How to Replace Piano Keytops (Video)

How to Replace Piano Keytops (Video)

Sep 22, 2023

How to Replace Piano Keytops (Piano Tuning and Repair)

Welcome to our Series on Piano Tuning and Repair

As pianos age, one of the things that often needs to be replaced is piano keytops. With the right parts, tools and instruction, the average person can accomplish the task of replacing the old, worn keytops. The video above shows the procedure for replacing piano keytops.

If you are keeping the old fronts and putting on new keytops without fronts, the only difference from the installation procedure for the keytops with fronts will be that you'll need to line up the front edge of your keytop so it hangs off 1/16" from the key front. Doing this will ensure that you have the proper amount of overhang on the keytop.

We have a video that shows the different replacement keytop options available: Piano Keytop Options


Parts and Supplies needed:


If you want to see more of our Piano Tuning and Repair Series, click here to access the entire playlist.

Video Transcript:

Today we're going to be learning a little bit about how to replace piano key tops.

I've got this piano key here, from a grand piano and I'm going to be replacing the key top with a new molded piano key top with attached front.

Piano Keytop Removal

First of all, the thing you want to do is remove the old key top. Sometimes it's easier than other times, but if you take a sharp knife like this, and just get under the edge of it, it pops right off. They don't always pop off that easily but sometimes it's easier than others.

This one, when they put the new key tops on, before, they left the old front, so I'm going to take the old front off and it's going to be done either with a knife or with a chisel. There we go, and then once you've got the old key top off you want to make sure that the surface, the front and the top is smooth. So I take a sanding block, and I'm just going to sand the surface, remove all the old glue. You want to make sure everything is flat and smooth for the new key top. I'll get the front, here, that's okay, and I check it for smoothness and get all the dust off, and then what we're going to do is, I'm going to check my new key top to fit.

Fitting and Gluing on the New Keytop

I've gotten the one that fits for this particular key. Now, when you line up the key top you want to make sure that the head is even on the sides. From side-to-side, the notch usually it's a little oversized so this is going to have a little bit of overhang and if you can, you want to have the overhang on the inside of the notch where the sharp goes, because you're going file it off later on.

It's a little harder to file the outside so I usually try to line my first line up the head and the front, making sure that's good for a dry fit first, just to double-check that before I put the glue on. Once you've done that, then we take PVC Glue, that's what I use. I find it to be the best adhesive for gluing on key tops. I'm going to put a thin bead of glue along the front, along the top of the key top and put a little thicker bead there on the head part, and this is going to take a really thin layer of glue.

If you put too much glue on it you get too much oozing out, and that's kind of messy. So you do that and then take a little bit of the excess and then spread it on them. On the front here you can just make sure it's covering the entire surface of the key.

Once the glue is on, take the new key top, put it in place, kind of position it like when we did the dry fit and then you want to put pressure on it so that front gets pushed up against there too, and then put pressure on the whole surface. It doesn't take a lot of clamping. PVC Glue works pretty quick here.

Check Your Work

So now, once you've got it somewhat fit, you do a double check then, if there is any oozing out of glue you can just wipe it off. You don't use too much glue, you have minimal ooze out and then I'm just going to wipe off the excess glue residue. If you don't do it right away it's a little harder to get the excess glue residue off later on. So I try to do that right away, and then I double check the fit, make sure it's on there nice and even on the sides of the head and the front and then that extra, got a little bit of that extra key top, this one's not too bad.

Sometimes you get a little more overhang than others, but it just means you've got to do a little more filing later on. Once you've got that on, then you let that set for, best to leave it set overnight. I'm going to take one of the other key tops that I've already done.

This one needs a little bit of filing. This one I've let dry overnight and I'm going to take my metal file here, it's what I've done to this one. It's a file, and I've ground off the file, edge of this, so that when I go up against the key top, if I'm doing the notch here, which is the first part that you do, the front part of that notch, you have that ground off part up against the key top.

So you don't take off too much, and then you just file that until it's even with the wood. I've already done most of this one, but you just file that so it's even with the wood and then carefully file the side edge of the key top until it's pretty much flush with the side of the wood. You want to make sure that you're careful not to scratch the key top.

Now, once you've done that, it should be ready to put in the piano and go from there.