Piano Repair: Ivory Keyset Restoration Part 1

Piano RepairA beautiful set of genuine ivory keytops on a vintage piano is becoming more and more of a rarity. Many ivory keysets on older instruments have suffered from wear and tear over the years, and are not particularly attractive. Bringing an original set of ivory back to "factory-fresh" condition is at times possible when done by the professional technician, but it can be very time-consuming, and the techniques involved to do the work correctly are painstaking.

The keytops on your piano are to the point where something could be done to enhance their appearance. I would suggest that a professional job of ivory keytop restoration should be one option to consider.

In the next two posting, commonly asked questions have been answered to give you the information you need in order to decide whether or not to have Cooper Piano complete this repair on your piano:

What are the other options, if I want a nice looking set of keys?

Oftentimes, owners of older instruments choose to have old, chipped-up or yellowed ivory removed to be professionally replaced with high-quality plastic tops. When done correctly by a qualified technician, such replacement keytops can turn out to be very attractive and durable.

When restoration of original ivory is possible, however, the results can be beautiful.  Ivory keytops not only look beautiful, but they have a luxuriously silky feel, which plastic tops simply cannot duplicate.

Will restoring the original set of ivory keytops substantially increase the value of my piano?

To be honest, probably not as much as the work will cost. Many pianos, especially older uprights, consoles and spinets, do not bring top dollar in today’s market, no matter what the condition. There are just too many "free for the hauling" pianos available on Craigslist and in local shoppers. Ivory restoration could possibly make your instrument easier to sell for a reasonable price, but marking it up substantially (and being able to sell it for an increased value) is unlikely.

While the commercial value of your piano might not increase as much as you would like, if you really love your piano and have no intentions to sell it in the near future, the investment you make to have the work done can give substantial returns in terms of your appreciation for the beauty of your vintage instrument. Pianos built during the age when ivory keytops were the norm are often- times gorgeous in sound and appearance, and having genuine ivory covering the keys gives the piano a solid, authentic feel.

Is ivory as durable as plastic? grand piano

No, at least not as durable as the new high-quality plastics that are used to manufacture keytops. Ivory, especially old ivory, is more easily chipped than plastic, and can be prone to splitting. In a household where young children live and play, plastic keytops are probably a more sensible choice. A determined 2 or 3 year old left alone with a metal Hot Wheels car can wreak havoc on a set of ivory keys in short order.

For a home with no small children ever left unattended in the vicinity of the piano, however, ivory will last indefinitely when given proper care.

Do all ivory keytop restoration jobs cost the same?

Given the difference in condition of keytops to begin with, there is no way to give a set price that will apply to every set of ivory keytops.

For starters, the number of chipped or missing keytops will affect the price. The more tops needing replacement, the more time will need to be spent sorting through my collection of old keytops to find ivories that will blend in.

Finally, the issue of yellowing may have to be addressed. If the old keytops are severely yellowed, special bleaching techniques will be required to lighten them up. This takes even more time and a high degree of skill.

Can every set of ivory keytops be restored?

Sometimes the old ivory is in such bad condition that restoration of the original ivory is impossible. There are a few technicians around the country with access to legal sources of ivory who can recover old keys with new ivory keytops, but the expense of such work can be extremely high.

Piano repair work is not something to be taken lightly. Having your grand piano repairs done by qualified Piano Repair Professional not only insures quality work; but peace of mind also. Make sure to follow up on Our next blog, where we continue the restoration process.   








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