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62. Veneer Repair on Your Piano

Veneer is found mostly on older pianos from about 25 years and back. Most piano companies don't do veneer work now because it is an art form, and the market won't pay for art anymore. The best pianos today just don't have it.

Old uprights are where some of the most beautiful veneer work was done, and the fame of the various brands of piano did not always affect the quality of veneer work.

The old companies ordered all of the wood for each piano from one tree, and the veneer and solid pieces of finished wood all matched perfectly. All veneer from the past was "quarter cut" which means that a single blade was run at a diagonal through the butt end of a tree. This made for very active grain patterns.

Sometimes the maple tree would have a disease which caused the "bird's eye" maple look. This was used both outside and inside the piano. If the veneer was cut low enough to include the ball of the tree, just where the root system is leaving the tree, walnut "burl" was the result. This was like "bird's eye," but of a much larger pattern.  Burl veneer is perhaps the highest art form in cabinet work. 

The most spectacular pianos were then "butterflied," meaning that a piece would be put on to cover half of a piano board, then the next piece of veneer was put on inverted so that the butterfly look was attained. This is basically a lost art, so if you have this kind of veneer, and it is in good condition, take good care of it.

Does this rare work add to the value of the piano? Sadly, no, unless the piano is completely restored. If you wish to completely restore the piano, read the section on Refinishing the cabinet earlier in this chapter.

In that section be sure to read about veneer repair. Very little needs to be added to that section. I only felt this page should be added to give you some history. If the veneer situation you have is really bad, try to find an old timer in a cabinet shop who has at least 30 years of experience. He can give you help in veneer work. It might be wise to pay him to do the work if it is really beyond you. I do it sometimes, but each repair is a new lesson as well as a diffecult repair.

Am I wimping out on you in this section? Yes. I'll admit it. I really don't feel competent to add any more than what is in the section called Refinishing the cabinet earlier in this chapter.

 On to task 63.