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MMD > Archives > March 2003 > 2003.03.23 > 08Prev  Next

Replacing Leathers with Artificial Materials
By James Jelinek

Regarding replacing valve leathers and leather pouches with modern
miracle products: I have to step in here and spout off on this subject.
I have seen so many new products used on and inside of player actions
over the years and almost all of them have failed in one way or

Let's take the Universal Player Piano for an example.  They used a poly
material on their pouches and the stuff turns out to have a twenty or
twenty five year life span and then it disappears.  If they would have
used a good pouch leather the pianos would never have developed this

Aeolian plastic valve blocks have sponge rubber valves that were poor
to begin with and do not much improve with age.  If they had used
leather these pianos would have pumped great to begin with and would
most likely be performing well today.  There seems to be some sort of
consensus amongst "expert restorers" that tearing out the old leather
is the best thing to do and replacing it with some great new material
is totally necessary.

All I can say is "Bunk!"  I have opened up countless old players
where the leather pouches were still superb and quite often the valve
leathers are better than anything you could replace them with today.
I have seen countless Duo-Arts with original valve leathers in place
and they play and express just as good as any replacement.  Anyone who
takes apart an old Duo-Art will see that the valves are usually in
great shape and don't need replacing but "experts" will insist that
this has to be done.

If valve leathers are worn or decaying, naturally you replace them.
This is true of pouches as well, but if everything is in excellent
condition why mess with it?  I have seen players that had original
pouch leathers and they were restored by me 25 years ago.  Guess what:
they still play very well indeed and those pouches are still nice and
soft with no decay.

The most aggravating thing is that we used rubber cloth on the
pneumatics of inconsistent quality that often begins to fail after
twenty or more years.  It is hopeful that these new rubber cloths from
Australia will outlast anything we have used thus far.

Replacing leathers with artificial materials is never justified to my
way of thinking.  They had a good thing that lasted 70 or eighty years
and worked well.  We see how long the product lasted and we know all
about it's qualities so why play with replacement products that offer
no proof of longevity or reliability.

Jim Jelinek

 [ But we still don't have effective tests to determine the longevity
 [ of new materials, and that includes new production of old fashioned
 [ rubberized cloth and new production of tanned animal hides.  I think
 [ it's purely luck that some original materials lasted as long as they
 [ did.  The original rubber hoses in my 1917 Pianola are as supple as
 [ new, but in in my 1915 Pianola they are rock-hard.  What's the secret?
 [ Nobody knows, so the odds of getting good materials today are no
 [ better than the odds were 80 years ago.  One buys a pig in a poke.
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 23 Mar 2003, 17:00:14 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Artificial, Leathers, Materials, Replacing

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