PlayRite Rolls and Belly Cloth
By Craig Brougher
|The queery posted from A.B.Bonds in regard to the quality of PlayRite roll quality is very interesting. Here is my angle on that:
When PlayRite started cutting reproducer rolls, they had two problems. First, the punch and die set used was a litttle too small. Second, they apparently were trying to run too many copies at one time.
The too small holes resulting from either or both of these operations hurts the performance of all players with the exceptions of the very loudest uprights and orchestrions. Loud is easy. Soft is harder. The added resistance of a trackerbar hole half-covered with paper at soft intensities often is just enough to prevent the playing of the note.
As far as rough edges of a hole is concerned, they create an impossible situation, because they are not only too small, but very resistive to air flow. Ampicos require a full hole the width of the trackerbar. Why PlayRite didn't simply measure an old original Ampico, realize that here was the player most needful of full sensitivity in the roll making department, and cut everybody's like that, is beyond me. Besides, small punches are more critical and more difficult to keep relatively sharp than large ones are, and the trash generated is easier to pick up. Why not just do it the easy way?
Their new rolls today are much better. Still not the original diameter hole, but very playable. As far as Ampico "Bs" playing those rolls, there should be no difference in sensitivity between the two, until you get into the sub-intensity. Then the notes should not play at all. But that is only on a B roll. I suggest that you pick up a good test roll for the B from Keystone Rolls, Bethlehem, PA and give it a thorough checkout. You will find that when correctly set to the pressures called for on the roll, those same notes do not play with a test roll, either.
In theory and in practice, the model B Ampico ball bleed valve is more sensitive than the double valve of the A. I know this is hard to believe, but true. It is why the inventor said, "I have decided to invest in the Ampico Corporation solely on the strength of this new valve. It is better than the double valve in every respect." The Ampico Reproducing Piano, edited by Richard Howe. They swept out all the old valves used in their perforators in the production department then, and substituted all new ball bleed valves because of their sensitivity and speed. Doesn't sound like what many owners have today, but there are reasons for that.
Regarding the pneumatic flummery asked for which will allow the Ampico B to play 88 note rolls, yes, that isn't very hard at all, and it doesn't destroy the originality of the mechanics-- just adds a gizmo that can be untubed and removed at any time. The old upright Ampicos used to have a mechanical switch made from machined brass and tin-plated with pull-rods that corked and uncorked a series of holes. I connected one that I found to my drawer in such a way that when it was pulled out the usual amount, you played Ampico. When you raised the drawer past its stop and went out further, you played 88 note rolls. What the switch does is just opens the #6 and 7 intensities on each set of expressions. There is lots of ways of doing that, though. You don't need a fancy machined switch. Use cutout pouches, a valve, and a pallet valve actuated by the drawer like mine. Then you can add a sign to the rear drawer support that comes into view when its pulled full out past the keybed (but still captured) which says, "PLAYS 88 NOTE ROLLS."
Darrell Clarke asked about belly cloth on a Steck Grand. He wanted to know if a belly cloth reduced the noise. My opinion is that it does not. I have also had made special custom belly cloths with beautifully sewn piping, lining, and heavy felt insulation, and their only advantage is, I made a bit more money. But when you get through, you have something that will really impress any lady willing to get under your piano with you and gaze up into a fantastic belly cloth. The only advantage of any belly cloth is to hide the mechanism and protect both your rugs from oil, and children, dogs, and what-have-you from catching their hair, tails, etc. in a turning pump.
> I didn't see any response to my previous question re the need for
> player grand belly cloth ---- not a hot topic, I guess, but I am still
> interested if anyone has any thoughts. Repost: "Question: The belly
> cloth is missing from my Steck grand. Should I replace it and
> hopefully reduce some of the mechanical noise, or is it more trouble
> than it's worth? What do other other owners do and what material would
> they recommend?"
The best material overall for bellycloth covers is the extra heavy grade of black car seat material. It is vinyl with a heavy knit backing. You should use black jacket snaps also purchased at a cloth outlet store. Some Stecks also had covers between the stack and the keybed lever cover, so look very closely for evidences of snaps having been there as well. I recommend that all grand players have these covers (except mine!).
> I was pleased to see that the 2001 AMICA meeting is planned for
> Melbourne, Aust. The "boss" has agreed that we could go to that one.
> I hope a few of our digestees can make it also.
Is a "digest-ee" the product of a "digest-er?" If so, then I think I can make it.
(Message sent Thu 4 Jul 1996, 12:19:40 GMT, from time zone GMT.)