DIY: Chalk Painting a Piano


I recently inherited my mom's piano. I've always wanted a piano but there were a couple of problems with this one. First and most concerning was the fact that it had a terrible cigarette smoke odor. Second, the piano had several stains and areas of obvious wear and tear. I could fix those imperfections easily by chalk painting it; however, I was pessimistic about getting the smoke smell out of the piece.

I started by sprinkling baking soda all over the exterior of the piano. I let it sit for a full 24 hours. Also, a friend told me to pour some baking soda in some small containers and set them inside the body of the instrument to soak up the odor inside the strings and felt pads.

After letting the baking soda sit overnight, I could already tell ( or should I say 'smell') a difference. Then I used a vacuum hose to suck up all the white dust. After that I sanded the piano with a sanding sponge.

After wiping the piano down with a damp cloth I primed the piece with Zinnser's BIN Primer and Sealer which also claims to block odors. I made sure to tape off the keys well.

I let the primer dry overnight and then I started brushing on the chalk paint. I used Rustoleum's Aged Grey paint from Home Depot.

I let the first coat dry overnight and in the morning I noticed quite a bit of cracking all over the piece. After doing research I learned that often pieces of this age (1970s or older) were coated with certain chemicals which can cause these cracks. So I sanded the chalkpaint over the cracks, wiped the piece down again with a damp cloth, and applied a second coat.

After the paint dried this time around, the cracks did reappear but they weren't quite as dramatic. Actually I found them to be pretty charming. Now it was time to seal the piece. I ended up using Annie Sloane's Clear Wax first and then I used a brush on dark wax I got at Home Depot on top of the clear Annie Sloane to achieve a more weathered distressed look. You can see in the photo below how the areas with the dark wax on the sides of the piano differed from the plain grey on the leg and the bottom underneath the keys that I had not waxed yet.

I am so happy with the finished product! I went into the project with a significant amount of hesitation and uncertainty. After using the baking soda and primer to overcome the odor and the chalk paint and wax to create an updated farmhouse look, I was pleasantly surprised. I now have both an heirloom that I have preserved as well as a statement piece which provides beautiful musical melodies in our home.

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