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Using RTV in Player Piano Rebuilding

For weeks there was a rather fierce debate in the Mechanical Music Digest about using RTV instead of Animal Hide Glue (better known as 'hot hide glue') to secure striker pneumatics (or note bellows) to the deck boards. Those who advocated the use of RTV claimed that it provided a better seal than hide glue, and it was easier to use than hide glue. Immediately, the editor of the MMDigest intervened in the debate and asked that those who posted articles on the topic be very specific about the products they mentioned in their articles. For those who would like to research the entire debate, the Subject is "Hide Glue vs. Silicone for Rebuilding a Pianola", and it started on March 5, 2011 when a member asked the group which adhesive was recommended for rebuilding a pianola (or player piano). He said he had read an article n the UK Player Piano Group Bulletin which touted RTV silicone as a better choice than conventional hide glue. At the end of the posting, the editor wrote, "Recommendations should cite the manufacturer's product number or code. Too many heated discussions in MMDigest have resulted from assuming all adhesive products behave the same. See http://www.mmdigest.com/Archives/KWIC/A/adhesive.html

The next day, another member posted an article with the Subject "RTV Silicone Adhesive for Rebuilding a Pianola". In it, he stated that the adhesive should 'definitely not' be used in piano repair work. He went on to say that the product could not be completely removed and that nothing else would stick to it once it had cured. He further noted that there were other industries that really disliked the product for similar reasons. He concluded by citing a few advantages of hide glue. In his fine article Gluing Verses Gooing, Craig Brougher explains why most 'modern' adhesives are not appropriate for player piano restoration work, but I digress...

On March 7, 2011, the primary topic started expanding, and the Subjects were: "Hot Hide Glue For Rebuilding a Pianola", "GE Silicone Rubber For Rebuilding a Pianola", and "RTV Silicone Adhesive For Rebuilding a Pianola". It was never made clear to anyone why the editor 'created' these new Subjects, especially in light of the fact that the authors of the postings all had things to say about both RTV and Hide Glue. Be that as it may, comments and opinions both for and against RTV and silicone adhesives abounded, and no conclusion was ever reached.

This is certainly not the first time, and it most likely won't be the last time, that important issues have come up in the MMDigest and remained unresolved. The unfortunate aspect of this situation is that those who are NOT in the trade are often left wondering, "Who do I believe?" For me, it's not a question because I've personally experienced the problems that are created by the use of 'modern' adhesives. And, as a result, they have no place in my work.


John A Tuttle

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This page was last revised March 11, 2019 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions
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