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Player Piano Servicing and Rebuilding By Arthur Reblitz
See the book for sale at the bottom of this page.



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Used in Player Pianos and Pump, or Reed, Organs                                     [Back to PAGE CONTENTS]

Part Description:                                                                                                           Part Number         Price

Extend the life of the bellows material:

When recovering the bellows with rubberized cloth, from the key bellows to the largest pump bellows, do NOT crease the rubberized cloth and completely close the bellows at any time.

Allow the bellows to hang at rest as you clean away excess material and glue. Let it close naturally as the vacuum is applied for the first time.

The best player makers in the past would glue a felt bushing, such as a center rail bushing, inside the bellows to prevent it from ever completely closing, even during assembly.

Buy 100 felt bushings:
Part No.- SH336C   $ 13.00

The reason for this is that if the rubberized cloth creases from completely closing, it will set a tight fold and do all its future hinging, or folding, at that sharp line. This will reduce the life of the rubberized cloth by two thirds.

Rubberized Cloth for Motors, Large Pneumatics, and Governors- .015 thick
        54 inches wide-- per yard
        Black inside, Wine outside-- 100% cotton nainsook bonded to natural rubber           SH652            $ 126.00 yd.

Rubberized Cloth- 100% cotton nainsook bonded to natural rubber
        For individual Key Bellows-  .008 thick- 45" wide sheet- per yard                             SS220           $ 75.00 yd.

Nylon Sheeting Rubberized Cloth-  Coated with polyurethane
        60 inches wide and approx. .004 thick.  Very thin-- Can order fractions of a yard;
        very flexible, very durable; wine colored.
        Must use PVC glue SH387 see down the page                                                           SH668         $ 30.00 / yd.

Player Bellows Cloth- Heavy double thickness.  Bonded with natural rubber
        Rust cotton twill outside, white cotton flannel inside. For pumps, reservoirs, etc.
        This cloth is very stiff & is best used in conjunction with an electric vacuum pump.
        59 inches wide, approx. .054 thick                                                                               DA55            $ 99.00 / yd

Player Bellows Cloth- Double textured black drill cloth with rubber center.
        For reservoirs and pumps. Best used when player is foot pumped. 58" wide,
        approx. .045 thick.                                                                                                        SO330        $120.00 / yd

Medium Thickness Bellows Cloth-  Cotton drill with natural rubber center.
        Possibly for pipe organ bellows, player mid sized pneumatics
        57 inches wide, Approx. .030 inches thick                                                                    SO320          $ 90.00 / yd

Reed Organ Bellows Cloth
        For reed organ bellows reservoirs, etc.  56 inches wide Approx .030 inches thick.
        If you buy only one yard, you will have to cut and piece to do one bellows on most
        organs. This is NOT a good idea.                                                                                  DA56         $ 88.00 / yd.

Reed Organ Money Saver
Only doing one Reed Organ Bellows? 84" by 28" sheet of DA56
        Be VERY sure your bellows can be covered-- Most organs will take this size.               DA1054      $ 110.00

Twill Tape-  Specify 3/8 inch or 5/8 inch wide medium weight white woven tape.  For pneumatics,
        pouch-pneumatic hinges, reservoir folds, and as tie cord in reaching pipe organs.
       5 foot length                                                                                                                       DA675          $ 4.50


These rubberized cloth products have many applications in your shop.
Old timey hinges can be made with heavy material. Make sure you have
some scrap. Store is in a sealed container in case it is years before you
find a use for it.

LEATHER FOR ALL APPLICATIONS                                             [Back to PAGE CONTENTS]
Used in Player Pianos and Pump, or Reed, Organs

Part Description:                                                                                                           Part Number              Price

--We have a new line of pneumatic, valve and gusset leathers, available by the skin.
Also, pneumatic leather in thicknesses from .008" to .026" can be ordered in 6" x 12"
pieces. See our listing below, and feel free to call if you have questions.
---Felt & Leather valves: with or without center hole, you specify the thickness & diameter.
Also can be custom cut in pieces to your specification.


