Wednesday, December 13, 2017

                                                  REPAIR OF A ROLLER ORGAN
                                                                         Part 3

We were sent an Autophone Concert Roller Organ for evaluation and repair.   After the pump and reservoir were under control, we turned our attention to the case.

A lot of loose veneer was reglued.   Then missing corner braces were installed and the missing front lower brace and related trim were made and glued in place.

The lower base and top covers were missing, so we got the material for them and cut it to size.  We are ready for the next step.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

                                                                  Repair of a Roller Organ
                                                                                   Part 2

We were sent an Autophone Concert Roller Organ for evaluation and possible repair.   After the owner decided to go ahead, we pulled the pump/reservoir assembly and found a lot of mouse damage.

After separating the two pumps, the repair started.

The first half pump was easy.   Cut out the damaged wood.

Then glue in a patch.

Trim the patch and this half pump is ready.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


                                              REPAIR OF A ROLLER ORGAN PART 1

We were sent an Autophone Concert Roller Organ for evaluation and possible repair.   One look and you can probably conclude that it is a basket case, not worth the cost of repair.

We cleaned it just enough to determine what the issues were, then advised the owner what a repair would cost, with the comment that it was no economically advisable.

As is the case in several repairs we have made, this was a family piece from several generations back and economics was not the main driving force.

We agreed on a price and are starting the work to return it to as near original condition as is practical.  With a lot of work, our goal is to get it looking about like this.

And having it play of cours.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

                                                                       AN AEOLIAN STACK

We are repairing an Aeolian player piano stack, which had some unidentified leaks.   The stack has three sections.   The first step  is to separate the sections as each must be repaired individually.

We are going to investigate the upper section first.   The section comes apart by removing the upper cover, which contains the pouches that activate the valves.

The top cover holding the pouches rests on a spacer, which must be sealed to the body.   To check that seal, we must remove this piece.

Now it is a matter of cleaning the joints to get a good seal on reassembly.   Check all the valves for proper clearance.

After reassembly and before you seal the back, check the valve top to pouch clearance, to be sure the valves have full travel.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


                                                      Sir Henry "Harry" Lauder

August 1870-26
February 1950
was a Scottish music hall and vaudeville theatre singer and comedian and a substantial landowner.

He was perhaps best known for his long-standing hit "I Love a Lassie" and for his international success.   He was described by Sir Winston Churchill as "Scotland's greatest ever ambassador!"   He became a familiar world-wide figure promoting images like the kilt and the cromach (walking stick) to huge acclaim, especially in America.   Other songs followed, including "Roamin' in the Gloamin", "A Wee Deoch-an-Doris" and "The End of the Road".

By 1911, Lauder had become the highest-paid performer in the world and was the first Scottish artist to sell a million records.   He raised vast amounts of money for the war effort during World War I, for which he was subsequently knighted in 1919.   He went into semi-retirement in the mid-1930s, but briefly emerged to entertain troops in World War II.   By the late-1940s, he was suffering from long periods of ill-health and died in Scotland in 1950.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

                                            ABOUT THE ROCK STARS OF THE 1920s

The Coon Sanders Nighthawks Band

Carleton Coon was born in Rochester, Minnesota in 1893 and his family moved to Lexington, Missouri shortly after his birth.   Joe Sanders was born in Kansas in 1896.   Sanders was known as "the Old Left Hander" because of his skills at baseball.   The Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra was formed in 1919.   Sanders gave up baseball in the early 1920s to concentrate on dance music as a career.

The orchestra began broadcasting in 1922 on clear channel station WDAF, which could be received throughout the United States.   They were broadcast in performance at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.   They took the name Nighthawks because they broadcast late at night (11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.).  By 1924, their fan club had 37,000 members.   Fans were encouraged to send in requests for songs by letter, telephone or telegram.   That move became so popular that Western Union set up a ticker tape  between Sander's piano and Coon's drums, so telegrams could be acknowledged during the broadcasts.    Their song "Nighthawk Blues" includes the lines:  "Tune right in on the radio/Grab a telegram and say "Hello" .   In 1925, they recorded the Paul Whitman and Fred Rose composition "Flamin' Mamie".

