Larry Boozer wrote:
I'm a piano technician in Annapolis, MD. I ran into a problem the other day with a player, Don't work on these often, although I did rebuild one years ago. The women called me because her piano would not play as she was pumping it, but the air motor was turning. I said I would take a look, that it was probably a hose off. I got there to find all hoses hooked up. The linkage was jammed to the right of transmission. I got that loose and it played. I noticed the re-roll did not work all the time. So I tried some things, I tried to adjust that little thin block that slides over that little hole to the right of transmission. To make a long story short I adjusted speed control and others and I also lubricated, and I put some on that round solid spindle with the white felt on top, it seemed to re-roll fine and played OK, but every once in a while, it would not re-roll and during playing stop and get weak. By this point I wished I had not come over to her house as she has another piano technician. Any way I charged her 50.00 and was on my way. I did call to find out how it was working , and she told me that sometimes it would almost stop, but then be fine. I told her I would not cash check until I figured out problem. 50.00 wasn't a lot but the fact that it wasn't right bothered me. The piano is over twenty years old, and she uses it for an exercise machine when it is cold outside, she runs 5 miles a day. Thank you sir, Larry Boozer
P.S. Before I made adjustments, I noticed that if I pushed the play lever to far to left the piano would stop playing. So, I adjusted with the leather nuts, so I could push to left without it stopping.
I'll bet that the player piano was made by Aeolian. Sounds like maybe the Musette or the Duo/Art model......
NOTE: Aeolian employed two different methods of turning the Cut-Out device 'On' and 'Off' during the years that they made the modern Aeolian line of player pianos. When the Cut-Off device is in the 'On' state, vacuum from the pump assembly is not allowed to flow into the note stack. This prevents notes from playing as the music roll rewinds, or when the system is in the Re-Roll mode.
As for the sliding valve that is connected to the transmission lever arm; It controls the operation of the Cut-Out device, which is located between the exhauster assembly and the stack.
The problem with the slider could be two-fold. One, the leather might be a bit too taut. If that's the case, it (the leather) isn't covering the hole (cut-out signal tube) 100%. This allows the cut-out device to be 1/2 'on', 1/2 'off', which chokes the vacuum going to the stack. That situation would account for the reduced volume of the music. And, since the sliding valve is connected to the Play/Re-Roll linkage, the position of the Play/Re-Roll lever has an effect on the position of the sliding valve relative to the hole leading to the Cut-Out valve. You can stick a screwdriver blade between the leather and the sliding block to stretch the leather slightly. Don't over-do it. The leather shouldn't be 'loose', but it also shouldn't be too taut. The other possibility is that the brass nipple that sticks through the wood (that the slider slides over - or across) is sticking up above the level of the wood. (In other words, the nipple isn't flush with the wood.) Here again, this would allow the cut-out device to be 1/2 'on', 1/2 'off'. It could also be that the slider itself isn't correctly positioned over the hole when the unit is in the Play mode. Using the two leather nuts that hold the slider to the linkage, adjust the position of the slider such that it fully 'uncovers' the hole when the unit is in Re-Roll. That way, the slider will be fully covering the hole when the unit is in the Play mode.
There are other Aeolian players that used a simple lever and associated linkage to turn the Cut-Out device 'on' and 'off'. If someone removes the Take-Up spool from the piano, this allows the lever to drop below the center of that spool. Then the associated linkage slides over the metal (or wooden) flap valve which opens and closes the trigger hole that leads to the Cut-Out device. So, even if the lever is returned to its correct location and the take-up spool is put back in the piano, the Cut-Out device will not work. Often, people will force the lever to go back to its correct position while installing the take-up spool and disturb the fine adjustment of the linkage. If that happens, the adjustment has to be reset. Fortunately, there is a lock screw on the part of the linkage that contacts the metal flap valve, and once the activating arm of the linkage is placed behind the metal flap valve (where it belongs), the armature can be adjusted. In its correct position, the metal flap valve should close the trigger hole as soon as the music roll paper on the take-up spool lifts the lever out of the groove on the spool.
