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#638403 - 09/26/03 09:22 PM Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
Joined: May 2001
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,149
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I seem to remember reading somewhere that it's
possible to bleach old ivory key tops to get
them back to near white.

Anyone know anything about this?

I believe it required a certain ratio of bleach and water, and maybe some sun?

I stock hundreds of old ivory key tops for sale in our online store, but invariably people want the lighter shades. Lighter shades are hard to come by.


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#638404 - 09/26/03 11:23 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Sun does a lot. I once stuck a keyboard that was pretty yellow in the afternoon sun for several months, and that turned it pretty much to what we think of as ivory, but not as white as keys were originally bleached.

I think hydrogen peroxide will bleach them pretty white, but I don't know a formula. Chlorine bleach might do it too, but leaves a residue. The downside is that any water solution will warp the ivory.

Also the yellowness tends to be on the surface, so you can sand down to where it is whiter. The downside of that is that if you sand a new front to an old back, the colors may not match any more, and neither of them will match the other keys.

After experiencing all of these downsides and more, I've become one of those who really appreciates the virtues of plastic keytops.


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#638405 - 09/27/03 02:16 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
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South Africa
I buy Hydrogen peroxide locally at the chemist it has on the label 40 volume (12%). Applied directly to a keyboard out in the sun (which I have quite a lot of here)every 1/2 an hour or so. And then only over a matter of a few days if really bad. Brought in and cut down with 400 grit paper and buffed. The last bit harder to do if you only have loose keytops.


Brian Lawson, RPT
Johannesburg
South Africa

http://www.lawsonic.co.za
#638406 - 09/27/03 12:16 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Rick Clark Offline
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I'm basically with Brian Lawson on this one. You need concentrated hydrogen peroxide, not the usual drugstore/household type. You can layer a white cloth dampened with it over the keys and put it in the sun. Really it's not in principle much different from what people are doing to whiten their teeth these days.

Note, concentrated hydrogen peroxide is not a safe substance to handle. Educate yourself on the dangers and proper handling procedures.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

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#638407 - 09/29/03 09:37 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Rich Galassini Offline
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Frank,

I say just buy an old elephant trophy, hack off the tusk, and sell NEW ivory! wink


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
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#638408 - 09/29/03 10:07 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Quote
I say just buy an old elephant trophy, hack off the tusk, and sell NEW ivory!
The only problem with that idea is that piano keys were bleached when they were new. You would still have to go through the bleaching step.


Semipro Tech
#638409 - 10/03/03 10:13 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Pardon me for visiting, but I was told that you use a paste of Borax and peroxide, and leave it in the sun

#638410 - 10/04/03 09:54 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
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South Africa
To use a paste seems to be unnecessarily messy, whereas with peroxide, just swab directly onto the ivories.


Brian Lawson, RPT
Johannesburg
South Africa

http://www.lawsonic.co.za
#638411 - 10/30/03 12:40 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Wayne Gregory Offline
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Angier,NC
Some thoughts from a Piano Tech in Angier,NC concerning yellow ivories.
First, I use full strength commercial chlorine bleach(grocery store variety) in a small container and simply place all my scavenged, yellowed ivories in the solution for about 20 minutes in full sunlight. Then the ivories are removed and allowed to dry. The secret to prevention of warped ivories is in the drying process. Ivory are very similar to wood in that it is porous and readily absorbs moisture. The moisture itself does not seem to harm the ivory at all.(I have totally immersed,baptist style,ivories for 36 hours in order to release them from the wooden keys and have had little or no problem with the ivories afterward) The problem comes as the ivory dries--ie. if one side dries faster than the other, then it cups toward the dry side. To prevent cupping the ivory either has to be turned frequently while drying in the sun, or allowed to be dried standing on edge so as to allow like air-movement on both sides. Should an ornery piece still want to cup, simply place the ivory piece cup-side-down on a moist paper towel for several hours. It will straighten nicely! Don't leave it over night on the moist towel, or you will have a reverse problem. Should you experience a little residue feel or smell, rinse quickly with cool water and dry immediately.
Concerning the virtues of plastic keys---they don't yellow in 75-100 years, they deteriorate in 30. For those aggressive piano players out there, who play 'til they sweat. Have you noticed the slick keys with plastic? Ivory continues to play with the same feel throughout, probably due to its ability to absorb moisture.

#638412 - 11/20/03 12:15 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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I mix 1 part Hydrogen peroxide (40%),1 part ammoniac,4 parts water (be cautious eek ).If you have real summer sun,in a day You will have them snow-white.It works also with a UV lamp.It bleaches (a bit)even if You let them inside.
But You have to sand and polish them after that (as have been said,ivory works almost like the wood-so You will have the fibers coming up).


lucian
"more I learn,less I know"

piano tuner/technician (sort of..... wink )
#638413 - 09/21/06 12:57 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Houston, TX
Excuse me for asking but can the bleaching process be done with the keytops already glued to the keys. I just got a used grand with real ivory and i'd like to bleach it myself. One fellow said to take the action out and leave it in the sun. I'd like to use the hydrogen peroxide and leave it in the Hot Houston sun for a day. will this cause the key tops to come loose.

