Seeburg "G" Coin-Operated Piano 1912

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This early Seeburg G orchestrion arrived having been previously rebuilt and refinished  in 1969. I was hired to completely restore the piano apart from the finish.

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The process began by sending the piano to a piano restoration shop for installation of a new sounding board and pinblock.


An automobile jack is blocked in place to add force for removal of the cabinet sides.

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The old sounding-board is split from the structure and copied.

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The structure is cleaned of old glue and sounding board fragments.

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The structure is placed face down on an industrial panel cutter where the old pinblock is sawed away. 

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The new sounding-board is glued to the old structure.

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The new sounding-board is sprayed with orange shellac for an antique glow. The harp is prepped and painted with automotive gold. New bridges have been carefully calculated for proper bearing. The back is ready to be re-installed into the cabinet.

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The action had poor quality hammers installed in a wavy hammer line. I was able to salvage the replacement billing flange butts. After removing the shanks from the butts I spent several hours aligning the flanges for straight hammer travel. Renner blue hammers were installed along with new dampers and felts throughout the action.

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Unusual brass billings style jack flanges.

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Stickers (abstracts) marked with masking tape will have new cloth installed to replace worn out bushings.

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With the keys and keyframe removed, the keybed is being cleaned.

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Keys are being cleaned and readied for new bushings.

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Reciprocating vacuum/pressure pump as found in the piano. Early Seeburg components were stained green below the keybed and mahogany above.

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Back of the pump turned up, to show the back where pressure is collected and sent up to the organ pipe pressure reservoir. 

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Interior or the pump with top cover removed showing divided sections. The front of the pump with visible flap valves is for pressure and the back half is for vacuum. The bottom of the pump has the same arrangement. 

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Pump boards stripped & repaired. A few new pieces have been reproduced.

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The pump has been broken down, stripped of the old cloth and a green stain has been applied to the wood. Green shellac will be sprayed on top of the green stain to seal the wood and attain the original color. 

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A jig for spacing the hinge end of the pump can is partially visible in the far left side of this photo. The hinge end is not a true hinge.

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The side of the pump is covered with tough, thin pigskin, then the stiffeners are glued in position. 

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Cow hide is glued on top of the pigskin to sandwich the stiffeners between two layers of leather. This prevents the stiffeners from pulling away from the cowhide which does most of the work pumping. 

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Restored components being installed in the lower half of the piano.

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This is the unrestored distributor with vacuum reservoir to right. On the left are the soft and sustain pedal pneumatics attached to the inside of the cabinet. These pneumatics are operated from the distributor. Notice the wood screws above and below the valves. Early Seeburgs used screws as part of their adjustable bleed systems. Some early Seeburgs use adjustable bleeds in the stack as well.

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Distributor components stripped and repaired.

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Distributor components as well as rewind and some pump parts, stained.

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Canvas straps are glued and tacked on the open end of the vacuum reservoir to prevent the powerful internal leaf springs from stretching the rubberized cloth covering.

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Distributor valves for soft pedal, sustain pedal, and rewind stack shut-off.

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Distributor mounted on pump top with front board containing three valves removed. The interior of the distributor has been coated with shellac to make the chamber airtight. The shut off is operated by the valve at the very bottom which gets its signal from the rewind pneumatic.

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Restoring the stack is next. Here I'm beginning to remove the original pouches in this early four tier stack with horizontal valves.

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These maple valve plates screw in vertically on the front of the valve chest. I'm gluing the pivoting arm that swings each valve body within the valve well. The hinge material is canvas. 

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All the hinged arms are in place. The valve buttons or bodies are to the right. Each button has a fiber core with fine leather on both faces. The leather valve material has been treated with talcum powder. 

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Previously recovered pneumatics about to be removed.

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Key pneumatic boards being stripped of their coverings and repaired.

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Key pneumatics being recovered.

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Key pneumatics being glued to deck. Lead weights hold the pneumatic boards in place while the hot glues sets.

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Pneumatic boards are coated with orange shellac to seal the wood.

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Plastic nuts are used in place of leather to prevent corrosion of the poppet wires.

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Front left side of stack showing stack expression mechanisms. Pneumatic governor on back side of stack not shown. The adjustable nut on the very left sets the desired soft level for stack vacuum as it passes through the governor. The pneumatic closes to bypass the governor for full volume for loud.

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Octave coupler faced in wine motor cloth. This compact unit contains pouches and valves. Octaves are coupled in this manner for repetition. 

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Stack, keys, piano action and mandolin rail installed and regulated.

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Pipe chest with top board removed showing original valves and previously recovered pneumatics.

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Old fiber valve discs have been re-surfaced using sandpaper taped to quarter inch glass. I've constructed a jig from pine to glue the leather facing on to red felt. This sandwiches the force fit collar in between (see two valves on the right). In the background lead weights are set on top of fiber discs while glue sets up on red felt punchings. 

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Previously rebuilt pipe chest pneumatics.

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Pipe chest pneumatics with new hinges, prepped for recovering.

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Pipe chest pneumatics glued back to chest and arms being glued on.

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Restored pipe chest with top board removed showing new leather gasket.

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Two pneumatics covered in  wine colored motor cloth connect to lock & cancel unit to turn each rank of pipes on. The arms on the open end of each pneumatic push a metal rod connected to an internal valve that opens a port letting pressure into each side of the pipe chest.

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Two ranks of pipes installed: wood flutes in front and wood violins in the back. These two small pneumatics are spring loaded OPEN when the pipes are off. As soon as pressure is introduced into each respective side of the chest, the pressure inflates one of the pneumatics, overcoming the spring tension. The leather at the tail and of the pneumatic seals a port on top of the chest. When pressure is shut off for the pipes, these pneumatics spring closed, opening the port on top of the pipe chest at the first sense of pressure drop, spilling any pressure left in the chest. This gives a positive shut off to each rank of pipes preventing additional notes to speak after the roll calls for pipes to stop playing. 

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Showing pipe chest installed without pipes.

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Unrestored area showing early accumulator. Two opposing walking accumulator pneumatics move along the arc of pins. Putting in a coin moves them toward the left (or front), one pin per nickel. At the end of each tune they move one pin in the other direction. I rebuilt this unit before the restoration and it has been trouble free ever since. It is complicated with too many moving parts. Understandably, Seeburg soon simplified the accumulator.


Above is a socket for a light bulb for a service man. Screwing the bulb in is the only way to turn it on. (someone has screwed in a socket instead).


In the background is an incorrect replacement coin chute. I made a reproduction Seeburg style chute.

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Saving the old cardboard tubing that runs on the underside of the keybed. I'm installing electrical conduit inside the old cardboard to save the original look while making the channel airtight. 

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Expression device on the drum shelf for loud and soft percussion. Regulating the governor determines how quietly the drums will play for soft. The pneumatic above bypasses the governor for full vacuum for percussion loud.

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Rear view of percussion expression. Also showing rear controls for the snare drum reiteration. 

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This early style rewind pneumatic uses a mechanical lock and cancel. It is hard to identify the cancel pneumatic running on the back side of this unrestored unit shown in the bottom side of this photo. An arm on the right side opens a port on rewind operating the stack shut off valve during rewind.

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Drum shelf installed. The pipes have not been installed.

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The restored G expressed so well! The new sounding-board brought out the tone of the piano. 


As part of a prominent collection in New Jersey, it is enjoyed by many visitors each year.