Hamilton Player Piano Restoration: Keys
It's not really possible to overstate the importance of the key set of a piano when doing restoration work. In modern terms, they are the "user interface". Pianists will naturally be attracted to a piano that has a nice set of keys.
The keys of this piano when arriving in the shop were in sorry shape.
Clearly the ivory is worn, chipped, cracked, or missing. This ivory is beyond repair. The sharps are also heavily worn. Most likely they were made of a domestic hardwood and stained black. The naturals will be recovered with new acrylic plastic. The sharps will be replaced with new natural ebony.
Creating a lovely key restoration begins with the cloth key bushings that are hidden from view. Worn key bushings at the balance rail and front rail are replaced to remove excessive play in the action of those keys. This work gives the pianists a certain sense of security or control in playing.
This photo shows the installation of new bushing cloth for the front rail. Cloth is glued in place with a caul that is carefully sized to create a close fit.
The completed keywork. Photographing the detail in the ebony sharps is difficult, because they are just so black! But pianists will appreciate the uniformity and crisp appearance of the new key tops. At the time of this photo, the key tops have been detailed to their final shape, but the keys have not yet been squared and leveled in the keyframe.
The essence of my approach to keytop replacement is shown in this presentation from 2011.