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Removing old Yamaha keytops

  • 1.  Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-10-2018 00:24
    I'm working on a 1950's Yamaha console that has developed horizontal fissures in the keytops. I've been optimistically hoping to recover them myself, but am horrified at how brittle the dang things are, and how difficult they are to remove. Does anyone have a suggestion to make this process easier than what I can do with a sharp knife, chisel, and plentiful supply of foul language? Thanks in advance!

    Robert Rothschild
    Santa Fe NM

  • 2.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-10-2018 01:31
    Steam them off.  I bought an old iron at a thrift store. Put a wet cloth on the keys, heat them with the iron, and when they keytops are softer, use a chisel to pry them off.

    But the easiest way to recover keytops is to send them to someone who does this for a living. Much "cheaper" in the long run, with much better results.

    There are a number of people listed in the back of the Journal who do this.

    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    Mililani, HI 96789

  • 3.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 06:39
    Just a plain hot iron set to medium heat. Rests on 3-4 keys ata time and heats them as fast as they come off. Takes about 10 minutes for a set. If they're more stubborn turn the heat up a little more.

    Philip Stewart, RPT
    NJ Piano Service

  • 4.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 07:49
    Good advice Wim, though my first choice for most is a heat gun.  Timing is critical, but when you get it right, the old tops will peel off easily with a utility knife.  Failing that, a hot iron over a wet cloth will work.

    Mike Kurta, RPT
    N. Michigan chapter

  • 5.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 08:55
    Wim gave good advice.  I do mine myself but here are the issues:

    1.  You will lose money on the job.  Doing a good job takes many hours and you simply can't charge enough.  I do my own because I find it enjoyable, sort of a hobby.
    2.  You need a lot of tools and jigs.  
    3.  You will not get a good result until you have done 10 to 15 sets.

    Mike Kurta generously taught me how to do this job.  I highly recommend using him if you decide to sub it out.  Also Bill Sprulock published a series of Journal articles on the procedure, many moons ago.

    Good luck.

    David Weiss

  • 6.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 13:58
    An iron will soften the glue and plastic for it to peel off with a blade. If you don't apply too much heat, the front can be sliced away from the top. If the top of the front becomes loose, glue and clamp. That is, if you are not replacing with molded covers.


    Jon Page

  • 7.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 14:11
    Have always had success with the dry iron method.  Scary to think how many keytops I have removed in 25 years!


  • 8.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 19:12
    I would not dream of doing them myself anymore. I send them to Mike. (Sorry Deb...just the way it goes).  I currently have a set on a Steinway with the exact same issues mentioned, and they were a replacement set in 1958. Thought I could polish them out, but no go.


    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH

  • 9.  RE: Removing old Yamaha keytops

    Posted 11-11-2018 20:20
    No apology needed. There is plenty of work to go around!