DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand

Posted by: Gatsbee13

DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 01:01 AM

I was wondering if anyone that is not a tech done this? Ive found several keytop kits online that were plastic and composite (such as Ivorine).. is this a pretty hard job?
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 02:39 AM

Yes, it is a hard job.

1. The old tops and fronts must be removed without damaging the key sticks.
2. The top of the key sticks must be planed down (if originally ivory) to account for thicker plastic.
3. New tops and fronts must be glued on neatly, with the proper glue.
4. Tops and fronts come over sized, and must be routed/filed to the correct width and finished nicely.
5. Great care must be taken when filing the notches so they look square and even.

And of course, the key bushings need to be in good shape and properly adjusted, and the keys will need to be squared and leveled, among other things.


If one were to attempt this, the molded tops with attached fronts would give the best chance of success, but I still don't recommend it for a DIY.
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 03:22 AM

yeah.. I was looking at some videos on how to replace keytops; looks like a lot of work.. just thought maybe I could do it myself to save a few hundred.. if I decide to replace the tops, its probably a few hundred well spent to hire a tech.
Posted by: musicpassion

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 03:57 AM

Yes I think it's worth the money to hire the tech. I've seen pianos with lousy keytop replacements before (whether by DIY or careless professional I don't know) and it's not pretty.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 06:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Gatsbee13
yeah.. I was looking at some videos on how to replace keytops; looks like a lot of work.. just thought maybe I could do it myself to save a few hundred.. if I decide to replace the tops, its probably a few hundred well spent to hire a tech.


I agree, especially since you will have to sit in front of your work everyday. smile

If you are at all like me you will see every mistake every day.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 08:25 AM

I’ve replaced the keytops on my old Conover upright… just the fronts of the two piece ivory. It turned out great and I’m pleased, but it was more difficult than I thought.

It looks 100 times better than the old, yellow, chipped and missing fronts.

You have to clean the old surface well and clamp each key for the best results; it is not as quick and easy as the YouTube videos make you think.

Unless you are just looking for a new adventure, I think I’d hire a pro to do the keytops… Rich is right, if you keep the piano, you will be looking at your work everytime you sit down to play.

Good luck!

Rick
Posted by: woodog

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 12:32 PM

Yes, I'm not a tech and I've replaced missing keytops for 4 keys.

I also completely regulated my piano and am now rebushing the keys, so I'm no stranger to figuring stuff out.

but as far as the keytops go... I did a good (not excellent) job, but the filing is quite detailed and it's SO easy to overdo a key side and then the resulting visual uneven line will bug you FOREVER. Go ahead, ask me how I know!

It took me about 5 hours total to do the four keys. I multiplied that for the remaining 22 keys (110 hours, or three hours every evening after work for about a month)...

which is time I cannot be playing the instrument.

I still have the remaining replacement keytops and will replace any of the original ones that become cracked or dislocated.

But when and if I want the whole set to look 'perfect', I'll gladly pay a tech who does this for a living.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 01:42 PM

Ugh Key-Tops It's really the one job I just don't like doing. I've never liked it since I was about 8 years old. Some kids got GI Joes and I got keytops to replace !

It still takes me about 5 - 8 hours depending. Now I Have a stripper ( not the kind that dances) and a fancy router table but there is still hand filing.

It's far easier to just send them to WalkerPiano ( who I use) when I don't feel like listening to my router. Then I can focus on other things and know that my keys will come back perfect.
Posted by: hoola

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 02:24 PM

Sometimes we don't need to replace keytop, solution: we just need to them sand out, then polish.

Story:
The 1st day of moving in my brand-new Grotrian: I hit the halogen lamp and it falled over my Grotrian. The scatters of hot broken bulb spread over keytops and melted about 6 keys.

It was my mistake so I did not ask for warranty intervention, and I used sand paper to sand out the black holes. The black were gone, but the surface were still uneven and not as smooth, shiny as their neighbors.

I lived with these keytops for 19 years then last year I had the piano regulated, voiced. Initially the technician asked me if I agreed to replace these 6 keytops (he will charge just a symbolic fee because of the big job of regulation).

But at the end he did not replace the 6 damaged keytops, he just used tools to sand out more, then polish them to make them as even and shiny as new keytops. And he did it for free.

Lesson: sometimes we only need to sand out then polish, and we save a lot of work and money.
Posted by: manofsong

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 10:48 PM

What's an approximate cost of having Grand keys re-topped and the Black keys refinished? I'm thinking of having it done on my Baldwin. I was given an estimate of $1500 and 3 weeks time. Does this sound reasonable?

I'm very handy but I would not attempt to do this myself.

cpg
Posted by: adak

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/27/13 11:56 PM

Pardon my ignorance, but why would you retop your keys? Ivory or plastic, they don't wear out, for example I have never heard of anyone needing to replace the keys on their digital pianos, I know cause looking at mine the plastic is pretty durable.
Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/28/13 12:07 AM

Originally Posted By: adak
Pardon my ignorance, but why would you retop your keys? Ivory or plastic, they don't wear out, for example I have never heard of anyone needing to replace the keys on their digital pianos, I know cause looking at mine the plastic is pretty durable.


Ivory and plastic both wear. Ivory is organic and ages. It cracks, it yellows, and it comes unglued.

True - plastic is not organic and the types of materials used on keytops today wears much better than ivory did. Older plastics yellowed but that has been solved.

We'll see what pianists think 50 years from now, how about that?
Posted by: kpembrook

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/28/13 12:08 AM

Originally Posted By: Gatsbee13
I was wondering if anyone that is not a tech done this? Ive found several keytop kits online that were plastic and composite (such as Ivorine).. is this a pretty hard job?


I have assisted many DIY folk. You can PM me if you want more information.
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/28/13 12:15 AM

PM'd
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/28/13 12:34 AM

I had my tech out yesterday and I emailed him about the keytops.. he said that is the natural color of the keytops and I should keep them.. I disagree.. its not an off-white, but kind of yellowish color.. I don't like it.. id prefer white, as I have a black satin finish... I also noticed that the highest octave, the keytops are whiter..
Posted by: Rickster

Re: DIY: Replacing Keytops on grand - 02/28/13 08:01 AM

Originally Posted By: Gatsbee13
I had my tech out yesterday and I emailed him about the keytops.. he said that is the natural color of the keytops and I should keep them.. I disagree.. its not an off-white, but kind of yellowish color.. I don't like it.. id prefer white, as I have a black satin finish... I also noticed that the highest octave, the keytops are whiter..

I know what you mean...

I like brilliant-white key-tops too. Both my Yamaha and my Kawai have real, one-piece ivory key-tops (older instruments) and both are semi-white, with just a slight hint of yellow, but not too bad. They also seem to show dirt easy for some reason (porous surface?)

I honestly don't like to look at old piano key-tops that are stained and yellow... it reminds me of someone who never brushes their teeth. smile

Rick