Player pianos are truly amazing instruments, they are generally grouped into 3 different categories .player pianos ,reproducing pianos and orchestrions. Pianos such as the Ampico, Welte, and Dou-art are some of the most common reproducing pianos. The main difference between player pianos and reproducing pianos is that reproducers change volumes from very low soft playing to very bold and everything in between. A standard player plays at one volume. Orchestrions and nickelodeons incorporate other instruments such as drums, bells and pipes in the music. There is truly nothing like listening to a properly restored reproducing piano, it actually lets you hear the artist of yesteryear playing music with their own feeling.
A total restoration on a player piano involves several different areas. Complete rebuilding of the player mechanism, rebuilding of the piano action , restringing of the piano ,along with refinishing of the exterior cabinet (however refinishing does not make it play any better).
Restoration of a player piano includes complete disassembly, sealing all exterior wood parts along with every interior channel . Every screw hole is checked and re-doweled if necessary ,every gasket replaced with original type leather, every valve facing is replaced with a original thickness leather, all pouches are replaced using original pouch leather. All pneumatic and bellows are recovered using original bellows and pneumatic cloth, along with replacing tubing and hoses throughout the piano .In short, the parts which deteriorate are replaced and the original wood and metal parts are cleaned ,repaired and reinstalled.
This is not the only concern in restoring a piano. One of the biggest mistakes I have found in many of the player units I have worked on is the use of improper glues, or materials. The original glue used in player pianos was animal hide glue. This glue was water soluble and also dried very hard ,allowing a rebuilders in the future to restore the piano many times .The glues of today make wood impossible to chisel apart thus making restoration impossible without making new parts .This is not a major problem, after 35 years of rebuilding player pianos I've seen just about everything .So far I have not found one could l could not restore.