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Topic Options
#638550 - 08/16/02 12:57 AM Ivory Keys Replaced!
Hart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/02
Posts: 19
Loc: New Orleans, LA
Our church just had our Kawai 500 piano rebuilt. We have a very good tech and he recomend that we have it done and the people that did the work have a very good reputation. It really needed the work. So far I am pleased with the results.

However, the invoice states that the keys were sanded, cleaned, polished. But I believe they have replaced the keys with some non-ivory ones. At first I just thought I didn't know how good they could look when re-done. But then I noticed some letters on the keys just under the felt edge where they go under - C, D, E, G, etc... I know these are not the keys that were on there!

The original keys seemed to be perfectly good to me! Now I am steaming to think they took our ivory keys and replaced them.

Should I raise a stink about this?? The itemized statement is as follows:

Remove strings, plate and pins
Strip soundboard/repair cracks in soundboard (there were two)
Refinish soundboard/add on Decal
Remove/replace hammers, shanks and flanges
Remove/replace bushings front and center
Rebuild whippens
Key buttons coming unglued: reglue the key buttons

Bed the key frame
Regulate key frame glides
Square and space keys
Level the keys
Regulate key dip
Travel the hammers
Align hammers to strings
Regulate una corda pedal
Align the whippens to the hammers
Reg. jacks to knuckles
Reg. height of repetition lever
Reg. hammer height
Reg height of hammer rail
Reg let-off
Reg. depth of hammer drop
Reg. backchecks
Reg. repetition spring tension
Reg. height of key stop rail
Reg. dampers
Reg. height of damper stop rail
Reg. Sustain Pedal
Clean, Sand and polish keys
Clean/polish hardware
Tune x4
Pickup and redelivery

Price 6,500
Tax 585
Total 7,085

The serial number is #101784. Could someone tell me when the piano was made?

Thanks for any input,

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#638551 - 08/16/02 02:08 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon

On any white key, look closely. . .

Is the key top in two pieces, or are they all one solid piece?

If you bend down and look under the lip of the keys, are the key fronts any different?

Techs/rebuilders should chime in on this. But, as far as I know, ivory is always in two pieces on the keytop, plastic is often one piece. I could be wrong on this though. . .

#638552 - 08/16/02 05:34 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
jazzyd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/01
Posts: 1861
Loc: United Kingdom
I could be wrong but I think one-piece ivories do exist on certain (larger?) vintage pianos. However, I have seen one vintage piano that looked to have one-piece ivories and very white *keyfronts*, which lead me to assume that perhaps the original ivory and been replaced with some sort of imitation ivory...? (There was a definite grain and off-whiteish colour to the keys - but it looked very "perfect".)
"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley

#638553 - 08/16/02 10:23 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
JohnC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/02
Posts: 1672
Loc: Lower Left Coast
There are pianos with one piece ivory. Whether or not this is one, I could not say.

If you know for a fact the they were replaced, by all means, make a stink.
There are few joys in life greater than the absence of pain.

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#638554 - 08/16/02 12:11 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Hart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/02
Posts: 19
Loc: New Orleans, LA
I will look to see if they are two pieces or not when I go up there. But I do believe the original keys were ivory - whether two pieces or not. The piano is at least 40 yrs old. The old ones were more of a cream color than the whiter ones that are there now. And they didn't have the letters stamped (raised) on them under the felt.

Our pastor was already upset with the rebuilders because the cost ended up being a good bit higher than quoted. So I am afraid to tell him about the keys. I will probably talk to the tech first.


#638555 - 08/16/02 12:23 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2340
Loc: Massachusetts
I am not a tech but have ivory experience. The older pianos have thinner ivory in the range of 40/1000 of an inch. My new (preban ivory) keys are 60/1000 of an inch and they are in one piece.

I also have a 60 year old piano with two piece ivories. The fronts however, are not ivory. This is the case on the new keys as well.

If you look at keys in good light at an angle ivory will show a grain. In highly polished keys it is tough to see but it is there. Plastic is completely smooth.

