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#3114553 05/07/21 12:42 AM
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For reference to both grands here is my current thread in the Piano Forum:

Mason & Hamlin BB grand piano

My current M&H BB grand is exhibiting exactly the same problem as the Baldwin SF-10 that was traded back in to the store. Someone had "painted" the black keys and this paint unfortunately chips off into little black specks -- noticed first on the white keys when playing -- and, could easily take a finger nail and chip away all of the painted coating right down to the ebony wood surface and I completely scraped away the paint on TWO (2) keys so my tuner / technician could see the issue. He removed all of the black keys and took them to a restoration shop where he had to consult with another expert restoration technician to see how to proceed and they took a hard tool to scrape off all of the paint and also used steel wool until the ebony wood surface was exposed. They looked really good "as is" without adding any dye or other paint / coating to the keys and they were put back into the piano "as is" in which everything looked much better and I had a smooth ebony key surface to play on. Note that this was done with the Baldwin SF-10 grand.

The store has apparently been making a mistake by adding this black paint to ALL of their older "certified rebuilt" grands and the M&H grand is now the 2nd piano I have had with the painted keys. Note that I have already brought this issue to the attention of the owner as he needs to know the current paint is not working since it is not DURABLE and does not hold up to playing and they should probably look at using something else like a black dye to paint the older ebony wood keys. I am now waiting to schedule and meet with my tuner / technician to see if he wants to do this work again although he has some trepidation with proceeding since we do not know what exactly lies under the paint with the M&H grand piano's black keys.

Questions:

1) Does the M&H BB grand (mine is 1971 - serial # 74877) have original ebony wood keys?

2) If the M&H BB grand does in fact have ebony wood keys would you proceed with removing the paint manually with scraping and steel wool (as had been done with the SF-10 grand) or is there another way to remove the paint?

3) Are there any other options for restoring these black keys?

Any advice and/or comments are welcome! smile

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Greetings,

Ebony is a difficult wood to paint. It has a natural lubricity and if one is to glue or paint it, it really helps to wipe it down with acetone right before it is painted. Otherwise, there will be adhesion problems.

If one is handy with a scraper, that is an effective way to remove the paint, but it runs the risk of damaging the surface. It doesn't take much of a scratch on a key for the finger to feel it, so great care is called for with the blade. I would first try a paint-stripper. it takes very little to do the job, as the finish is usually thin. You might want to test it on the outer side of the top or bottom Bb, as it will be out of sight. The alternative is to remove a key and drill a small hole in the back side of the sharp. This will be invisible when in the piano and will let you know if the wood is actually ebony or dyed hardwood.

The 1970's M&H pianos that I have seen are often poorly built, and there seems to have been a lot of short-comings in them. It wouldn't surprise me if the sharps were painted hardwood, which will never feel like ebony. If you find that it is not ebony, I would use an epoxy enamel and 000 steel wool to get back to a hand-friendly texture.
regards,

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I was dealing with a Steinway D with painted ebony’s that had chipped a lot. I did multiple levels of sanding, with a goal of removing the minimum material necessary, ending with steel wool. The keys felt good and the end result was much superior to the chipped paint (and the paint itself was a tad tacky which didn’t feel nice).

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My ‘63 MH Model A has ebony keys. I like them a lot. So at least some from that less desirable era have ebony.


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Originally Posted by grand_BB_71
For reference to both grands here is my current thread in the Piano Forum:

Mason & Hamlin BB grand piano

My current M&H BB grand is exhibiting exactly the same problem as the Baldwin SF-10 that was traded back in to the store. Someone had "painted" the black keys and this paint unfortunately chips off into little black specks -- noticed first on the white keys when playing -- and, could easily take a finger nail and chip away all of the painted coating right down to the ebony wood surface and I completely scraped away the paint on TWO (2) keys so my tuner / technician could see the issue. He removed all of the black keys and took them to a restoration shop where he had to consult with another expert restoration technician to see how to proceed and they took a hard tool to scrape off all of the paint and also used steel wool until the ebony wood surface was exposed. They looked really good "as is" without adding any dye or other paint / coating to the keys and they were put back into the piano "as is" in which everything looked much better and I had a smooth ebony key surface to play on. Note that this was done with the Baldwin SF-10 grand.

The store has apparently been making a mistake by adding this black paint to ALL of their older "certified rebuilt" grands and the M&H grand is now the 2nd piano I have had with the painted keys. Note that I have already brought this issue to the attention of the owner as he needs to know the current paint is not working since it is not DURABLE and does not hold up to playing and they should probably look at using something else like a black dye to paint the older ebony wood keys. I am now waiting to schedule and meet with my tuner / technician to see if he wants to do this work again although he has some trepidation with proceeding since we do not know what exactly lies under the paint with the M&H grand piano's black keys.

Questions:

1) Does the M&H BB grand (mine is 1971 - serial # 74877) have original ebony wood keys?

2) If the M&H BB grand does in fact have ebony wood keys would you proceed with removing the paint manually with scraping and steel wool (as had been done with the SF-10 grand) or is there another way to remove the paint?

