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In a Double Valve Pneumatic Player, together with their remedies.

1. Blocked Tracker Bar: frequent occurrence.
Clear the tracker bar with the suction bellows or trackerbar pump, aided if necessary with a strip of wire; but in every case see that the accumulated paper fibre is cleared out.

2. Blocked Tracker Tube: frequent occurrence.
Slip off the tube from the nipple and blow the dust FROM the tracker bar: If the tube is of metal, unscrew the tube rail and do likewise.

3. Leaking Primary Pouch: rare occurrence.
Place a tuning wedge, or a flat strip of wood, over the bleed hole, and covering the tracker duct blow to the tracker bur: Seccotine (fish glue) is reliable for gluing down a lifted pouch.

4. Clinging Primary Pouch: rare occurrence.
This is caused by the pouch clinging to the glue, or size, with which the pouch chamber is lined. Blow French chalk beneath the pouch.

5. Stiffened Primary Pouch: frequent.
Caused by damp. Rub the pouch well with French chalk, or better still replace with a new and supple pouch.

6. Slack Primary Pouch: frequent.
A slack pouch fails to lift its valve. See that a cardboard disc is glued, BY ITS CENTRE ONLY, to take up the slackness, and that the valve button is just clear of the disc.

7. Enlarged Bleed Hole: frequent.
Glue a piece of stiff paper over the old bleed hole, and , pierce a smaller bleed.

8. Sticking Primary Valve Cap: very rare.
Sift French chalk beneath the valve cap by a thin knife blade or similar tool.

9. Tight Primary Valve Stem: very rare.
Reduce the stem by scraping with a knife. To strip a primary valve, scrape off the glue on the primary cap and punch out the stem. The stem is only secured by the touch of glue on the cap.

10. Insufficient Primary Valve Movement: Frequent.
Slip chalk beneath the primary valve and twist the valve to each face until sufficient movement is obtained; or; in cases of excessive damp, release and reglue the stem.

11. Loosened Primary Valve Stem: very rare.
Clean and reglue the stem, observing the correct movement, - approximately one-thirty-second of an inch.

12. Blocked Secondary Air Channel: rare.
Clear dust by means of a piece of tubing or wire.

13. Leaking Secondary Pouch: rare.
Glue down, or fix new pouch.

14. Clinging Secondary Pouch: rare.
Blow in French chalk, as in No. 4.

15. Stiffened Secondary Pouch: rare.
Proceed as mentioned in No. 5.

16. Slack Secondary Pouch: frequent.
If the disc is all right, turn back the valve to just clear when pouch is deflated.

17. Sticking Secondary Valve: frequent.
Sift French chalk beneath the valve discs and their seats.

18. Stripped Secondary Valve Stem: frequent.
Thread a new leather disc on the stern, or replace the disc itself:

19. Insufficient Secondary Valve Movement: frequent.
Adjust the movement of the valve by twisting the discs (if threaded), or reducing the washers in other cases.

20. Leaking Pneumatic: rare.
Slip a knife beneath the pneumatic; force it off; re-cover; and glue it down carefully when completed.

21. Broken or Displaced Pilot: rare.
Send a pattern to the suppliers.

There are really only two considerations covering these defects, and they may be summed up in the one word, - valves, the horizontal and the vertical. When dealing with the former, one cannot mistake the pouch board with its thirty or forty screws that being removed exposes all the secondary valves. The vertical valves are usually in two or three tiers, and the action in these cases has to be withdrawn and unscrewed at the bass and treble ends by sections to gain access to the pouches. There is no real difficulty in dismantling a player; but great care is necessary in re-assembling, and every attention must be given to the tightness of channel boards, tubes, and air trunks.


In all probability, the next most familiar trouble to the dumb note with which the tuner has to deal is the cyphering note. This is readily identified when the tracker bar is covered and pedalling causes a hammer, or hammers, to rise to the strings. The double valve player produces, approximately, eight causes for this complaint; but our old enemy the damp is responsible for the majority of these, as indeed it is in a high percentage of player defects generally. Proceeding from the tracker bar, cyphering is almost certain to be caused by:

1. Leakage, or Disconnected Tracker Tube.
This condition is frequently met with. If the tube is of rubber; in the course of time it cracks at the point where it covers the nipple, or short metal tube, in the pouch or channel board. The remedy is obvious. Renew the tube; and for this purpose the tuner should carry a few feet of different sized tubing with him. However; should the tubing be of metal, the trouble is probably caused, not by a puncture, but by the tube springing from the nipple at the tracker bar.
When the tube is located, by unscrewing the spool box panels, a touch of Seccotine (fish glue) round the nipple will overcome the difficultly. But care must be exercised that no film covers the mouth of the rube, or a dumb note will result.
Should the leakage be where the tube enters the pouch board, draw out the end carefully from the socket and apply just sufficient Seccotine (fish glue) to produce a slight bead or collar on replacing the tube.

