There will always be those who try to perform repairs or restoration
without the required skills. Economy, ego and other forces will
continue to encourage this. The current low value of many instruments
(especially reproducing pianos) makes it difficult to justify the
expenditure. Who would want to spend a heap of money on restoring
an '89 Ford, compared with a Duesenberg?
Since there isn't much in the way of education or apprenticeship in
this area, most of us learn by making a lot of mistakes. My first
player was a spring roll motor Melville Clark, with the motor
unsalvageable. Valves were driven by tiny pneumatics, not pouches.
That sure was a mystery when the only literature was Larry Given's
book! The piano now resides in my sister's house, with the Melville
Clark stack, a Kimball roll shelf and motor, and a Pratt Read pumping
action. It was too good a piano not to save...
I think we err when we encourage only the most complete and total
restoration of these instruments. Of course, it would be criminal
to charge a full restoration fee for just recovering pneumatics and
replacing tubing, but should an amateur be encouraged to break apart
a set of Ampico unit valves? We've all seen what happens when this
is attempted! Most pouch work that I see is poorly done, even by
some people in the business, who ought to know better.
If an amateur asks my advice, I usually encourage the minimum of
restoration work (and thus the minimum opportunity for destroying the
instrument), with a strong emphasis on very high quality of that work
(get those pneumatics back where they belong...). The typical amateur
just wants to hear a roll play, and not produce a magnificent
Also, it never helps when we take an imperious tone (not that anyone
here ever would...) about who ought to be doing the work, or how it
should be done. Human nature being what it is, that usually encourages
the opposite, like trying to tell your teenage kids who they can date.