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MMD > Archives > December 1999 > 1999.12.09 > 09Prev  Next

Player Piano Rebuilding Technique
By Craig Brougher

The MMD has been a very successful forum for player piano lovers and
music box aficionados.  It has dispensed a lot of good information
over the several years it has been in operation.  But I just want to
say something about technique, too that really needs to be said.

We hear from time to time, that this or that method won't work as
advertised.  Many people say they've tried it and it doesn't work.
What's wrong?  Could be technique.  I've had queries about how to do
things and I share with them my method and materials, but those same
people have once in awhile gotten back with me telling me that I don't
know what I'm talking about.  This happened just a few days ago --

I try to cover all the bases to make it safe for them by saying in
effect, "Don't rush in and do this until you test it out first.  Don't
just assume because I say it that you can do it.  Find out how and why
I recommend it by trying to make it work, first."

Now anybody can discount anything.  I can take anything I have ever
suggested and cause it to fail a hundred different ways.  For example,
one fellow put Dow Corning 111 silicone grease on his pouches and then
tried to attach lifter disks to them.  Bad idea.  Here is a good
example of not testing first.  He may as well rivet them down, because
he isn't going to glue them with anything after that.

What seems so obvious to some of us is not obvious at all to others,
and it's impossible to cover all the bases and all the contingencies
that could foul them up.

Another good example is round valve plate replacements for Duo-Art
cross valve plates.  Many disagreed with me about that because "It
cannot be done," according to their experiences.  I understand that
frustration.  Once you tried it and had to remove 176 new valve plates
and begin all over again from scratch, you'd be a bit angry, too.  Put
yourself in their place.  Yet, I have a responsibility to tell the
truth about my own experiences with them (and have), because I have had
an opposite experience from the majority that wrote in.

What's the difference?  The technique.  It cannot be explained.  It
has to be watched and maybe watched several times before it sinks in.
I can explain the differences until I'm blue in the face, and it seems
that few have understood what I was trying to describe.

Another good example is the belief that you can't take the large
Standard action with the 1-1/2" pouches and largest valves and turn
it into a successful single valve player.  While I still recommend not
doing that -- but leaving the player original because it will remain a
real collector's item that way -- still that was the first modification
I ever made, and the repetition and dynamics were so good that I then
designed my own "Ampico" player system around it.  It was my first
player piano.  I sold a lot of rebuild jobs just on the strength of
its performance.  Everyone agreed that it played well, at all volume
levels.  Here again, technique.

The devil is in the details, they say.  So's performance.  Too often
those details are just too voluminous to go into.  You'd tune out long
before you could read the whole story.  Another problem is background.
Knowing that few owners who need technical help have spent their lives
doing this, it is just impossible to say certain things because they
would get the wrong impression and really come down on you after that.
Some things must, by necessity, go unsaid because it would seem so
unlikely that it would work.

So my suggestion is this: If you read something you think has merit and
decide to try it, don't decide to prove to yourself how unlikely it is
and try to make it fail just to show yourself how stupid the guy really
is.  On the other hand, don't just accept what you read at face value
and start doing your player piano that way, only to discover later that
you would run into some snags.

Instead, be cautious and decide to test out your information first.
Believing that the person you read has had good luck with it or he
wouldn't have suggested it.  So your job is to see how to make it work
optimally for you on the bench before you apply it to your own player.

Get conversant with the technique that you yourself develop to utilize
the method.  It will be _your_ technique with the tools at hand and the
method described.  It will never be the other guy doing it for you.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Thu 9 Dec 1999, 15:36:11 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Piano, Player, Rebuilding, Technique

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