3) Are there any other options for restoring these black keys?

Any advice and/or comments are welcome! smile


It appears the OP forgot to correct this post — in the Piano forum, he called the dealer and confirmed that the dealer had NOT painted the keys. Too bad the phone call didn’t come before the post on two forums 🙄


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[This has been a rather confusing issue regarding two (2) different instruments
I have owned that have a nearly identical (or, very similar) problem so I am sorry for having posted incorrect info regarding the store technicians that are not at fault]

Important note:

[For clarification have copied over the same message just posted in the Piano Forum]

Wanted to add here that an apology has been made to the store that I purchased the M&H BB grand from since I had wrongly assumed that one of their technicians had made a mistake by "painting" the black keys -- as I just found out that both pianos that I have owned -- i.e., Baldwin SF-10 and now the M&H BB grand -- have had their ORIGINAL keys all along (both sharps and white keys) with no replacement key sets being done during the rebuild at the store so the issue I am facing with the chipping "paint" or coating (or, whatever it may be) had been applied sometime prior to the store acquiring the instruments.

[And, now looking into the repair or replacement of the black keys]

That being said, now looking into seeing if the black keys can be fixed or repaired by my local tuner / technician and a piano restoration shop (as had already been accomplished with the Baldwin SF-10's black keys) or perhaps just replace all of the black keys with new ones. Remains to be seen if I will choose "genuine ebony wood" replacements or some basic "plastic" (simulated ebony) black keys since there are several options to select from.

While this is not a MAJOR issue when playing the grand is seems very odd that both grands have had these "painted" black keys that eventually chip off and leaves black specks of debris that one can easily see on the white keys -- no piano should have keys that shed paint (or, a coating) in this way!

Will keep everyone updated until there is proper resolution of the issue. smile

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I have removed finishes from ebony sharps, and that comes out looking good. You just have to be aware that most wooden sharps on older, cheaper pianos are not ebony. Those keys wear more than real ebony, so they often need replacement.


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Originally Posted by BDB
I have removed finishes from ebony sharps, and that comes out looking good. You just have to be aware that most wooden sharps on older, cheaper pianos are not ebony. Those keys wear more than real ebony, so they often need replacement.

Yes, as you should have seen the good work my technician did on the previous Baldwin SF-10 grand that was traded back in for the M&H BB grand -- a scraper was used to get most of the paint (or, coating) off first followed with some fine steel wool to polish them further and the underlying ebony wood was very nice and smooth and they felt great under the fingers -- with no more chipped paint to deal with!

Have decided to have my local tuner / technician come out to do an initial tuning and some minor regulation -- perhaps as early as next week and while he is here he should be able to take out all of the black keys and take them to a restoration shop where he will be consulting with another expert technician who does mostly rebuilding and restoration on select pianos. It needs to be determined if the underlying wood is EBONY -- if so, then scraping / sanding the coating off may be enough -- as this had been accomplished satisfactorily with the SF-10 grand. If they are NOT ebony wood then I have other options for brand new "genuine" ebony replacements (which requires the most labor) or perhaps one of the Schaff Piano Supply "plastic" black key sets which may be of lesser quality compared with real ebony wood although would be less expensive in a complete set of 36 sharps. As I simply want the best playing experience that will be long term and free of any other issues.

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I do not feel that a good set of plastic sharps are lesser quality compared with ebony. They are just different, unlike ivory versus molded naturals where the ivory is inferior in most respects.


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Originally Posted by BDB
I do not feel that a good set of plastic sharps are lesser quality compared with ebony. They are just different, unlike ivory versus molded naturals where the ivory is inferior in most respects.

Okay, thanks!

As I might consider the "plastic" sharps replacements although I believe it would be good if the underlying wood is already hard ebony (like it was with my previous SF-10 grand) since the keys can then just be carefully sanded down to the original ebony wood surfaces as they look and feel great under the fingers. Will know more next week after I schedule a meeting with my tuner / technician as he is going to do an initial tuning along with some minor regulation and we will discuss the various options for the black keys.

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Extra note:

Now have an appointment scheduled for the first tuning and some minor maintenance as of May 18th and will also discuss the options I have as for either fixing or replacing the black keys. Once the key issue has been resolved not much else will need to done with the grand other than tuning and regulation as necessary.

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Chipped (painted) black key:

Wanted to post a pic of a chipped area of a G-sharp note on the M&H BB grand as the chips become larger as one continues to play and a finger nail can scrape it off:

[Linked Image]

Should this be happening on a $30K piano?

Was told by the store the keys are supposed to be "original" -- i.e., original to them when the piano was received at the store although they did not know that the black keys would eventually be a problem as no one had decided to test the black keys for durability during the rebuilding process since they probably looked to be just fine at first glance with the glossy and brightly coated appearance. Anyway, two (2) different grands have exhibited exactly the same identical problem. How is this possible?

