Mechanical Music Digest  Archives
You Are Not Logged In Login/Get New Account
Please Log In. Accounts are free!
Logged In users are granted additional features including a more current version of the Archives and a simplified process for submitting articles.
Home Archives Calendar Gallery Store Links Info

Spring Fundraising Drive In Progress. Please visit out home page to see this and other announcements:     Thank you. --Jody

MMD > Archives > January 2009 > 2009.01.28 > 02Prev  Next

Learning Pneumatic Rebuilding Techniques
By Stephen Kent Goodman

"How Hard Can That Thing Be To Fix?"

Ah, someone who uttered those innocent and naive words evidently got
their hands on an Ampico I'm restoring right now in my shop.  Rather
than describe the nightmarish destructive 'repairs' in a vain attempt
to "make her play" -- 'repairs' which necessitate remaking several
parts -- I want to offer some suggestions to the do-it-yourselves
out there who insist on diving into a project that, without proper
knowledge and technique, usually results in a disappointing finished
effort, and many questions on the MMD asking "why doesn't this or that

First, one should know some basic pneumatic rebuilding techniques and
practice them before attempting any rebuilding of an extant instrument.
As a teenager I used an old dish cloth to practice gluing cloth to
decks (scrap wood pieces) before wasting any expensive pneumatic cloth
and slopping glue on it and the wood.  I had the benefit of having an
artist for a mother, who taught me brush technique at an early age.
Building plastic models helped with understanding hand-eye coordination
and gluing technique.

Sometimes one can acquire junked player piano mechanisms at no cost --
a good place to practice developing technique.

Secondly, become a detective and develop diagnostic and observational
skills when documenting mechanisms before you actually tear them down.
Measure, sketch or photograph everything.  Notice the slightest details,
then come back next day and search for more while reviewing your notes.
Try to imitate factory work: tubing patterns, trimming of cloth, leather
work, paint finishes, etc.  Don't think you know better than the
factory -- you don't!  After all, it was _their_ product.

The present day re-builder must assume skills of not only many
individuals of different departments of specialized manufacture, but
also of many different companies with their individual departments of
special assembly.  (Pneumatic covering, gluing to decks, pumps and
reservoirs, tubing, regulation, etc. --  all had their own departments
where employees specialized in those separate tasks day in and day out).

Do not delude yourself into thinking you can develop technique of
restoration/conservancy overnight; it took qualified restorers years or
decades to develop and perfect their techniques.  That's what collectors
and museums pay for when employing them to do their restorations of
irreplaceable instruments.

Thanks for allowing this restorer to vent his frustration.

Stephen K Goodman - Professional Player Piano & Nickelodeon
Restoration Services
Tarpey Village (Fresno/Clovis) California, USA 

(Message sent Wed 28 Jan 2009, 21:56:47 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Learning, Pneumatic, Rebuilding, Techniques

Home    Archives    Calendar    Gallery    Store    Links    Info   

Enter text below to search the MMD Website with Google

CONTACT FORM: Click HERE to write to the editor, or to post a message about Mechanical Musical Instruments to the MMD

Unless otherwise noted, all opinions are those of the individual authors and may not represent those of the editors. Compilation copyright 1995-2019 by Jody Kravitz.

Please read our Republication Policy before copying information from or creating links to this web site.

Click HERE to contact the webmaster regarding problems with the website.

Please support publication of the MMD by donating online

Pay via PayPal

No PayPal account required

Translate This Page

. .