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MMD > Archives > September 2008 > 2008.09.08 > 07Prev  Next

Rebuilding Gulbransen Player Piano
By Rod Pringle

[ Ref. 080907 MMD "Seek Gulbransen Player Parts" by Brian Thornton ]

Hello Brian:  My advice is to forget even trying to make this thing
play.  As a player rebuilder of almost 50 years, let me say that one
of the worst player pianos to rebuild, besides the Schultz actions,
were the glued-together player stacks of Gulbransen.  Even on a good
day when the piano was stored in a home all of its life, these horrid
player actions were enough to make a grown man cry (sniff sniff!).
I am crying thinking about them right now, hahaha.

You had to _saw_ the stack sections apart, repouch them and then use
cork or leather the same width as the saw cut to put them back together
again.  The valves were a real Rube Goldberg setup that was someone's
last minute invention to get the product out the door.  (Just try
cutting the fluted wooden valve stems nice and flat -- it's impossible
unless you had a special tool for this.)

My advice is, if you want to restore a player piano, get something with
a conventional stack in it, like Standard Pneumatic, etc.  At least all
of those tons of hours working on it won't be in vain.  Gulbransen
players, on the other hand, will suck your time and life out of you in
a hurry, and they do not play or sound that good when the job is done.
The whole instrument was very inexpensive in its day.

They were a cheap throwaway action, kind of like the cheap throwaway
Timex watches use to be.  Being glued together, I really don't believe
that they were made to be restored once the heyday of the player piano
was over in the 1950s.  Remember that all players now are around 87
years of age and up; you can't just patch them up like people were
doing in the 1960s -- they all need total _rebuilding_ as everything
is rotten and rusty.

Just some good advice from an old guy who's been there.  If you want
a really trouble-free player, just get a Yamaha Disklavier.  Plug it
in, set back, relax and listen -- no wheezing, leaking, thumping and

Rod Pringle

 [ I believe Brian contracted to _restore_ the piano, so he hasn't
 [ many options.  (And when the customer is paying for the job, the
 [ customer's always right, you know!  ;-)  -- Robbie

(Message sent Mon 8 Sep 2008, 11:37:36 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Gulbransen, Piano, Player, Rebuilding

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