Painted "Ebony" Keys

Posted by: -Frycek

Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 10:24 AM

As a matter of curiosity -what are painted sharps made of? Is it a low grade ebony or something else altogether? The piano in question is a 1938 Kurtzmann grand. The whites are real ivory and the sharps are something painted black wearing down to brown. Whatever it is seems very hard smooth and dense.
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 10:28 AM

Ebony is hard and dense. Sounds like Ebony, but without seeing, it's hard to say.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 11:13 AM

So ebony is not necessarily truly black then?
Posted by: Tom Tuner

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 01:51 PM

Ebony is not necessarily uniformly black. It may show tan or brown streaks, so it may be stained or dyed. Or it may be someother hardwood which has been enamled or lacquered.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 05:59 PM

It is often peer tree on old cheaper grade instruments. Ebony can be of differnt quality as well indeed.

I had good results after filing and modeling the new shape -to have clean edges - with pumice, alcohol and black polish, to fill the grain and have nice looking ebony or other wood, lesser quality have lot of grain and fiber..

When we repair the mortises , we clean the sides of the keys and we blacken the sides of the wood under the ebony because the white wood of the key appears under the black coat.


Ebony itself can be polished , burnished, lightly waxed (some us black shoe wax !)
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/21/08 07:28 PM

I think they're probably a cheaper grade of ebony. I've gotten the impression the Kurtzmann was a medium price range instrument. The action on mine has held up extremely well for its age. It belonged to one serious amateur(I "inherited" his sheet music collection with the piano) for 60 some years and I expect had regular maintenance and good care.
Posted by: eddie twang

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/23/08 03:38 PM

just to add more confusion there is also a prosses called "ebonising"which is to lightly scorch timber..afriend of mine is a cabinet maker whose hobby was to dive on old shipwrecks.he once salvaged a cargo of ebony logs that came off a ship torpedoed in the north sea during ww1.the wood had been in the sea over 70 years but the water had only penatrated the first couple of mm!.thats how dense it is.
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 03/23/08 04:27 PM

Very interesting Eddie....maybe putting them in an oven turned on broil would scorch them...it works on toast....toasty ebony...might start a new trend. Just joking!!!!!! Piano players and DIY'ers dont try this at home!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: victor kam

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 07/22/08 05:42 AM

Can someone recommend a way to blackened some of the ebony keys. Some of mine has worn out quite a lot. Do you use water based or oil based? Does one need to seal after the application? I am looking at Minwax brand. Thanks.
Posted by: Roy123

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 07/22/08 12:22 PM

I've had good luck using alcohol-based dyes on furniture projects--never tried it on pianos keys.
Posted by: erad1948

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 07/22/08 12:31 PM

I have played pianos that are very old, whose sharps are worn and they seem to have been coated. Usually it is very shiny and looks like someone enameled them. That might have happened with your sharps... you never know what some rebuilders might do to make a keyboard look good.

As mentioned in the posts above, ebony is not truly black. It has a grain which is sometimes brown.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 07/22/08 04:37 PM

Most old piano sharps are not ebony, just dyed wood.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: Painted "Ebony" Keys - 07/22/08 05:00 PM

This is correct BDB.......... stove black was a favorite.

For the fellow in Malaysia, I would put a seal on any black work you do. The heat and oils of the fingers may lift the product off in time......