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#20892 - 03/31/08 01:17 PM Ivory Keys
NE_Geek_Girl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/30/08
Posts: 118
Loc: Boston Suburbs
Hi all,
Well, I'm looking at some grands tomorrow - all higher end models (2A and up in Fine, I think). One has new legal ivory keys. So, how do ivory keys compare with the usual thing? How much of a premium do they command in terms of cost? Are there any issues with maintenance?

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#20893 - 03/31/08 01:32 PM Re: Ivory Keys
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Just because those ivory keys may be "legal" does not mean buying them is ethical.
Legal or not, buying ivory feeds demand.
Demand makes men pick up guns to get more ivory.

You have to decide.

Personally I love the feel of real ivory keys and struggle with the ethics of getting them for my piano.

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#20894 - 03/31/08 01:48 PM Re: Ivory Keys
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22696
Loc: Oakland
There are serious maintenance issues with ivory. It is prone to chipping, discoloration, warping, and coming unglued.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#20895 - 03/31/08 02:04 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Keith D Kerman Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3412
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
In general, I am not a fan of old ivory, even when it is in pristine condition. It always feels a bit dry and slippery.
In terms of natural key surfaces, legal ivory is very nice. It is essentially new ivory. It is ivory key tops and fronts ( sometimes ) newly cut from real ivory that has been documented with Food and Wildlife as pre-ban. The interesting thing about legal ivory, is that it feels more like the new synthetic key surfaces than it does like the old ivory.
Mammoth tusk ivory is also available. It is more coarse than the legal ivory, and feels a bit "cooler" temperature wise. It has a bit more grey in color. This is the most fun key surface to have. Be the first on your block to have a piano made with Woolly Mammoth!
You can also get keys made from cow bone. I am not a fan of this key surface and much prefer the feel of modern synthetic key covers.
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Keith D Kerman
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#20896 - 03/31/08 02:14 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
"You can also get keys made from cow bone".

Am I the only one here who has a bit of a problem in playing over a skeleton? \:\)

Ok, I also would like a natural sponge but never could persuade myself to divide my bath tub with a dead animal, so perhaps I am in the minority here...

NE-GG, does anyone offer the option of wood? At the end once upon a time the sharps were made of ebony, so what impedes the whites to be made of wood too?
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin

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#20897 - 03/31/08 02:33 PM Re: Ivory Keys
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22696
Loc: Oakland
Wood tends to be too soft and wears to quickly. Harder woods have more mineral content, so they tend to be darker.

Besides, wood is tree skeleton!
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#20898 - 03/31/08 02:50 PM Re: Ivory Keys
NE_Geek_Girl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/30/08
Posts: 118
Loc: Boston Suburbs
Hmm...one could play the Fossils section of Carnival of the Animals on Woolly Mammoth keys, I think. I'll let everyone know what I thought of the legal ivory keys.

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#20899 - 03/31/08 02:52 PM Re: Ivory Keys
David-G Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/17/06
Posts: 1280
Loc: London
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
There are serious maintenance issues with ivory. It is prone to chipping, discoloration, warping, and coming unglued. [/b]
But with my own 127-year-old piano with original ivory keys: there is only the tiniest chip on one note, no ivories are warped, and none are unglued.
There is a touch of discolouration; though I understand that keeping the fallboard open tends to prevent this - mine has always been closed.

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#20900 - 03/31/08 03:06 PM Re: Ivory Keys
JDelmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/10/07
Posts: 634
 Quote:
Originally posted by NE_Geek_Girl:
Hmm...one could play the Fossils section of Carnival of the Animals on Woolly Mammoth keys, I think. I'll let everyone know what I thought of the legal ivory keys. [/b]
Or maybe spring for Sabre-tooth Tiger teeth keycovers, and play ON Fossils of Carnivorous Animals...
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"There is always room above; there is only the ground below."....F.E. Morton (with props to Del F.)

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#20901 - 03/31/08 03:34 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
"Besides, wood is tree skeleton!"

I love that! \:\) .

I know of many people who furnished their homes (chairs, tables) with skeletons made of wood, but of only one who furnished a room with skeletons made of bones and his name was Heinrich Himmler... \:\( (bbbrrrrr.....)
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin

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#20902 - 03/31/08 03:48 PM Re: Ivory Keys
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
The ivory on my 70 year old piano is a lovely, ivory white, and has only one small chip on one key. I love the feel of it. It's cooler. It has a texture. My first piano teacher's much admired old piano had ivory keys and when I touched the keys on this one I felt I'd come home.
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Slow down and do it right.

