This is a question I get frequently. People with antique pianos often wonder what they can do when one or more ivories are chipped or missing. This can be a real annoyance particularly when it’s in the middle of the keyboard.
In our last video about ivory keys we discussed the legal status of Ivory in the United States as it pertains to pianos and other items. If you haven’t watched that yet you may want to get yourself familiar with this important issue.
The answer to the question as to whether or not you can replace one missing ivory is, maybe. Some tuners carry around spare ivories taken from pianos that had to have the ivories replaced with plastic. It’s great to be able to reuse ivory on another piano. However, this is not as easy as it sounds.
Ivory is an organic substance that comes from elephant tusks and as a result no two keys are exactly alike. Finding one that fits is a great puzzle that can’t always be solved. One set of ivories might have a different pattern, size, or color than others – finding a match could take dozens or more different ivories.
This could all change in the near future as the laws pertaining to ivory are tightening and the transport and sale of any items containing ivory may become illegal. It’s a good idea to keep yourself updated on this topic and rest assured that we will provide any new information pertaining to ivories and pianos as things develop.
For the most part, if you have an ivory key or just a few ivory keys that need to be replaced, your tuner may be able to find matches. Sometimes they can fill in chipped pieces with compounds much like a dentist filling a tooth with white enamel. However, if there are a larger number of chipped or missing ivories, you will probably have to replace them with a set of plastic key tops. It’s really not a big deal and you will probably be better off that way than having a worn set of ivories. Here is a video I made that highlights the different benefits of ivory versus plastic key tops.
If you have any questions or comments regarding ivory keys or anything else about pianos please contact me directly Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729