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Modern Aeolian Problems

NOTE: My comments/replies are in italics...

Hi John, I have a couple of questions that I need help with.

1) Upon first starting a roll: after loading the paper on the take-up reel and sliding the lever to play, after pressing the "ON" button, rewind is activated and the Play lever is pulled out of play position. If I hold the lever in the play position, after a second or so, the pressure is released and the lever stays in the play position.

Regarding the problem with start-up and having to hold the Play/Reroll lever, that seems to me like an indication that one or both of the pouches in the valve blocks of the Rewind device are not allowing the valve to seat until the vacuum level in the system reaches a certain point. When the system is 'off' the valves should already be seated. So, when the system first starts up, the valves should be in the 'off' mode. In your case, it sounds like one (or both - but probably just one) of the valves is in the 'on' mode (because it's being held 'open' by the pouch). Once the vacuum level comes up, the valve is sucked down into the 'off' position, and the Rewind device stops trying to shift the transmission into Reroll.

I would try what I call the "Suck/Blow" technique on both of the Rewind device valve blocks, and see if that stops the problem temporarily. Here's what you do: Disconnect the signal tubes at the valve block and connect a short piece of trackerbar tubing to one of the blocks. Then forcefully suck and blow on that tube as hard as you can repeatedly. (You won't damage anything.) What that does is 'stretch' (or exercise) the pouch. Lastly, suck on the tube and then reconnect the signal tube. Next, using a fine needle or pin, very gently touch the top of the valve facing (through the exhaust port). It should NOT move at all. If it moves even the slightest amount, then you know that the pouch is lifting the valve off its seat, and the block will have to be replaced.

I have disconnected the "T" to the re-roll unit and while covering the the tube to the unit, I again start the roll. PERFECT, as it should. Absolutely no attempt to close the pneumatic.

Also, if I hold tension on the roll (with everything connected correctly), I see only a "little" attempt to collapse (not fully) the pneumatic.

I suspect, first that the paper is not against the tracker bar and air is getting to the valve??? Is there something that I am missing that should hold better tension on the paper prior to start-up? Or might there be another issue?

My wife just reminded me last night that we always had to hold the Play/Reroll lever until the roll started even when the piano was new. So I guess I will forget about this problem for now.

I recommend hooking the music roll onto the take-up spool and then winding the spool around by hand one full turn before turning 'on' the vacuum pump. The music roll paper must be covering the trackerbar fully. The 'forward roll brake' should apply enough tension to keep the paper flat against the trackerbar.

2) I have sealed the vacuum chamber and sanded the valves and surface of the air motor (as shown in your youtube video------great stuff, THANKS) That did help, but still not good enough. I am suspecting another problem: The larger tubes in the bottom section: the ones connecting to the exhauster, and including the tube to the air-motor seem not to fit tight on the nipples. They are like stretched, having been over the nipples for years. I think they are not sealing properly......leaking? Should they be sealed with burnt shellack, or should they just be replaced/ or both? I have taped them on the outside and that seemed to help some also.

Replace the tubing! Do not use sealants!! Using the old style cloth electrical as a clamp around the outside of the tubing is a good temporary fix.

Thanks, I will replace them. Might I have read about shellac for sealing the tubing to the brass fittings? Do people do this or was it recommended at some time? I don't know why I am even thinking about it?

While it's true that a couple of companies used burnt shellac to seal tubing to connectors, it's not wise to seal them. That's because of the problems it creates when doing service work.

3) I've tightened the screws on the governor, and a couple over on the tracker gasket board covers. Also, I have tighten the wing nuts on the stack, as you have recommended.

As for the screws on the governor and tracking device, they should ALL be snugged up, but not over tightened. Remember, they're wood screws!

Nowhere do I suggest or recommend tightening the wing nuts that hold the stack in place. What I "do" recommend is tightening the 3/8" nuts that hold the stack together. (They are often 'hidden' or difficult to access 'because' of the strip of metal that goes between the two stack mount rods and the wing nuts. I often remove the wing nuts and metal strip temporarily and then tighten the stack nuts.)

Opps! Thanks for clarifying that for me. You are right, I did not even see the 3/8 nuts. I will look harder now. I thought the WING nuts were hard enough to see and tighten! Ha.

4) I just finished testing the exhauster again, and found that it only takes about 6 seconds before it is fully open again. The player does very well if I help it with very little pumping. I am thinking that the exhauster needs to be rebuilt? What do you think? Have you produced anything on how to proceed with that?

You could try sealing the reservoir with Plasti-Dip (see link below) to see if the cloth is leaking, but you should consider that a temporary repair.


Oh, it just entered my mind, did you ever try your Phenoseal instead of the Plasti-Dip?

Yes, I tried Phenoseal to seal bellows cloth. It makes the cloth stiffer.

5) I adjusted the governor a bit, and it helped a bit. I did so such that it made it play better. I did not go through the recommended adjustment sequence yet. Once I get everything going well, I will do so.

I've never had "great" results when adjusting the air motor governor in the modern Aeolian players. The main problem is the design of the tension spring. It only works fairly well within a relatively small range of vacuum levels. I normally set it so that it works well when the Volume Control is set to either Medium or High -which is what most people use.

6) The player has not be operational for several years. I remember one of the things I did back then was to adjust the "rod" on the electric pump such that the fork is furthest to the tip (This made greater vacuum and the piano played a little better back then) I still have this same position of this rod. I suspect it should be repositioned to a more moderate position. At the same time I was "playing" with the adjustment of this rod, I accidentally saw that three of the valves on the vacuum pump had silver "dots" over the hole in the valve. The fourth did not. I put my finger over the valve and things were a little better. I put a piece of tape over the hole. They are all covered. THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS YOU CAUTION TO CHECK ALSO.

Yes, all four of the block valves on the main vacuum regulator must have a seal over the exhaust port. Otherwise the device can't work correctly. I'd replace all of the silver dots with pieces of duct tape.

When the 'rod' is correctly adjusted, the music should just barely play faithfully when the volume setting is set to Low.

7) It is not clear to me how to test one of the stack valves. Would you briefly explain this a bit. Can I cover the traker bar and pull the valve tube and then activate the valve with my finger on/off? What should I look for? Fast/Slow action, or?

As for testing the individual note valves, the best way is the have someone else foot pump the pedals while the trackerbar is fully covered with paper. Put the unit in Play (no vacuum motor) and set the Tempo to minimum (0). Then listen for any 'hissing' noise at the exhaust port of each valve block with a listening tube (a piece of trackerbar tubing) or stethoscope. This method can be used to test all of the blocks in the system.....

Answering your question: Yes, you can pull off the signal tube at the block valve and trigger the valve with your finger.

Summation: It's very possible that you have some note valves that are leaking small amounts. Those leaks add up, and it doesn't take many of them to drag the system down. If as few a four valves are leaking badly, the system basically dies.

The notes should be tested individually at the lowest vacuum level. Only then will you truly know if they are leaking. Almost any valve will seal if you apply enough vacuum. One of the problems (with the 'modern' Aeolian players) that's becoming more common these days is 'shrinking pouches'. What's actually happening is that the pouches are drying out, and as they do they shrink slightly. This causes the valve to lift ever so slightly off its seat, and that can cause a myriad of seemingly odd problems..... including #1.


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