Yellowed Plastic Keys

Posted by: JIMBOB

Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 01:56 PM

Short of replacing all of the keytops is there any way to get the yellow out of the keys on an Everett spinet that I worked on today. Owners claim the key color went from white to yellow after a house fire 7 years ago. Now they want to lighten the color. WHat product if any, can get the yellow out ????
Posted by: BDB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 03:17 PM

You might try a plastic polish. Your local plastics supply place could recommend something, or you could try a polishing compound for car finishes.
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 04:30 PM

JIMBOB, you have asked a hard question. I have attempted to clean, polish ivory keytops many times,and have never had any luck with any type of compound. So I will read with interest and hope someone can post some good information on this subject.

In a few instances, when the invories were in really good shape, I have scraped them lightly with a scraping tool and then polished them with a polishing compound. You have to really exercise care with scrapping or you can really mess them up.

To customers with invory keytops, I recommend keeping the keyboard out of direct sunlight, and very importantly keep the keyboard closed when not using. Light is the culprit and is what causes yellowed invories.

Regards,
Ron
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 04:33 PM

JIMBOB, I goofed and should have read the post closer. I have ivory on the brain. But the same principle applies to plastic, except there is no use to try to scrape them. If they are really yellowed, I feel the only thing to do is replace them if the owner really dislikes the yellowness.

Again, I have never found any substance that will take the yellow out. Hopefully someone has, and I would love to try their fix.

Regard (again)
Ron
Posted by: BDB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 07:16 PM

Light bleaches ivory. If you keep ivory in the dark, it will revert to its natural yellow.
Posted by: PIANOS007

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 07:29 PM

Plastic is tough once it yellows. Try sanding it with 600 grit sandpaper. If you can't get through the yellow by sanding you have a problem. Plastic doesn't react the same as Ivory and is not as easy to get the yellow out. Ivory can be bleached but I don't believe the plastic will hold up to the bleach.
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 07:38 PM

Forgive mis-information if that is what I put forth. Maybe I read an "old wives tale" but I was under the impression that direct sunlight would turn the color of ivories. I know when you apply bleach to ivory, it works best in sunlight, but have never heard or read that covering them causes the yellowing effect. But I do know that bleach on plastic is a definite no no.

Regards,
Ron
Posted by: donluis

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 08:13 PM

this is impossible, the yellow is very inside in the wood, because the fire.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 08:39 PM

The problem is that collectors of old ivory want it yellow, so they keep their collectibles out of the light. Piano keyboards should be white, though, so they should be in the light. I once had an old Steinway that was kept in a corridore of a social hall for many years, and the keyboard was bright yellow. Putting the keys in direct sunlight for several months lightened them up considerably.
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/03/04 09:21 PM

Well, that's my I think this forum is so great, because there is such a wide range of experience and knowledge. I learned something here and as usual I appreciate your comments BDB.

Donluis can you explain your "the yellow is inside the wood" comment. I believe the yellow is on the plastic keytops, not in the wood.

Pianos that have gone through a fire or smoke experience usually end up having a myrid of problems.

Regards,
Ron
Posted by: JIMBOB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/04/04 09:07 AM

I should have said they where plastic but I did get some ideas for both ivory and plastic.
If you want ivory keys to yellow or get darker you cover them or keep them out of the sun or even the room light by closing the fall board.
I am not so sure I want to take sandpaper to the plastic. I think the problem with the piano was not so much being in a house with a fire but the fact that the finish is faded from the sun. Perhaps the plastic keys yellowed because of exposure to sunlight which would be the opposite effect that sun has on ivories. I have some white plastic keytops that could be used to recover the keys but that is a time consuming task.
I do not think the piano suffered any damage from the fire, This is in sharp contrast to a WW Kimball I looked at weeks ago that had soot all over the keys and action, smelled like a dirty fireplace and had corrosion on the top 3rd of all the bass strings. The owner asked me about having someone do some inhouse finish work to restore the bleached case- this is why I think that somehow the sun yellowed the plastic. As for the wood coming through the plastic I tend to doubt it. The plastic is not translucent like ivory and it would be hard for the wooden key to show through such a solid , non-transparent keytop.
Posted by: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/04/04 01:09 PM