Thanks everybody for your input

#638414 - 09/21/06 02:48 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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DearList-

I have frequently used the peroxide available at beauty supply stores. After applying the solution ( with keys and action on the bench ) set up a high UV flourescent grow light a few inches above the keys for at least overnight. I worry about hot direct sunlight. Then reapply and use more light if necessary until the color is as you like it. Sand lightly with 600 or so wet dry and this should work well.

Regards-

David


David C. Brown RPT
Piano Technician
Division of Music
Meadows School of the Arts
Southern Methodist University
Dallas Texas
#638415 - 09/21/06 03:37 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Thanks brown!

Does 600 grit sandpaper give a little more grain/grit feel to it rather than using 0000 steel wool?

#638416 - 09/21/06 03:50 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Houston, TX
Hey Wayne Gregory!
Thanks for the tips. Question---can you still salvage the wooden keys to re-top them with plastic? or will the water/chemical mess up the wood?

#638417 - 09/21/06 08:41 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Dear Jazzpianoguy-

I usually don't use steel wool as it can have greasy residue and if any fibers come off and get wet they can discolor the ivory. Merle Sanford is in your area and she is the real expert.

Regards-

David


David C. Brown RPT
Piano Technician
Division of Music
Meadows School of the Arts
Southern Methodist University
Dallas Texas
#638418 - 09/22/06 02:23 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Try lightening ivory w/the gel sold for whitening teeth. It can be applied to key-tops that are still on the action and placed under a flourescent light w/a 'grow light' element or some other sunlight replicating bulb. I don't like to use actual sunlight because the heat can get so intense.

#638419 - 09/22/06 03:00 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Quote
Concerning the virtues of plastic keys---they don't yellow in 75-100 years, they deteriorate in 30.
I have seen 100 year old celluloid keytops that look perfectly fine. Good quality plastic will definitely outlast ivory. Ivory can yellow, hollow, crack, chip or come unglued faster than plastic deteriorates.


Semipro Tech
#638420 - 09/23/06 08:18 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
Quote
Originally posted by jazzpianoguy:
Thanks brown!

Does 600 grit sandpaper give a little more grain/grit feel to it rather than using 0000 steel wool?
0000 steel wool and 600 grit paper are roughly the same.


Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com
#638421 - 09/24/06 01:34 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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If the bleach/peroxide and sun are not getting results the ivories may have been put on with wood glue, crazy glue or even contact cement. As ivory is translucent the white wafer glue helps to prevent this problem.

#638422 - 09/24/06 01:38 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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That is why when replacing a keytop using another type of glue, you should paint the bare wood white first.


Semipro Tech
#638423 - 09/24/06 11:39 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Angier,NC
jazzpianoguy


--can you still salvage the wooden keys to re-top them with plastic? or will the water/chemical mess up the wood?

Sorry, but I have never tried soaking off the key tops on "good" keys--have always thrown away the wood after retrieving the tops, but I would assume that they would be no good for future use.
Wayne Gregory

#638424 - 09/25/06 12:22 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Thanks Wayne, That's what i figured. The Ivories do seem slick though (almost like plastic) what can be done to add some grip to them?

I do have a Plant light that i will get up and running. Thanks guys

#638425 - 09/25/06 12:30 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Houston, TX
Hey Brown,
I talked with an Ivory Tech in Boston who said that Peroxide will un-glue the ivories and should only be used when soaking them. What do you think?

I really appreciate everyones input...
Gen 13:3

#638426 - 09/25/06 12:33 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Kansas
i ordered some key tops (ivory that were yellower than i hoped. i scrubbed them with Arm and Hammer whitening toothpaste for about 4 minutes..

they were whiter definitely.. a couple were too light in spite of my care. - i have no idea if the ivory was damaged since i gave them to the guy i sold my piano to.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#638427 - 09/25/06 12:45 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Quote
Originally posted by SamLewisPiano.com:
0000 steel wool and 600 grit paper are roughly the same.
Pun intended? wink


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#638428 - 09/25/06 03:35 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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lol

#638429 - 09/25/06 03:57 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Dear Jazzpianoguy-

I have used this method on several different makes and models through the years with the last being a Hamburg D . No ill effects several years later. Your mileage may vary.

Regards-

David


David C. Brown RPT
Piano Technician
Division of Music
Meadows School of the Arts
Southern Methodist University
Dallas Texas
#638430 - 09/25/06 06:01 PM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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jazzpianoguy Offline
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Houston, TX
Hey David,

Is there a specific concetration %?

#638431 - 04/11/07 10:27 AM Re: Bleach Old Ivory Keys?  
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Wayne Gregory Offline
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Angier,NC
I have seen 100 year old celluloid keytops that look perfectly fine. Good quality plastic will definitely outlast ivory.
____________________________________________________
A 30 000 Year Old Ivory Horse Sculpture from South Germany

By

Maximilian O. Baldia











What is among the oldest Stone Age Art was reported July 28, 2000 in an invitation to this year’s press conference by the excavators in South Germany. The press release was sent out by the German Internet information service Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (idw) in cooperation with the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen.

The report states that Prof. Nicholas Conard and coworkers found a 30 000 year old ivory horse sculpture in the “Hohle Fels” cave. In addition to the sculpture two years of excavations have yielded nearly 10 000 artifacts, consisting mainly of animal bones and stone artifacts, but also include organic material, such as staffs of reindeer antler, adornments, etc.

Can plastic trump that?

Wayne (http://www.comp-archaeology.org/Oldest_Cave_Art-Sculpture.htm)


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