This current project is to restore this set of piano keys from a 1907 Kingsbury Upright Piano. As you can see, the original ivory has seen many, many better days. The key bushings (the holes where the keys pivot on pins) have been replaced once before - 30 to 40 years ago. It's time to replace them again. But the key covers, first!
The new key covers not only should not only look good, but make it a much more enjoyable, much more playable (and cleanable) surface. That's where this job is about - and here we go!
The first step was to remove the original ivory and prepare the keys for their new key covers. After steaming the keys, the originals were removed, exposing quite a few new issues that one always finds when installing new key covers. Once that was done, there was some cleaning needed, to remove the years of dirt and dust that had settled and permeated into the keys.
The key covers have been removed, leaving the white cheesecloth - like gluing layer exposed. This will be removed later when the key is planed down a bit to allow for the new key covers which are much thicker than the original ivory.
In this picture, you can see the lighter keys on the right being the ones that have been cleaned, and the ones on the left awaiting their turn. This is done in a sand blasting chamber with light grit material, or the way I do it is with a very fine grit buff pad.
On the picture below, you'll see that the sides are also in need of some cleaning as the piano has had some water exposure - not all the water stains can be removed, but the surface is worked over and cleaned to make it much better than it was originally. This is a restoration project, not a rebuilding to brand new - I like to use material that is already there when I can, and piano keys are idea, as new keys must be custom made and are quite pricy!
As with all restoration work, there always seems to be a few issues one runs into as the work is done, particularly on the vintage or antique pianos. There were some keys so damaged that repair to rotten or deteriorated parts required splicing in wood or building up areas in order to create a level key...all in a day's work and all part of recovering keys.
Once the cleaning is done, the keys will be planed down a bit to take on their new key covers, and the key covers will be installed.
Then, installation of new key bushings will be in order, But that will be for another day!
If you have an old piano you would like spruced up or are interested to see what it would take to bring your old piano back for a new life of music, contact me and we'll explore the opportunities.
Free State Pianoworks Co.
Notes From the Piano Bench
Questions and Answers and updated factoids concerning pianos in the 21st Century.