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H.C. Bay Player Piano Action -Unusual

Dear John,

I thought I'd write you about an unusual H. C. Bay action that does not seem to be mentioned anywhere.

It's in a small Vollmer recordo grand, dated about 1925.

The stack valves are very unusual. Unlike the common little black composition valve, it uses valves on a wooden fluted stem. There is mention of such a valve in the literature, and that each valve had it's separate top seat, and was used in early production. This action does not have separate top seats. It is similar to the common Bay action in this regard, and the year is midway during production, so it can't be attributed to early or late design.

The valve is rather complex. The top seat is pouch leather, which seats against the leather gasket of the valve cover. The valve is a small wafer, a little bigger than a nickel. The inside seat is pouch leather, attached at the rim to form sort of a pouch. Under this is a smaller pouch of pneumatic cloth that is convex. Beneath that is a piece of pneumatic cloth completely glued to the valve. The fluted valve is has a tiny piece of leather attached, which is glued to the pouch leather of the bottom seat of the valve. Since the bottom piece of pouch leather of the valve is glued only at the edges, there is great flexibility for the valve to wobble as may be needed.

Attached are some pictures. One has five views of the valve: (left to right) 1. Complete valve. 2. Complete valve, another view. 3. Valve with leather torn back to show top smaller convex pneumatic cloth "pouch". 4. With top cloth pouch torn back to show bottom piece of pneumatic cloth. 5. Valve with everything removed except bottom pneumatic cloth.

Quite a complicated valve! In addition, the inside of the valve seats against a very thin piece of metal tube. This should be visible in the second picture.

It seem that the Bay engineers may have been well aware of some of the limitations of the little black composition valve, and were trying for something better for a higher quality action. The regular composition valves are used for all of the accessories, with leather pouches. Stack has zephyr pouches. Will be replaced with leather.

I wasn't expecting much, what with the reputation of H. C. Bay. However drawer and motor mount hardware is excellent - as good as any reproducing piano. A pleasant surprise. Obviously a "low end" grand, but sounds great.

I'm not yet sure how I'll rebuild the valves. Probably leave of the outside leather valve surface, since leather-to-leather seating is not usually recommended. Perhaps a test of the design with the inside pipe as seat against redoing it for more conventional inside seats - like an Ampico. But I hesitate to re-engineers any action... Have you seen this action? Any recommendations?

Photo of the expression device is included. Obvious design to anyone who knows players.


Craig Roothoff

Escondido, Ca.

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