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MMD > Archives > March 2000 > 2000.03.15 > 07Prev  Next

Red Gum, The Mystery Player Piano Wood
By Mike Kitner

Hi; I hope you will all forgive me if I bore you again with this red
gum wood situation I'm having.  This was started when I began work on a
set of violin pipes made out of what looks like the same kind of lumber
used to make many player piano actions.  I was under the impression
that this lumber, creamy pink in color and bland looking with tight
grain structure was red gum and I set out to find some to make the
missing parts for these pipes.

After inquiring at about 20 different wood suppliers all over the
country I discovered that red gum is almost impossible to come by.
I posted a question on the MMD about what others thought this mystery
wood was and the consensus, although not unanimous, was that it was red
gum like I suspected.  I finally found a source of it, a lumber yard in
White Plains NY that had 3 (three) boards!  I ordered it and it came

There is no question in my mind now that this red gum I got is
identical to that used in the manufacture of many player actions.
I have seen it in most Standard actions, Amphion and Ampico, Autopiano
and Welte-Mignon Licensee, and some others.  Now the question comes to
mind, why should a type of lumber that was used so extensively in the
player piano industry be so hard to find today?

In a response to my posting Roger Weigand suggested that I get a copy
of Bruce Hoadley's very excellent book, "Identifying Wood".  In his
description of this wood Mr. Hoadley says, "Neither the growth rings nor
the rays are distinct to the eye ... the pores are extremely small....".

Maybe there's a clue here.  Could it be that this wood has
characteristics that make it desirable for pneumatic systems?
Obviously in any system that is required to handle air it would
be advantageous to use a completely air tight material in its
construction.  If it has to be made out of wood it would be
advantageous to use a wood that is more air-tight than most.
Could this be red gum?  Why else would they have used it?

Just as an aside, a friend of mine once built a very accurate copy
of a Seeburg rewind-replay shifter out of poplar which was perfect
except it didn't work.  He hadn't sealed the interiors of all the air
passages in it and the general leakage through the wood killed it.

So anyhow this red gum thing is bugging me and I am going to try and
rig up a way of measuring air flow through the porosity of different
kinds of wood and see which one might be the most air-tight.  I'll let
you know.

Mike Kitner

(Message sent Wed 15 Mar 2000, 22:36:42 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  Gum, Mystery, Piano, Player, Red, Wood

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