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#20903 - 03/31/08 03:56 PM Re: Ivory Keys
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
I hate ivory...because it's harder to play on, not because I give a damn about elephants. It's dry and slippery. It also doesn't last.

Some people claim to prefer ivory, but I think that's largely due to the mystique of being illegal and due to that tired old myth of Incontrovertible Old-Timey Superiority.

Give me plastic any day.

Don
Kansas City

...and don't get me started about ebony!

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#20904 - 03/31/08 05:01 PM Re: Ivory Keys
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
Dry and slippery? I've seen more plastic that's slippery than ivory. I need to put new keytops on my old, old upright. If I could afford the legal ivory I would use it (by the way, the elephants that gave up that ivory died decades ago). Plastic keytops, with the possible exception of Vagias don't look right on antique pianos.
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Scott

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#20905 - 03/31/08 05:11 PM Re: Ivory Keys
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
There is no 'mystique' coloring my observations on ivory.

Plastic, being less porous, is slippery.

Ivory is porous so it absorbs moisture. The texture of ivory makes for a smooth, silky feeling.

It is absolutely right for ivory to be banned, however I can't help but like the way it feels.

I regularly play on cow shinbone. It is better than plastic, but can have some pointy hard edges. It also has a speckled appearance, so can seem to be dirty.
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#20906 - 03/31/08 05:13 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1555
what do they do with the ivory when the elephant died of natural causes?(non poaching)

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#20907 - 03/31/08 05:16 PM Re: Ivory Keys
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Newbie:
what do they do with the ivory when the elephant died of natural causes?(non poaching) [/b]
Sell it as legal ivory and theoretically plough the profits back into maintaining elephant habitat.
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Slow down and do it right.

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#20908 - 03/31/08 05:18 PM Re: Ivory Keys
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by ScottM:
If I could afford the legal ivory I would use it (by the way, the elephants that gave up that ivory died decades ago). Plastic keytops, with the possible exception of Vagias don't look right on antique pianos. [/b]
They sell salvaged ivory keytops (for craftwork, scrimshaw etc.) on ebay all the time. You might find a good enough set to use if you kept checking for awhile.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#20909 - 03/31/08 05:26 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3662
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
I've installed cow bone. I prefer to call it Ox bone. Sounds better said that way.

Most chipped ivory is caused by my clients children and often the ivory is very thin from being played on for 90 years.
The best story I have been told by a customer is when his boy took his drum sticks and played the piano. 42 chipped keys!!!!!

Unfortunately elephants are still being slaughtered for the ivory. Perhaps not for pianos but mostly for Asian carvings.
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Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

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#20910 - 03/31/08 05:36 PM Re: Ivory Keys
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
 Quote:
Originally posted by NE_Geek_Girl:
Hmm...one could play the Fossils section of Carnival of the Animals on Woolly Mammoth keys, I think. I'll let everyone know what I thought of the legal ivory keys. [/b]
you'll fit in nicely here
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#20911 - 04/01/08 09:52 PM Re: Ivory Keys
RickG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 947
Loc: Texas
As usual, Whippenboy and I are in agreement. I just find that plastic does become slippery. The organ at church I play has rosewood naturals and pearwood sharps. They absorb the moisture and just have a quality feel to them. BTW, I would try to keep old ivories.
_________________________
RickG

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#20912 - 04/01/08 10:18 PM Re: Ivory Keys
hv Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 1242
Loc: Cape Cod
Also went with Ox Bone when rebuilding our Steinway console. My wife kind of fell in love with the feel after playing a concert on a piano with them. She's never been crazy about ivory, however. Probably one too many pso with yellowed, cracked, curled or chipped keytops.

Howard

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#20913 - 04/01/08 10:42 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Mattardo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
My newer Yamaha irritates me with it's plastic slippery keys, while my older Knabe just feels glorious with it's non-slip ivory keys. One of these days when I settle on a new piano, no ethical issues will stop me from getting ivory keys. Excuse my bluntness, but give me a new piano and the choice between plastic and ivory and I'll pull the trigger myself on that big ol' gray keytop factory.
It's funny - but one of the countries that runs a nature preserve for the elephants (and was - if I remember - one of the countries who originally pushed for the ban) was begging, some years ago, to be allowed to sell the ivory they had gathered over the years from the elephant preserve to continue funding the preserve. Oh the irony....

