Custom Retrofit Piano Keyboards & Actions

The complex mechanism which transmits finger stroke to hammer and damper is known as the action, fairly described as a ‘triumph of nineteenth-century technical ingenuity.
— Cyril Ehrlich, "The Piano: A History", 1976

To a pianist, the keys of a piano are the conduit through which they are able to transmit their feelings, thoughts, and emotions into music. 

The keys are the artist's physical connection with their ephemeral art.

Detroit Pianoworks is an internationally respected firm who specializes in the niche of in-house design and creation of custom high-performance retrofit piano keyboards for high-end vintage pianos. 

We build each new keyset on the piano's original, carefully restored, keyframe as to allow for a qualified piano technician to easily fit and finish them back into the instrument.

By blending the centuries old craft of piano key making, a passion for acquiring the finest materials available, fine woodworking, along with 3d computer-aided parametric engineering software and cutting-edge flexible robotic manufacturing systems, Detroit Pianoworks creates exquisite, aesthetic, geometrically optimized, keyboard and action solutions for conservatories, symphonies, universities and private piano rebuilders from around the world. 

Catering exclusively to the piano technology industry, our dedicated, state-of-the-art, 1,800 sq/ft key-making facility is located in Sterling Heights, Michigan, a suburb north of Detroit.

Custom piano keyboards created by Detroit Pianoworks founder Richard Cromwell can be found in instruments at...

  • The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, PA)
  • The Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Oberlin, Ohio)
  • The Canadian Royal Conservatory (Toronto, ON)
  • The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
  • The Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)
  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
  • The Omaha Symphony (Omaha, NE)
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Northwestern University (Chicago, IL)
  • Wesleyan University (Chicago, IL)
  • The University of Memphis (Memphis, TN)
  • The University of Western Ontario (London, ON)
  • The University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI)
  • The Bowling Green Symphony (Bowling Green, KY)
  • The Thomasville Artist Series (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Oakland University (Rochester, MI)
  • Westchester College (Westchester, PA)
  • The Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)
  • The University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, CO)
  • Carlton College (St. Paul, MN)
  • The Toledo Symphony (Toledo, OH)
  • and many more institutions and private collections around the globe.

The philosophy which lays the foundation for the creation of each Detroit Pianoworks keyboard is based on three core principles:

1. Design

DPW creates the highest quality keyboard and action designs possible.

  • Detroit Pianoworks has developed a proprietary hybrid methodology of keyboard design which combines the traditional techniques that have been handed down for centuries by generations of master key-makers to their apprentices with the latest technological developments in 3d computer aided design and parametric engineering.

2. Materials

DPW utilizes only the highest quality materials available.

  • Detroit Pianoworks is proud to be the exclusive custom key maker in North America able to source wood from Kluge Klaviaturen (the 139 year-old German key manufacturer for all modern production Steinway & Sons pianos).  Each raw key blank is created for us by Kluge to our exacting specifications in regards to grain orientation and physical dimensions out of the finest grade, expertly seasoned Norwegian Spruce.  It is the exact same wood used in all modern production Steinway pianos.
  • The balance rails in our keyboards are made from select seasoned quarter-sawn white-oak procured from a small lumber yard in New York State's Catskill Mountains.
  • The 3-ply cross-grain maple inlay material is acquired from Pianos Bolduc in Quebec, Canada.
  • While we are willing to use whatever kind of hardware the client desires for their project, our standard keyboard packages include the use of....
    • Premium Kluge molded natural key tops and fronts with solid ebony sharps.
    • Merino bushing cloth for all key mortices.
    • Baltic birch multi-laminate backcheck-doublet material
    • Basswood key buttons.
    • Klinke nickel-plated brass front-rail pins fitted with premium quality cloth front rail bushings.  
    • Klinke nickel-plated steel balance rail pins will be installed and dressed with premium quality cloth balance rail punchings.  
    • Klinke key upstop rail hardware, a new oak key upstop rail, premium grade backrail cloth and underfelt, and German brass glide-bolts
    • and more!

3. Craftsmanship

By combining traditional fine woodworkng and piano technology skills, our custom made machinery, and the latest advances in rapid prototyping and flexible manufacturing systems, DPW turns our fine quality materials and designs into reality.


For more information or to get a copy of Detroit Pianoworks' current Price Guide, please CLICK HERE to contact us! Or call 248-894-6778.