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MMD > Archives > March 2000 > 2000.03.02 > 09Prev  Next

Boyd Pistonola Player Action
By Craig Brougher

I'm satisfied that Julian Dyer has been able to contact someone who
might be able to throw a technical light on the Pistonola for us for
the first time.  I thought it was an interesting comment to say,
"Pistonolas have an unfortunate reputation of not working." I wasn't
sure precisely what he meant by that.  Whether it was their nature to
have problems, or few people knew how to get them running again.

The total energy a Pistonola would use to play the piano would not be
any different than any other player piano.  However, if the player were
to develop about 250 inches of water (or more) as claimed for it by the
brochure, then it would still be impossible to treadle with a simple a
connection to a piston such as a single leather strap directly
connected, as we are told.

I think our comments bore mainly on the information provided to us,
rather than a critique of the instrument itself.  But it was no one's
fault either-- except for the rather misleading claims by Pistonola
themselves in their own brochure.  So I really don't feel like a wet
blanket for taking it on and pointing out the fallacy.  The idea here
is to get to the truth and learn about things, not just dutifully
swallowing homebodys overstated advertising.

The only way to find out about this instrument was to provoke comments
to the contrary by pointing out the fallacies in the information we
already have.  Each time someone writes in, we learn something more.
For example, Julian Dyer tells us that the mechanism was levered at
about 3 to 1.  Julian also wrote:

"Paddy tells me that there is an article written by Edwin Evans in the
1920s that says the system played in a very responsive manner, so don't
believe the 'can't work' articles in earlier MMDs!"

"The system did indeed work at a high tension, but relied on gearing
down to reduce the tension required to play the piano action.
Apparently this is about 3-to-1, so it uses more air but at a lower

This is why I stated in my letter in 02-27-00 MMD that, "I sure hope
that David Evans is able to successfully clean up this unit and give
it a try.  Surely, it can't be this bad."

I for one am very anxious to see the truth about the Pistonola
mechanisms, as well as to learn what it's problems were, if any.  In
high pressure, low volume systems, the smallest leak or unseated valve
will totally disable the unit.  We can see this effect multiplied
between organ pressures (very low) and player pianos (3-4 times higher)
Organ men, yet to this day, sometimes have problems with players
because they don't have a good feel for the tiny leakages that weaken
a player, while ignored by an organ.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Thu 2 Mar 2000, 13:16:29 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Action, Boyd, Pistonola, Player

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