The group left Kansas City for the first time in 1924 for a three-month engagement in a roadhouse in Chicago.   The orchestra moved to Chicago the same year, where Jules Stein used the profits from a tour he booked, for them to establish the Music Corporation of American (MCA), with the orchestra as its first client.   The orchestra moved into the Blackhawk in Chicago in 1926.  The members of the  orchestra at that time were Joe Richolson and Bob Pope, trumpets; Rex Downing, trombone; Harold Thiell, Joe Thiell and Floyd Estep, saxophones; Joe Sanders, piano; Russ Stout, banjo and guitar;
"Pop"  Estep, tuba; Carleton Coon, drums.   In the following years, the Nighthawks performed at the Blackhawk every winter, doing remote broadcasts over radio station WGN.   Their reputation spread coast to coast through these broadcasts and the many records they made for Victor.   They undertook very successful road tours.

The orchestra moved to New York City for an 11 month broadcast engagement at the Hotel New Yorker, arranged by William S. Paley, who needed a star attraction to induce radio stations to join the Columbia Broadcasting System.

At the peak of the band's success, the musicians owned identical Cord automobiles, each in a different color with the name  of the Orchestra and the owner embossed on the rear.   The Orchestra's  popularity showed no signs of abating and their contract with MCA had another 15 years to run in the spring of 1932, when Carleton Coon came down with a jaw infection and died on May 4.

Sanders attempted to keep the organization going; however, without Coon, the public did not support them.   In 1935, he formed his own group and played until the early 1940s when he became a part-time orchestra leader and studio musician.   In his later year he suffered from failing eyesight and other health problems.   He died in 1965 after suffering a stroke.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

                                                    You may be culturally deprived if:

1)  You cannot tell a band organ from a Calliope

2)  You never heard of Sir Harry Lauder

3)  Rudy Vallee sounds like a California location

4)  The word Graphonola means nothing to you

5)  The Coon Sanders Night Hawks sound like a hunting club

6)  You think Brunswick only made bowling alleys

7)  You think a "45" is just a gun

8)  If you think Nickelodeon is only a TV channel.

Visit DeBence Antique Music World at 1261 Liberty Street and let us add some couth to your life.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

                                      Donating to a Museum???

This way of passing on your collection item is not a bad plan.   BUT if you want your collection preserved and available to the public, there are a few areas that need to be considered, before making a donation of machines or literature.

1)   When you donate an item you lose all control over it.  Period.

2)   No reputable school or museum will guarantee much of anything about display or retention of a donation.   If they do make such a guarantee, don't believe them.   Over time, as the situation changes, the pledge will become undoable or forgotten.

3)   Your best indication of probable fate of your donation, is to check the fate of past such donations.  If they refuse to discuss that subject, then you have your answer and can walk away.   Your best chance for continued public access to your donation, is their past record of such access.

4)   You need to trust that if the item is eventually sold, it will go to someone who appreciates it.

We believe that DeBence Antique Music World is an example of a proper place to donate.   We hold in trust, what Jake DeBence collected, thus preventing it from being sold to and probably being hidden in many different private collections.   We keep all of it available for public view and performance.   We have received and added a number of major instruments over the last 20 years.

The Hammond/Aeolian Player Organ, the Nelson Wiggen Style 6, the Aeolian/Duo Art Grand, The Sohmer-Welte Upright and the Aeolian Duo-Art Grand Reproducing System all came to us needing repairs and have been restored and are exhibited and played for visitiors.

We have filled gaps in our phonograph and instrument collections with donated instruments which have been repaired and are now on display.   We have been given several non-working phonographs, duplicating items which we already have and have restored and sold them.   Proceeds from such sales are used for restoration and maintenance of the instruments in the collection and if the donors care, they are told where the money from the sale of their machine was used.

In summary, don't discount this way of passing on your collection items, as there are worthy places to donate an item where it will be restored, preserved, exhibited and played.   You just need to do your homework and research to find them.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

                                             Repairing a Reed Organ  -             Part 3

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job, just a repair to good playing condition.

In the past, we had wire brushed all rusty screws before reassembly.  The advent of EVAPO-RUST has made this job a lot easier.  Just put the rusty screws in a bottle of it, wait 24 hours and you have nice clean parts.

As we proceeded in reassembly, we found the root of the stuck stops problem was a transfer of parts between stop hardware, which once identified, was easily corrected.

As with most older wood mechanisms, there were some split parts which we glued back together.

With reassembly completed, we checked to see if all the reeds sounded and had to free a few stuck ones.

The final job was recovering the front grille with the corrected cloth.

