In the 1960's I had the opportunity to purchase several original
Ampichron units in their original cartons (found at the factory in East
Rochester). I once installed an original Ampichron unit in a Knabe
grand. Notice that I said "once"; I vowed "never again!" Within a
year the customer wanted it removed. The children loved twisting the
dials and it repeatedly had to be reset and adjusted or nothing worked,
or worked at the wrong time.
Many original Ampico drawer parts require moving, sawing. rewiring etc.
to make room for this bulky mechanism.. Agreeably, it is a beautifully
made unit, but to saw and modify an Ampico drawer for a short-lived
novelty effect, in my mind is inefficient thinking.
The original Ampichron unit is fitted with a gold plated metal frame
containing a greenish plastic transparent "glass" to view the mechanism.
This must be carefully fitted into a sawed out portion in the left
panel of the drawer. Getting it positioned and sawed properly is not
easy. Some drawers do not allow space for the edge of this frame and
once installed, the drawer will not close! The entire drawer has to be
shimmed to allow for this addition.
Think of what might occur in years to come. Something needs adjusting.
The person servicing the mechanism has the service manual, but nothing
in it to explain the modifications, or location of parts moved to make
room for this very large device.
The other curious feature is that the Ampichron clock cycles turning
the pump motor on every hour all night long. The special chime roll
turns it off again during the night using an extended cue (0-T) in
right margin of the roll. Eventually the roll reaches the end and
rewinds, and is ready to start at 7 AM. Everything must be in
_perfect_ condition and sequence. There is no provision on the
Ampichron clock for night cut-out. There is also no provision for
failure. The pump motor could be running all night and might be a fire
Another drawback: If one is using the chime roll, and wants to play
other rolls the chime roll has to be re-wound and removed. When it is
replaced it has to be carefully synchronized. This means you get to
listen to every tune over again until it is in the correct position.
Soon you might not want to hear those tunes ever again! If the Chime
roll is not carefully synchronized to the proper hour, your Ampico
might start playing at 3 AM instead of 7 AM.
I kept one Ampichron mechanism for myself and mounted it in a small box
and placed it near our piano with appropriate connections to the piano
mechanism. Yes, it worked and was quite a novelty, but served mainly
to complicate the everyday use of the piano for playing favorite rolls.
In addition, the brass face on the original Ampichron units tends to
oxidize and discolor, even with lacquering. The green plastic for
viewing the mechanism is not very stable and clouded making it
difficult to see the dials clearly. I suppose that could be replaced,
but again one has enough to do keeping an Ampico mechanism in perfect
order. One does not need more complications!
If one wants to have their Ampico on a timer there are many modern and
efficient compact timers available today that do not require major
changes within the Ampico drawer.
There is a lot to think about before trying to install one of these
mechanisms. In my estimation the addition would make the piano less