Andy Taylor was mentioning that he had taken the advice of Durrell
Armstrong in rebuilding the Simplex and ruined a player doing it. I
was there when Durrell wrote that article and begged him not to publish
it. When he saw that the two halves of the pneumatics came apart in
about a week, and the pieces didn't appear to be warped, he wrote the
article. He never did try to cover the pneumatics or make them work.
He threw them away. However;
Durrell at the time had been sick a long time, and often less than
rational, so the advice he gave is not good. Somehow, it has remained
in place to this day. It should be taken out, I believe. Durrell has
since recovered fully from his problem plaguing him in the 70's.
By the way, the idea to set valves at 1/32" (as far as I know) also
started with Durrell. When people called up to order valve parts, he
would advise them so, back in the 60's. When they asked him how he got
his figures, he told them he had "measured" dozens of different actions
and they all seem to be set about the same, and he had found, by
experiment, that 1/32" was ideal, himself. That's what he told me,
too, when I ordered valve parts. Rebuilders, without even questioning
this premise, still do it today at the detriment of reproducers.
Durrell had not rebuilt any reproducer stack valves, to my knowledge,
even when I headed the production department there for a year. He had
a Duo-Art with its original valves intact. So I would urge anyone
attempting to get advice from the articles in the PPC catalog to be
For example, the easiest way to open up "most" simplex pneumatics is
to simply place a very large and heavy flat screwdriver blade in the
rectangular supply hole of the stripped unit valve and twist! That
seems to open up most of them. If they don't want to open for you,
throw them into a freezer chest for a couple of days, and then try.
And finally, if all else fails, the microwave, timed for a certain
number of seconds or minutes will always do it.
If you remember the principles about things, you will never be mislead
on anything. For example, if wood was evenly dense, and had absolutely
straight grain, then you could throw it into water, take it back out a
dozen times, dry it evenly on all sides at once, and it would never
warp. But if any of those factors happen not to be present, like
perfectly even, straight grain, or homogeneous density, or the ability
to dry the wood evenly on all sides at once, then the wood will warp to
the degree of unevenness present. You could actually bend a beam of
bridge lumber just by keeping one side wet long enough! And once bent,
it will stay that way until you reverse the process.
We owe an awfully lot to Durrell Armstrong! If it wasn't for Durrell,
nobody could rebuild their player pianos. The years he spent trying
to keep his company going, and trying to locate suppliers for cloth and
hose few people would ever even consider trying to do. And, yes, he
has had some bad products in the past, but Durrell is not a rebuilder,
primarily. He is a merchant who does his best to supply this industry
with the very best he can afford.
It isn't easy, either, in a land where 5 years' service should be
enough, and who won't give the man the materials he paid for, knowing
full well that he has no recourse but to pay for it, and then can't
return it because he doesn't have a testing laboratory and a department
full of lawyers to back him up. It's a tough business, run by
seat-of-the-pants methods and turn of the century accounting. He has
held on through times when he couldn't even pay his UPS bill! And he
still remains the only commercial source of player parts in the world.
So when we need a special part for a player, we always go to
the company who is totally 100% dedicated to them, and we rely
on the bulldog determination of one man who made it all possible
-- durable Durrell Armstrong.