Do you really need a large spool frame for Orchestrions?
Early Wurlitzer Orchestrions used the five and six tune Wurlitzer APP
roll. These rolls are about the same size as a large Ampico jumbo roll
or large Ampico Dinner roll. The early spool boxes were about the size
of a regular home player spool frame. Nelson-Wiggin of Chicago used a
large wooden spool frame driven by an air motor much the same as a 88
note player uses. The last orchestrion made in the United States was
by the Universal Player Piano Co. It used a standard size spool box
with the "O" rolls cut into two five-tune rolls.
My own opinion.
If I were to build a homemade orchestrion there are several questions
that I would have to answer. Am I building one for fun? Am I building
one to set out for the public to drop coins in? How authentic? If I
were to build one just for fun and to say look what I did then I would
use a standard action player (because I have several and they are easy
to modify) with the original spool box. It would be easy to use the
original tracker bar as I would only have to add one extra nipple.
I would have levers or buttons to turn on the various other instruments
like the photoplayers had. The push buttons could bang (ok..... play)
the drums and other percussion effects so that I could add my own
enthusiasm to the music. I would have a switching mechanism that would
allow me to play 88 note rolls as well as "O" rolls. Why? Because
there are a ton of good 88 note rolls to be had.
If I were going to build an orchestrion for the public to see and enjoy
then I would want to make it as close to an original as I could. I
would want the public to see how an original sounded and looked as
there are so few of them around. Some of the original ones I have
seen (the Cliff House) should be in more loving hands (such as mine).
Don Teach, Shreveport Music Co
1610 E. Bert Kouns, Shreveport, LA 71105