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Piano-Lodeon: Repair Information

Hi All,

I'm now the proud owner of a PianoLodeon (correct name is Piano-Lodeon -at
least that's what's on the nameplate on the front of the unit). The name
on the box of rolls that came with the unit reads Piano Lodeon.

I've read every posting in the MMDigest, and I'm collecting information
from various other sources on the web. Notably missing from the history
of this cute little toy piano is 'when it was actually made' and how
many of them were manufactured. However, since Douglas Henderson's post
says there was a white model made after the maroon model, and considering
that one post noted a maroon model with a serial number of 909, one can
assume that there were at least 1000 units produced.

After my initial inspection of the piano, which didn't work at all, it
became clear that there was a definite order to the way it had to be
taken apart, so as not to damage anything.

First, the back was removed and the power cord was cut at the two points
where crimp connectors where used to connect the cord to one leg of the
On-Off switch and one leg of the AC motor. Next, the On-Off switch was
loosened from the cabinet. A simple brass, round collar nut is used to
secure the switch to the cabinet. Next, the 'striker assembly' was removed.
It is actually secured in place by two of the screws that are used to
secure the back to the cabinet, but it simply slides out of the unit.
Next, the 23 pieces of 1/4" I.D. rubber tubing were removed. Next, the
nameplate on the front of the unit was removed. It is held in place by
four metal tabs which pass through slots in the plastic case and bent
inward to secure the nameplate to the case. Next, the rubber drive belt
was removed. Next, the four screws that hold the entire player action
and keyboard into the cabinet were removed. Two pieces of metal, one on
each side, are located between the screws (two on each side) and the
plastic mounts so that the screws apply a more even pressure to the
plastic. (Probably to reduce the possibility of cracking the plastic
when the screws are tightened.)

The second phase of the dismantling process involved removing the motor
assembly. It is secured to the 'action' by four screws which pass through
rubber grommets. The grommets are attached to the aluminum housing and
there are four brass inserts which prevent the grommets from getting
crushed when the screws are tightened. I can only imagine that this extra
effort, i.e. the rubber grommets and brass inserts, were installed to
reduce the vibration noise generated by the motor and the associated
plastic turbine fan and gear drive. (Frankly, the noise generated by
the fan is 3-5 times louder than any other mechanical noises in the unit.)
Once the motor assembly is free, the first real challenge becomes quite

Phase Three: The plastic turbine fan (the 'fan') is secured to the motor
shaft with a force-fit metal clip. In all my years, I have never found a
tool which loosens the 'death-grip' these steel clips have on a metal shaft.
The only way they can be removed is by filing them off. A good jewelers
file does the trick. The next challenge is removing the fan from the
motor shaft. After a number of futile attempts to pry it off -taking
extreme care not to crack the old plastic, I opted to use a small hammer
and appropriately sized punch to drive the shaft down and away from the
fan. By supporting the fan from the underside at four points (it's hard
to put this into words) and tapping gently on the shaft, the fan finally
came free. In hindsight, this was indeed the scariest part of the entire
restoration process. Once the fan was off, the motor was removed from the

Phase Four: "The Actual Problem". While it had become obvious to me some
hours earlier that the motor was the heart of a major problem, it wasn't
until it was dismantled that I found out what was actually wrong. The
motor assembly is comprised of only four basic parts; The rotor, the stator,
and the upper and lower bearings (and their associated housings). This
fan-type motor is extremely common, and like most old fan-type motors,
the bearings are usually the problem when they quit working. This was
indeed the case here, and the lower bearing was frozen to the shaft.
Freeing the bearing from the shaft turned out to be the second scariest
part of the whole process. While the shaft is steel, the bearing housing
is made of some inexpensive alloy that looks pretty fragile. Upon very
close inspection, I could see the brass collar (or bearing), and I located
a steel tube with the same inside diameter as the outside diameter of the
shaft. Placing the tube over the shaft, I gently tapped on the tube until
the bearing moved a slight amount. Then, using a penetrating fluid, I
soaked the bearing for an hour or so, and over the next couple of hours
was able to get it free.

