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#2171711 - 10/25/13 08:50 AM Ivory Keys
Michael Reutlinger Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/13
Posts: 3
Loc: Central New jersey
Recently came across a 1938 Chickering upright with ivory keys.
They are a bit discolored from age but overall in pretty good shape. Was wondering what the possible value of the keys would be?
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#2171788 - 10/25/13 11:38 AM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22460
Loc: Oakland
Learn to recover keys, and you will get lots of ivory keytops without paying anything for them. The value of ivory keys is not in the keys as parts, but in the ability to match and install them.
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#2171916 - 10/25/13 04:14 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2541
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Kind of along with what BDB says, they don't really add any value to the piano. If they're all there and just a little discolored, I'd leave them on the piano; to me, nothing feels quite like ivory.
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#2172066 - 10/25/13 09:43 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/13
Posts: 375
Opera
you are correct. There is nothing quite like the feel of ivory. I always feel a little sad when I recover a set of keys with plastic.
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#2172113 - 10/25/13 11:53 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
I think they can add value to the piano if there is a buyer keen on having them and a seller who picks up on it. I've done quite a few more ivory repairs than normal in the past few years as many middle aged customers are inheriting older pianos and want to preserve them original for nostalgia.

As a side note I haven't really read any good suggestions for this since most topics center on how to whiten yellow ivory, but.... Does anyone have a good recipe for something to use to color match whiter ivory to a more aged yellow? Occasionally I run into still decent somewhat yellowed ivory that is cupped a bit from wear in the middle. These are difficult to whiten up evenly and sometimes I have a good replacement for a damaged one size wise but they are too white for a match.
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#2172118 - 10/26/13 12:24 AM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1943
Loc: Conway, AR USA
For pianists who enjoy the specific benefit that organic material provides, ivory or bone is invaluable. For others, it's a nuisance to keep up with and worth nothing. My personal preference is ivory. I do not care for plastic key top.
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#2172143 - 10/26/13 01:58 AM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1420
Loc: Michigan
We recycle ivory keytops. We pay $2 per head in good condition and a bulk price for 2nd quality heads and for tails.

PM me if interested.
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#2172226 - 10/26/13 08:22 AM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: bkw58]
Chuck Behm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/10
Posts: 764
Loc: Boone, Iowa, USA


Hi Michael - Is this piano you yourself own, or does it belong to a customer? I'm not quite sure from your original post. Either way, a vintage upright having a really nice set of ivory keytops is becoming somewhat of a rarity, and (as Emmery noted) sought after by many middle age and older owners.

If the existing ivories are good, reconditioning them might be an option to consider. If you go to the istore of the Schaff website, you'll find a step-by-step article I wrote about the topic that might be helpful.

If you do end up replacing them, be sure to remove the old ivory first to save for later recycling. Best wishes, Chuck Behm
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#2172232 - 10/26/13 08:38 AM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Emmery]
Chris Storch Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 249
Emmery,

In school, we learned that soaking the ivory wafer in strong tea could darken it to match a yellower color.

I've never tried it, so can't vouch for it's effectiveness.

But there's an idea.

Hope I've helped,
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Acoustician / Piano Technician

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#2172339 - 10/26/13 12:25 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 22460
Loc: Oakland
Ivory should dye fairly well. I have even dyed plastic keys to match. The other option is that sanding the rest of the keys will lighten them.
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#2172358 - 10/26/13 12:59 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: BDB]
schlaigs Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/12
Posts: 15
Loc: Washington, DC
I saw this thread and would welcome some advice. I recently bought a Steinway A (1942, so it's an A3). I'm going to get it rebuilt. I'd thought I'd get the whole thing rebuilt but having had it for a few days, I'm thinking most of the ivories are in pretty good shape (I'm guessing they're ivory but don't know if they had used something else by 1942) and I'd like to see if I could just get the bad keys replaced. Will try to attach a couple of photos (good and bad) if I can figure out how. Any thoughts about how feasible this is? Is there any place that either specializes in this kind of work or that others would recommend? Can any good rebuilder do this kind of work? Thanks for the advice

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#2172863 - 10/27/13 06:24 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: BDB]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
Originally Posted By: BDB
Ivory should dye fairly well. I have even dyed plastic keys to match. The other option is that sanding the rest of the keys will lighten them.


Normally I sand and buff the other keys, but there are situations this is not going to work well like when the keys are worn/cupped in the center and getting thin already (but otherwise intact and good).

I had considered putting some in a box and blowing cigarette smoke in there to yellow them, seems like this would mimick the color pretty good.
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George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

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#2172936 - 10/27/13 08:56 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Michael Reutlinger]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
That's what bee keepers do to get the yellow colour on bees, isn't it?
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The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2173426 - 10/28/13 09:19 PM Re: Ivory Keys [Re: Phil D]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
Originally Posted By: Phil D
That's what bee keepers do to get the yellow colour on bees, isn't it?


Good one Phil. Having worked with bees in my teens I can tell you they use smoke to relax them and make them less angry at you messing with their hive. Smoke covers the scent of alarm pheromones bees give off. Some bees get injured when you remove the honey. The smoke also causes them to gorge on the honey. They do this from instinct to protect stores from hive abondonment in case of a fire. Once they are full with honey, their abdomens distend, and they cannot sting as easily.
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Niagara Region

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