I remember seeing postings on the MMD recently from people looking
for sources of music rolls other than standard 88-note piano rolls.
Sometimes the request is for new copies of existing rolls; other
times it is for rolls containing new music. Here's what I know.
Corrections and additions are welcomed.
The laser-punching perforator owned by Donald Neilson, Sr.,
Norristown, Pennsylvania, and housed in his mechanical music museum
("American Treasure Tour") in nearby Oaks, Penna., is an ideal
perforator in several ways. It copies from MIDI files, which can be
supplied by the customer or produced on-site by scanning an existing
roll. It is capable of perforating to any dimensional specification
(number of holes, hole spacing, roll width, etc.). It produces one
copy per run, because laser-cutting several thicknesses of paper tends
to cause fires. All in all, it is an ideal setup for short-run custom
work, except for one drawback: currently Donald Neilson has nobody to
run the perforator.
Play-Rite Music Rolls, Turlock, Calif., is an old stand-by and I can
testify personally to their quality of work. Play-Rite has several
perforators capable of making band organ rolls, orchestrion rolls,
Violano rolls, etc. It can copy existing rolls or can work from MIDI
files. The main drawback is that a customer has to be willing to take
a whole run of copies, which is usually sixteen copies. It simply
isn't worth Play-Rite's set-up and production time to produce short
runs. A lesser drawback is that, if cutting a certain style of roll
requires changing perforator dies and adjusting setup, you may have
to wait until Play-Rite is ready to produce the style roll you need.
Currently Play-Rite is cutting in the Wurlitzer line style 165 rolls
and plans to switch over the winter to style 125 or 150 rolls.
Mike Grant, Columbia City, Indiana, has a perforator originally built
from an Autotypist machine by Canadian George Morley. It is capable of
producing multiple copies from any original Wurlitzer roll, but after
several years of use, the perforator linkages began to fail. So Mike
suspended operation. Over last winter he repaired the linkages, and
as of February 2014 the perforator is up and running again to produce
Wurlitzer rolls by copying existing rolls. The perforator has no MIDI
Those are the three perforators that I have first-hand knowledge of.
There are others, like the perforator of the late Richard Tonnesen,
David Saul's perforator (see his description in the 99.05.09 MMD),
Richard Groman's Keystone Music Rolls perforator. But I leave it to
others to describe their capabilities.
The AMICA Bulletin contains a long list of music roll sellers, but most
of them do not actually manufacture any rolls, although they may be
arrangers who produce the music cut into the rolls and then contract
with music roll producers to make the rolls they sell under their own
Irondequoit, New York