2. Tight Primary Pouch.
This again is of frequent occurrence and is invariably caused by damp. After removing the primary pouch board, see that the valve is nor resting on the pouch. When at rest, there should be a slight space between pouch and valve. This space varies in different makes; but observe the adjustment of neighbouring satisfactory pouches. The tight pouch is holding the primary valve from its seat, and air is in consequence passing to the secondary pouch. The correct method is to dismantle the valve action and remove the primary set, so as to expose the pouches. Should these be old and stiff; it is better to renew the lot; but if comparatively new, sprinkle French chalk over the pouches and rub them down with the thumb. This stretches the pouch leather and permits the valve to seat. Test each pouch before re-assembling, in order to see that the rubbing down operation has caused no fracture in the pouches.

3. Defective Valve Cap.
This is rare. Occasionally foreign substances - a splinter of wood, a chip of glue, and so on - may lodge beneath the valve cap and hold it from its seat; and in rarer cases still, the years have hardened the leather face of the cap to the leaking point. Obstructions beneath the cap can be removed with a piece of piano wire; but if the leather is indeed too had to be airtight, chip the glue from the valve cap, punch out the stem, and re-cover the cap with a disc of sheepskin, observing when you replace the stem that the valve has the correct movement, as indicated by its neighhours, and remembering not to glue the stem, hut only to apply a touch where the stem emerges from the cap.

4. Obstructed Bleed Hole.
This is a rare occurrence, and is attributable to the dead air beneath the pouch failing to exhaust through a completely closed bleed; the pouch inflating, cyphering follows. Clear the bleed with a piece of fine wire.

5. Leaking Secondary Air Channel, or Tube.
A frequent source of annoyance. Should the screws holding the channel boards to the air chest have stripped and fail to hold, air is liable to pass into the channels, the secondary pouches being thereby inflated: or if a screwdriver too wide has been used carelessly, the screwhead sinks into the channels, with the same result. The screwholes in such cases should be plugged, and fresh holes bored adjacent, but of course between the channels. If tubes are employed, proceed as in the case of No. 1 defect.

6. Tight Secondary Pouch.
To make good this frequent defect, remove the pouch board - or, in the case of vertical valves, dismantle action - and proceed as in No. 2.

7. Defective Valve.
Foreign substances will be found frequently to have lodged between the inner valve disc and its seat, causing the striking pneumatic to collapse. If this is so, clean with wire; but should the valve be stripped, one must unscrew and lift off the valve seat, threading on a new disc, or discs, in place of the old. In the course of time, these discs are liable to set tight on the stem: and, if they are not exactly at right angles to the stem, they are liable to cypher In that event, work them slightly, until quite flexible, so that the main exhaust may draw them tightly to their seats.

8. Leaking Pouch Board.
Proceed as in No. 5.


It is a question whether my next section should not have headed the list of pneumatic player worries, for it frequently occurs in the dry, as well as in the damp-affected instrument. However, it shall be our next consideration. The non-repeating note is common in all players that do not receive the regular attention of the tuner or player expert. The trouble is frequent, and is usually the result of

1. Obstructed Bleed Hole.
Should the suction bellows fail to clear the bleed, it is necessary to unscrew the primary valve board, or slip, and clear the bleed with fine wire. It i.r then advisable to clear the lot at the same time.

2. Loose Tubes.
This trouble is rare. When a tube is leaking, yet not sufficient to produce cyphering, the rapid deflation of the pouch is greatly affected, and in consequence the repetition also. Make sure that the tubes are perfectly airtiqht, as in dealing with a cyphering note.

3. Stiff Pouches.
Again rare. Damp-stiffened pouches affect adversely the repetition. Proceed as in No. 2 for a cyphering note.

4. Insufficient Valve Movement.
This is frequent, and is caused usually by damp swelling the leather valve faces. If a primary, rub down with French chalk (see instructions for a dumb note in preceding section) and increase the movement of the valve. If in the secondary, and the discs are threaded on the stem, turn up the disc until the valve has sufficient play; or; if the discs are adjusted to the stem by washers, reduce their number to obtain the same result.

