Frank Benner
piano techncian

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technical subjects

The restoration of ivory keytops

The first and most important contact between player and instrument runs through the keys.
The touching of these keys is the human movement that sets forth a series of technical actions in the inside of the piano, resulting into sound.
It's a delicate connection between hand and ear.

The keys should be almost as sensitive as the skin of the fingers of the pianist.
Careful attention to the surface of the keys is for that reason very important.

As key top, ivory has the primary quality of absorbing sweat. Therefore it feels much nicer than acrylic when you play.
There have been many experiments using different kind of acrylics or for instance bone. Regrettably there has not been found an alternative for ivory, with the same properties.

It is not possible to buy a new piano with ivory key tops, because of the ban on ivory trade.
An old piano can still have ivory key tops.
Unfortunately a lot of ivory has been replaced with acrylic key tops in the past.

A damaged ivory keyboard can be restored satisfactorily, unless the ivory has become too thin.
Using techniques from the dentistry we can repair broken pieces of ivory almost without a trace.

Loose ivory key tops are glued back with special glue. Following is the careful sanding, bleaching if necessary and polishing of the ivory key tops.


The damaged area is prepared with a dental drill to make further treatment possible

The surface is treated with different chemicals

A special composite is applied and hardened with Ultraviolet light

The last action is the sanding and polishing of the ivory key top