Maybe I can Give Bernt a little help, and at the same time, suggest to
others how to use the manual to develop their own spool frame. Bernt
> Craig mentions a few details for the construction of a spool frame in
> the book, and I have studied them carefully, but there is not enough
> info to actually build a spool frame from scratch without a sample
> being around to check out a few details and diameters. Also, I cannot
> source any geared motors smaller than 380 watts [1/2-horsepower] in
> this country. One must not forget that I have never seen such a spool
> frame; there aren't any in this country.
> Lastly, maybe someone has any suggestion or even some plans for a
> complete orchestrion with a proven design and good expression etc.
> Any additional information to Craig's book will be most appreciated.
The reason I could not give explicit plans for a spool frame design is
because of the very reason Bernt has already given. "Where do I find
this stuff mentioned, anyway?"
So what I tried to do was to give the principles in the chapter. It is
really all there, with exception to the gearing-- dependent upon what
gearmotor you happen to find, etc. However, diameters are given for the
takeup and roll spools, as well as flange diameters. Torque
requirements and how to measure it to see first-hand what you will need
before you order a gearmotor-- all of that is covered. (Torque wasn't
important in the old machines, driven by a belt or other drive shaft
from a large single motor).
The cardboard takeup spool is available from Player Piano Co., as is the
flanges, etc. You may even be able to buy the reroll gearmotor, which
happens to be from a special order of old National Cash Register
machines which were junked. But they are exceptional, having twice the
power as most equivalent-sized motors, and thermal protection as well.
(That is the hardest-to-find item). A smaller reroll motor would
necessitate a somewhat slower reroll. The PPC spool frame can reroll the
largest roll in about 40 seconds! The takeup spool is also clutched to
It is VERY important to start with a steel (NOT ALUMINUM) frame, and to
machine the stretcher bars. Do not slip tubing over all-thread. This is
emphasized also in the article, and why it will not work.
It will be by your own ingenuity and spare parts that you will build a
Spool frame. A drawing or plans may possibly be available from PPC, but
when PPC built their own version of the original Coinola Spool frame, it
was a disaster.
Overall, it is very doubtful that you will save money building an
orchestrion spool frame. It took me over a week to design and build two
spool frames, one for O and the other for G rolls, when I was production
manager for Player Piano Co. -- with everything at my fingertips! It
then took me a month to set up the production line, and it took two
months to find some righteous suppliers.
So if you can design and test your own in 3 months, you'll be doing
extremely well, being where you are with fewer facilities available.
Just ordering the parts to build your own will probably cost more than
a completed spool frame, anyway. I suggest biting the bullet and buying
PPCo's. They are about as trouble-free a spool frame as you can find, and
built like a tank. Maybe you can save some money somewhere else.
[ The motors on the PPCo. spool frame are AC two-pole fractional
[ horsepower, as I recall, such as used in small electric fans.
[ I'm sure that a European substitute could be located. -- Robbie