Mechanical pump? Why? When one thinks of it, a mechanical pump is lot
of moving parts just to obtain vacuum. Mechanical pumps are prone to
knocking, rumbling, and wearing out of the bellows cloth or leather.
In the late days of the Ampico, the company experimented with turbine
pumps, and considered getting rid of the familiar cumbersome mechanical
pumps we all know so well. The reason Ampico did not use new turbine
fan-type pumps is because they could not obtain enough speed from the
early motors to obtain a high enough level of vacuum that was required
for Ampico reproducers. (Welte finally did have such a pump, but later
discovered that there were problems with humming, and overheating, etc.
Turbine fan-type blowers and vacuum units make a lot of sense:
one moving part instead of rubber bellows, bearings, belts, flaps,
bushings, and cumbersome bulk that must be in good condition to work
When one thinks of it, nearly all pipe organs have turbine blowers
today -- very few mechanical pumps remain in use. The huge Aeolian
pipe organ that Mr. George Eastman had in his home had a mechanical
pump in it's early years. The noise was too much for Mr. Eastman,
and a turbine blower was installed which eliminated noise and all the
problems from mechanical bellows.
When the original pump in my Ampico died, I was not able to repair it
nor to find a replacement. Modern suction units for player pianos put
out enough vacuum, but were expensive, and emitted the familiar vacuum
cleaner singing to accompany the music.
Having little funds to live on (in the 1950's) I figured out a way
to have a completely silent source of vacuum for the Ampico (or for
cleaning the floors). After building a box to hold the spill valve and
amplifier pneumatic, I found a $2.00 thrift shop bargain vacuum cleaner
to do the job. The old vacuum cleaner put out 80 inches of vacuum --
more than enough for an Ampico.
To solve the noise problem, I placed the vacuum cleaner, in the garage.
(About 25' from the house) I dug up the yard and laid a 2" pipe and
electric wire underground to the house, and connected it to the piano.
It worked like magic! Everyone remarked that it was the quietest Ampico
pump they ever heard.....sometimes I would just smile and not tell them
about the "addition"
Of course the neighbors wondered why a vacuum cleaner was running
unattended in the garage, but once I explained the mystery, they looked
at the sky, shook their heads and walked away.
I always figured if the old vacuum cleaner gave out, I could go back
to the thrift shop and buy another 2.00 replacement, but the old vacuum
cleaner worked for years, and was eventually sold with the piano, and
as far as I know is still working.
In recent years, I purchased another Ampico and purists can relax.
I restored the pump correctly, and it works nicely, but the underground
pipe is still there, just in case!