5. Too-great Valve Movement.
A trouble frequent enough. I f the valve is not stripped, turn back the disc to the desired movement. In the secondary valve, this should be approximately one-sixteenth of an inch. If dealing with a primary, see that the stem is not loose and that its movement is a little less than one thirty-second of an inch.

6. Stiff Pneumatics.
The only, though expensive, remedy for this somewhat rare trouble is to cover the whole set. In unshipping pneumatics, if the moveable leaf is cut off, a hot iron will speedily loosen the glued base.

7. Broken Pneumatic Spring.
Rare. Some player pneumatics are provided with a light spring at the hinge of each. In the uncommon event of these springs breaking, the rapidity of the pneumatic's movement is considerably reduced. Lift out the ends of the old spring with a knife and fix a new one of the same sized wire.

8, Lost Pneumatic Motion.
Set up the metal capstans to the action butts. In the case of an old instrument, re-clothe the butts and regulate all capstans to the touch.

In dealing generally with player troubles, a great deal must be left to the discretion of the tuner or mechanic. For instance. the question of valve regulation can only be answered by considering the size of the pneumatic to be exhausted. Some of the large pneumatics of twelve and more years ago require a valve motion of about one-eighth of an inch to ensure rapidity of action; but with the greatly reduced size of the power pneumatic, the modern valve itself has lost considerable bulk, and in consequence is satisfactory with half its former movement.


The loss of power in the pneumatic player is generally the result of a leakage in the main bellows, in the valve chest, or in the large tubes connecting one with the other; though occasionally the valves themselves are faulty, and only experience will enable us to locate rapidly the trouble. It is well to bear in mind that vast importance of obtaining as air-tight a condition of the whole player as is humanly possible; for, it we regard the valve chest as a box from which we have greatly reduced the air pressure by pedalling, it would need only a few punctures such as a bradawl would produce to considerably reduce the vacuum, or power. And if only half-a-dozen valves, which are each about the size of a shilling, fail to seat perfectly. then six shillings' worth of power is immediately lost.
Naturally, when I speak of "vacuum," my readers realize that I use the word in a figurative sense only. A perfect vacuum would burst in every pouch and pneumatic with which we have to deal. What occurs when we operate the pedals is that we considerably reduce the atmospheric pressure in the valve chest, and the admittance of normal air produces sufficient work to operate the action of the piano on its way to restore the balance again.
Let us proceed, then, from the source of power - the main bellows - and endeavour to locate a weakness, or lack of response, dealing with the defect when found. In the first place, push the playing lever to re-roll, which cuts off all power from the valves, and, gripping the motor, pedal vigorously. If the bellows are sound, the pedals will quickly "pull up," and the reservoir (or equaliser) expand very slowly. Should the reservoir open rapidly, the trouble is in the bellows set, and we must now disconnect the wires that pass into the control boxes (do not disturb the inside buttons, as these will give the correct adjustment when replacing); unscrew the bellows from any backstays or the floor of the piano; slip off all exhaust tubes, and lift out the bellows set bodily. When on the bench, we can glue small patches of leather over the trunk holes, and operating the pedals - or pumpers, if the pedals are detached - get at every part of the bellows and test thoroughly.
A leakage usually develops at the corners and angles of reservoirs and pumpers; and, if too far gone for patching, cut paper patterns of the correct size and re-cover with the rubbered cloth obtainable from the supply houses.
The modem reservoir is supplied with a trap which, when unscrewed, exposes the springs and interior screws holding the reservoir to the bellows chest. In some models there are exterior screws through two or more blocks. When the reservoir is detached, it is easily recovered. The pumpers have generally to be cut away from the chest before it is feasible to re-cover them. Before replacing, see that the flap valves are perfectly soft and pliable. If time has hardened them, remove and replace, as it is most essential that these valves, especially those between pumpers and reservoir, are quite air-tight. If they are not too ancient, they can be greatly softened by rolling between the palms of the hands, and stretched to a condition that will give satisfactory results for some years. Observe if the governor bellows are quite sound before replacing the bellows set. Let us assume that the bellows are now as tight as can be desired; and that, having replaced them and connected them up, we are still dissatisfied with the result. In that case, we shall have to carry our investigations to the upper regions, - that is. the wind chest. If we find that the valves have sufficient movement to exhaust their pneumatics rapidly, it will be necessary to dismantle and unscrew one of the central valve seats. The edge may be corroded with a sort of verdigris where the seat meets the leather disc; if that is so, unscrew the seats, and either rub them down on a perfectly flat sheet of fine glasspaper, or provide a new set.
Perhaps the valve discs are too tight on their stems, and fail therefore to come back snugly to their seats, or they may be cut or worn at the surface. New valves are the remedy in this case; or, if the surfaces are good, gently work the discs until they are flexible. Remember that only a very few leaking valves are sufficient to reduce the power to a wretched state of inefficiency.
Glance at the pouches, and see that they are not damp-stiffened. If they are, rub them pliable with French chalk. Finally, examine the pneumatics and see that they have not developed small but terribly effective holes at their comers and angles. It is not advisable to patch these small and sensitive pneumatics, for, no matter how carefully the work may be done, they are liable to be considerably stiffened by this process, and are in such cases extremely unsatisfactory. Unship the lot and recover with rubbered cloth prepared for the purpose, taking every care that your strips of cloth are wide enough to permit the pneumatic to open as fully as it did originally, or you will let yourself in for a peck of trouble.
After these operations, I venture to think that the response of the player will fully justify the labour and patience expended on it, and that it will in every way come up to expectations. And now let us turn our attention to the motor. The usual complaints are a jerky motion, too great a speed under heavy pedalling, and too slow a movement when speed is indicated. The jerkiness is as a rule attributable to one or more of the following defects.

