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#1196862 - 05/10/09 06:08 PM Cleaning the wood on the piano keys
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
I want to clean and brighten the hidden portion of my Upright Piano's keys. (They are FILTHY) PLEASE someone give me some ideas that don't include water or damage-causing solvents.
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#1196879 - 05/10/09 07:12 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: JMichaelWilson]
tds Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/06
Posts: 446
Loc: Bastrop, Texas
You can have them sandblasted.
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Stay tuned.

Tom Seay, Recovering Piano Technician
Bastrop, Texas

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#1196900 - 05/10/09 08:10 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: tds]
Steven Bolstridge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/05
Posts: 197
Loc: Fitzgerald ,GA
I use a hand drywall sander with a medium screen. Three or four passes usually takes the grunge away.


Edited by Steven Bolstridge (05/10/09 08:11 PM)
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#1196924 - 05/10/09 08:59 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Steven Bolstridge]
Gene Nelson Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 1469
Loc: Old Hangtown California
Sand blast with glass beads or walnut husks and keep the beads clean - experiment with the grade and pressure and you will get great results and avoid the orange-peal look.
As for solvents I have used naptha with reasonable results - it will not make them look new like sandblasting but the improvement is acceptable and time spent is minimal. The naptha does not damage anything but you should do it outside and or use an organic vapor mask with gloves.
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#1196996 - 05/10/09 11:02 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Steven Bolstridge]
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
Steven, this sounds like a workable solution for me. When you say medium screen, would you explain? Are you speaking of a medium sandpaper grit? Sorry to be so dumb, but I need your help.
Thanks for your input,
J. Michael Wilson
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#1197003 - 05/10/09 11:12 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Gene Nelson]
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
Thanks Gene, for your help. I may look into the napha angle. I'm just trying to get an old 1910 Cable Nelson upright to look as good as possible. THe old piano holds tune really good so I am going to refinish the cabinet and clean it up as a training project!
Have a great day,
J. Michael Wilson
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#1197168 - 05/11/09 08:25 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: JMichaelWilson]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2356
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
Steel wool will also work with good results and is less aggressive than blast media or machines. Its a bit more physical as to your effort but cleans surprisingly well.
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George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#1197171 - 05/11/09 08:34 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Emmery]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
I agree Emmery. A nice piece of sand paper or steel wool works wonders. A friend of mine used to put a fine grade of sand paper onto his sanding machine and gently run the side of the keys down it once or twice. Clean er right up. But, he has to be careful not to hit the plastic or ivory or it can easily leave a brown burn mark... cursing
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Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1197174 - 05/11/09 08:47 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2356
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
If its real grungy I will run a razor blade over it to scrape it off first. Rougher grades of sand paper and blast media will open the grain of the wood up a bit or leave a bit of "fur" sometimes and I like the real smooth look that steel wool leaves.
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George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#1197175 - 05/11/09 08:49 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3843
Too much on the ivory, and you will have to knock off the sharp edge. Nothing worse for a piano player than sharp key edges.
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#1197176 - 05/11/09 08:50 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
You guys are very helpful! I have one of the little Mouse electric sanders with some fine sandpaper that I may try. All I want to do is try to brighten up the wood a little and not change the overall depth or width of the key. Have a great day!
J. Michael Wilson
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#1197184 - 05/11/09 09:16 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: JMichaelWilson]
James Senior Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/08
Posts: 342
Loc: England
I'm with emmery
I have found that scraping with a sharp plane iron gives the best 'new wood' look, and doesn't round edges. It also means you can get right up the key covering without touching it.
Then I rub with wire whool to remove any fur.

I don't like the sound of sand blasting as you could easily contaminate bushings, although I must stress I havn't tried that.

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#1197670 - 05/11/09 10:49 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: JMichaelWilson]
Steven Bolstridge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/05
Posts: 197
Loc: Fitzgerald ,GA
Originally Posted By: JMichaelWilson
Steven, this sounds like a workable solution for me. When you say medium screen, would you explain? Are you speaking of a medium sandpaper grit? Sorry to be so dumb, but I need your help.
Thanks for your input,
J. Michael Wilson



Yeah, 220 grit black wet dry works well, it just tears easier than the screen. Really any flat sanding block is good. Make sure it's not flexible though, like the sanding sponges or some others, or you will end up with some curvature. You want nice flat sides. I usually sand until I get the tops and fronts nice and white. It doesn't take much, so take it easy


Edited by Steven Bolstridge (05/11/09 10:50 PM)
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#1197680 - 05/11/09 10:56 PM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Bob]
Steven Bolstridge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/05
Posts: 197
Loc: Fitzgerald ,GA
Originally Posted By: Bob
Too much on the ivory, and you will have to knock off the sharp edge. Nothing worse for a piano player than sharp key edges.


I agree, so go slowly. You won't make them new, just cleaner than they were.
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piano tuner/technician

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#1197724 - 05/12/09 12:24 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: Steven Bolstridge]
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
There was 99 years worth of dirt in those old keys. It was a dusty mess. But the job is done and the keys are now ready to go back into the piano. I have had to replace several key fronts and two key tops plus I've got a couple of sharps to replace, but all in all things are going along as planned. I can't wait to refinish the old piano case. It will be beautiful. Thanks for all of your posts. They have been very helpful. I'm sure before this project is finished I will have asked you all for more help.
Thanks again,
J. Michael Wilson
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Tuner/Technician

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#1198372 - 05/13/09 08:40 AM Re: Cleaning the wood on the piano keys [Re: JMichaelWilson]
JMichaelWilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/09
Posts: 99
Loc: Tennessee, USA
If I needed to repaint the inside of the key bed (underneath the key frame)what kind of paint would you recommend? This may not be an option but it really looks nasty in there. I have cleaned out, vacuumed it out, used a toothbrush on it and now it just needs a fresh coat of paint, but I don't want to jeopardize the piano in any way.
J. Michael Wilson
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