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MMD > Archives > March 1997 > 1997.03.30 > 12Prev  Next

Replacing Lead Tubing
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All, Mark Finlen writes in MMDigest 970329:
> My questions to the group are: Is there any reason why I can not
> use rubber tubing to replace the lead tubing?

In my opinion there is no reason to keep the lead tubing. I typically change to neoprene when it looks like the lead has corroded to the point where white dust can be seen on the outside of the tubing or if they start leaking. Sometimes, when there is a question about the lasting quality of the tubing, I'll cut a few of them open and look inside. If the tube cuts really easy or seems 'soft' in any way, I'll change it to neoprene. I outlined a procedure for 'tacking' the tubing in place using hot synthetic glue in a previous article to MMD.

> The Player Piano catalog has some really good tips on tubing removal.
> If I take their advice and go with the reducing nipples (7/32" to
> 5/32") how do I seat the nipples?

For removing the tubing at the tracker bar end, I suggest taking a very sharp knife and scoring the lead at the nipple then wiggling it off. Don't be afraid to bend the tracker bar nipples a little bit. Later today, I'm posting a few pictures of a retubing job I did recently. They will be at:

As for using reducing nipples, I never use them. I take straight 9/64" nipples, draw a bead of hot synthetic glue around the bottom of the nipple and stick it into the hole where the lead was. Quite often it is necessary to drill out the remains of the lead tubing. Over the years, I've found that using a drill bit that is 3/16" works very well. Lead is very hard to drill because it is very soft and it will clog the bit. So I purposely drill very slowly (sometimes I even use a hand-held bit vise instead of a variable speed electric drill) until the bit bites into the lead and it starts spinning in the hole. Then I lift it out as it is spinning. That way, it is virtually impossible to damage or enlarge the hole and it's much neater looking. A word of warning, since the lead is very soft, a good sharp bit will draw the drill down into the hole very easily so you have to keep that in mind. If you use a drill press for the job, you can easily limit how far the drill will go and thereby eliminate that worry but not everyone has a low speed drill press.

> Will I still need to seal the top board that the tubing goes into, or
> the tracker bar for that matter? If I do, should I use thick shellac?

Indeed, you do need to seal the end that goes into the wood 100% but no sealant is necessary or advisable at the tracker bar. Simply slip the new tubing on the nipples. Hopefully, the pictures mentioned above will help you see how this is most easily accomplished. Since the tubing at the tracker bar is so tightly packed in, it would seem very difficult to get it all to fit back in but it's really much easier than it looks if you bend every other tracker bar nipple in an upward fashion which in effect creates four rolls of nipples instead of just two. It will look like

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
instead of this:

Using the reducing nipples will not effect the performance at all one way or the other. However, they are relatively expensive and really not necessary since a 9/64" tracker nipple is larger than the hole on the tracker bar. Also, 9/64 nipples are very inexpensive.

In closing, I hope this short treatise coupled with the pictures will help you out. Retubing a tracker bar can seem very intimidating but it's really not that hard.

By the way, the new Tracker Bar page is done and is ready to for viewing. You can access any of my pages from the Clickable Table of Contents Page at my web site. As for player supplies, there are other places to get supplies. Most of them are listed on my page at:

John A. Tuttle "Self-Playing Pianos"
407 19th Avenue Pri E-Mail:
Bricktown, NJ 08724 Secondary
"We Keep Your Music Rolling" Authorized QRS Music Roll Dealer

(Message sent Sun 30 Mar 1997, 14:39:05 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Lead, Replacing, Tubing

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