If the keys were replaced, I would holler. They could easily have replaced them with old ivories to closely match. My tech has a huge collection she uses for occassional repair.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

#638556 - 08/18/02 09:47 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Bob Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 4490
Loc: Florida
It is sometimes not possible to sand/clean old ivory very well if the yellowing is too deep. This may have been the case, or perhaps the sanding went too deep and went right though the ivory, thus ruining it. The tech should have called you before making a change to plastic key tops. They are plastic - plastic comes with the letters at the back you saw.

It is hard to match ivory exactly - there is usually some color, grain, or size variation, so from an asthetic view, the best option was to go with plastic. Just about all new pianos come with plastic. New plastic looks alot better than old ivory. People value pianos by looks, so the value will be greater as well.

So in conclusion - the tech was wrong not to consult with you about the change to plastic, but he didn't adversly affect the value of your piano, and I'll bet the keys look much nicer now. As such, let it go - it's not worth losing sleep over.

#638557 - 08/18/02 05:06 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Hart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/02
Posts: 19
Loc: New Orleans, LA
The original keys were in very good condition and not yellow at all. They would have been perfectly fine just to buff them up a bit. I would understand if they looked bad.

I am not a "lawsuit" type person, so don't think of my "steaming" as that type. I guess I just want them to know that I realize what they did. It just really shocked me to find this out about this company that I had respect for. Our tech told us that the younger son has taken over the business and things are not the same.

I do find that the plastic keys have a different feel (but only if you are thinking about it ).

#638558 - 08/19/02 01:48 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/04/01
Posts: 647
Loc: South Africa
I stand corrected but I don't think that Kawai's have ever used ivory keys tops. Suggest you write to them. www.kawaius.com

I have had a Yamaha which had to have its keytops replaced (acrylic) and there was a slight difference, it is possible (or probable) that hte keytops on your pianos were replaced with another new set, and to you they look different. Not all keytops are the exact same shade of white.
Brian Lawson, RPT
South Africa


#638559 - 08/19/02 03:13 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
MikeC65 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/01
Posts: 325
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I'm no expert on this but I do have a piano with two-piece ivory keytops and the ivory has a definite grain to it that you can see if you look at the keys on an angle. Plastic is smooth and also feels quite a bit different -- more slippery. I suppose it would be possible to make plastic keys with a grain but it still would not look like ivory, because I think with grained plastic the grain would be visible when viewing the keys straight down from the top, which is not the case with the ivory keys (assuming they are perfectly clean). So you should certainly be able to tell the difference. I do think that the tech should not have gone with plastic without discussing it with you first.
Mike Cohan
St. Louis, MO
1910 Steinway Model K

#638560 - 08/20/02 12:00 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Hart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/02
Posts: 19
Loc: New Orleans, LA
Well I talked to our tech today (he didn't do the rebuilding - it was the company that he is affiliated with though). He did say that the keys were replaced - said maybe it was because the glue was working loose or when they sanded them it was too thin or something. They did tell us that the "key buttons" and stuff was really coming badly unglued - would this cause them to need replacing?

They just should have stated it on the invoice instead of saying that they were sanded and polished and leave me wondering if something sneaky was going on when I realized that they were not my same old keys.

Oh well, it sure sounds a lot better!


#638561 - 08/20/02 09:32 AM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina

If indeed these keys were ivory, I would ask for the ivory keys to be returned. These belong to the piano owner. I do believe they have some value. I have a beautiful ivory piano key that has a scrimshaw etched grand piano on it that I love! It is framed on black felt and in a small gold frame.

#638562 - 08/20/02 12:03 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Hart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/31/02
Posts: 19
Loc: New Orleans, LA
- That sounds really nice!

#638563 - 08/20/02 01:10 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina

It is very special to me. It was a gift from my sister.

#638564 - 08/20/02 03:28 PM Re: Ivory Keys Replaced!
Alex Hernandez Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/02
Posts: 1969
I have replaced several sets of chipped and broken keytops with new plastic. And in everycase I put the old keytops in the box that the new key tops/fronts came in and give it back to the client.

Sometimes they say they dont want them but they always appreciate the option.

You are entitled to them so be sure and ask for them.

Blüthner USA, LLC


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