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#2088594 - 05/25/13 01:53 PM key repair / tuning assistance
benny428 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/23/12
Posts: 15
Loc: Pennsylvania
So my latest project is an old Wellington Spinet piano. Customer said the key broke. Well, it broke alright. It broke right where the center pin goes. Is there anything good that will work? Also, its been quite sometime since this piano has seen a good tune. Some notes are two to three steps down in the scale. Is there any hope to tune it? I would hate to waste the customers money on tunings that wont help. Any input? Thanks!
Wurlitzer Studio Upright Piano- Built in 1963
Tuner / Technician
Kenyon Piano Service

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#2088604 - 05/25/13 02:19 PM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21821
Loc: Oakland
The way to fix a broken key is to glue it back together, very carefully. If it is just cracked, you might be able to get glue in the crack and hold it straight until it sets. If you have trouble getting glue in, you can pull the key apart so that you do not crush or bend any of the wood as it breaks apart. Dry fit it carefully, to make sure it goes back to exactly the original position. If some of the wood has broken or bent so that you do not get a good fit, it is better to cut it away than to risk a less than ideal fit.

Use a straightedge, or clamp the key to a flat surface to be sure that the joint does not leave the key bent. Do not overtighten clamps. You do not want to crush anything.

A good glue joint should have sufficient strength, but you could glue something to the side of the key for extra strength. Thin card stock, like a business card, has good tensile strength.
Semipro Tech

#2088994 - 05/26/13 03:02 AM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: BDB]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 494
Loc: Oregon Coast
I also prefer adding a little reinforcement to the key. My method is a thin strip of wood veneer added to the side of the key (....after careful gluing of the keystick). Lightly sanding to fit after the glue dries, of course.

BDB is correct that you MUST glue the pieces carefully and flat; using a straightedge or flat surface is best. Dry fit, to be sure that the key will go together nicely...but generally this is not a problem; as long as you are NOT fixing someone else's 'fix'. Know what I mean?
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services

#2089063 - 05/26/13 08:23 AM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
RonTuner Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1674
Loc: Chicagoland
It is possible to use the two keys next to the broken one as alignment guides - wax paper between, I'd use gorilla glue super glue (not the regular gorilla glue) which is a rubberized CA. That way you keep the left/right, up/down relationships in the proper place. I'm comfortable with using CA glues, if you don't have practice with them, use something slower so that you can get the alignment right before it sets up.

Then you can decide if you want to thin the side a little and add a thin veneer to the sides to strengthen the key - run the grain the opposite from the keystick. Some techs use cardstock - sometimes there is enough room so that you don't need to thin the keystick at all.
Piano/instrument technician

my piano videos:

#2089248 - 05/26/13 02:44 PM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1771
Loc: London, England
Another tip is to use a key from each side to template accurate sideways alignment.
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.

#2089310 - 05/26/13 05:00 PM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
Glue Collar Worker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/13
Posts: 26
Originally Posted By: benny428
Also, its been quite sometime since this piano has seen a good tune. Some notes are two to three steps down in the scale. Is there any hope to tune it? I would hate to waste the customers money on tunings that wont help. [/b]Any input? Thanks!

If I may say, it sounds like you need some training on your own before you can start taking money from people.

The piano needs a pitch raise. You will have to tune it a few times or more until it achieves stability. As many times as it takes. There is always the possibility of broken strings which the customer should be made aware of.

The key repair is as people have described it. Personally I would break the key if it wasn't broken right through. Dry fit, glue with wood glue, clamp with wax paper on the outside. Get some veneer to cover the break, mark the sides of the keys where it will go, file just deep enough to fit the veneer flush, glue and clamp the veneer, file the edges of the veneer to make an almost invisible repair, and trim it away nicely from the top of the key.

#2091100 - 05/29/13 02:32 AM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
The facts are these. We are living at a time when you have to make a living. Do you really want to work on inferior instruments? Of course NOT! But if you won't, someone else will.(and he'll probably do a worse job on the crappy piano that YOU will!) Since you are already there in the customer's home, you just suck up a gut and do the best for that paino you can possibly do.
Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...

#2091445 - 05/29/13 02:38 PM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
Glue Collar Worker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/13
Posts: 26
I don't mind working on any instrument as long as it's not a hazard to my health. I'm in business to help the customers.
Piano Tuna

#2091543 - 05/29/13 05:56 PM Re: key repair / tuning assistance [Re: benny428]
Goof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 359
Loc: UK
One would think that with a simple chromatic tuner, I have a Yamaha YT250, you could select a lower pitch than A4 @ 440Hz and then bring the instrument up/down to suit so that it keeps in tune longer?


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