We have three different choices for pneumatic leather. All are available in the following thicknesses:

        Extra Thin        .008"-.010"
        Thin                .010" - .012"                                                                        
        Medium           .013"- .017"                                                                          
        Heavy            .017" - .021"
        X-Heavy        .022"-.026"

        ALL sizes are available only by the skin or in 6" x 12" piece.(Skins average about 6-8 sq/ft) Price of 6" x 12" piece is $25.95.

        African Hairsheep - imported & then chrome tanned in the US. Undyed, light gray color;
               available in black for $1 extra per sq/ft                                                                                                       SC-PL1        $22.95 sq/ft
        Aeolian/Morton Style -  African hairsheep; chrome tanned, dyed maroon, then put through a heat
               process which seals the pores to reduce air porosity through the skin.. Very supple & pliable leather.           SC-ML2      $24.95 sq/ft

        Tan Hairsheep - Processed exactly the same as the Morton style leather, but in the traditional
               tan (Brown Havana) color
.                                                                                                                        SC-TL 3       $24.95 sq/ft

       Maroon and Tan leathers are available in XXXThin (.005" -.007")  6" x 12" pieces for clock restorers  SC-XXXTH   $25.95/piece                                          

White Zephyr Skins-- Feather weight-- Usually used for pouches and small pneumatics
        Known for having a very long life under constant flexing.
        Made of thin intestinal membrane of animals and expanded to be very thin.
        Light, strong and flexible. Approx. 7" by 20"-- About .002 inches thick                        SH670               $ 66.00 each

Goatskin Tanned Gusset Leather
        Soft and pliable so that it stretches and conforms to the corners of the resevoir.
        Available in 3 thicknesses: Thin (.030"), Medium (.040"), and Heavy (.050")
        Skins average 4 to 6 square feet for thin to 8 to 12 feet for heavy. Minimum order is one skin.     SC-GL4         $ 15.95 sq/ft.

Goatskin Valve Leather
  Imported Spanish Goatskin, chrome tanned in the US. Double buffed for a velvety soft suede side and a de-glossed grain side for strong adhesion.                                Three thicknesses: .030", .040", .050". Available only by the skin. Skins average 7-12 sq/ft                   SC-GVL5               $ 16.95 sq/ft.

Chrome Tanned Packing Leather
        Soft clean cow hides, dyed brown. Sold in partial skins averaging 7-16 square feet.                 SC-CL6                  $ 10.25 sq/ft.

Split Suede Gasket Leather
       Chrome tanned African Hairsheep with the grain side split away. Economical soft leather great for gaskets.
        Available by the skin (skins average 4-6 sq/ft.). We usually stock this, so you can get smaller amounts by request.        SC-SSL7        $6.00 sq/ft

Bellows Flap Valve
        .065" to .085" thick with hard finish one side and fine smooth valve surface
        on the other. For inside and outside pedal pump flaps. 7" by 12"                                  DA164                 $ 18.50 each

Leather Pouches Pre-Punched
        Pouches are available punched to order from any of the three pneumatic leathers listed
above. Price depends on
        diameter and choice of leather. (Morton leather is 10% more.) Basic price for 1" to 1 5/8" diam. pouches is $1.05 each; any quantity.

Leather Valve Facings
Valve facings can be ordered in any quantity by specifying diameter, inner hole diam. (if any), and thickness.
        Price depends on diameter and hole size. 5/16" hole is standard; other sizes are 20 cents extra each. Prices begin at
        $0.65 each for 1/2" diam. punching with standard hole.


Leather Lubricant and Conditioners
         Known as neatsfoot oil, these oils recondition, waterproof, and preserve leather.
         Made of rendered feet and shin bones of cattle. Hard to find.
         Not for hot area application. Use to recondition and extend the life of leather
         bellows and parts in player pianos and reed organs. I have not idea what this
         would do for player valves. It might save aging Zephyr leather.
         Also, very useful for maintaining quality work boots and old book covers
         and anything made of leather. To save an old Bible, rub in Neatsfoot Oil, allow
         to dry for a couple days, rub in and shine with shoe polish the color of the cover,
         and finish off with Armoral and rub off excess. The cover will look like new.
                  8 ounce squeeze bottle                                                                                  SM1900        $ 14.00

Mink Oil Paste
        A natural by-product of soften and preserve smooth leather.
        Tanned leather loses its oils in the process and needs natural oils added to
        maintain supple qualities. This product is absorbed INTO the leather. Petroleum
        based products will eventually evaporate. Mink oil has an indefinite shelf life.
        Massage in and wipe excess off in about ten minutes. Excellent for treating
        leather pouches and gaskets.
                               6 ounce jar                                                                                                    DA1705             $ 8.00

These leather products have many applications in the shop of a "fix it man".
I make sure I have some scrap left over when doing work with leather and
rubberized cloth for those odd situations when these products will solve a
repair problem. Keep leather in a sealed container of plastic bag. Moths and
other critters love it.

