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MMD > Archives > August 2001 > 2001.08.27 > 15Prev  Next

Unusual Chickering Ampico Console Piano
By Craig Brougher

I have received a number of responses from this letter, and appreciate
them all.  In every case in which the person said the tray is to be
drawn back to tune (particularly the tuners), they also said that the
amount of room allowed is not enough and it's not something they look
forward to.

Now I could see this to be the case myself, quite frankly.  The action
tray or frame is 10-1/4" deep.  The depth of the piano sides from the
ends of the tuning pins forward is exactly 10-3/8." So imagine yourself
trying to tune a piano with a tray exactly the same depth as the depth
of the piano! You can always pull out the tray toward you, but while
that gives tuning pin clearance, it also pushes you away at the same
time, and it's always sliding back in.  Back and forth, back and forth.
Most tuners will get religion doing one like this.

In today's world, tuners don't have to bother with stuff like this
(unless they are tuning for a museum or unless they live in a remote
area and are happy for anything with strings and pins).  So I decided
to do something sensible about it.  I have a rule normally that says,
"Do not modify an original."  And I am happy to tell everybody that
today this rule was broken with impunity.  It was also broken with
dignity, since the design was mediocre and not amenable to further
servicing.  Leaving that piano original, exactly like it was intended
to stand, would cause it to waste away in a corner and never again be

We live in a different world where things must be accessible and
service must be either quick or modular.  There was a time when tuners
required 4-7 years apprenticeship to learn not just tuning but
mechanics and the fine arts of regulation.  Such is no longer the
case.  You have to either consider how times change and not everybody
is a gearhead anymore, or you become a mechanical stuffed shirt to them.
And, they have a point.  Our economic balance today just does not allow
for an extra hour tuning time simply because you have a player that's
hard to service.

If it's easy to tune and to service, then it will be tuned, and it will
be serviced.  If it is hard to take care of, it won't be.  I want this
player to be taken care of.  It's worth it.  I also want it to be well
thought of and admired for its capabilities.  It will outplay anything
its size on the market today!  It isn't right to leave it in a corner
because no one wants to come out and tune it.

No doubt somebody is going to tell me that I have defiled the sanctuary
of "holey rollers"  and should have my fingernails pulled out.  But
give them a tuning hammer and tell them "Ok, then -- it's your baby,
you take care of it."  Then we'll see how sanctimonious they remain.

(By the way, at that point, the tray top edge is also an inch or two
higher than many of the pins and the damping strip line where the felt
goes is below the bottom of the tray by another three inches.  I think
I can guarantee them a "fairly challenging afternoon," despite how easy
it may seem to untrained or inexperienced eyes, glancing casually at
this process from across the room.  Maybe even writing the MMD to tell
us how common a sight this is to them, and not at all a big deal.)

What I did to prepare this instrument is very simple and straightforward.
I drafted the cross-section first, and then designed two radius bars
of different lengths and centers, which would rotate both the front
and the back of the tray (under full control) as it is swung down and
backward until it is vertical and standing within an inch of the keys.
By this method it isn't in the way of anything.  It safely clears the
stack supports, front posts, and everything on its path down, and does
not stretch tubing (the big hose might pull off, but that happens at
any displacement, and this way, you can see it.  The original way,
tubing and hose will pull off unbeknownst).

It can be easily removed from the rotating arms, because they are just
captured on plated, headless balance rail pins and can be sprung off
and away from the tray.  To remove the whole system, all that's needed
is to untube the expressions and function tubing and the 3 supplies.
So even that is easier than the way the factory envisioned it.  By
swinging the tray down, you can reach the tubing easier, untube the
system from the expressions, remove the player screws, replace the
tray, spring off the radius arms, and lift the whole thing out as a
unit.  The radius arms will stay connected in the sides of the piano,
away from anything else.  They do not interfere because they are flat.

So from now on, anybody who has one of these kinds of pianos and wishes
to fix it right, I think I have at least one workable solution.  Own a
swinger.   If you need dimensions, write me personally.  The end result
is a player that's now much easier to service than even the regular
sized upright.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Tue 28 Aug 2001, 01:16:37 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ampico, Chickering, Console, Piano, Unusual

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