Refinishing An Antique Piano Stool

Maybe you’ve had a dream as I have of finding a beautiful antique or vintage piano stool. I’m going to tell you the story of how I found and refinished my antique piano stool.

Fully restored and refinished antique piano stool with a potted plant in an antique soup tureen sitting on top of it.

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I love antique pieces and hope to fill my entire home with everything vintage and antique. A little homage to an era gone past. A time when fancy was the norm.

If you love antique or vintage furniture refinishing projects, visit this post How to Repair and Refinish a Thrifted Chair. Or this post, Antique Washstand Turned Bedside Table.

An Old Piano Stool, Be Still My Heart

I have a deep affinity for antique piano stools. Really antique pianos, grand pianos, and I would love an antique piano bench someday.

Solid Wood Antique Piano Stool Plant Stand. The wood has been refinished and stained early american by varathane. The seat was reupholstered using bleached drop cloth fabric.

I’ll never get over the beautiful solid wood carving and curves. In particular, I dearly love the ones with claw feet or glass ball feet. But I would take one of each if given the choice and opportunity!

Until we live on a ground floor my dreams of owning an old piano are on hold. But until then I got my hands on this beautiful stool that’s definitely worth restoring.

I wish this piano stool had it’s original patina. However, the previous owner had attempted a restoration of sorts and had sanded it into oblivion. There were gouges where a scraping tool had taken pieces out. And some of the carving integrity was ground down with heavy sanding.

A close up of the beautiful base wood grain on my antique piano stool. Decorative brass nail trim goes around the entire rim of the seat base.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of this Antique Piano Stool to Note:

  • The structural integrity was fairly good.
  • It had it’s original padding of hay and horsehair (which I wanted to keep intact).
  • The base of the stool was still fully functioning in the action parts (it turns up and down).
  • While it did not have a claw foot I had another idea for feet anyway.
  • The wood seat was still in good condition

Antique Piano Stool from the Early 1900s

It’s not just another piece of furniture. For anyone who loves music these beautiful stools represent something more. History of pianos in your home, in your life, and maybe even a reminder of childhood lessons.

Beautiful before shot of an antique piano stool with it's original tattered upholstery. The original finish had been stripped off and so it sits raw wood.

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Tools & Supplies to Refinish an Antique Piano Stool

Many of these tools and supplies are things I use on a regular basis. So, this project actually didn’t cost me much at all. The caster wheels were the only thing I purchased specifically for this restoration.

A before photo of my antique piano stool with the raw wood and original horsehair and hay seat padding coming out of the tattered upholstery.

01 – Light Sanding to Restore Shape and Smooth Surface for Stain

For this step, you’ll need an orbital sander, 120 grit sanding disc, or sanding block.

The first step I had to take was to try to even the surface. Because the previous work to this stool had left it rough and somewhat misshapen. Therefore, a quick light sand with my orbital sander on the flat parts to start to start. And then a somewhat rigorous work out with a thorough hand sanding.

Antique piano stool base and seat taken apart to prepare for a good thorough sanding with 120 grit sanding discs on my orbital sander.

Sanding is not my favorite thing to do, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that at least a dozen times. But it sure does a give the entire thing new life. And the good news is that an antique piano stool is a very small project.

This was all I needed to take off any real leftover of the traditional finish (dark stain).

If you were working with a stool that still had it’s original finish you may want to use:

  • Steel Wool
  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Mineral Spirits

I sanded the entire base and then the undercarriage of the seat itself. But this is mainly to clean it up and prepare the wood for stain and a protective coat.

02 – Painting a Black Strip Around the Seat Base

For this step, you’ll need a small detail paint brush, black acrylic paint, or Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams sample size. (But, I had leftover).

Antique piano stool seat with a black strip painted around the entire rim of the base. The original finish was black around the seat so it seemed fitting to put it back.

When I was cleaning up the seat base I noticed the original finish was almost black around the rim. Since the original finish was severely aged and crackling, I decided to sand it smooth and paint it black.

This was easy enough and I think I did it a favor by giving in a tiny face lift there. Because the wood under it was a reddish color, possible staining from a previous finish. And also, I didn’t want to sand the rim away by trying to remove the red.

A quick paint job, really less than 10 minutes and it was looking fresh.

03 – Staining the Base Early American By Varathane

For this step, you’ll need a stain color of your choice, a rag, and gloves.

If you’ve seen any of my previous wood projects you’ll probably recognize Early American. It has the perfect old wood tone, really does feel like an authentic early American wood patina. And I’ve used it on everything in my home that has been stained.

Antique piano stool base in it's raw wood form waiting to be stained Early American by Varathane.

How To Stain Your Antique Piano Stool Wood:

  1. Wear gloves so you don’t end up with stained hands.
  2. Use a lint free rag if possible, I cut up some old kitchen towels and used those.
  3. Coat the wood thoroughly and let it sit for about 5 minutes to soak in.
  4. Then take a clean rag and wipe off any excess.
  5. Let the stain cure for an hour or two.
  6. Then coat with a topcoat of choice.
The piano stool base and seat sit after having been stained Early American by Varathane. They're drying so they can receive a protective coat and be put back together.

This step is really optional as well. You have the ability to choose your finish. If you like the natural wood look then you can skip the stain and go straight to a protective coat.

04 – Apply a Protective Coat

For this step, you’ll need a protective coating product & 2″ angled brush, or rag.

My two protective coatings of choice are typical a liquid like Polycrylic, Tung Oil, Wipe on Poly, or my favorite Waterlox. But I often choose to use a simple finish such as Furniture Wax.

I chose to use Polycrylic for this piece for a couple reasons. First, it is waterproof once dried giving this wood a solid protection from any elements. Secondly, it dries ridiculously fast meaning I could get my project finished quick.

