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MMD > Archives > June 2002 > 2002.06.17 > 05Prev  Next

Automotive Tubing and Other Substitutions
By Andy Taylor

Craig Brougher wrote in 020612 MMDigest in reply to Ray Finch, "Why
not buy it from the proper sources and get the stuff designed for
player pianos?"  Although I understand the basic principle behind the
statement I'd like to put my hat in the ring (with my head still in

We all know (or should know) what are the proper materials to use in
player pianos.  However, good supplies are getting hard to find.  I
remember some tracker bar tubing from well-known supplier that was so
sticky that I knew that bits of roll paper would soon clog it.  One
good thing, though: the paper bits would never have a chance to clog up
the bleeds!  I didn't use it.

So today, in the "real" world, the word 'proper' is almost meaningless,
seeing that, in my opinion, the supplies that are sold to rebuild
players are really crummy in most cases anyway.

Most suppliers (except for Schaff) hate to see me coming.  Remember the
bolt of cloth, full of pinholes, that could be more useable hung on the
wall in front of a bright light for a backdrop for your child's model
"starship"?   Remember the Perflex thing?

Is Phenoseal "original"?  No!  But it works well, as far as we know.
How about this "plastic glue" (which can be picked up in any craft
store, by the way)?  Is that original?  No, it isn't.

Or how about those inner Standard valve facing replacements?  If you
want to have problems forevermore with the player, just install a set
of those!

Professional rebuilders will have a arsenal of proper supplies, but the
average hobbyist will not.  And everyone will forget something on their

So for a 'spot repair' I don't see a thing wrong with using automobile
heater hose.  (Most of us have done that, but few will admit it.)  The
worst thing heater hose could possibly do is to pull the nipple out of
the air motor.  Surely if this happens, the poor piano will survive!

White glue on a player action is a cause for the rebuilder going
"Horrors!" but brass tubing and heater hose is nothing to get excited
about.  Neither is an elbow of PVC plastic if it's at least painted
black so the piano don't look like a toilet.

I remember the short bits of tubing that was used on the two-tier Cable
player action; nothing was available.  I used automotive steel brake line
to make the 88 connectors.  Correct?  Nope, but what choice did I have?

What a player looks like inside is at the discretion of the rebuilder.
I really can't condemn someone who rushes out and buys automotive heater
hose for the wind motor, just because he wants to hear the piano play
after all the hard work.  Incorrect?  Yes.  Functional?  Yes; as long
as it works like it should and doesn't cause problems.

Ray Finch wasn't talking about a rare reproducer, he was talking about
the common player piano.  As long as the "substituted" parts work
correctly, and there isn't something done to the piano that is not
reversible, I can't see a whole lot of difference.  He didn't do
anything that isn't easily reversible.

There is not a rebuilder here who can tell me that their first player
was "correct".  That sort of attention to detail comes later when the
rebuilder becomes more aware.  But I'd bet that all rebuilders remember
their first player, and fondly.  It wasn't "correct", but the thing
made music.

My first player was a Baldwin Monarch.  I didn't know what the correct
cloth was, so being ignorant I recovered the pneumatics with Shultz
pouch cloth!  (It didn't last very long on the roll motor, though!)

Andy Taylor
Tempola Music Rolls

(Message sent Thu 13 Jun 2002, 23:29:33 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Automotive, Other, Substitutions, Tubing

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