Pneumatic Covering Jig--  A simple aluminum jig.  
         Adjustable from 5/8 inch to 1 3/8 inches.  Complete with 6 pages of illustrated
         instructions.  Instructions cover removal of old material and replacement of new.
         See the graphic near the bottom of the page in the Vacuum Pump area.
         Prepared by an experienced player piano specialist.                                                   DA476               $ 50.00

GASKET MATERIAL                                                                                                [Back to PAGE CONTENTS]

Soft Rubber Sheeting-
        1/32 inch, 12 inches wide-- Priced per running foot
                                                 DA736                $ 9.50 per foot

Cork Sheet-
Pure fine-grind dense cork- 12" by 36" by 1/16"                                                          SM205              $ 12.25 ea.

Cork - Rubber Mix Gasket Material
        1/16 inch thick by 4 inches by 36 inches                                                                      DA401                $  12.00 ea.
        1/16 inch thick by 9 inches by 36 inches                                                                      DA408                $ 26.50 ea.
        1/16 inch thick by 12 inches by 36 inches                                                                    SM206                $ 34.50 ea.

Closed Cell sponge Neoprene
        Softer than leather, completely air tight, and uniform thickness. The latest thing for
        vertical valve replacement. Just reglue the valvee stem to new combination valve
        made with two punghings of sponge neoprene, seperated by fiber of metal valve
        base disk. Part Number DA320 glue recommended (see below).
                1/16" by 12" Priced per foot                                               
                                DA751                 $ 695 per foot
 Felt Strip
        5/8" wide by 150 inches long- .070 inches thick- Scarlet                                              DA1439              $ 19.00

Paper Blotter Paper Gasket Material
        There is NO return and no refund on this item.
        Approximately 20 by 30 inches and .020 thick. This material is used to assemble
        wooden vacuum chambers and wind chests in player pianos and reed organs.
Used along with other gasket material, or alone, the blotter paper is wet with water,
and when the wood parts are assembled, the wet paper will fill imperfect grain in
the wood to better prevent leaks after the paper dries.                                                  DABlotter             $ 9.85 per sheet

Save yourself a lot of trouble.


This gasket material is often very useful in automotive repair. The neoprene is oil resistant.
I find that the use of silicone glues in automotive applications is often less than satisfying.
The old fashioned use of cork and rubber gives a better base for sealing. Do be aware
that this material does not crush as much as silicone if you have tolerance issues.










See the bottom of the page.


67. Maintaining Player Pianos

68. Varmints, Lubrication of Player Pianos

69. Adjustment of Player Pianos

70. Bellows repair in Player Pianos

71. Get a stalled Player going again

Player Piano Trouble Shooting

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From Piano Tuning and the Allied Arts 1917 edition by William Braid White . . .
(This chapter contains pointers on player piano repair including extensive troubleshooting suggestions.)
Annotations, HTML and .JPG Copyrighted

Previous Chapter                                       WBW Book Contents

Chapter Xlll.            REPAIR OF PLAYER MECHANISM.

Within the meaning of the word “repair,” as used in this chapter, I understand to be included all matters pertaining to the regulation and maintenance of players in good order during their effective life, as well as such direct repairs as are made necessary by actual breakage or destruction of parts. I do not propose to attempt an exhaustive listing of all the possible troubles that may occur, but shall give here some gleanings from my own experience and from much observation of others' work, with the intention of providing a general guide which will enable the learner to find his own way through the most difficult problems.

