Reply to Thomas Henderson: Rebuilding Advice
By Craig Brougher
I saw your plea for help and thought maybe I could lend a hand. I tried your address and the letter was returned, so I'll just post it here. I am here on the internet, so you have a friend close by if you need one, not to mention lots of us here at AMD.
Your problem with the piano is the same as the rest of us. We get old and then we don't work very well. There is no way to adjust your way out of this one. The main problem, you will find, after you have replaced all the covers and diddled around with the rest of it, will be the valves, so you might as well plan on a full rebuild.
The reason is this: When the pouches push the valves up, they tend to stretch the leather valve disks which are being sucked down on one face while glued solidly to the valve poppet on the other side. As long as the vacuum cannot build up very much in an old player, not much damage can be done. But when everything else becomes tight again, those old dry-rotted leathers in the valves become very leaky after awhile, as a result of being stretched edgewise-- fluffed like a pillow.
Do you know how large a #70 drill bit is? About the diameter of a sewing needle. If each valve leaked only that much overall, the total effect would be a 1/4" drill hole right through your player. So you see, all it would take would be two or three "leakier than normal" rotted valves to completely disable the player (representing a sizeable portion of a 'half inch dia. hole) after you had gone to the trouble of recovering and patching bellows. Don't do it that way. I have never seen a player work that was done that way. It has never happened, and it never will. Rubber stuff on bellows is more trouble than it's worth, too. If it won't pump up hard and tight when no notes are playing, then sealing bellows will do no good at all.
The Player Piano Co in Wichita, KS 67202 has a catalog. You can order also by phone. 316-263-3241. They sell supplies. I don't suggest buying their valve leather. You can get just as good where you are. The pouches in an old themodist may be just fine. I always replace, but I realize you are on a budget. The glue you use should be their hot hide glue. Never NEVER use anything else, and you will be a happy camper. Animal hide glue is perfectly airtight when dry. Other forms of glue are not, neither are they repairable. I suggest you get a copy of Art Reblitz' book on Rebuilding the Player Piano, also. Good luck.
(my address may be changing soon. So watch for it in the Automatic Music Forum.
(Message sent Sat 13 Apr 1996, 21:28:45 GMT, from time zone GMT.)