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Rebuilding Chein PianoLodeon
By Mike Kitner

John Kleinbauer wrote asking how the Chein PianoLodeon works. I've had a few of those apart and they are very unconventional, like nothing else I've ever seen.

The PianoLodeon is a vacuum-driven system, the vacuum being supplied by a small electric motor-driven fan. The same motor turns the roll via a worm and worm gear arrangement and a small rubber belt.

The trackerbar is moulded into the cabinet and connects to what I would call the "valves" through rubber tubes. The valve is a sort of plastic see-saw. One end of the see-saw is a paddle covering an opening in the vacuum box, the other end is positioned underneath the note inlet which is connected to the tracker bar by one of the rubber tubes.

When a hole in the trackerbar opens, air rushes down to the inlet and blows against the end of the see-saw depressing that end and causing the other end to rise and allow air to rush into the opening under it.

This opening communicates with what I'll call the "striker vane" which is another plastic paddle. This paddle moves through a semicircular chamber (there being of course one vane and chamber for each note) with vacuum applied to the underside of the vane. The vane really doesn't touch the sides of the chamber, its just close.

It reminds me of the vacuum operated windshield-wiper motors they used on older cars. The opposite end of each vane can flip a plastic hammer against a tone rod when it is activated. The system works okay but it clatters and rattles, as you know if you've ever heard a PianoLodeon working.

There are actually some "rebuilding tips" I can impart if you're interested. The whole thing comes apart pretty easily. The little see-saw valves are right under the keys and fuzz and dirt can cause them to leak and hang up. You have to pull the vacuum box out of the case. You'll find that you can "pop" the valves and the vanes out of their fulcrums. Do that, clean everything and graphite the fulcrums before reinstalling them. Usually the trackerbar tubing is splitting so replace that.

You can get an O-ring that will work as a replacement for the drive belt. Disassemble and clean the motor and lube the bearings. There is a felt ring that provides an air seal between the blower fan and the player box. Make sure that's OK or you'll have a big vacuum leak there.

There's a piece of foam rubber under the keys and another above them at the "fall board". That's usually bad and you can replace it with a strip of piano butt felt. Put on a new power cord. I can't think of anything else.

You might want to attempt tuning. It can be done! I have noticed that the arranger of the music seems to have taken the overtone structure of those tone bars into account and the arrangements some- times don't make sense if played on a piano but on the PianoLodeon they are recognizable.

Mike Kitner

EDITORS NOTE: The correct size tubing for the trackerbar is 1/4" ID (#8) player piano tubing -click here. You will need 20 feet of tubing.

Here are links to all the information I've collected
about the Piano-Lodeon Toy Player Piano:
Page 1 - Rebuilding Chein PianoLodeon By Mike Kitner
Page 2 - Piano-Lodeon Rollography Update By Jack M. Conway
Page 3 - Piano-Lodeon's Lost Potential By Mike Knudsen
Page 4 - Piano-Lodeon Rolls & Imperial Ind. Co. By Douglas Henderson
Page 5 - Extra information about the PianoLodeon
Page 6 - Piano-Lodeon: Repair Information by John A Tuttle
Page 7 - Piano-Lodeon: Colors and Years by Dale F Rowe
Page 8 - Repairing the Pianolodeon by Arnold Landvoigt
Page 9 - Rebuilding Chein PianoLodeon By Jim Quashnock
Page 10 - Replacing Tubing and Drive Belt

Player Piano Reference Materials - Click Here

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This page was last revised July 1, 2017 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
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