In the first place it ought to be realized that the number of possible troubles that can occur to a player piano is limited. All may be traced to a few broad causes, and when these are known and understood, any problem that may arise can be reasoned out. I shall begin by discussing the possible troubles occurring to players that remain structurally and organically perfect, and shall then say a little about the work of repairing damaged and broken parts on older machines. In short, the first part of this chapter shall treat of maintenance, the second of actual replacements.


The fundamental cause of more than half the ills which affect player-pianos is leakage. It is of course obvious that in a machine like the pneumatic player action, operation whereof depends upon the constant maintenance of a reduced pressure within the mechanism, any leakage of air inwards from the outside must be prevented at all costs. Yet it is also plain that this leakage inwards is inevitable to some extent, for the simple reason that the outside air presses upon the outer walls of the mechanism everywhere with a definite pressure directly proportional to the reduction of pressure within. The higher the vacuum within, the greater the pressure without. Hence it can easily be seen that there is everywhere a constant tendency towards the leakage of air inwards in all places where such leakage is conceivably possible. Thus, for instance, we know that when the button of the primary valve is thrown up, atmospheric air flows in beneath the button and into the secondary channel. Now, right operation of the mechanism depends upon the primary buttons seating upon their seats so cleanly that there shall be no leakage of air under them until they are deliberately raised by the operation of the paper roll. Any leakage under any of these buttons means that the corresponding secondary valves are operated, and then we have what is known as “ciphering”; which means, pneumatics speaking when no perforations in the roll call for them to speak. That is one illustration of the leakage problem.

It is equally plain that through leakage the pneumatic sustaining pedal devices operate when the control button is at rest. Leakage is responsible for the re-roll speed of a motor being maintained when driving forward. Leakage is responsible (when a re-roll is pneumatically handled), for the mechanism playing when re-rolling Leakage beneath the pouches of a tracking device may be responsible for constant bad tracking of rolls. And there are many other possibilities in the case.

Precautions against leakage.

It is therefore clear that the maintenance of air-tight conditions is the prime duty of the repairman. To this end the following general hints will be found useful:

1. Always see that the screws in valve boards and other important places, such as governor boxes, etc., are well tightened.

2. Do not drive screws roughly and forcibly, but always turn them in as far as possible with the fingers, and then finish with screw-driver. Do not force too tight. Overdrawn screws are a most prolific cause of leakage.

3. When it is necessary to take off a cover from a box or bellows, or valve-chest, be extremely careful to see that the replacement is made exactly as was the detachment. In other words, mark the top and bottom of the box when detaching it and see that it goes back the same way.

4. When detaching a valve seat, see that it is marked so as to facilitate replacing in exactly the same position ; and if it was shellacked or glued in place, re-shellac or re-glue it.

5. See that valves work easily and are not prevented from seating by grit or dirt lodging on the seats. Sticking or blocked secondary valves sometimes prevent entirely the formation of a vacuum in the chest, being wedged in a half way position and allowing air to be drawn constantly from the outside into the chest through their outer seats.

6. See that all hose connections are tightly on their nipples and if such connections have tightening bands, see that the latter are tightened accordingly.

Motor troubles.

The pneumatic motor of the player mechanism is timed to run as follows :

2 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 20

3 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 30

4 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 40

5 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 50

6 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 60

7 feet per minute of paper to pass when indicator shows 70

and so on upwards to the 130 mark on the tempo dial, where the indication is for 13 feet of paper

per minute to travel. These speeds are commonly tested on a test-roll which is marked out in feet and

half-feet so that the time can be taken by the watch.


A test-roll which allows for the separate sounding and repetition of each of the 88 pneumatics, as well as for timing motor speed, is an essential element in the kit of the player repairman.

Motor Slow.

If the motor runs at speed slower than indicated above, the spring of the motor governor must be strengthened as explained in previous chapters.

Motor Fast.

If the motor runs too fast, spring must be weakened.

Motor drags.

If the motor drags on light pumping (does not run fast enough, loses speed), the governor closes too much. If the speed has been regulated through the governor spring, for normal pumping, the screw which is placed to limit the closing of the governor or its cut-off must be adjusted to keep the governor further open.

Motor races.

If the motor races on hard pumping, the governor does not close enough. If speed is right on normal pumping, then adjust screw so as to make governor close a little more on hard pumping.

Motor hitches.

