Frankenstein Pins & Cupcake Toppers!

If you’re looking for a fun and easy project with a Halloween theme, check out what Angie at came up with using a combination of two Minwax® water-based stains. She provides us with both a video and a set of instructions that are easy to follow — and your children will love the characters you create. Check it out right here:


The Life of a DIYer, Picker and Piano Restorer Part II

In my first post, I shared my history when it comes to staining and restoring furniture. In this post I will share lessons I’ve learned over the years and how that has helped fuel my passion for refinishing pianos.

Piano front

A lot of piano makers in the 1800’s started out as cabinetmakers. Pianos were extravagantly made, and more importantly, made to last forever. Under that old black varnish is beautiful warm brown wood. My parents had bought me a piano when I was little, and because of that piano, I grew up to play and write music for some of the most famous artists in history.

Now a days, budget cuts in school systems deprive children the opportunity to learn music. This gave me the idea to restore and refinish pianos for children whose families could not afford to give them the chance to express themselves through music. I believe strongly that every child deserves the opportunity to have a piano in their home, so they too, can learn to make their own music.

Restoring an old piano is ambitious. It takes some patience, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are some tips to get started:

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First you will need to take off all the pieces that are not part of the main piano body. Take off the front-top panel, the bottom panel, the part that holds the music, as well as the keys. Tip: Keep the keys in order or you will spend a lot of time figuring them all out! Behind the black and white keys you’ll find numbers on the wood. I found a diamond under a set of keys once, treasure!

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, veneer was an art form. If any of the veneer is loose, put wood glue under it and clamp it. For missing veneer, take some from the bottom where the pedals are. To do this, use a putty knife and hammer then tap lightly to remove the veneer off the bottom. You can sand and stain the wood later to match. Next cut a square around your broken veneer and cut the piece you took off the bottom. Glue it in place and clamp it. If it hangs over the edge, you can sand it to be even when it’s dry. Now you can start stripping the pieces that you took off.

Flat piano

Tip: For stained white keys use 40 volume hair developer and paint it on the white keys then let them sit for a day. It acts as a tooth whitener for all keys, especially ivory ones.

Tip: Gold labels can be replaced very inexpensively. I use the Pierce’s Piano Atlas to find my gold labels to put back on in the end.

As I’ve gotten older, I still find myself passionate about restoring the most hopeless antique, despite the complaints from my body. The hard work is always worth the final result.

My goal will always be to save family treasures until I die.

Lori Bowers

For more tips, you can email me at:

At Minwax® we value and celebrate the spirit of volunteering for the betterment of the community. With that notion in mind, we’re happy to share this two part blog series from Do Good With Wood™ honoree Lori Bowers. 

My dad is a picker. He had a great job when I grew up, but he always bought and sold antiques as a side job. I constantly wanted to go to auctions with him ever since I was a small child.

Lori and Dad

I was always in a trance as I watched antiques pass through the auction. The pieces were so original, and unique; like nothing I had ever seen in a store. My heart still races a little when I see a piece of furniture that is so precious and deserving of a total restoration.


I always appreciated the history of each piece of furniture that I saw, and I wondered what every piece might say if it could tell me about the places it had been and the things it had seen. I was curious about the treasures that might lie inside a drawer or under a set of pianos keys. There was always something hidden in those spots!

When I was about 25 years old, my dad had been to an auction where he bought an art-deco dresser with a marquee mirror for twenty-three dollars that had been painted white. I decided it was something worth saving. I knew if I can save this dresser, I’d have a piece of furniture that no one else could buy. It would be original…one of a kind. And I would be able to save it for the next 100 years.

Dresser and mirror

I set out to restore it back to the day it was made. I had high hopes for it, but sadly, when it was finished, it was a train wreck. I had no idea what I was doing! The stripper I put on the furniture looked like an elephant snuck into the room and sneezed all over it. I didn’t know how to get it off. Google didn’t exist yet, so I was on my own. My beginner’s problems were:

  1. I didn’t have any tools.
  2. I had no idea what I was doing.
  3. The stripper was slimy and burned my skin.
  4. It was me against the process and I wanted to win…

Before & After dresser

Stay tuned for my next post to learn what really drives me and some tips and advice so you don’t have to make my mistakes.

Until next time,
Lori Bowers

A Polyshades Picture Frame

Every father loves a phone call from his son, but last week’s call from Eric out in Salt Lake City made me feel especially proud. Seems he is going to a friend’s wedding next month, but rather than pick something from the bridal registry, he bought them an original print — and asked me if I would make them a handcrafted frame. Suddenly nothing else seemed so important. I quickly cut, glued, and sanded the frame, then followed his request for a black stain and finish ….

Within a few minutes my can of Minwax® PolyShades® had given me both the black stain and a durable polyurethane finish, letting just enough of the natural grain of the wood show. The key to PolyShades®: a high quality, natural bristle brush, light strokes, and thin coats.

For more information on PolyShades® and a demonstration, watch the latest ‘Just Ask Bruce‘ video

Thanks for stopping by!