In my opinion, the 'problem' could have been avoided if the bearing had
been lubricated at some point during the life of the device. BTW, it was
the 'lower' bearing that was frozen. So, a maintenance note has been
tacked to the back of the piano which advises this simple preventative
maintenance action.

Other work needed to be done to the motor with regards to cleaning and
aligning of the rotor because the position of the shaft is critical to
the position of the fan. And, the position of the fan is critical to the
generation of the vacuum. There should only be a couple of thousandths
of an inch of clearance between the 'top' of the fan and the felt washer
that's glued to the bottom of the player action. If the fan touches the
felt, it will cause drag which prevents the motor from reaching full
speed -thus reducing the vacuum level. If the fan is as little as 1/32"
from the felt, the vacuum leaks out a sufficient amount as to reduce
performance -or the volume of the music.

Phase Five: 'The Player Action': To simply say that this action is very
unique is a gross understatement. It is ingenious! It utilizes all of
the basic principles of a normal player action but employs parts that
are anything but normal. At the outset, and being totally forthright,
I don't fully understand the physics. I searched Google Patents for
hours to see if I could find a patent, but I came up empty. (That, for
me, is the saddest part of this whole project.) I would love to get into
the mind of the person responsible for creating this very simple, in
terms of parts, yet marvelously complex, in terms of action, device.

In a YouTube video I will be posting, I demonstrate how the device works,
and I show each of the parts, and try to explain what I believe is the
function of each part. It only has "TWO" moving parts. I find that
amazing!! Equally fascinating is the fact that the unit appears to work
on less than two inches of vacuum. (I tried to measure the level using
my standard 0-100 gauge, and it didn't even move.) However, it does use
a lot of air. I won't attempt to explain that here, but it brings to mind
something I've determined for myself after nearly forty years are a player
technician. I've determined that there are basically two factors when it
comes to controlling the power (or energy) created by vacuum-operated
devices like player pianos; air flow and vacuum level.

At this point, I must back-step and state that there is one major difference,
vis-a-vis the theory of operation, between this device and a regular player
mechanism. In a pneumatic player piano, the maximum amount of power occurs
at Time Zero, when the bellow starts to collapse. From there, it curves
down to zero -when the bellow is fully collapsed. In the PianoLodeon, the
power is minimum at Time Zero and it increases as the "striker vane" (a
term coined by Mike Kitner -MMDigest 1999.03.12.05) accelerates. After the
vane speeds up, the mass of the vane has enough inertia to lift the key and
the plastic striker with enough force to play the note. In the unit I have,
there is enough air flow created by the fan to play all of the notes if they
are 'uncovered' one at a time across the 23-note scale. (I can only imagine
how well it would play if an external vacuum source and a 2" opening were
used, and three inches of vacuum was applied...)

In finishing up this phase of the process, it is stated, as others have
noted before, that any sort of debris in the 'valve' which prevents it from
opening and closing, with just a breath of air, will prevent the note from
working properly. Either it will stay 'on' all of the time, or it won't
work at all.

Phase Six: "The Transmission": This set of gears allows for three modes
of operation; Play, Silent, and Rewind. There's nothing complicated about
this assembly. However, the grease that was originally used hardens with
age. So, it all needs to be removed and replaced with a modern gear grease.

Phase Seven: Re-Assembly and Testing: Pretty painless. Just put all the
pieces back in the reverse order as they were taken apart. Just for fun,
I made up a 'test roll' using a piece of QRS roll paper and a hole punch.
(Not rocket science... ;-)

John A Tuttle
Brick, NJ, USA

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This page was last revised July 1, 2017 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions
Expressed within the Pages of the Player-Care Domain.
Cartoon Graphics by E7 Style Graphics (Eric Styles)

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