1. Tight, or Unburnished Slides.
Unscrew the guides and blacklead and highly polish the motor face and slide faces; and, should the guides press on the slides in the slightest degree, glasspaper the former until the slides are perfectly free.

2: Leaking Slides.
I If the slides are worn, or grooved, place a sheet of fine glasspaper on a perfectly flat surface and rub down the slides until they are quite airtight.

3. Badly Regulated Slides.
When the motor pneumatics are collapsed, and again when they are FULLY extended, the lower edge of their slides should be JUST UNCOVERING the bottom ports. Regulate the buttons to obtain this result.

4. Tight Shaft and Connections.
The shaft should he almost loose in its bearings, and the slide and pitman connections the same. If tight, ease bearings with a rat-tail file. Never oil, as this swells the cloth bushing.

5. Tight Collars.
These are sometimes adjusted too close against the brackets. Allow about one eighth of an inch lateral movement of the shaft.

6. Leaking Pneumatics.
Carefully patch with thinnest of leather; if the powers are not sufficiently worn to need re-covering.

7. Stiff Pneumatics.
In rare cases the pneumatics have "set, " and stiffened, especially at extremes of extension and contraction. By disconnecting the pitmans and pressing the pneumatics lightly, afterwards pulling them out to their fullest extent, they are greatly eased and are more pliable.

8. Tight Spindle Brake.
The brakes are usually adjustable, and it is only necessary to turn hack, very slightly, the roundhead screw attaching the brake spring to its block.

9. Loose Spindle Brake.
Should the brake be too feeble, the roll winds loosely on the take-up spool, and at the end of a long roll a had jerking often results. Tighten the brake spring.

10. Tight or Loose Chair.
An "idler wheel" as a rule takes up the slack of a chain: but in the fixed type of idler if the chain is too tight, it pulls up the motor; and if too loose the chain may jump off the sprocket wheel. Adjust by releasing the locking screw on the fixed idler spindle, ease, or take up slack.

11. Tight Metal Gearing.
A touch of oil is necessary where metal passes through metal bearings, as, if the bearings are too dry, they are liable to tighten on a long roll.

12. Too Powerful Spindle Spring.
The spiral spring in the left hand spindle is occasionally too strong, and at the end of a long roll assists to pull up the motor. Take out the spring from its socket and cut off a couple of coils.

13. Weak Governor Spring.
This is also the cause of a motor failing to register the correct tempo. Vigorous pedalling in such n case tends to cut off too much power, even to the point of jerkiness. Strengthen the governor spring by adjusting the locking pin, if dealing with a spiral; or if with the V type, open out the spring an inch or two. If ,on the other hand, the speed is too rapid and the motor "races" on heavy pedalling, it is necessary to weaken slightly the governor spring, remembering always the standard speed of seven feet a minute with the tempo indicator at 70.

In conclusion, I should say that I have, of course, only touched upon the fringe of troubles to which such a complicated piece of mechanism as the pneumatic player is prone. An ocean of minor defects still lies before the virgin keel of the beginner: but in those seas Experience only can be the navigator to bring the tuner safely to port. -.- - -

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This page was last revised June 16, 2020 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
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