The process

This will give you a look into what I do when your keys arrive until the time I ship them back to you.

Carefully unpack your box.
Number the keys in order (unless you have already done so), as often the factory numbers are illegible.

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Clean the key using a combination of dry brushing and compressed air.

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Measuring the heights of three keys: A0, C4 and C88, in thousandths of an inch to establish and maintain the original height dimension when finished. You will see this measurement written on the left side of A0. I strive to stay within .010" of this original amount, about the thickness of 3 sheets of paper. This dimension is critical for regulation especially on grand pianos. At this point the all capstans are polished. My initials and the date appear on the opposite side of A0.
Remove old top material
Depending on how difficult the old tops are to remove, I use a utility knife and if needed a heat gun or iron to loosen the most stubborn material. Let us remove the old tops to minimize damage to the keystick and/or ivory. Any usable ivory will be returned to you at no charge.
Removing the fronts

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This is done using a heavy cast iron vintage table saw for accuracy. Only the precise amount of key front is cut away to insure that the new front is in exactly the same location as the original. Whatever spacing existed between the keys and the keyslip will be duplicated.
Milling the top of the keys

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Because the new key material is .084" thick, applying this directly to the top of the key results in a higher overall dimension than the original. So it is necessary to carefully mill the top of the key surface so that when the new acrylic plastic material is applied that the original key height is maintained. A precision fly cutter is used.

This is done once again, using older heavy, solid machines. The drill press in the video was purchased by my father from WWII army surplus. It originally came out of a defense plant factory, and I just finished rebuilding both the saw and the drill press.
Attaching new material
This is one operation I have developed and refined over the last 25 years and prefer to keep proprietary. Suffice to say that in over 500 sets of keys recovered, I have yet to experience a top coming loose.


Trimming the key

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The new keytop material is almost always slightly larger that the width of the wooden key. This is because this dimension varies between different pianos and piano makers. To precisely remove this excess plastic, I have set up two dedicated table mounted routers. The first trims the overhanging material on the front and sides of the key, and the second very precisely cuts a perfect 90° notch on the inside corner of the key.
Hand filing

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Each key is clamped in a padded vise and carefully hand filed to remove all sharp corners and edges. Looking closely you will see the underside of the front key overhang is smoothed and rounded. This enables children and those folks with short fingers to play more comfortably when stretching for octaves and provides a more finished appearance.
Buffing

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The final step in key recovering is removing all the tiny scratches and imperfections in the surface and front of the key. A cloth buffing wheel coated with a polishing compound is used which results in a final clean and shiny appearance.

Packing & shipping

If your box is suitable for return shipping to you, I will use it over packing the keys with proper padding and taping. I'll use the same shipper you used to send the keys, and as soon as I take it there, I will contact you by phone or email to tell you it is on its way, give you a tracking number and to thank you for your business.


Inspection & quality control

At five separate points in the key recovering process, I take time out to carefully check the progress of each key at that stage, using the goal of "Zero Defects". The last inspection is as they go into the box to be shipped back to you. Packed with your keys will be an extra top as I mentioned before.



Conclusion

If you are happy with the keys, please tell others, and if not, please tell me. Thanks for your business,

Mike Kurta


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