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sanding Ivory keys on the sides
#2898633 10/09/19 01:40 PM
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A job not sure I want to take. This is what the owner of this upright tells me: Ivory keys, slightly larger than the wood. Nothing you can detect visually but when playing there's a feeling of sometimes getting your fingers caught by the edges of the key. Not all keys, mostly in the middle.
I sanded ivories on the top surface but never trimmed sides or carved notches. The only keytop instalations I ever did was fallen off ones, so relatively easy.
My fear is that it's easy to ruin a key, especially if using any kind of sanding machine. By hand it's probably very tedious but likely the way to go.
I am affraid very few people do this type of work but I hope someone that has done this can advise.

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Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2898682 10/09/19 04:25 PM
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I’ve had to resize some ivory keytops. I used very fine sandpaper (forget the grit) by hand. For me the main issue is getting the long edges straight and even, but most of the ivory tops I’ve seen aren’t perfect anyway. I spent a while trying to get it just right, but that was a bigger job than what it sounds like you’d need to do. If you can’t even really see it then I suspect it wouldn’t take much at all to smooth out.

Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2898691 10/09/19 04:52 PM
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That sounds encouraging Jsilva! I think it would involve only the 4-5 cm at the front of the key, just so that fingers glide easily away from depressed keys. I looked today at some different pianos, never gave a closer look at this, but ivory ends quite straight while ivorine or something like that was rounded. Will have to see how it looks.

Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2898707 10/09/19 05:40 PM
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If the ivories are original then the edges are overhanging because the sides of the keys have worn away. The proper repair would be to build the sides back up either with veneer or a wood filler. Sanding the ivory sides will ruin the appearance of the keys.


Professional Piano Technician serving the Tampa bay area. website: mckaigpianoservice.com
Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
Bill McKaig,RPT #2898720 10/09/19 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
If the ivories are original then the edges are overhanging because the sides of the keys have worn away. The proper repair would be to build the sides back up either with veneer or a wood filler. Sanding the ivory sides will ruin the appearance of the keys.


truth. It is surprising how little deviation from square and even it takes to be noticed on a keyboard. Better to replace the missing material than to cut the key to fit. It takes two days time. I usually mix a West System resin mixture with a lot of the Microlite filler to fill in the sides of the key. It helps to clean the wood with acetone first, to insure full bonding. Tape off the ivory, if you like, but you need a very slightly higher surface. After a few hours, the other sides can be done, if needed. The filler can be added until the mix is more like putty, but I like to leave a slight bit of fluidity to. help level the surface. You don't want too much on there, because it is a chore to grind back even with the ivory.
Regards,

Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2898735 10/09/19 07:39 PM
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I'll check what the state of the keys is. Have to drive 55 km to the piano's location. To tell you the truth, building up the key's sides with wood or paste is not something I'd feel confortable doing. I'd probably make a mess. Filing feels safer if it's just a tiny bit. Maybe with some 800 papper. I have a set of keys in the basement and can practice on a few. The piano is no more, a player, but I couldn't throw away the keys.

Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2898846 10/10/19 07:02 AM
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Why do the sides of keys wear away? What would rub on the sides for the wood to wear away?

Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
Hemloch #2898854 10/10/19 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Hemloch
Why do the sides of keys wear away? What would rub on the sides for the wood to wear away?


Fingers. Fingernails.

Additionally, there can be shrinkage of the key from when it was originally cut.


Keith Akins, RPT
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Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2899100 10/10/19 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jinorden
A job not sure I want to take. This is what the owner of this upright tells me: Ivory keys, slightly larger than the wood. Nothing you can detect visually but when playing there's a feeling of sometimes getting your fingers caught by the edges of the key. Not all keys, mostly in the middle. ============SNIP===========

WHICH Edge?
I have caught a finger from time to time, and even cut one open, on the FRONT Corner of a key.
Tech Friends will of course let me know I'm wrong, but this is my experience and observation. Ivory naturals were built with (usually) 3 pieces of ivory, a long thin piece that came up to where the sharps start, a wider piece for the front top surface of the key, and a 3rd piece for the front of the key. On some pianos, (and I hasten to add that I like playing those pianos better...), the corners of the front top piece have slightly rounded corners, and the front edge can be tapered off 90 degrees. That rounding and tapering can make a big difference in feel and playability to a pianist.

It would be interesting to note WHICH edge your client is feeling, under what circumstances.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2899101 10/10/19 08:47 PM
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I have had success using super glue to fill the side gouge. You do need to clean/degrease the sides like Ed Foote says. Lay keys on side while CA is curing overnight. Flip and do other side next day. Then sand to smooth and level. Since CA is clear, you can't really see it. Pianists do notice getting their fingers "stuck" in the neighboring key when there are gouges there. The sanded CA feels so smooth. I CA treat every key side even if it is not gouged to make all look even.

It does take over a days worth of time. Key-frame can be cleaned, key-pins polished/lubed. and any loose balance rail pin holes can be glue sized. I usually combining this work with prophylactic application of CA to the front edge of the ivory top and installing new key-bushings. Sometimes buffing ivory surface too.


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Re: sanding Ivory keys on the sides
jinorden #2899127 10/10/19 11:18 PM
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Ed, this sounds great, it's a way of following Ed Foote's advice without working with putty which I am not experienced enough to use. Though I suspect this has it's own pitfalls, like getting glue on the top surface. But getting paid fairly for such a job is the difficult part, and I have a very hard time when money are discussed.

Andrew, not the thin piece and not the front, but the wider one. And on the sides, not at the front edge.


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