Pianotech

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Universal Player removal

  • 1.  Universal Player removal

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 29 days ago
    Dear Colleagues,

    I was called to service a Universal player piano, a pneumatic system upright produced into the the late 1970s (?). I was able to get barely sufficient access to the tuning pins to tune the piano, but after 40 years of neglect there was enough lost motion to make the piano almost non-functional. But I cannot see any way to remove the player top stack in order to do any kind of action service. It has dozens of individual pneumatic tubes that are routed through slots cut into the keys - I tried to get an illustrative photograph, but couldn't; still you can see what the system is from the photos. The stack can be loosened from its position and slid back a little (that's how I was able to get clearance to tune it), but if there's a way to completely remove the stack without disconnecting and reconnecting all those tubes I don't see it. Any experience or suggestions?

    David

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    David Trasoff
    Whatcom Piano Service
    (360) 389-2158
    david@whatcompianoservice.com
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  • 2.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 29 days ago
    These are disposable pianos. It has already outlived its serviceable life. To remove the top player action, you will need to label/index each hose. If there is not a union block
    at the keyboard, you will need to disconnect the tubing from the individual valves down below.

    The plastic valves are problematic in and of themselves and require rebuilding or replacement. That is, if the pneumatic cloth has not deteriorated as well. All the rubberized cloth is beyond its serviceable life.

    So, the player end of things is in need of restoration at a cost exceeding the original purchase price. Add to that the cost of the physical piano regulation and you are far beyond the piano's value. Restoration depends on the owner's sentimental attachment and having deep pockets. I think most player guys will advise to toss the player and keep the piano going with regulation. This is where spare parts come into play. Think of what you would need to do to replace a broken string! Maybe even having to remove the entire lower section (disconnecting the tubing of course).

    Even the cost of doing what you discribe overshadows the piano's value.

    As with any player, have the owner play a roll. You don't want to work on it and then have the owner say, "It worked before you worked on it."  Even thought it might have been 5+ years since a roll was played.
    An experienced player tech needs to do the work on the player action.
    An experienced piano tech needs to do the work on the piano action.
    An experienced piano tuner needs to do the work on the tuning.
    To find all that in one person is a challenge itself.

    Personally, I would advise the owner to scrap the player and restore the piano. If it's the player they want, I'd advise them to get a new player piano.


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    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@comcast.net
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
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  • 3.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 29 days ago
    Go to John Tuttle's player piano website and search on Universal player pianos. There you will find that as a non-player tech you will probably want to turn the work over to an experienced player tech. Web address is:  www.player-care.com

    Deb






  • 4.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 28 days ago
    The universal player mechanism is a well-designed unit, BUT they used perflex pouches on the main valve unit, so to make it play again it needs a stack rebuild, and yes, you do have to label the hoses to remove the stack-which is under the keys, the only thing above the keys is the roll box and roll motor. Player repairs themselves are in the $2K range, and yes, the piano will always be a bit of a pain to service due to the "through the keybed" tubing arrangement.  The piano itself is a typical 1960s/1070s inexpensive console piano with case additions, so bear that in mind too. Gold Coast Piano in southern California has done many of these and has it down to a science-I have sent a few away to him as his price was less than I felt I would have into it had I done the rebuilding in my shop. However, few owners nowadays are wiling to fork over the bucks to have theirs rebuilt. The times have changed!
     
     
     





  • 5.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 29 days ago
    You can try contacting Louis Gentile at Gentile Piano Service in Braintree/Quincy south of Boston Mass. He may be able to talk you through how to get the player out. Before you do anything have the owner load a roll to test the player especially the rewind. If you don't you will get it worked before you touched it. 40 years of neglect has probably taken a toll on the player hardware and the action etc. I did one mechanical player piano in my career and vowed never to do another I removed the player mechanism but when I picked it up it fell apart . I travelled to Louis shop and he gave me some parts and gaskets as well as some directions to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Amazingly I put in a roll hit the switch and it played fine Goggle Gentile Piano Service
    I



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    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC
    843-325-4357
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  • 6.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 29 days ago
    The Universal is not your typical "old" pneumatic player.  It is a hybrid of pneumatic and electronic.  Also, if it hasn't had some serious work done it is likely that it will have Perflex pouches that have shrunk and split.  Leave this one to an expert as Pandora is waiting in the wings!  If the customer doesn't care about the player working...or not...well, get it in writing and take her apart!

    Deb

    --
    5 Tarr's Lane WEST
    Rockport, MA  01966
    978-546-8428





  • 7.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 28 days ago
    Thanks to all for providing some information about the history and issues of these pianos, along with the repair recommendations and career advice. In fact, the photos confirm the owner's statement that she already had the player rebuilt some years ago, and its operation is not the issue. It's the operation of the piano action that has problems, which cannot be addressed without disconnecting the upper roll bar assembly, with all of those tubes, from the stack and removing it (and then replacing it). Interestingly none of the on line resources provide information on how to do it, and no one is volunteering that they have done it themselves. No shortcuts, I guess. I can only assume that to actually attempt it would raise the cost of just accessing the action above the present value of the piano, with no guarantee of keeping the player working. Eventually the owner will have to choose - whether to keep the mechanism or have a playable piano.

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    David Trasoff
    Whatcom Piano Service
    (360) 389-2158
    david@whatcompianoservice.com
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  • 8.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 28 days ago
    It's been quite a while since I have removed the stack on one of them.  That said, if you need to disconnect tubing you need to be able to keep it all in order. Years ago, using spare tracker sized tubing nipples, I made 2, 50 nipple strings ...one for each half of tubing. Each with extras in case convenient for additional tubes. Flattening the end of each nipple gave me a spot to drill a small hole to thread them on a length of monofilament and a spot to number each one with permanent marker.  Make sure the monofilament gives you extra length. I tied each end through a short piece of wood dowel. For larger tubing and hoses blue painters tape for labeling.  Keep all screws labeled, take pictures.

    Deb





  • 9.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Member
    Posted 28 days ago
    I question the quality of the player restoration if the piano regulation is in such bad condition. Player guys are like tuners, there are good ones and there are not so good ones. A good player tech would have tested the unit but do to the poor regulation, it could not be tested properly.  If you get the piano working well, you might find the player isn't working so well. o make someone else's problem, your problem.

    Is green translucent tubing the thing now? I've only encountered black tubing.
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    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@comcast.net
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
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  • 10.  RE: Universal Player removal

    Posted 28 days ago
    I suggest getting the Universal Player Action Manual by Robert Stanoszek: from https://www.universalplayerpiano.com/

    Mr. Stanoszek has made a specialty of these pianos, and he also sells rebuilt electronics and roll motors for them. These player actions are extremely tight and normally work well. They do have some quirks, however!

    Phil Jamison