If the motor runs irregularly and in a sort of gasping way, perhaps losing power rapidly or failing under hard work, as towards the end of a heavy roll, this probably means leakage under the slide-valves or incorrect adjustment of them. In the first place, see if the slides sit flat on their seats. If they do not, take them down and have them trued up. Wooden slides can be sandpapered flat. The seats should also be sandpapered and then burnished with powdered graphite (not grease, tallow or other fatty substances, but pure graphite only). In the second place, if the motor runs unevenly, disconnect slides and then carefully place each one in its true extreme position over the ports in both extreme positions alternately, marking the seat accordingly. Then adjust the connecting rods so that slides reach these positions correctly.

Motor races all the time.

In this case the re-roll valve in the tempo box is probably being kept open. Adjust it accordingly. But if a silencing valve is used, look to this and see whether there is anything holding it open on the motor side; as for instance a leak, allowing air constantly to flow under the operating pouch and lift the valve.

Action plays when re-rolling.

In this case it is evident that action cut-off valve does not close when the re-roll lever or button is operated. In cases where a pneumatic device is used it is possible that leakage under the pouch or between the operating button and its seat may be responsible. Otherwise, a broken connecting rod is the most obvious thing to seek.

Action does not play.

Action cut-off valve remains closed. Examine the manner of operation and apply remedies as suggested above.

No vacuum in action.

See if secondary valves are held off their seats by dirt or verdigris gathering on seats, or by sticking of guide pins; provided, of course, that bellows system is working all right.

Pouches too stiff.

Sometimes pouches are made stiff by age or warping of pouch board, so that they hold valve stems off their seats and prevent vacuum chest from becoming duly exhausted. This defect is sometimes observed by player failing to gain vacuum when pumped. Take off valve board and rub down pouches with fingers. If this will not do, regulate valves to give more play between buttons and pouches.

Player ''Lacks power."

Usually this defect is manifested in a certain lack of "resistance" under the feet and is often to be remedied simply by increasing the stiffness of the equalizer springs. If there are two equalizers it is often well to stiffen only the one which is more heavily spring-expanded. Sometimes an extra wooden spring outside the equalizer is the indicated remedy.

Repetition Bad.

Probably the vents or "bleed holes" are clogged and in this case need simply to be cleaned, when the trouble will disappear. Adjustable bleed-holes, as in some players, may have been mal-adjusted by some previous repairer. Lost motion between pneumatics and piano action is also to be considered as a possible contributor to this defect.

Repetition good but power weak.

Bleed holes are probably too large and should be adjusted accordingly if player has adjustments for this purpose. But this defect is very unlikely to be observed in players with fixed bleed holes.

Player plays hesitatingly.

See if primary valve stems stick in their sockets or are too tight in them. This will cause primaries to move slowly and delay action of player. Similarly, see if secondary valves move slowly through stickiness of pins or other similar causes.

Travel of Valves.

In almost all cases it may be safely set down that primary valves need not and should not rise more than 1/64''. Secondary valves need about 1/8” travel in most cases.

Pneumatic ciphers.

See above on Leaks. Ciphering is due to the valves operating independently of the paper, so that a pneumatic collapses as soon as pumping starts. Look for leaks in the tracker tube, or dirt setting on valve seats, or leaks from channel to channel in valve boards or connections.

Pneumatic silent.

If a speaking pneumatic does not collapse when it should, listen for a hissing sound. This would indicate a torn pneumatic. Otherwise see if tracker tube or channels are clogged or valves held shut by dirt.

Dampers always off.

Sometimes (see above, “leaks”) air gets in under the sustaining device control button and keeps sustaining pedal pneumatic partly collapsed. Other similar defects may cause this pneumatic to remain collapsed.

Dampers do not rise on low vacuum.

All pneumatic sustaining devices have the vice of requiring considerable power to work them. If they work well on lower power, then this means that bleed-hole and rise of valve are cut down so much that, although the pedaling is not affected, the operation of the pneumatic is slow. Vice-versa, if the pneumatic closes sharply, it makes a lot of noise and takes up much power. A happy medium is the only aim possible.

Soft expression.

The expression governor can be regulated to determine what degree of power shall be available when the soft expression is in action. The stiffer the spring is made, the louder will the player play on soft expression; and vice versa.

