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MMD > Archives > June 1996 > 1996.06.04 > 01Prev  Next

Re: Historic Restorations
By Craig Brougher

Joyce Brit aptly wrote:

> One idea he referred to stands out in my mind, "historic
> restoration." Exactly, what is it? Is historic restoration the way the
> factory designed and manufactured the item, or the way people actually
> used it? They're not necessarily the same. It is not always practical
> or possible to restore an instrument according to manufacturer's
> specifications. Parts may be scarce or costly, or original materials
> were defective. Should practicality be sacrificed for historic
> accuracy?

I think it's a great point. There is absolutely no way that one is able to restore an instrument to factory specifications in the materials department.

> From the leather to the finish, nothing is like it was originally.

One of the greatest compromises made in any of these instruments happens to be the leather used. What we call pouch leather today would be called garbage then. They could not have even used it for seals and tapes. All the leather in the world (with a few exceptions, such as kangaroo) comes from food animals. The leather in the heyday of the player piano came from registered herds of sheep grown and slaughtered for their perfect skins. Bovine hides were all vegetable tanned or partly so, and then "staked," which means, they were pulled and stretched over large rollers containing sharp pegs, which toughened and pre- stretched the leather, making it stronger and more impervious to aging, by extracting more fats and compressing the collagen and fibers into a very tight mat. All industrially rated leather was tanned this way at one time. It was then able to be sanded very smooth because of its density. Today, all we have left is garment leather.

Another real weakness is most heavy bellows pump materials. I always sharply pre-crease the bellows cloth that goes into rotary pumps using large C-clamps and leaving them on overnight, because this then strain relieves the rest of the cloth to flex, instead of concentrating it all at the center. Then I put patches of cabretta on all the peak corners, inside as well as outside corners (4) of each bellows. I never fold a bellows with a flat fold at the open end, because no modern heavy bellows cloth can take the "stripping action" created at the sides of each bellows by the inside peak rolling back and forth as it operates. It will slit the rubber sealant in only a few months when done that way, and yet a flat fold in some cases is "factory." likewise with many air motors of the upright variety. Amphion folded their air motor bellows that way.

There are so many small changes in settings and procedures to the working parts, like valves, due to material changes that it would be impossible to mention them all. But if somebody wants to be a stickler for "historic" accuracy, then all I can say is, they have a completely different line of working materials than does anybody else in the business.

We can make them beautiful, and we can make them play as well, if not better than the average factory job because we are able to detail them note for note. But will they last as long? Well, in some cases, such as finishes, I think they will last longer. But in other cases, such as leather, cloth, hoses, and tubing, their salvation is going to be the climate-controlled homes we live in today. In which case, had the original instruments enjoyed such luxuries, they would still be playing on their original materials, probably.

Craig B.

(Message sent Tue 4 Jun 1996, 11:58:50 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  Historic, Restorations

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