old piano that's been under the dustcover too long or would like to find out more about Piano refinishing, please visit Paul's Furniture Restoration. You can browse through my gallery of furniture restoration and Piano refinishing projects and I'd be happy to give you any information you may need about your project.