In players which have divided soft expression, one half of the vacuum chest is affected by each governor. The action cut-off valve is then also divided; one valve being required in each expression box. This should be remembered in dealing with such players.

Regulation in general.

Of course, it would be possible to go on indefinitely setting forth directions for remedying possible troubles; but the foregoing covers the really essential points and the student should be able by careful study of the previous chapters to reason out for himself any further problems of the same sort. It is mainly to be remembered that the player mechanism is to be considered well regulated when it plays well. If its playing is satisfactory to the user and to the tuner who cares for it there is really no more to be said. Certain things are requisite to the proper working of the player mechanism and these have been set forth above.

Patches and replacements.

The actual replacement of parts which have become worn out is not often necessary but in old cabinet players and even on the older 65-note player-pianos still in use one sometimes finds it necessary to re-clothe bellows units, re-pouch valves and so on.

Stopping Leaks in Boards.

When cracks appear in valve boards it is best to fill them in with shellac. In fact, any places, where any possibility exists of leaking joints or porous wood, may always advantageously be treated in this way. If cracks are really wide, it may be better to fill in with soft wood glued in place, and then cover with a thin patch of pneumatic cloth on both sides, afterwards shellacking over the patch. This will make a perfect air-tight patch.

Cracked Pneumatics.

The cloth sides of pneumatics, especially those of the motor, wear out in time at the hinges. In this case, it is necessary either to cement a small patch over the cracked place or — if the crack is wide — perhaps to re-clothe the pneumatic. Especially is this often necessary on old motors. The procedure in this case is as follows : Carefully cut off the old cloth very close to the edges of the wooden walls, so that when cut off the entire cloth can be laid out on a table in one piece forming a pattern for the new cloth. The narrow edge of the cloth where it was glued on to the walls cannot always be removed readily, but in that case simply cut as closely to the edges as possible. Then lay the old piece down on a new piece of cloth, allowing enough extra width to take care of the thin edge which is to be glued on the boards or walls of the pneumatic. Take a file and smooth off the edges of the pneumatic boards or walls, so as to get off all the old cloth that will come off. Then get good hot glue, spread it over the edges of one board and apply the cloth, smoothing it well down with the hand and ironing it finally with a small iron reasonably hot. Then do the same on the other wall of the pneumatic, allowing a little time for the first to dry. Be careful to see that the dimensions are preserved, especially as to width of opening when the cloth is glued on. For speaking pneumatics, a mercerized rubber-coated cotton is often used, gauging (L. J. Mutty Co. figures) .0045" to .0075” For motors the same firm manufactures a rubber cloth, either double or single texture, gauging .008'' to .015".

Bellows Repairs.

The corners of the exhaust units sometimes show signs of wear but the toughness of the cloths used and the comparatively slow movement of the units in operation permit effectual patching without any necessity for entire recovering. Patches should be of the same material as the original cloth and should be glued on with hot glue if the cloth is a jean or a twill ; and with rubber cement if the old-fashioned rubber bellows cloth is the material. Bellows flap valves sometimes become leaky through porosity of the cloth. They can be covered with a strip of bellows twill, or simply replaced. Double texture jeans and heavy twills are used for covering bellows today. The old rubber cloth is virtually obsolete.


To replace broken or cracked pouches, take off the old leather as carefully as possible and cut a new piece of the same size. Scrape glue-surface clean, put on hot glue and press down with a wooden block cut to fit the orifice. Kid is often used for pouch-leather on modern players, but on old ones sheepskin was sometimes used. The use of this latter should be avoided as it tends to crumble. In my opinion, a rubber-coated silk cloth is the best, and such cloth should gauge (see L. J. Mutty measurements) from .003 to .004 inch.

Squeaky Springs.

Treat coiled springs with vaseline. If fan springs squeak see where the rust is in them and clean it out.

Squeaky Slides.

Squeaky slide-valves in tempo boxes and elsewhere should be treated by smoothing off their seats and contact surfaces and rubbing on powdered graphite from a soft, heavy lead pencil. Never use grease in any form.

Overdrawn screws.