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#20914 - 04/02/08 12:46 AM Re: Ivory Keys
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22696
Loc: Oakland
I bet someone could come up with a plastic that imitates the feel of ivory pretty well for maybe $100-200 a set. The problem is that the plastic that we get costs $20 a set.

One could always sand plastic key tops so they would not be as slick. Removing that top layer, and getting down to the more porous plastic below would probably go a long way towards minimizing the difference in feel.
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#20915 - 04/02/08 02:30 AM Re: Ivory Keys
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3662
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
I bet someone could come up with a plastic that imitates the feel of ivory pretty well for maybe $100-200 a set. The problem is that the plastic that we get costs $20 a set. [/b]
_________________________________________________

The German key covers cost more but are much better. Those cheap $20.00 sets are not very good. Ya know the ones I mean, the notes are on the tails of the tops so you don't get them mixed up.

If someone comes up with synthetic key cover that stays white and works well I will gladly pay $200.00 a set for material.

Yamaha has something now that works but they will not sell the material.
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Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

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#20916 - 04/02/08 03:16 AM Re: Ivory Keys
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mattardo:
no ethical issues will stop me from getting ivory keys. Excuse my bluntness, but give me a new piano and the choice between plastic and ivory and I'll pull the trigger myself on that big ol' gray keytop factory.
[/b]
Shameful

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#20917 - 04/02/08 04:08 AM Re: Ivory Keys
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
"It's funny - but one of the countries that runs a nature preserve for the elephants (and was - if I remember - one of the countries who originally pushed for the ban) was begging, some years ago, to be allowed to sell the ivory they had gathered over the years from the elephant preserve to continue funding the preserve. Oh the irony...."

Oh the.. Ivory! \:\)

But seriously, this shows just how good the system works for everyone: elephants, local economies and piano players....
Just a couple of decades of elephant protection has largely eliminated the extinction danger, elephant numbers are increasingly rising - I think in some places are now reaching overpopulation - and in this way larger amounts of perfectly legal ivory from naturally deceased elephants is available to the market.
Nothing wrong in that, the problem was not the ivory per se, but the fact that elephants were endangered because of it.

On the contrary, the indiscriminate poaching, if not stopped, would have rapidly made new ivory unavailable even for those who - shockingly - do not care for the elephants.
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin

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#20918 - 04/02/08 10:55 AM Re: Ivory Keys
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
cruiser wrote:[/b]
 Quote:
 Quote:

Originally posted by Mattardo:
no ethical issues will stop me from getting ivory keys. Excuse my bluntness, but give me a new piano and the choice between plastic and ivory and I'll pull the trigger myself on that big ol' gray keytop factory.[/b]
Shameful
Agreed.
_________________________
Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
Happiness is a shiny red piano.

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#20919 - 04/02/08 11:32 AM Re: Ivory Keys
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
I've been wondering for a while if Steinway has some proprietary plastic they use on their pianos. Is it the same cheap white plastic that is sold for replacements? I had the impression it was something more special. If there is something better out there, I'd sure like to find out what it is. Bone doesn't attract me at all.

Mammoth ivory is used for lots of things, believe it or not, but I haven't heard of it being used for piano keys.
_________________________
Scott

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#20920 - 04/02/08 01:38 PM Re: Ivory Keys
Mattardo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
Comparing the keytops of a Yamaha P22, Clavinova, and C3 I find that the P22 and the Clavinova are about the same (they become slippery and greasy), while the C3 was slightly better than those 2. Not perfect, it still became slippery and greasy, just not as fast. The dealer said the C3 had an improved keytop but in my opinion, it was not too different from the others. I have much more confidence playing my Knabe than most modern pianos with plastic, ivorite, or whatever gimmick they are trying out now.
If you talk to David Warther at the Warther Musuem, he sells complete sets of ivory keytops and can also reccomend a proffesional installer who is experienced with the process of replacing plastic with ivory.

And as for being ashamed of ivory keys: as a lover of classical music and classical instruments I would only be ashamed if I were to apply modern political views to my classical loves.

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#20921 - 04/02/08 01:39 PM Re: Ivory Keys
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by ScottM:
Mammoth ivory is used for lots of things, believe it or not, but I haven't heard of it being used for piano keys. [/b]
I've seen it named in the specifications of some very high end pianos.
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