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#643320 - 01/05/02 03:18 AM New key tops
Shadorunnr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 125
Loc: Oklahoma City
I have a turn of the (last) century Schimmel upright piano in dire need of new key tops. I have found several suppliers and have a fair understanding of how to glue new ones on,(I hope), however the ads mentioned trimming the new tops if they are to big. My question is, what are the odds my new tops will need trimming, and how can I trim them without them looking like a COMPLETE amateur wasted his time and money? (One piece tops with fronts)
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#643321 - 01/05/02 07:42 AM Re: New key tops
PNO2NER Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/26/01
Posts: 128
Loc: Traverse City, MI
Hi Shadorunnr: The one piece keytop is a good one to use, as the front and top are molded as one. However, the new material is usually about twice the thickness of the original ivories which may pose problems. First, if you remove the old tops and glue the new, you may have some interference when the keys are at rest between the tops and the bottom of the fallboard. The keys may not come back up fully. Typically a precise amount of wood is milled from the top of the keys to compensate for the thicker new material which maintains the original overall height of each key. This can be overcome in several ways. The same applies to the fronts of the keys, if you don't remove the old fronts, and just cover over them, there may be interference with the inside of the key slip (the strip of wood which covers the front of the keys). This can be planed down or shimmed out away from the fronts if needed. In gluing, I've found the best adhesive is contact cement, brushed on the top and front of a clean key, and inside the top and front of the new keytop. Be careful not to get any on the visible surfaces of the new keytop, as it will eat into the surface. After placing the keytop on the key, a momentary clamping pressure such as in a padded vise will further bond the two together. In answer to your question about trimming, it is likely you will have to do some hand filing to trim the edges of the new material back to the dimensions of the wooden surfaces of the key. A good way is to clamp the key in a padded vise with the edge up, and carefully trim the plastic down to the wood. Nicholson makes a special file designed for plastics which has two different cuts and will not load up easily. I buy mine at Home Depot, around $10 but well worth it. Pay special attention to the 90 degree notch on the keys to get them even. Let the angled wood underneath be a guide, so that when you look down the keyboard, the space between the front of each black key and notch of each white key is the same. Large gaps, alternating with small spaces don't look good. As a final step, you may want to do some polishing if you have any scratches or imperfections in the finished job. A good product to use is Meguires plastic polish #10. This is a very fine polish designed for removing cloudiness from convertible top rear windows. Available at auto supply stores. If you have further questions, contact me directly, as I do this work regularly in my shop. Good Luck!

#643322 - 01/05/02 05:11 PM Re: New key tops
Shadorunnr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 125
Loc: Oklahoma City
Thank you for all the info! The last person who fixed the keytops did a lousy job, mixing one and two piece plastic tops with the original ivory. There are even striped plastic keys! The colors range from white to ivory to marble brown. It's time for something new.Thanks again.
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#643323 - 01/05/02 05:13 PM Re: New key tops
Shadorunnr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 125
Loc: Oklahoma City
Thank you for all the info! The last person who fixed the keytops did a lousy job, mixing one and two piece plastic tops with the original ivory. There are even striped plastic keys! The colors range from white to ivory to marble brown. It's time for something new.Thanks again.
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#643324 - 01/06/02 06:25 PM Re: New key tops
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
I really think that a piano like your Schimmel may deserve better and you will probably not be satisfied with your own efforts or the TIME that you spend as well as the money. There are places around the country that do this kind of work for a few hundred dollars. What you get back is a real professional looking and playing keyboard that enhances the value of your piano as well as your playing pleasure. Ask your piano tuner about where to send your keyboard. It usually takes three weeks or so.
David Burton's Blog

#643325 - 01/07/02 11:58 PM Re: New key tops
Littlebit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 62
Loc: CA
I got quoted $200 from two techs for new plastic keys.

Problem is I have ivory and would like to keep them. They are a very good color. I have 10 half front ivory keys off 5 of which I have. I need to get the other 5 replaced with used.
Someone quoted $400 to reglue these 5 and match the other 5 along with bleaching and polishing the entire set.

I don't need the bleach or polish and $400 - $500 seemed high unless they meant they were going to take the rest off since they said the glue on them was probably weak and reattach the whole set. Then I could justify the price.
Only 2 tail ivories are loose to my knowledge but I will hold off on this until I get a tuner to check the piano and see how she holds a tune. Then a little glue and perhaps some plasic fronts for 5 keys.

I agree with the tech here sanding down the keys, all the time and the expense of the material I would pay the $200 and get it done right with no effort and days of work on your part.

#643326 - 01/10/02 11:35 AM Re: New key tops
mikeSF Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/17/01
Posts: 18
Loc: san francisco
having replaced the keytops on my piano last year without any training or prior knowledge of how it is done (save for the Reblitz book), i say, if you can get someone to do it for $200, great. otherwise, spend a little time, challenge your patience a bit and go for it.
the hardest part of my project was scraping the old keys off with a sharp knife. the one piece tops are easy to install. i used white bathroom caulk on mine which was easy to work with. I wrapped a large rubber band around each key several times and let them dry overnight. it took a week of evenings in front of the TV, but it was fun and rewarding.
as for filing the egdes and corners, yes you will need to file a bit but just make light strokes and take your time. after filing, use some fine sandpaper along the edge to erase your chatter marks.
if you farm it out, be sure you find a professional who uses a shaping jig especially for this project, otherwise he/she will be doing an amateur job like you.
good luck


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