Screws should always be countersunk and provided with metal washers when used to secure valve boards and other places where air-tightness is desired. Do not turn overdrawn screws, but withdraw them, plug their holes and re-insert. Overdrawn screws always mean leaks.

Leaky Tubes.

Old rubber tubing is sometimes found crumbled and leaky. Do not bother about it, but simply replace it with new lengths. Old hose connections often leak also and it is better to replace them. Metal hose pipe connections should be well screwed down and if necessary seated on a coat of shellac.

Metal tubing does not often crack or otherwise suffer leakage troubles, but occasionally a jar or shock will crack such a tube at a joint. The best remedy is to cut out the affected part and join up with a piece of rubber tube; or else use the soldering iron.

Old Player Pianos.

Player-pianos made in the G5-note days were usually built with a child-like confidence in their infallibility; or at least one would so imagine. Their builders do not seem to have considered that there would ever be any special need to take them apart, and in fact may perhaps have thought that they would be better untouched; for certainly to disentangle them from the piano is always a formidable and often a hopeless task. The repairman may observe that many of these old pianos are built with the entire pneumatic stack, in addition to the bellows system, under the key bed, while the spool box remains above. Naturally, it is not easy to get such a mechanism out of the piano and in many cases it is necessary to take out the key bed, which in fact is usually arranged accordingly. In one case (old Cecilian 65-note) the key-bed carrying the pneumatic action, the keys, the piano action and the spool box, can be separated from the back of the piano.

Leakage, slowness of motor, hard pumping and general debility are to be expected in these player pianos, for they were built at a time when the whole industry was in an experimental state and when the general level of scientific knowledge, never high, was even lower than it is now in the factories. Hence, as can easily be understood, all kinds of impossible constructions were made the subject of experiment and the repairman is ofttimes called on to use his skill on specimens of this sort.

In any case it may be said that the principles already briefly laid down in this book (and more completely in my “ Player Piano Up To Date”) apply to the old as well as to the new, nor has there been any radical alteration in essential methods. Principles, of course, are exactly the same today as they were twenty years ago; refinement in detail has been accomplished but scarcely anything more.

Cabinet Players' Individualities and Peculiarities.

Similar observations apply to the older cabinet players, with certain additions. The older cabinet Angelus and Apollo were made with a 58-note range. The Angelus music rolled the reverse way. Apollo rolls were made without pins, whereas all other contemporary 58- and 65-note rolls had pinned flanges. Cecilian music was made with a long tracker bar provided with extra size perforations at the bass end. Such players had to have two tracker bars. Some Apollo players were built in a form known as “Apollo Grand,” having an octave coupler which throws in an extra octave of pneumatics at bass and treble extremities.

In general it should be remembered that the cabinet players, even more than the old 65-note player pianos, were experimental. They therefore are found in vast variety of constructional detail, but it may always safely be assumed that their peculiarities are due rather to imperfect grasp of fundamentals on the part of their makers than to any excellences now unavailable or unused.

These brief hints and suggestions are given with the idea of suggesting methods rather than attempting to convey a definite answer to each possible definite problem. The latter task would be endless.

In conclusion let me give a short list of materials and tools that the player repairer should always carry with him:

Test Roll

Vacuum pump for tracker bar

Rubber tubing for tracker tubes

Hose (2 sizes) for main connections

Shellac in liquid form with bottle and brush

Glue (not fish glue)

Rubber cement

Kid (leather) for pouches

Rubber covered silk cloth for pouches

Rubber coated cotton cloth for pneumatics

Rubber cloth for pneumatics of motors

Special bellows cloth for bellows repairs

Raw-hide washers and strips for bearings of pedals, bellows, connections, etc.

Miscellaneous threaded wires and buttons

Leather buttons

Miscellaneous valve buttons and stems, valve seats, etc.

Other materials and tools will suggest themselves to the repairman as his needs and his experience alike grow.

A Last Word: It is not true that a good workman never quarrels with his tools; though perhaps a bad workman always does. A good workman never quarrels with good tools; and always with bad ones. Carlyle said, “Genius is nothing but an infinite capacity for taking pains.” With these significant words I may fitly bring this book to an end.


This is the end of the 1917 edition of William Braid White's Piano Tuning and the Allied Arts.
Annotations, HTML and .jpg copyright Keith and Barb Akins