Jimbob- dont worry about sanding the plastic. The coarser grits will of course leave scratches, but finer and finer grits will remove them. You can sand to beyond 2000 grit and produce a very nice scratch free surface. Auto parts stores usually carry super fine grit paper....Sam
Posted by: PIANOS007

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/04/04 01:32 PM

Isn't it amazing???????? Customers are more worried about the outside appearence of the piano than the inside????
I had a customer several years ago with a Settergrin 4'10" grand piano. When I first examined the piano I found it to be in horrible condition. Loose pins, dead bass strings, worn out action, worn out key bushings. I told her the piano need to be rebuilt, or at least reconditioned. She refused. She stated she wanted the piano refinished only. Reluctently I refinished the piano anrecovered the keyboard with synthetic ivory keytops. The piano looked great and she was happy.
She had a party the weekend following the deliverry of the finished piano. When one of her friends sat to play the piano, she hated it. I tuned it before I delivered it (no charge), but it sounded terrible and played terrible. When she said something to her hostess about the piano not being right, the "lady" said, " I just had the piano completely redone". And of course she gave my name.
The lady who played her Settergrin owned a 1912 Wm. Knabe 5'8" grand scheduled to be picked up on the following monday for a rebuild. Guess who was supposed to do the rebuild.
Posted by: JIMBOB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/04/04 03:58 PM

Far too many people buy a piano for its looks.
If I had been you I would have refused the first job since it did not make any sense to refinish the piano without rebuilding it. There is a lot of confusion , ignorance, lack of knowledge about what rebuilding really is. I worked on a grand the other day that the owner told me was rebuild.
No way had it been rebuilt. It had a few new strings in it, the plate had been cleaned up except near the tuning pins where it had obviously been juiced, the board was dirt and most of the strings had rust. WHen I asked him again about it he said the action had been redone.
Well it had new hammers and some new felts but was hardly rebuilt. On top of that he told me that the tuning pins had been treated with what he thought was CA glue. That would explain the weird feedback the pins where giving and the creaking they made when tightened. The rust on the strings made it difficult to move the wire.
I should have treated the bearing points with PROTEK and was lucky I only broke 2 strings.
When I told him the late afternoon sun was coming across the tail to the keyboard he more or less blew it off. Yesterday I noticed the lid was 2 tone where the sun had already bleached the entire middle to tail half of the lid.

You should have explained to customer #2 that you took on the first job against your better judgement and that you adviced against just refinishing it/
Posted by: Fredrik

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/04/04 04:13 PM

After many years, I've recently seen the family Baldwin grand I "grew up with." It was built perhaps 1960, with plastic keytops, and now almost all of them have yellowed, with the exception of two at one end and one at the other which remain white. Curious. Did they use two different batches of plastic when they built it?
Posted by: donluis

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/05/04 11:01 AM

Due to the fire and humidity, the yellow has been penetrated in the wood, and on the inside painted to the keytops, for many, many years.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/05/04 11:54 AM

This reminds me of the topic in the Piano Forum about ivory keys, particularly after someone had said not to long ago that old, worn keybed felt and punchings are not important to replace. It amazes me about how many people worry about whether the keytops are ivory or not, but not whether the keyboard is level, that the depth is even, and that the felt is not so hard that the keys rattle, or that playing them sends waves of shock up your arms.

Of course, most people don't see such things, so they don't think of them. That's why we have to tell them their pianos need these things.

Fredrik, your piano could have had two different batches of plastic, particularly for those 3 odd keys (the last A and C and one B.) The keytops come molded by octaves, except for those three odd keys. They are glued to the wood, and then the keys are cut apart. I can imagine batches of octaves being made, and then 1/7th as many sets of those three keys.
Posted by: Fredrik

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/05/04 02:43 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by BDB:
The keytops come molded by octaves, except for those three odd keys. [/b]
Thanks for the explanation: I didn't suspect there would be something so systematic as this that could be discerned after all this time. I guess Baldwin quality control could be spotty even in the “good ol’ days.”
Posted by: BDB

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/05/04 08:43 PM

Well, keep in mind that the keytops probably came from another supplier, and that plastic technology was fairly primative back then.
Posted by: Manitou

Re: Yellowed Plastic Keys - 03/06/04 10:54 AM

Only reinforcing:

Ivory in direct sunlight does whiten them, and a peroxide solution with sunlight can whiten them faster.

Manitou - Pianist - Technician