Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Poor Timing

Sometimes no matter how carefully planned things seem to be...

Nearly two weeks ago I received an email from a client. He would be sending 3 sets of keys for recovering! I emailed back with some info and also asked whether he wanted bright white or slightly off-white tops. I didn't hear back. Shipping time would be only one day. He had emailed on a Wednesday, so I guess-timated that I'd be seeing 3 boxes on my doorstep by the following Monday. At the latest. Nothing. A week goes by - nothing. I sort of gave up watching for them.

Mondays are the only day that I'm definitely not here. Remember that retail job? My mom stopped by the store yesterday to tell me that the 3 boxes had arrived. I got home at 6 p.m. and got to work. Unpacking, labeling, removing the old ivory, and sending another email. What color?!

This morning I checked my email. Still no response. I phoned him, got his machine, and left a message to CALL ME WITH A COLOR CHOICE. Yep, I was getting a teeny bit perturbed. I went back to work on the keys and got all the machining done in preparation for the new tops. Still no call or email. 'A' and I decided to head out for the afternoon. She had to buy a new DVD/VHS recorder/player. As a treat, I bought a new Beatles CD. We arrived back home around 4 p.m. to the caller ID flashing. He called! I headed down to the workshop to glue on all three sets of off-white key tops/fronts.

Why is it that when you are in a rush there are always additional roadblocks? I had been having some quality problems with the key top supplier. I thought they had been resolved - until tonight when I discovered another two batches of defective keys (Ds and Es only). Last time the problem was with white tops; this time with off-white. Thankfully, I had enough sets on hand to complete this lot of keys. I'll add here that each key is unique in shape and size. Key tops are oversized and trimmed to fit each key. However, they come in basic shapes of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and A-A, C-C (each end of the keyboard). Only rarely could an F be substituted for a C, or a D for a G. There are no spare (extras) per set so once even one is damaged an entire set must be raided for a replacement. Can you see the problem in this photo? The light shows the sunken line near to and parallel with the top front edge of some keys. (yes, the keys are not lined up perfectly in the photo, that's not the point) That 'valley' is not supposed to be there and looks really horrendous when lined up with perfectly smooth, level keys. So add to that problem an additional 7 key tops that were too deeply scratched to buff out and I have a new lot of 33 damaged or defective key tops.

I'm calling the supplier tomorrow.


Scribbs said...

I know what I'd call the supplier, and it wouldn't be nice!

Have to give you credit, though...I've worked with people who would have just chucked the whole project after so much grief.

dickiebo said...

There's no doubt about it, Deb. You have the patience of a saint - and boy, do you need it!!

deb said...

Yeah, well...

I need the supplier so I can't say what I'd like to. If I go with a different supplier my costs double and then I'll have to raise prices during an economic downturn. (I'm practicing nice verbalization, lol) I'll have to judge how apologetic the supplier's rep becomes and whether I get any compensation.

I wish that I could say I am patient. It's more like financial necessity!

Kippers Dickie said...

Well it just goes to show that you "live and learn". I would have sworn that you only needed three shapes of key-tops to cover the entire keyboard, except for those 'whole' white keys found at each end.
You said before, the keys are unique but I'm surprised the tops can't be trimmed to fit.
Three questions.
Why do people want/need new keys?
How do you get the key-tops of the wooden key?
Are they real ivory that you remove?

deb said...

Okay, it could be possible to do it with three shapes. The tails (long back portion) would have to be grossly overwide and would require an enormous amount of trimming. Examples: A's have a short right notch and long left, G's are the opposite, D's are usually equally notched (but not always). The tail on a C is wider than on the F's, B and E are about the same. All the above can vary!

Three answers...
Existing tops/fronts are damaged, discolored, badly chipped or cracked, or missing. You'd be amazed at what some of these keys look like!

The old top is removed with a very sharp knife, working in the direction of the rising grain of the wood beneath to avoid gouging/splitting/removing any wood. Sometimes gentle heat from a flat iron is needed. The fronts are precisely sliced off (usually with some wood to compensate for the thicker new fronts)with a jig combined with a framing miter cutter. (Squareness of cut is crucial)

Some are ivory (I save the good stuff for repairing ivory key boards. The chipped are turned in to jewelry), some are old plastic.

Kippers Dickie said...

Thanks Deb, very well explained.
I'm just off to measure my piano.
Not that I doubt you, but just to see how those left/right notches vary.

deb said...

Surely different than mine!