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MMD > Archives > August 1997 > 1997.08.08 > 08Prev  Next

Player Piano Horror Story
By Terry Smythe

Jon Page sez:

> A local, self-proclaimed expert was perplexed that his second attempt
> at rebuilding the secondary valves produced more of a problem.  I pulled
> apart three valves to examine the pouches.  The first one had some
> kind of rubber: elastic, but it tore easily.  The second had a paper
> material.  The third made me laugh, and the owner cringe -- plastic
> wrap.  No kidding!

A few months back, I reported on an upright player piano I got involved
with in an attempt to help a personal friend who had experienced massive
failures in his player piano following restoration only a few years
earlier.  The piano was 1,500 miles away, so he sent me a video tape of
it performing.  Impossible of course to diagnose from a video tape, so I
made the mistake of suggesting he send me the mechanism.  As if by magic
a few days later, a crate arrived with the complete stack assembly
inside.  Oh well.....

This piano had been rebuilt supposedly by someone knowledgeable, but as I
dug down into it, I learned the following:

The stack had pot metal tubing, but a later model transposing tracker bar
had been installed.  Yup, somehow the old tracker bar had been removed
and the new tracker bar had been fitted to the loom of pot metal tubing.
At the tracker bar, removal of a ton of goop revealed that most of the
tubing had been connected using short lengths of rubber tubing.

The replacement tracker bar had been jury-rigged to track by moving the
bar behind the paper roll.  Unfortunately, whoever did the rebuilding did
not realize that pot metal tubing will not move with the tracker bar.  Oh
yes, the piano was equipped with theme accent, but the new tracker bar
hid behind it 2 theme tubes connected to nothing.

All 88 of the pot metal tubing was now loose at the point where it
entered the primary manifold.  The old shellac sealant had long since
dried out and I was able to remove all the tubing with ease.  All 88 were
no longer sealing, a massive leak.  It got worse.

Upon opening up the secondaries, the real problem quickly became
apparent.  The pouch board was covered with a single sheet of Perflex.
All 88 pouches had likely been dipped by use of a hair dryer, but by now,
all had returned to their original flat state by memory recall, and about
2/3 were now fractured, making them useless.

So what started out as a simple check-it-out-and-see-what's-wrong
exercise for a friend, turned into nearly a full-up restoration.  This
was a good example of what can happen when well intentioned people tackle
player piano restoration without modest research into materials,
techniques and options, something that MMD is facilitating in a most
remarkable way.


Terry Smythe

(Message sent Fri 8 Aug 1997, 14:56:13 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Horror, Piano, Player, Story

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