When I started this business, I got no help from anybody. Even years
later, when I called a top technician (whom everybody knows, here at
MMD) for some simple information, I was told, Sure, he had it, but I'd
have to pay for it. (It cost me $50.) That is one little piece of
information which cost as much as my whole book. It was a small point
about a Nelson-Wiggen style 6X Orchestra I was restoring. I was glad
to pay for it. It was worth it. I was grateful to be able to pay for
it. I would do it again.
As it turned out however, I was glad -- looking back now -- that no one
was willing to help me out, because much of what I read even today is
either half right, misleading, totally in error, or is lacking the
principles which will help you to do any kind of player correctly.
Take for example, the Duo-Art cross valve discussion. The reason so
many have problems replacing these valve plates with the old round ones
with 1/2" holes is simply because they didn't take the time to learn
the little sublime tricks about valves. To so many rebuilders, valves
are simple. "They're just little poppets that are pushed up and
allowed to drop down by the action of a pouch diaphragm -- nothing more
to them. You set them with a gauge to, oh, about .032 or so, and
Well, as long as that's the attitude, fellows, then how can you ever
learn anything, or get any further than first base/ That's what a
first grader knows about them, too. It's superficial knowledge. It's
barely even "half-right," which makes it "all wrong."
So when I learned this business, teaching myself, I dug into the whys
and wherefores. I built testers, I questioned everything. I "wasted"
collectively several years worth of hours and days just getting myself
to the place where I felt I knew what I was doing. Then I came to the
place that I could start learning faster, knowing what it was that
I was actually seeing or experiencing regarding "obvious" player
problems. Yet even today, I am occasionally fooled. This stuff is
far from "obvious" or "easy."
A year ago, I was even visited by a family who learned about me from
the MMD, and who wanted to learn how to rebuild valves. They called
for some help, stayed with us two days, ate our food, slept in our
guest room, and had me teach them how I did valves on a Standard Player
action. It didn't just take my time. It took Ellen's time, too. The
wife didn't want to learn how to do valves, so she asked Ellen to take
her out shopping so she wouldn't learn how, and possibly have to do
them, instead of her husband (that, at least, was her comment to
They left us knowing what it had taken me years to learn, and I still
have a letter personally thanking me for showing him, for free -- how
to do it. And how well the stack turned out. However, not even a
mention of my help appeared in his MMD letters, although he has been a
subscriber and regular contributor for about as long as this Digest has
been in existence, and has contributed many times on subjects like
this. However, he has been in print a number of times about how great
Art Reblitz' book is, instead.
Now ask yourselves, did he receive that book for free, or did he pay
for it? Ultimately, how long did he remember what we did for him and
his whole family? Why, we don't even get honorable mention, except
privately. Yet, that isn't why I did it. But, gratefulness, ex-
pressed, benefits the person receiving it a little, but benefits the
person offering much more.
Another fellow who wrote on the subject of free advice has been dogging
my heels for the same thing in private e-mail too for several years,
now. I have always been glad to help. He has gotten a lot of help.
But when it comes time to mention it -- the perfect time, I think -- in
a subject specifically about free advice, he has completely ignored me.
He was not grateful, or he would have mentioned it. So I'll leave it
up to you -- should I feel appreciated, or just kinda stupid? ("Thanks
a lot -- jerk!") How would you feel?
So when anybody like John Tuttle says that information is worth what
you pay for it, and free information is unappreciated, he is generally
correct. When I read the comments about free advice, even though
I have been a major, if not the biggest single contributor of technical
advice to this page over the years, my name was mentioned by only one
fellow in the six letters so far. What about the giving of credit when
it was due -- even after they screamed to high heaven about people who
might possibly stop explaining to them, in livid detail, how to do
things, and what not to do!
But Art Reblitz' name was mentioned several times by these writers to
this subject -- who PAID for that information, and thus were so
appreciative they WERE inclined to mention -- glowingly -- how Art
Reblitz helped them when nobody else did. Interesting!
I feel really stupid having to mention the obvious, when it has yet
to occur to anybody that we do this as an opportunity to help and
contribute without pay or recognition. Jody and Robbie run this page
and get back their expenses, but on the other hand, they are not
"contributors" but editors, and they ask for money, and as a result
there is a considerable appreciation attached to their efforts -- my
appreciation included. I have, in past issues, complimented them on
it, as have many others.
But I sometimes spend over an hour per day here, and yet now I discover
that no professionals are even mentioned in the five of the six "Free
Advice" comments to the MMD. So what about it? Are we ignoring what
dozens of professional rebuilders have already said and done for you?
With all the criticism, where is the appreciation? Do you see what I
am saying? This kind of cheapness gets old, fast, and, it should!
So with that, I'll let five of the six letters stand as a clear
testimonial to everybody here that John Tuttle clearly knew what he
was talking about, whether we like it or not. It is a fact! When you
offer free advice, you are going to be totally unappreciated by the
majority. (I do not say the few. There are always a few quality
people -- genuine, thoughtful, gentlemen who ARE grateful and who are
able to express it, but not the majority. They take it for granted).
Part of a viable contribution is the ability to express your thanks,
and it's for your benefit, more than for ours. It serves as a good
example for people who have never done so!
Now with that said, the reason I help people -- and still will -- is
not to get business or get my name out there. I have a responsibility
to my profession and to these instruments -- which I don't wish to see
screwed up by jacklegs any more than is necessary. So I don't do it
for garlands. I do it to protect these instruments which are so
valuable, and which we will never see again, and if nobody ever said
thank you, I would still do it, I guess. At least, for a while.
"What we have right now is all we ever gonna git, and we ain't gettin'
any more." So if you want to make them impenetrable with bathtub caulk
and Titebond, ignore their valves, pouches, flaps, proper regulating
procedures, or (and especially) the determination to do it over again
as many times as you have to, to get it right -- after reading what we
say about that -- then you alone are responsible for destroying and
disillusioning others about another wonderful old player piano which
somebody else might have truly respected and appreciated.
In my opinion, such a person doesn't deserve one. Gratefulness is the
son of respect, and through it comes imitation and diligence, and the
desire to please. Appreciation is the gas that goes into your tank,
and when you show it, you get energy from it.
Remember, the overall effect on my private business for doing this is
just the opposite of getting more. I get less. It does not -- as one
person suggested -- help people just enough to put them in a hole that
only someone like myself can then pull them out of and capitalize on.
Not so. Instead, at the very least, one opens himself up to uncon-
structive (private) criticism, usually between professionals, and puts
himself in print where he can be picked apart, taken out of context,
and/or just simply scoffed at for no good reason other than personal,
But despite all that they can (and sometimes do) say in order to hurt,
and not to edify or add information or dimension to a subject, I gladly
forego the kudos all the time, in order to help when I think it
forthcoming and, if I see the article in time to comment.
For some reason, I never received the MMD issue that had John Tuttle's
article in it, so I am just taking for granted that the rest of you
did. I would also hope that advice on the MMD will not get some people
so confident that they will tackle pianos above their ability. These
instruments may look simple, but they are not. And there is actually a
lot of very sublime, under-the-surface principles involved that would
take a book to tell you about -- but then, that would cost you some