How to fix broken key tops


What do you do when your piano keys (the top plastic part) becomes chipped or broken over years of use ? Or how difficult would it be to fix broken key tops on a used piano that you plan to purchase?

What you will need:

-Replacement plastic keytops (if your keys are ivory, you may be lucky enough to find ivory keytops from old pianos, but this is rare since the use of ivory for piano keytops is banned).  You can easily find plastic keytops at Ebay.

-PVCE glue (keytop glue available online)

-A heat gun (here’s a heavy duty one, and here’s one I had for craft projects)

-razor blade (from a utility knife)
Step 1: remove all the pieces of the piano, until you can easily remove the keys

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Step 2: remove the chipped keys.  Make sure you know which number the key is, so you can put it back correctly.

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Step 3: get your heat gun and heat the key top ( for me, I stop heating immediately after I smell a slight odor).

Step 4: use a razor blade from a utility knife an gently slip it between the wood and the plastic. If it doesn’t slip between easily, you’ll need to continue heating the key. Be careful NOT to gouge the wood with the blade. If you start to gouge the wood (depends on the direction of the wood grain), stop immediately and begin from the other end.

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As you can see in the above photo, I accidentally burned a bit of plastic by holding the gun too closely, too long…be careful and do this under good ventilation!

Step 5: once the plastic is removed, glue the new key top with PVCA glue by applying to the keytop.

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Step 6: carefully place the plastic keytop on the wood and wait a couple hours until glue is fully dry.

Step 7: put the keys back into the piano and you’re done! Overall took me about 30 min to remove the piano pieces and replace the old keytop with the new one!  Total cost: keytops and glue and instructions from Mark Cerisano, RPT at http://mrtuner.com/courses.htm , heat gun I bought years ago, approx. $20.00

The new keytop should fit exactly on top of the wood key.  If it’s too large, simply sand down the plastic top.  If the wood is larger than the keytop,. file down the wood. You’re done!

Side note: once I removed the keys from the piano bed, I discovered a lot of dust and debris underneath. Here’s what I collected with tweezers (eww):

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