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The question is not just ‘how is this happening on a $30,000 piano’ but also ‘would this have been found if the piano were played prior to buying it?, if not by you but by an independent tech? ’ I know buying a piano is always logistically tough but there is a risk if the piano is not tested.


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The most probable reason for this is that over the years the piano has been reconditioned a number of times and each time the sharps were spray painted to refresh them.

There are two problems with this. First, the sharps get dirty with normal play. If they were not cleaned completely before refinishing, the new paint will not bond to the contaminated surface. Second, as new coats are added, the finish gets thicker. Thicker finishes tend to chip easier.

The solution as has been discussed, is to strip the finish off and start over from there.


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It’s frustrating but I wouldn’t fret too much about it. Not knowing the reasons why it’s hard to definitively criticise. Even on the very best products there are quality issues sometimes. Nothing is perfect.

Here’s that Steinway D I mentioned (I wondered if I had taken a photo so I searched and found it). The entire keyboard was more or less like this.

[Linked Image]

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[Copy of same message below has been posted over in the Piano Forum]

Update:

Good news along with some disappointing action parts findings:

Finally did get the first initial tuning done today and a few other details were taken care of in the action -- however, when the action was taken out ALL of the hammer back checks looked strange since they are entirely mismatched and some are apparently "original" and others are much newer looking and many are of different COLORS -- this indicates that the store's "certified rebuilding" job was a partial one (and, not complete) since all hammers and felts were brand new but many other action parts look rather worn and older. I did purchase the grand "as is" without having a independent technician inspect the grand and had just taken the word of the store as for the grand's condition. My tuner believes I had made a mistake not to hire the independent inspection and in this case he is correct regarding the issues he sees in the condition of the grand. Nothing needs fixing right away although regulation may become necessary since he estimates up to $3K would have to be spent to bring the current action to "like new" condition. As for why the store skipped replacing the back checks and a number of other action parts while replacing the hammers and damper felts with brand new parts and materials is rather puzzling. The other technician at my local restoration shop is now swamped and backlogged with many jobs therefore will not be proceeding with having those chipping black keys replaced otherwise they may just sit in the shop for MONTHS leaving me without a playable grand -- with only the white keys remaining. Rather disappointed of the issues that my tuner found with multiple action parts needing work or possible replacement although I have agreed to no additional work until the next tuning so that I can continue to play the grand which sounds pretty decent. Will have to deal with the annoying chipping black keys as for now (as a compromise) otherwise everything appears to be sound enough (action wise) to enjoy playing the piano!

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If the piano sounds and plays well, then be happy smile I’m not trying to defend the seller and what they claimed about the piano, but I do know that having all new parts doesn’t ensure the instrument will play or sound better. My BB (1951) was well cared for when I bought it, but the action parts are all original and I only replaced the hammers, shanks/knuckles, and flanges. So far everyone who has played it raves about it.

As far as the black keys, maybe you could search for a local fine woodworker who makes furniture. Depending on their experience, they could do a better job anyway. When I had the fallboard on my former Steinway refinished due to copious fingernail chipping, I asked a local fine woodworker to do it without refinishing the entire fallboard (just the big chipped sections). No one even knew it was refinished, and I’m pretty sure the majority of piano rebuilders couldn’t do that. And he only charged me $100.

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[Message below copied over to other forum threads]

[Final note to all forum members]

Today, i.e., May 19th, happens to be my 62nd birthday (born 1959) and will be now turning myself in to the moderators to permanently ban the current account since I have had multiple previous aliases in the forums over the years that include:

1) mypianos4evr
2) gp86_2020
3) gp84
4) ycdp88
5) yammyp515
6) amc1976
7) ag-n2
8) grand_BB_71

Not sure if I have located all of the previous accounts however my original forum name was "pv88" -- (pianovirtuoso88) -- and, real name is Richard / Rick for those who might remember my permanently banned account which had ended in the "Physis Piano" digital piano thread, here:

Physis Piano

My forum membership as "pv88" goes back to August, 2010, and the account was permanently banned on April 11th of 2016 at the very end of the "Physis Piano" thread, above. Since 2016 have taken the eight (8) other accounts in order to continue reporting all of my digital and acoustic piano purchase history.

To be frankly honest I am now simply too OLD at this point to continue playing games here and breaking and/or evading the stated forum rules by taking alias accounts as I now will be reporting myself to be banned for a final time. My apologies go out to all forum members that I know and also the moderators including the very well spoken of owner, Frank Baxter. smile

This is now a bittersweet ending although the forums have also allowed me to share a lot of great info with many people, here. Have learned quite a lot along the way and in resigning here my only regret may be that I have settled for owning a fairly decent 7-foot Mason & Hamlin "BB" grand when there are obviously better concert grands out there to be found.

Not sure if a concert grand will ever be in the cards for my given situation although perhaps in the next 10 years (if I am still around at 72 yrs. of age) might consider the ultimate sized grand should I decide to MOVE to a larger house that would more easily accommodate it.

Enough said for now -- therefore, goodbye -- everyone!


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