Interior of a Link model A coin piano. I was hired to restore the entire instrument except for refinishing. This piano had a fast and dirty restoration to make it play for resale. About ten thousand dollars worth of damage was done to this Link during the poor rebuilding job.
The Link model A is a very rare orchestrion containing piano, mandolin rail, 28 metal violin pipes, 28 wooden flute pipes, snare drum with three beaters, tambourine/tom-tom, wood block and triangle.
The previous worker replaced the pinblock without knowledge of its technical nature. The bottom ledge of the new pinblock was irregularly shaped and was not fit to the top ledge of the plate (harp). There are approximately two hundred and sixty strings in a piano, each string exerts one hundreds pounds of tension for a total of more than ten tons. A pressure point on the top of this plate caused the top section to break off.
Here you see a futile repair by the same shop had taken place after the fact.
Another crack in the plate. Notice the stress cracks on the soundboard. The piano had been subjected to water damage especially in the treble end.
Strings removed. Top section of plate removed to show upper section had detached from main casting.
Back view of Link model A. The plate has been removed and destroyed for scrap and the soundboard has been torn out. Next, the sides will be carefully removed from the back frame. The frame will be cut up and discarded.
The left side of the cabinet is leaning against the wall of my shop. The top is wrapped in a moving blanket to protect the finish. Only two beams of the back frame remain attached. Notice the hole in the upright beam where the handle used to be. After this upright has been split off, the veneer on that portion of the side will be repaired to make a perfect, flat surface.
New casters had been set into this block by the previous worker. The owner of the piano and I wondered why the piano would not stand up straight or roll.
A wooden socket made of pinblock material is glued into the bottom of each toe to accept the new casters.
This is a gutted Link orchestrion that had the top cut off. This piano left the factory being just as tall as the Link that is being restored (probably a different model). The owner of the Link model A in this series found this piano on the west coast. I will refer to this as the "donor piano" because its back structure including the soundboard and harp will be removed and placed in the Link Model A.
The black, lower plate casting is identical in design to the broken plate in the Link model A. This earlier piano has an additional casting screwed in place (gold) on top of the pinblock. The back from this donor piano will be restored and glued in the Link model A cabinet.
Front view of the donor piano. A close look will show the sides of the donor piano cabinet standing in place, the back has been split from the sides and is lying on its back on a dumper.
Donor piano back in the restringer's shop. The old pinblock is being removed with a commercial router. A jig has been set up on top of the plate (harp).
Craftsman John-Michael Berrong of Classic American Piano Restorations, is preparing the soundboard. The old soundboard finish has been scraped by hand and is being sanded. The soundboard cracks will be shimmed and the bridges repaired before a new finish is applied.
Donor back almost complete - waiting for bass string installation.
Donor back restored and ready for installation in the Link model A cabinet. A veneer of birds eye maple was applied to the face of the new pinblock to match the original. I chose to have the entire plate painted gold rather than leaving the lower casting black.
The donor back being installed in the Link model A cabinet. I used a laser level to align the sides to one another.
Link stack showing unit valves before restoration.
The former worker had done such a poor job on the pneumatic portion of this piano it is little wonder an auxiliary suction box was installed to make it play. Here you see a generous application of silicon sealant where the pneumatic section joins the valve block, in an effort to cover a multitude of sins.
Deck repair. Long wood screws hold each unit valve/pneumatic in place on the deck. Most of the screw holes were stripped out and so a repair was necessary. The top of the photo shows plugs being made out of pinblock material. The deck has been covered with masking tape to protect it from excess glue.
Unit valve/pneumatic split open. A total lack of workmanship is revealed starting from an inadequate wood joint, application of excessive glue, a poorly dished pouch with lifter disc off center. Surprisingly, all but two of the original units could be saved.
Top and bottom leaves of the pneumatic section have been prepared. The wells for the pouches have been worked on for a consistent depth. Valve wells, as well as air channels, are being sealed with thick shellac to make the wood air tight. The use of wood filler where a chip is missing is the idea of the former worker. Where a large chip was missing I filled the area in with a poplar wood plug.
New pouches made from pneumatic cloth have been installed using hot glue. An original untouched unit was used to copy from for the shape and placement of the pouch. Pneumatic cloth was used in Link pianos to create an airtight pouch. It is especially important to have airtight pouches in a tall Link orchestrion to make up for the long run of tubing from the tracker bar located on upper right hand portion of the piano to the stack positioned below the keybed.
Pouches installed. Pneumatics ready for recovering.
Valve bodies cleaned, ready to be glued to pneumatic boards.
Valve bodies being glued to stationary upper board of pneumatic containing the pouch. The wooden valve bodies are warmed on an iron, hot glue is applied and then they are clamped using pony clamps. Pony clamps exert positive downward pressure.
The valve bodies have been covered with masking tape to protect them from glue during the covering process. Each pneumatic was placed in a jig so the openings remain consistent. Unlike most pianos, these pneumatics are in the full open position while at rest. The pneumatic finger protruding from the front of the movable leaf of each pneumatic present additional work while recovering.
Valve button (upside down).
Two wooden discs make up the valve for each unit valve/pneumatic. This lower portion, approximately a half inch in diameter, is covered with leather to form the lower seat. The threaded rod adjustment not only determines the distance of the leather nut to the pouch, but raising it adjusts the valve travel as well.
Piano action upside down on cradle.
Long exposure to moisture created an environment for the breeding of moth larvae. Some of the cloth bushings on the stickers as they attach to the whippens had to be replaced. All the action cloth, backcheck felt, dampers and keybed felt had to be replaced.
Piano with new butts is installed.
This piano action being original to the Link model A, has to be fit to the "new" donor back, now a permanent part of the orchestrion. The action bolts protruding from the donor back were carefully positioned and bent to meet the action.
The absence of hammers makes damper regulating easier.
Hammer installation has been completed. Jacks are ready to be glued in.
The key bushing had been replaced by the former worker. The bushings were installed poorly and with inconsistent results. Apparently, the bushings were tight on the pins so easing pliers were used to crush the keys to make them work. Many keys had to be repaired before new bushings could be installed. Shown here, the bushing cloth has been removed but the wood remains to be cleaned.
The key pins, both front and center, were installed to replace the original rusty ones and new plastic tops, fronts and sharps were installed.
Pouches with thin wooden lifters ready to be glued into valve chest for the two ranks of organ pipes.
Pouch board for two ranks of organ pipes. Fish glue is being used to give plenty of time to dish the pouches. Threaded valve stems are screwed into thick leather disc on top of each pouch. A gasketed board will divide these two rows so the ranks of pipes can be controlled separately.
Interior leather for pump with stiffeners being glued in place.
Lower section completed. Speed control wheel (extreme right), pump (right), Idler wheel (center, just above pedals), pressure reservoir (center, in back of idler wheel), pipe control (left of motor).
Upper section completed. Tom-tom beater on tambourine head. The tambourine also shakes. Hidden by the tambourine is the wood block with two beaters. The triangle is hanging on the left side of the snare drum right next to the longest organ pipe. The three beaters for the snare drum are on the far side. The cross piece on the snare drum head is a pneumatically controlled muffler for the snare.