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MMD > Gallery > Pictures > PwrRoller > lyraphone1.htm

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Smith Lyraphone Pneumatic Power Roller Push-Up Player
made by the Smith Lyraphone Company of Baltimore. Maryland, USA
photos courtesy Ray Fairfield

lyraphone5a.jpg (26 kb)This roll-playing device was made by the Smith Lyraphone Company of Baltimore. Maryland, USA.  The interesting thing is how it plays by a spinning power roller.

The surface of the cylinder (the power roller) is lined with cork and is approximately 5 inches [12.7 cm] in diameter and about 3 feet [91 cm] long.   The cylinder is rotating, powered by the foot pedals.  Little "feet" with a friction sole are positioned just above the cork cylinder, one "shoe" for each of the 65 notes.  The shoes are attached to individual linkages that pull down on the "fingers" that play the keys on the piano.

The foot pedals operate in the normal way, but instead of directly actuating exhauster bellows, the pedals turn a drive shaft by way of a leather strap wrapped around the shaft.  The shaft runs the width of the unit.  Each half of the shaft has a mechanical overrunning clutch that transmits power when pressing down on the pedal but allows free rotation when the pedal returns up.  Pedal return is through a round leather belt from a spring located underneath.

One end of the drive shaft drives the small exhauster bellows and reservoir, which provides the vacuum for the tracker bar and (I assume) pouches.  The other end of the drive shaft spins the cork-covered cylinder by way of a sprocket and a leather belt which has holes in it corresponding with the teeth on the sprocket.

The music roll drive is via a clever power take-off at one end of the cork-covered roller.  Linkages clutch the take-up spool during normal play, and lift that shaft and engage another during reroll.  The music roll drive is via a clever wheel that contacts from the end face of the power roller.  For faster music speed, the wheel is positioned further from the center.

The patent date is stamped into the wood tracker bar: Nov. 13, 1900.  It plays a 65-note roll of approximately 13-1/4 inch [33.66 cm] width.  The roll drive is from the left side (the pin of the roll is flattened on one side), while the right side pin is just a round pin.  The tracker bar "holes" are actually rectangular, being made by inserting spacers in the long slot formed by the upper and lower rails of the tracker bar.

lyraphone2a.jpg (16 KB)The interesting thing about this tracker bar is that there are four distinct (and different) hole widths.  If the holes are numbered 1 through 65, beginning from the lowest bass note, then holes 1-6 and 65-59 are approximately .276 inch [0.7 cm] pitch.  Holes 7-12 and 58-53 are approximately 0.204 inch [0.52 cm] pitch.  Holes 13-21 and 52-44 are approximately 0.182 inch [0.46 cm] pitch.  The remaining holes 22-44 are approximately 0.164 inch [0.42 cm] pitch. [Hi-resolution image: lyraphone2.jpg (347 kb)]

One Lyraphone music roll came with the mechanism.  The width of the holes that play the notes does not vary throughout the scale.

I surmise that the pneumatic chest is some sort of pouch system.  When a note hole at the tracker bar is uncovered, a membrane pouch moves the "shoe" to touch the roller.    Then the "shoe" is kicked out by the spinning roller, pushing down the finger that plays the piano key.  The whole system is really pretty slick!

Ray Fairfield
Morgan Hill, Calif.
3 Dec 2003 23:53:22 -0800

lyraphone1a.jpg (29 kb)
[Hi-resolution image: lyraphone1.jpg (343 kb)]

lyraphone3a.jpg (26 kb)

lyraphone4a.jpg (26 kb)
[Hi-resolution image: lyraphone4.jpg (350 kb)]

lyraphone6a.jpg (28 kb)

[back to Power Roller instruments]

04 December 2003

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