John Nelson Woodworking
SINCE 1975
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601 West Main Road
Little Compton, RI 02837

Fax. 401-635-2799

John Nelson Woodworking cuts and supplies cattle bone for key tops on playing manuals, for guitar nuts and saddles, knife handles and other uses. We also refurbish piano and organ playing manuals. Begun as a woodworking shop in 1970, we started specializing in the production of bone key tops in 1975, and some years later in making and refurbishing keyboards. We continue today supplying bone to the international musical instrument trade, and with recovering and restoring keyboards.
We manufacture the bone to peerless standards and have always selected our stock as a replacement for ivory. Bone is harder than ivory. The bone is a creamy white and is self bleaching in the ambient ultraviolet light found in day-lit rooms. Bleaching with hydrogen peroxide turns bone dead white while also slightly softening the material, and increasing the porosity. We are the only producers of unbleached bone; our process secures good and even color without bleaching.
Because bone is porous it makes an excellent playing surface by providing good traction and by wicking away moisture. Over time, bone will become burnished with oil from the fingers and continue to present an attractive appearance. Bone will also soak up furniture polish, lubricating oil and hand cream which will compromise its appearance. To prevent this kind of accident, seal the bone in the beginning with butchers wax or water-based lacquer. Few of our customers have ever thought they needed to seal the bone, however.
There are many plastic key tops on the market. They wear well; some are handsome; a few attempt to provide the traction and absorptive capability of bone. A large supplier recently touted its new manmade product while denigrating bone, which it has supplied for years, in a self-fulfilling prophecy -- market indifferent material and see how soon it will show its true character. Every bone plate we sell is scrutinized, given a top and a front and cut to exclude bony characteristics, just the way we get out wood by cutting around knots and checks. Further, we inspect the interior, which you may do by placing a light behind, and reject any greasy or coarse material.
We enjoy fixing nice things; we bring to bear our experience in keyboard making to our keyboard recovering, sharp resurfacing and replacement, rebushing, repinning, releathering and general repairs. We like the quiet handwork, a respite from machine operation, and will return your playing manual to you fit, balanced and lovely.
Jack Nelson
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