Fundamentals: Key Care Part 1

Updated: Jun 29

By Hannah Beckett, RPT

The keyframe plays a fundamental role in regulation. The primary interaction between the pianist and the piano is through the keys. Taking the time to correct the relationship between the key and keyframe will significantly enhance the results of your regulation.

I prefer to do this in the comfort of my own shop, however, it can also be done in the client’s home as long as the space requirements for action disassembly are met.

The goal is to provide the smoothest possible surface for the key to connect to the various key pins. Corrosion, dirt, and buildup of any kind will add friction to the touch of the key, which can be perceived as a heavy touch to the pianist.

The first step is to remove everything from the keyframe and vacuum thoroughly.

Before vacuuming:

After vacuuming:

Be careful not to suck up any punchings!

Once the frame is clean, you can polish both balance rail and front rail pins. There are many metal polishes available, but I recommend using Eagle One Nevr-Dull metal polish. It is a wading cloth, and because it is not in liquid form, you don’t have to worry about keeping the cloth punchings clean while polishing.

Wear gloves while polishing pins to protect your skin.

You will see a significant amount of discoloration on the polishing cloth, even on relatively clean pins. Be liberal with your polishing wad and don’t let it get black before you get a fresh one.

Once you have worked through all the pins with the Nevr-Dull, follow up with a clean cloth to buff and remove excess polishing chemicals.

Before and after polishing:

While you have your polishing materials handy, do the same process on the capstans.

Other keyframe care involves vacuuming the underside of the frame and checking for any debris or dirtiness that could cause key bedding issues. Take this time to check screw tightness. You may want to clean out the shift lever connection on the underside of the keyframe and the treble side of the action where the shift spring touches the keyframe. Apply Mclube 444 using a stiff paintbrush as an applicator to the part of the frame that is contacted by the shift lever. You could also paint a line of Mclube along the side of the action that rubs against the action spring to create a silent, smooth connection. A line of Mclube where the keybedding glide studs contact the keybed will help you move the action in and out of the piano.

I would also recommend a quick roughing up of the wippen cushions with a brass brush followed by liquid mcLube before reassembly. This goes a long way in eliminating clunky action noises and translates to a much smoother key return.

You are now ready to address key fit at the balance rail and front rail points as your next step in pre-regulation. Read Part 2 here.

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