An 88 note player piano is an incredibly complicated machine that requires a true
craftsman to properly restore it to its original operating condition. Most players
we receive are just barely playing, and our customers ask, "can you just repair the
bellows?". Unless the piano was recently restored, the problem is almost never 'just
A player piano runs entirely on vacuum, and old leather gaskets and seals deteriorate
and start to leak. Eventually the leaks become so great, that there is no longer
enough vacuum to run the player mechanism. Rubberized cloth is used throughout the
piano, in the form of pneumatically operated 'bellows' or pneumatics. It is this
cloth that can become stiff, split open or develop leaks that reduce its effectiveness
and lead to poor performance.
In the process of restoration, all of the old rubberised cloth is removed and replaced
with new material. All of the internal leather gaskets and valve facings are meticulously
replaced and assemblies are tested fully for leakage. Approximately 85 feet of rubber
hose is removed and replaced. This is a very labour intensive job, but the results
are an instrument that will play for another 90 years and can be enjoyed by future
Damaged parts are re-created
There are intricate valves, gaskets, pneumatics, governors, and linkages that work
together to make a player piano perform smoothly. It is this system of valves and
pneumatics that need to be replaced or rebuilt. This is a tedious process, in that
every part to be rebuilt is generally repeated 88 times.
This is a very common question that we get. Is the cost of restoration worth it?
The answer is difficult. If you have an ordinary upright player, and you are thinking
of restoring it to sell it and make a profit, that probably won’t happen.
But if the instrument is a family heirloom, and you are looking to preserve it and
possibly hand it down to a family member, then the answer is YES! The hours of fun,
especially at parties and holidays will make it very much worth it.
If your piano will only barely play with its foot pedals and is no longer any fun
to ‘pump’, then consider having some restoration work. If your budget is tight, and
you are handy with tools, then consider our BT-002 electrification kit. This is an
electric vacuum pump that mounts inside the piano, and provides more vacuum than
can be generated by foot pumping alone. This system has brought many, many player
pianos to life. Click here for details.