McGuire Piano
Occasional Sales of Restored Pianos by

Duane McGuire, RPT

Hamilton Player Piano Restoration: Stack

Category: Shop Work


Seeing this player come to life has been a bunch of fun (not to mention a big relief). One of the guiding principles of my piano business has been that I don't do things on customer pianos that I haven't done on pianos of my own! With the encouragement and trust of this customer, I made a huge exception to that rule, and agreed to rebuild this player. The learning curve has been steep, but I've reached a significant milestone in the rebuild. I am thrilled with the result.

The "stack" of the player piano is fundamentally composed of an air motor, the transmission, a scroll bar to read the coding of the player rolls, 88 striker pneumatics and their associated valves. It is a amazing piece of early 20th century engineering. For this piano, I've reconditioned every component of the stack. And in reality, I've reconditioned many of those parts two or three times. That's the learning curve. And here is the result in a test setup with the stack being driven directly with an external vacuum source.

The observant piano technician will note that the stack has interferred with the regulation of the piano in a few places. That will be corrected soon.

Next up:

  • Correct a problem with C#5 that you may notice in the videos
  • Correct regulation of pneumatic arms to stickers
  • Regulate limiting "letoff" screws
  • Recondition and install expression controls.
  • Recondition and install the auto-tracking device
  • Recondition the pedal operated bellows, reservoir, and tempo control

Once all these tasks are complete we will have a restored player piano and a happy piano technician pumping the bellows to beat the band.

Listen to the encore: George Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm

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