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Hi,

We are restoring an 1899 Mason and Hamlin C in Texas and I'm writing this to assist our technician (who will probably read this and grit his teeth or laugh). The original ivory key tops are beyond repair due to decades of wear between keys, cracks, yellowing, etc. Options for replacement (in order of preference) seem to be 1) replacement with used ivory in good condition, 2) new resin key tops and 3) new plastic key tops.

Questions for you all-
A) are there other good options beyond these three?
B) does anyone know of a source of matching ivories in good condition? Have all the good old ones been used up at this point?
C) suggested sources of resin key tops? Some are listed on the Steinway parts site but without a description. Are they good? Does M&H also sell them as parts? Any difference to Steinway? Other vendors?

Thanks in advance.

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Ivory is out of the question. Why would you want to replace something that has failed, when there are better materials available? Especially when it is legally questionable.

There are a variety of keytop materials available. A good job replacing keytops presents a lot of problems. Doing it well is not an amateur job.


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Faced with nearly the same dilemma I am wondering what are the best artificial keytops. I want off-white/near-white, not yellow, with simulated texture and opacity.

So if anyone stumbles on this thread with good information there are at least two of us who would appreciate a good lead.


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To contradict BDB ... smile I think there is value in replacing the keys with ivory for sure, but only if you can source it legally and if they are in sufficiently good shape. I don’t agree there are better materials (or at least I haven’t played on any), but Yamaha’s simulated ivory is the best alternative I’ve played on. However you can’t just order that from Yamaha. If you’re going to try a different keytop material you should see what it’s like first. I thought I read that Steinway used Kluge ivoplast and I think that’s pretty decent.

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Have you considered getting a new set of keys made on the existing keyframe. 1899 keys may be starting to deteriorate. Rebuilding them with new keytops and buttons costs as much as getting a new keyset made. Especially if you want then to look first class.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Ivory is out of the question. Why would you want to replace something that has failed, when there are better materials available? Especially when it is legally questionable.

There are a variety of keytop materials available. A good job replacing keytops presents a lot of problems. Doing it well is not an amateur job.
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Ed McMorrows advice is good. Replacement should be considered.

By the way, what is a 1899 Mason & Hamlin C? Did you mean a CC concert grand? The C I have heard of was a 5'-1" grand, and probably dates from the 1950s or so.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Ed McMorrows advice is good.
Never thought I'd see the day when you are dishing out a compliment to Ed! smile

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I had Roseland do a new set of keys and keytops on the original frame when my school had an 85 key, 1889 Steinway A fully rebuilt. Was quite happy with the results, as the original keys (which had been recovered once) were not in great shape anymore. If the original ivories aren't really good, I'd just stay the heck away from that mess for a variety of reasons.


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I just learned that certain harpsichords have casein (made with milk protein and formaldehyde, commercially know as Galalith) keytops, which supposedly approximates ivory and is nice to work with. Anyone knows if it's been used on pianos?
edit: There is an interesting picture at the bottom of this page: http://www.squarepianotech.com/?page_id=274

Last edited by Bourniplus; 07/07/20 09:23 AM.

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Galalith was used on pianos in the past, yes. I mention it, quarter way down, on this page of my website, and there is a link to the Wiikipedia article http://www.davidboyce.co.uk/piano-faq.php

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Thanks for the advice everyone. Have a lead on some ivory. Ivory has the best touch and lasts 100 years or more, so we are not too put off. The legal issues are sticky, of course, but F&WL seem less interested in pianos these days, even for international transport, based on our recent experience.

Has anyone ordered the Steinway Kluge keytops from their catalog?

The piano is a 8'11" C according to the stamp on the plate, but that is probably not germane to the discussion. The keys are in good shape, just key tops need work.

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Originally Posted by oldMH
Thanks for the advice everyone. Have a lead on some ivory. Ivory has the best touch and lasts 100 years or more, so we are not too put off. The legal issues are sticky, of course, but F&WL seem less interested in pianos these days, even for international transport, based on our recent experience.

It was not even a few years ago that we were worrying about interstate transport of pianos with ivory being stopped/seized. Political winds shift, and priorities along with them. I'd rethink that choice if you were thinking of ever reselling or transporting it.


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How did those 100 years or more work out the first time?


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Originally Posted by Bourniplus
I just learned that certain harpsichords have casein (made with milk protein and formaldehyde, commercially know as Galalith) keytops, which supposedly approximates ivory and is nice to work with. Anyone knows if it's been used on pianos?
edit: There is an interesting picture at the bottom of this page: http://www.squarepianotech.com/?page_id=274

That is an excellent web site.

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So besides new key sets, finding real Ivory, or getting keytops from Yamaha who won’t sell them, are there any recommendations for the best keytops available from the typical parts houses?

Thanks, Bill


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Ivoplast is from Kluge who supply Steinway. Apparently available from Pianotek, which may be familiar to some technicians (or not!).


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