The intermittent Re-Roll problem can only be a few things. The most common problem is insufficient vacuum. This problem most often occurs when the Volume setting (in the spoolbox) is set to the Low position. When the vacuum level is too low, the valve that senses the Re-roll perforation (at the end of the roll) doesn't react properly. This allows the valve to leak. And the end result is that the Re-Roll bellow doesn't have sufficient power to shift the transmission from Play to Rewind. On quick way to solve the problem is to put a piece of tape over the exhaust port of the Re-Roll valve. However, the correct thing to do is either find out why the player mechanism has insufficient vacuum or why the Re-roll valve is malfunctioning.
It could also be that the hole in the music roll that triggers the Re-Roll valve is either not present or too small. If you are certain that the Re-Roll valve and pneumatic are functioning properly, and that there is sufficient vacuum to shift the transmission, then its certain that the re-roll valve isn't being triggered. On the other hand, if the trigger hole is present and the re-roll device is working, then there is too much drag in the linkage leading to the transmission. This is not an uncommon problem, and the best thing to do is to lubricate all of the linkages guides with vaseline. In a properly operating Aeolian, it should be quite easy to shift the Play/ReRoll lever from Play to ReRoll and from ReRoll back to Play. If it is not.... Find out why....
(I have written a number of articles for the Mechanical Music Digest about the common problems found in many Aeolian-made player pianos. You can find them by accessing my 'author' directory at the MMD. The link is:
Once the directory finishes loading, you can quickly locate relevant articles by using the Edit/Find in Page feature in your web browser. Naturally, the Keyword you would be looking for is "Aeolian".)
Another common problem with Re-Roll involves the mechanism that signals the re-roll valve to work. Aeolian used three different mechanisms to perform the task, but if the mechanism is faulty, the signal needed to trigger the valve is not getting to the valve, ergo it doesn't work properly.
Lastly (regarding Re-Roll), the roll itself could be off-track. If the roll is off-track, the perforation that triggers the re-roll valve is not passing over the Re-Roll port on the trackerbar. Obviously, if the perforation doesn't pass over the Re-Roll port, the Re-Roll valve can't possibly work.
Regarding the linkage problem in the transmission, the problem has to be the shift lever arm. What's wrong is that the bolt that secures the lever to the transmission is too loose (or backed out). This can only happen if the lock nut (on the backside of the lever) has either loosened or fallen off. You'll notice that there is a small spring between the bolt and the lever. That spring must not be totally collapsed. If it is, then there will be too much friction and the lever arm will not move easily. And I should also mention that excess friction anywhere in the Play/ReRoll linkage can also cause the ReRoll to malfunction. Unfortunately, it's not possible to explain how much friction one should 'feel' when shifting from Play to Rewind, but it should require very little effort. If it seems like it's 'dragging', lubricate all of the contact points (where the linkage comes in contact with "anything") with vaseline. (Some of the contact points are not easy to access, as they are located underneath the spoolbox platform. Actually, they are the linkage guides, and they are little pieces of wood with a felt-lined channel, through which the linkage passes.)
While on the topic of lubrication, putting lubrication on the piece of "white felt" (which is the forward roll brake pad) that rides on top of the "round solid spindle" (which is the forward roll brake drum) was NOT the right thing to do. The correct thing to do was to replace the piece of felt. The problem with the brake pad is that it became contaminated with grease. Over time, the grease thickened, causing excessive drag (or too much friction). This causes the Tempo of the music to slow down and also causes excessive wear to the bellows and bearings in the air motor. It can also cause the Automatic Tracking mechanism to react slowly (or not at all) to small changes.
Also, if you plan to continue working on the modern Aeolian player pianos, I would strongly suggest that you buy a copy of the Aeolian Service Manual. The manual is available as a PDF file for $15.00, click here.
I hope you have found this treatise helpful. Considering its length and the problems covered, I will turn it into another web page, titled "Tips and Tricks - Modern Aeolian Problems".
BTW, if you find you need a few plastic block valves, they are also available. Go to: https://www.player-care.com/block_valve.html
Also, for a web page that lists a number of known problems with the modern Aeolian players, go to: Modern Aeolian - Known Problems
Lastly, I have a page that has information/tips I shared with customers who were having various problems. (Click-Here)
John A. Tuttle
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