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MMD > Archives > April 2005 > 2005.04.07 > 05Prev  Next

Beeswax Contamination in Player Piano
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  On a slightly different vein, I'd like to add to what Kim
Bunker said yesterday about wax.  I've just completed changing the
gaskets and cleaning the wood and screws in a player piano that was
contaminated with beeswax.  

I first encountered this "rebuilt" Cable Euphona, which was sold to a
high-ranking government official here in New Jersey, a few months after
it was purchased and delivered to his aging mother who had always
wanted a player piano.  At the time of delivery the player worked but
it was a little difficult to pump (it had to be pumped fast).

A few months later when I was called in, it had become so difficult
to pump that the woman could no longer get the music to play at all.
To say I was shocked at what I found in that piano is a huge
understatement.  It would even be a stretch to say it was 'repaired'.
While the bellows and tubing had been sloppily replaced, and the dust
blown off of the piano action, nothing else was touched, not even the
flap valves on the exhauster assembly, which were 80+ year old original
flaps that were leaking badly.  But I'm straying...

After making some minor repairs and pointing out the numerous problems
that remained, I was able to get the unit functioning for the Christmas
holidays.  Shortly after Christmas I was called back to (I thought)
begin attending to some of the problems with the piano action and keys:
replace the keybed felts, which were all original and moth eaten, and
regulate the action which was deplorable.  However, upon arriving I was
informed that the player had quit altogether, and was, in fact, even
worse than before my first encounter with the piano.  Naturally, I was
somewhat embarrassed that my initial repairs had seemed to have failed,
making me look as though I had done nothing worthwhile the first time.
But again, I'm straying.

Upon removing two of the peripheral devices, which had previously
worked fairly well but were now not working at all, I dismantled them
and found the real culprit: beeswax!  Evidently, after the bellows
cloth had been replaced and the unit re-assembled, it still didn't
work because the gaskets were leaking.  So, instead of replacing the
gaskets, a liberal amount of beeswax was applied to the gaskets as
a sealer.

While this works a while in a cool environment, and continued to work
for awhile in the much warmer home of an elderly woman, the wax (I can
only conjecture) started 'melting' into the gaskets and the wood.
Eventually, the wax no longer served its purpose as a sealer and the
units ceased to function.  Further investigation proved that the
beeswax had been used throughout the entire player mechanism.

Naturally, the mother is heart-sick about this whole affair, and I
could tell by the tone of his (the son's) voice that there will be
'hell to pay' somewhere down the road.  I'm keeping detailed records
(pictures and documents) which will hopefully be used in a lawsuit
brought against the thief.  Look for a future posting titled,
"Butchers, Hackers, and Thieves."  (There is a difference...)

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Wed 6 Apr 2005, 23:10:01 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Beeswax, Contamination, Piano, Player

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