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Endless Music Strip
Endless Music Strip In Coin Piano
by Bob Conant (070725 MMDigest)

LinkAX.jpg (64 kb)
Style AX orchestrion manufactured by Link Piano Co. of Binghamton, New York.  The
case is 6 feet 4 inches high and contains a piano, reiterating xylophone, snare drum, triangle,
tom-tom and wood block.  The endless loop of paper usually played 15 tunes.

A couple days ago, Richard Moody asked about endless strip piano rolls:  I understand the roll is not wound on a take-up spool but flops into a box and folds over itself again and again.

Having owned a Link AX for 25 years, I can answer how Link performed this feat of magic.

My Link was common to many of them and had the music roll located horizontally across the top of the cabinet.  The trackerbar and drive mechanisms were on the right-hand side and the lower part of the box was a shelf that slanted down and away from the mechanism.  On the left side was a guide bar near the top over which the paper would pass.

The paper was pulled across the top by sets of rollers, passed down across the tracker bar and then "stuffed" to the left into the lower section.  The paper would bunch up like ribbon candy and slide down the shelf until it was pulled up and over the left-hand bar back into the mechanism again.  Rolls were generally about 15 tunes long and about 3 minutes each, so the total length of the paper was somewhere around 450 feet.

The tracker bar and all the tubing was on the "outside" of the roll on the right hand side.  To install rolls, since they were an endless loop, two of the drive rollers were removable.  The paper was then inserted into the mechanism and the rollers replaced, trapping the paper between two sets of drive rollers.

Also I wonder how these "rolls" were made, distributed and installed in the piano.  How do you change the rolls on these pianos and what kind of boxes did they come in?

The rolls were shipped in a heavy duty telescoping cardboard box like most coin piano rolls.  However, they were rolled up "doubled over".  This is easier to visualize if you picture how a roll is removed from the piano.  First, the removable rollers are taken out.  This frees the roll but it is all bunched up and takes up about three cubic feet of space.

Next, a special spool with a crank, one removable flange and a tapered core is inserted in place of the left-hand guide rod.  This spool is split lengthwise and the paper is slid into this slot.  Then the second spool flange is installed and the spool inserted into brackets in place of the guide rod.  Next, the roll is manually wound onto this spool.  Note that a loop is formed around half the spool core.

When the entire roll is wound up, the spool is removed from the piano, the removable flange is removed and the wound up paper is slid off the core and into the box.  Now it takes up about 4 inches by 4 inches by however wide the paper is, say 11.5 inches.  Nothing to it. ;-)  It's actually easier to do than to explain.

A new roll is installed in just the reverse fashion.  Of course it is rolled up initially but it unrolls and gets stuffed the first time it is played through.

As far as how the rolls were made, it was just like any normal piano roll except that the ends were glued together after the roll was punched.  Then it was rolled up to put into the box.

If this all sounds difficult, it isn't really but it is more work than changing a normal orchestrion roll.  I guess that's why many owners end up with a favorite roll and leaving it on the instrument.

I hope that description is all clear as mud.  I have attached a picture showing the top of my Link AX illustrating the paper handling system.

Bob Conant
Bradenton, Florida
25 Jul 2007 13:32:59 EDT

30 July 2007

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