Antique piano stool base with a fresh coat of Polycrylic by Minwax drying.

How To Apply Polycrylic to Your Antique Piano Stool:

  1. Do not ever shake a can of Polycrylic. You’ll end up with bubbles that will ruin your finish. Stir with a paint stir stick (leave it in and periodically stir it as it separates).
  2. Use a 2″ angled brush for flexibility when applying in tight or awkward positions.
  3. Apply quickly with a saturated brush and few brush strokes. Start in one small area and move on when it’s completely covered.
  4. Watch for drips. They will not dry clear.
  5. Once an area is drying don’t go back over it, you’ll end up with visible brush strokes.
  6. When your piece dries (less than 30 minutes in my experience), do a light sand and repeat the entire process.

05 – Reupholstering the Seat Base with Bleached Drop Cloth Fabric

For this step, you’ll need thick fabric, staple gun, staples, and scissors.

I typically pick bleached drop cloth as a fabric when given the choice in a reupholstering project. It’s inexpensive, sturdy, and really can take a beating with use. All important aspects when you consider the members of my household (five children and 4 cats).

Reupholstered antique piano stool with bleached drop cloth fabric. Staple the fabric on all sides.

How to Reupholster an Antique Piano Stool Seat:

  1. Cut your fabric (with extra around all sides) to fit your stool seat.
  2. Hold your fabric right against the seat rim and place one staple in the center.
  3. Do this for the entire side. Hold the fabric in place, staple.
  4. Turn your seat to the opposite direction.
  5. Hold the fabric in place, pull it taut. If need be, fold edges under for a cleaner edge.
  6. Place a staple in the center. Repeat for the entire side.
  7. Turn the seat to another side.
  8. Repeat the process until all sides are stapled.
  9. For the corners staple the edge of the fabric under the excess.
  10. Then trim the excess fabric, fold under and staple it. Repeat for all corners.

It’s ok if it looks a bit messy and if the staples aren’t in a perfect line. As long as the fabric is taut it’s good.

06 – Adding the Decorative Trim Around the Upholstery to Hide the Staples

For this step, you’ll need decorative trim ribbon, scissors, hot glue gun, and glue sticks.

This is the part of the process where I really had fun. I love hiding the ugly! I don’t ever expect perfection in my projects or of myself. But it’s really awesome that there are techniques that take into consideration human error.

Antique piano stool after having decorative trim hot glued around the base of the seat to cover all the staples.

How to Apply Decorative Trim Around Upholstery:

  1. I started in a corner. You can start wherever you want.
  2. Add hot glue in a small strip.
  3. Quickly apply your trim on top of the hot glue. Beware you will likely get burned.
  4. Apply pressure. Hold it down with something. I held it down with the end of my scissors.
  5. Repeat until you have applied the trim all the way around the perimeter of the seat.
  6. Cut the ribbon to lay on top of where you started and add hot glue.
  7. Place the end on top of the beginning.

07 – Adding Decorative Brass Nail Trim For Added Stability

For this step, you’ll need decorative brass nails and a small hammer (or a narrow wrench if you’re like me, haha).

This was actually a spur of the moment choice. I had taken apart an old chair eons ago and left the bag of pieces I’d taken off in with my staple gun. But would you believe I had literally the exact number of brass nails needed to get around the entire base?! It was meant to be.

To be perfectly honest, 1. I love brass and 2. I think this stool shines with that added bit of fancy!

Antique piano stool having decorative brass nails added to the rim of the seat after the upholstery and trim was added.

How to Add Decorative Brass Nails to an Antique Piano Stool:

  • You want to get the nails into the wood part of the stool. So, aim to really hug the rim.
  • I didn’t measure, but you can. I just eyeballed the spacing because I don’t aim for perfection. They turned out fairly uniform.
  • Take a small (narrow) hammer like an upholstery hammer and hammer them in. This allows you to hit the nail without hitting the wooden rim of the seat.
  • It’s really a very simple process. You can even use bent nails if you’re careful, at least half of my nails were bent.

08 – Adding the Metal Caster Wheels to the Bottom

For this step, you’ll need at least three metal caster wheels, drill bits of varying sizes, an impact driver, and a hammer.

This step is another that is purely unnecessary. But is it really? I mean, these caster wheels really gave it a little bit of something. But they are definitely not a need.

Small metal caster wheels after having been installed on an antique piano stool leg.

How to Add Caster Wheels to an Antique Piano Stool:

  1. Mark the center of the piano stool feet for a drill mark.
  2. Start drilling with 1/8″ bit as a pilot hole.
  3. Ensure you’re going slowly and surely. Not puncturing through the foot. Also, going deep enough to hold the wheel base.
  4. Gradually go up in size until you reach the size big enough for your caster wheel to fit.
  5. When you have 3 holes that are the right size slip your little caster wheel holders in and hammer them into the base. (Hold the leg for stability).
  6. Slip the caster wheel into the holder and hammer it in. Repeat for the other 2 wheels.

A Short History on Antique Piano Stools

With the development of the smaller console pianos and spinet pianos in the late 1930’s for usage in homes there was a shift away from piano stools to the now standard piano bench with music storage. While the more elegant stools may have fit the Victorian décor better, the traditional piano stool proved to be a poor choice for the serious pianist. The most important assets to piano seating are stability and comfort, the older stools proved to have neither.

Among educators and piano instructors the most common choice of a piano bench is the standard traditional bench with music storage or the adjustable bench. Various options of leg styles are available as well as many common furniture colors and finishes. While a piano stool may have aesthetic value to many, the practical purpose of a traditional piano bench greatly outweighs any advantages.

The Piano Stool: Overview of History and Function

Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you the steps, resources, and inspiration to start a restoration process on a beautiful antique piano stool of your own.


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→


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