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Vintage Synth Repair: Fix For Yellow Keys #2145875
09/07/13 04:33 PM
09/07/13 04:33 PM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 744
Denton Texas
LesCharles73 Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
LesCharles73  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 744
Denton Texas
Hi all,

I thought I would post a quick write-up here for anyone who might one day restore a synthesizer with yellowed keys.

As we all know, ABS plastics can yellow with age due to a reaction between a fire retardant (Bromine) and UV (sun) light. Especially plastics made in the 80's and early 90's. This was a common problem with computer monitors and keyboard keys (and this solution works on both).

So I own a Kurzweil K2000 which I have been slowly but surely been getting back to good health, and one of the flaws I noticed with it (especially when compared to my other keyboards) was that they keys had significantly yellowed. In my searches, I found this open-source "product" called Retr0bright.

http://retr0bright.wikispaces.com/

Looks like a great and effective recipe, but seems like a lot of trouble. Well, that's when I stumbled across this video:

[video:youtube]VU7vXMezW_I[/video]


At first I was skeptical, but the guy seems pretty smart and even did a few demos in the video. Plus, he got points for living in the town next to me.

Apparently, the main ingredient is this:
[Linked Image]

I couldn't help myself, so I tried it.

The Creme itself is only about $5 at Sally Beauty Supply. It is mostly hydrogen peroxide, and already a gel-like consistency, which is great for staying put on yellowed plastics.

After getting good results on an old test key, I put it to work.

Here are the steps:
1). Remove the keys and wipe them down.
2). Wearing gloves, apply a liberal amount of Salon Care Creme to the surface that you want to lighten. This is best done over the sink. I used a small paint brush for application.
3). Place the keys in a dish in a way that they can be held upright. Keys are irregularly-shaped, so this can be tricky. I used a Pyrex casserole dish with some rolled up cardboard tubes to support the front and rear of the keys. I was able to do about 8 per batch using this method.
4). Place the keys under a UV light. Blacklights can work (though may take longer), or you can use natural sunlight. Personally, I used a UVB light from an old reptile habitat. The lamp was a 10.0 strength, and it worked very well.
5). Put plastic wrap over the keys to keep the Creme from drying up.
6). Be patient... I treated each set of keys under the light for 24 hours. You could go longer or shorter, depending on the amount of yellowing. I found that only a few hours made a difference.

At this point, things should look like this:
[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

7). Take the keys back to the sink and wash them thoroughly. Repeat the treatment if necessary.
8). Reinstall the keys and enjoy! Here are my results between treated and untreated keys:

[Linked Image]

The keyboard is bright white again:
[Linked Image]

I have my doubts that this would work on ivory keys, but since the effect is the same (UV light causing discoloration), it might be worth a shot. Perhaps I'll buy an old piano key on eBay and do a re-test. Real ivory might be hard for me to find though -- not sure if there are trade lays prohibiting that or not. The process works very similarly to teeth whitening, so for all I know it could very well work. Some electronic organs used other types of plastics, so the verdict would be out on them as well.

Overall, this is a great solution to yellowed keys or vintage computer parts and I highly recommend it! I also recommend going to a pet store and springing for a UVB light. They are expensive (around $30 even for a cheap one), but the result is worth it.

Last edited by LesCharles73; 09/07/13 04:47 PM.

Les C Deal




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Re: Vintage Synth Repair: Fix For Yellow Keys [Re: LesCharles73] #2145890
09/07/13 05:10 PM
09/07/13 05:10 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,653
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Morodiene  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,653
Boynton Beach, FL
I wouldn't try it on real ivory. Simply exposing ivory to sunlight tends to bleach them white again.


private piano/voice teacher FT

[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
Re: Vintage Synth Repair: Fix For Yellow Keys [Re: Morodiene] #2146712
09/09/13 01:42 AM
09/09/13 01:42 AM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 744
Denton Texas
LesCharles73 Offline OP
500 Post Club Member
LesCharles73  Offline OP
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 744
Denton Texas
Originally Posted by Morodiene
I wouldn't try it on real ivory. Simply exposing ivory to sunlight tends to bleach them white again.


So maybe without the peroxide solution but with the UVB light. I don't personally think the peroxide would hurt though. It's used as the active ingredient in most teeth whitening products (often combined with UV light), and ivory, I suspect, is not too different from tooth enamel.

Last edited by LesCharles73; 09/09/13 01:44 AM.

Les C Deal




Re: Vintage Synth Repair: Fix For Yellow Keys [Re: LesCharles73] #2146805
09/09/13 08:22 AM
09/09/13 08:22 AM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,653
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Morodiene  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,653
Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted by LesCharles73
Originally Posted by Morodiene
I wouldn't try it on real ivory. Simply exposing ivory to sunlight tends to bleach them white again.


So maybe without the peroxide solution but with the UVB light. I don't personally think the peroxide would hurt though. It's used as the active ingredient in most teeth whitening products (often combined with UV light), and ivory, I suspect, is not too different from tooth enamel.
It's not something you really want to experiment with though on a good piano. Let me know if you find a piece of junk to try it on and how the results turned out!

FYI, I had closed up my piano and left it for the summer (which has ivory keys). From being closed they slightly yellowed a bit. I've left it open since returning a week ago, and while my piano does not get in direct sunlight, there is natural light that comes into the room. They seem to be lightening on their own.


private piano/voice teacher FT

[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
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