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MMD > Archives > May 1999 > 1999.05.15 > 10Prev  Next

Farrand, Cecilian and Bush & Lane Player Actions
By Dean Randall

Hi all,  In MMD 990514 Ed Gaida mentions having a "double-hernia"
model Bush & Lane player action to restore and notes that, while PPCo
suggests that the action is common, he hasn't previously encountered

Here (in Western Washington State) they are indeed relatively common,
although I can't imagine why that is so.  They were made a long way
away, in Holland, Michigan (no matter what the fallboard decal says).
Then too, Bush & Lane pianos were _very_ expensive, and this was not
a particularly prosperous part of the country in the 'teens and
'twenties.  But there were, nevertheless, three Bush & Lane stores
in Seattle by 1917, selling Farrand, Victor and Bush & Lane pianos.
I've never seen a Paulus, the bottom-of-the-line Bush & Lane marque.

In 30 years here I have encountered about 45 Bush & Lane Cecilian
actions in the above three marques, many of the same brands containing
the earlier Farrand-Cecilian action, and countless numbers of the same
pianos which were not players.  Uprights seem to have outsold grands by
a large margin.

The early Bush & Lane players used Autopiano actions.  Later, Walter
Lane opted to use the Farrand-Cecilian action which, while it was
doubtless excellent, is a very difficult restoration today.  (Paren-
thetically, we call these the "Teakettle Cecilian" locally because the
primary valves look like 88 little teakettles on the front of the

After Bush & Lane acquired Farrand in the mid 'teens, to have the name
"Cecilian", they completely redesigned the action to the variety which
Ed has.  If this was not the tightest player action built in the US it
must certainly run a close second.

In the usual configuration the only wood parts are the pump and
reservoir boards (often 7-ply and varnished inside and out) and the
pneumatic boards themselves.  All tubing from the tracker-bar to the
die-cast valves is also metal, first lead to a brass tube, then nickel-
plated brass from the brass to the cast valve.  The only rubber tubing
is from the finger buttons to the accessory pneumatics, and a short
length of hose from each end of the pump to a manifold on each end of
the stack.  Oh, and from the governor to the right manifold and from
that to the 6-point double-opposed wind motor.

The point being that there's very little opportunity for leakage.
Every separable joint is gasketed.

It was a beautifully designed mechanism which works extremely well,
but it is incredibly heavy.  Do _not_ attempt to lift it in or out
of the piano by yourself, even if your nickname is "King Kong".

The pump has four reservoirs; two of the normal variety at each end
of the lower unit, and two smaller (each about the size of a pedal
pneumatic) on the front.  Each is sprung differently and they collapse
in order, thus enabling extremely subtle accents.

When installed in Bush & Lane instruments the player is usually
veneered and finished to match the piano, and Bush & Lane was noted
for exceptionally beautiful veneers.  In Victor and Farrand pianos the
player was usually lacquered black.

Generally, a fine Wessel, Nickel & Gross hammer action was used.
I've seen one Bush & Lane with a very deluxe Wessel, Nickel & Gross
action incorporating lost-motion compensation and genuine sostenuto,
but only the one.  That style of hammer-action is, however, not
uncommon in non-players.

As you can tell by this over-long post, it's my favorite player action
and there is, in fact, a walnut 1921 Farrand-Cecilian with this action
stressing the floor in my dining room at this moment.  I bought it for
my own use this past weekend and it was moved in today.  It requires
restoration of everything from the casters up and I paid too much for
it, but...

Ed mentioned that in his the die cast parts are still in good condi-
tion.  This is the usual situation here as well.  I suspect that
perhaps Bush & Lane learned early on that it was not good to have a lot
of lead in the pot metal.  I've found only the earliest of them showing
much deterioration and that damage was evident as long ago as 1970.

There seems to have been some experimentation with aluminum for the
valve castings as I've encountered several which had a few aluminum
valves scattered in with the rest, all dating 1917-1919.

Robbie asked about the Otto Higel Metalnola: I've done two of those,
both in the early 70s, both in Canadian pianos (one was a Dominion from
Bowmanville Ontario, I don't recall the marque of the other) and both
had themeing devices.  I recall them as being rather straightforward
restorations with (at that time) no pot-metal deterioration, and
I remember that both played well and were pleasant to pedal.  Sorry,
I don't have any pictures.

Again, apologies for the length of the post -- you hit my "passionate"

Dean Randall, on sunny-for-a-change Puget Sound

(Message sent Sat 15 May 1999, 07:46:31 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Actions, Bush, Cecilian, Farrand, Lane, Player

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