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"Tips and Tricks"
Wurlitzer 1203

Reference Materials

----- Original Message ----- 

At 09:17 PM 11/8/04, you wrote:

Thanks, I received the rolls.  We are having problems playing them.  
The keystrokes don't seem to be hard enough for it to play properly.  
Any idea on where we can obtain technical operating information for 
our piano (manual)?  It's a Wurlitzer, model 1203.

Thank you.

=========================end email=============================
========================begin reply============================

Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 5:30 AM
Subject: Wurlitzer 1203 problem


The Wurlitzer 1203 Service Manual is available at:

I will assume you have turned up the Volume all the 
way, and still have the problem.........

There are a few of possible problems with the instrument. 
First, check the roll tracking and insure that the holes in the 
roll are directly over the holes in the trackerbar. If they are 
not, use the knurl knob on the trackerbar and adjust the 
position of the roll (right or left) accordingly. Second, there 
might be excessive 'lost motion'  between the action of the 
solenoids and the action of the piano. By removing the bottom 
board of the piano, you can visually inspect the action. There 
should be 1/16" of clearance between the plunger rod and 
the whippen. Thirdly, the vacuum level of the vacuum pump 
might be too low. It should be 11-12 inches of water vacuum. 
Fourth, the action of the piano might be out of regulation. 
Specifically, the let-off adjustment could be incorrect. The 
hammers should move to within 1/8" of the stings before 
let-off occurs. This can be tested by activating any key in 
the center part of the piano (where the keys are most used) 
very slowly. Watch to see how far the hammer moves towards 
the strings before falling back. The adjustment is deep inside 
of the piano action and requires a special tool. The job is best 
left to a trained technician. 

A less common problem in the aging 1203 involves sluggishness 
in the solenoids. However, the symptom of that problem is that 
some notes play well while others do not....

Hope this helps.


John A Tuttle
Brick, NJ, USA

Portions of this response may be used in a web page about 
troubleshooting the Wurlitzer 1203.

===============================end reply==================
============================final response================

At 12:11 AM 11/9/04, you wrote:

Thank you so much.  The information you provided enabled us to 
fix the piano ourselves, it sounds great!  I'm sure you will be 
hearing from us again soon for more rolls.


Here's another email and response:

comments: Hi John! Been a long time since we chatted re my 1203! Just had it
tuned (Issac in CT). Sounds good. I've tinkered with the tracker/spool area
over the years since buying it in 2007 but I'm just not happy with the
tracking. Some rolls sound great, others not so great.(using the thumb wheel
seems to have helped for now) I also keep the tracker pumped out so no issues
there.  My biggest worry is that when a roll is playing,  the right end of
most rolls rubs against the right flange (for lack of proper terminology, I'm
speaking of the flange above the tracker bar, not the take-up spool) I'm
trying to figure out exactly how to place the spool collars to help this but
cannot seem to get it right. I also tried to figure out if I need to
manipulate the tracker cam in the rewind shaft area. I bought the manual from
you in 2007 or 08 but I think I need more direction as while the
trouble-shooting mentions loosening the set screw and moving the collars, I
don't see that anything changes. The distance between the flanges on the
take-up spindle are the same, but the distance between the top 2 flanges to
the box are a bit different. I can't figure out how to change this & wonder
if this is why the paper is rubbing. I even see the right end bubbling up as
it plays & I know that's not right. I also noticed that the top roll spindles
on both left and right weave a bit to the left and right as a roll plays, Is
this normal?  There is no disruption in the notes being played but I never
noticed this before. Maybe it's normal? Would it be possible to send you a
YouTube of a roll playing for diagnosis? Of course I would expect to pay you.
I'm willing to follow directions but obviously need help! Tks & have a great
holiday! Best, Lynn in CT 


One of the biggest problems with the 1203 tracking system is that it is
constantly 'seeking'. It's never 'at peace'. More specifically, the problem
is related to the microswitch that controls the operation of the tracking
motor. Like all standard microswitches, the arm the activates and deactivates
the switch has to travel a certain distance between its 'on' and 'off' state.
So, when the switch is in the 'on' position, the roll has to travel a certain
distance before the switch turns 'off'. Then once it's 'off', the roll has to
travel back a certain distance before the switch turns back 'on'. So, the
mechanism is constantly cycling back and forth.

Also, the right edge of the music roll is constantly rubbing against the
tracking sensor (the little finger in the trackerbar). This wears out the
edge a little bit every time the roll is played.

Over time, the combination of the cycling tracker and the rubbing causes
the edge of the roll to curl slightly. This exacerbates the problems because
the curled paper is even 'softer' than a nice straight flat edge and the
'length' of time it takes for the tracker to complete each 'cycle' increases.
So, the roll 'wanders' back and forth even more, and eventually ends up
causing the 'bubbling up' problem.

Unfortunately, there are no adjustments that solve the problems. What
some people have tried (with limited success) is moving the left flange
outwards about an 1/8" and then re-centering the roll (at the end) so
that there is a 1/16" of free space between the flanges and the edges of
the paper. This helps eliminate damage caused to the edges of the roll
during rewind. (Understand that the tracking device is disabled during
rewind. So, wherever it ends up just before rewind is where it stays
during rewind, regardless of all of the 'wiggles' the paper makes during
the play cycle. So, the 'wiggles' that are in the paper on the take-up
spool are still in the paper when the roll is rewound. That's why all rolls
should be 'knocked' before they're played, and rolls should never be
'tightened' after they're rewound. 

For good roll care, see:

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John A Tuttle

This page was last revised November 10, 2004 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.
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