At this point, the job is essentially done and the organ is ready to return to the owner.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

                                                   Repairing a Reed Organ - Part 2

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job,  just a repair to good playing condition.

We got the problem of the big stack leak under control, but further investigation showed some cracks in the top half where the valves mount.    These were sealed with silicon sealer for the larger ones and shellac based sealer for the narrow ones.

Now we can start reassembly.   The bottom of the air chest was put in place and then the top installed.

The valve push rods were carefully arranged when removed, so as to be able to install them in the same position they came from.   Before the next layer could go on, the stop slides which were hard to move, had to be freed up and readjusted.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

                                                             Repairing a Reed Organ  - Part 1                                                       

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job, just a repair to good playing condition.

A quick try at playing it, showed that the bass section would play with a lot of pumping, indicating a good size leak.   The stops were hard to move and did not seem to change the sound.   The tremble section would not play at all.   The treble swell shade seemed to be disconnected.

Smith organs were assembled in the case, so you can't just unscrew the action and slide it out.   You have to disassemble layer by layer.

Once we got inside the air chest, a major leak became apparent.   Making the base out of several pieces of wood is common and the joints are normally sealed by gluing a piece of motor cloth over them.   In this case, the cloth had failed, leaving a 1/8 inch open slot.

After taking the bottom half of the air chest out, it was possible to tape off the reservoir and check the pumps.   The pump and reservoir assembly had been rebuilt about 35 years ago.   They tested to still be in excellent condition.   We treated the cloth with preservative and it should be good for a long time.

We removed the remnants of the orginal air chest crack patch, cleaned off the old glue and glued on
a new patch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


                                                                        Making a Coin Drop

We had an instrument ready to go into our self tour no charge area.   The instruments that play there use a quarter coin to make them play one song.   The Cremona C that was destined to go there, had no coin drop mechanism.   Commercially available ones are way too expensive for our budget, so we decided to make one.   The design is not ours.   It is patterned after our Johnson Nickelodeon, which was built in 1908.

The good thing about this design, is that with some wood, a table saw, a few scraps of copper and some time, it costs almost nothing out of pocket.

You route out the wood to fit the coin, make the two copper parts, one fixed, the other moveable and you are in business.

The coin slides down the slot until the copper parts trap it and at that point the coin itself completes the circuit and starts the instrument.

When the song finishes, the moveable copper part is slid over and the coin is released, breaking the circuit and stopping play.

Of course you have to make a pneumatic to work the moveable piece and get it all to work freely.

The next step is to mount it into the instrument and get the coin to drop onto and into the switch area.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

                                                            Repair of the Link AX Part 7

In June of 2017, we moved the Link AX into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

You may remember that in our first check, we found that the soft pedal system interfered with the repositioned drum and we left that problem for later.   When we reinstalled the xylophone, we saw the basic problem was that the units were very tight against the case.   I now think that the repositioning of the drum assembly was a factory job or that perhaps the drum assembly was from a different instrument.   At any rate, there is very little room to spare, so we bent the soft pedal bracket to clear the drums.

When we loaded the paper roll, we found the reason the previous roll was so badly edge damaged.   The guides were narrower that the paper.   We repositioned them to give the paper clearance.  The drag plate was warped and did not sit evenly on top of the paper.   We bent it until it fit properly.

The v-belt pullet was installed on the motor and we now have a v-flat drive for the pumps.

There are a few cosmetic items to take care of; but we are about done with this job and all the functions now work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

                                                               Climate Control

When Jake had the collection on Route 8, South of Franklin, the building had no climate control.   A  lot of condensation happened when the conditions were right for it and thus many of the metal parts of the instruments show a degree of rust.

The old G.C. Murphy building, which is our present location, had steam heat and added an A/C system in the 1960s.   We had to replace both of them with a combined roof top unit.

We have done our best to reduce unintended air leakage, but we still have a humidity control issue.   We want about 50% relative humidity, so in the absence of a big humidifier in the winter months, we keep the temperature at 50 degrees and humidify selected machines that show sensitivity.

Summer humidity in the basement required 4 dehumidifiers running full time to get to 50%.   Further investigation found that the foundation was stone cemented in place.   A pegboard  covering with no vapor barrier was exposed.   We started a project to put a vapor barrier in place behind the pegboard to prevent moisture entry.   Over the last 4 years, we have done this in pieces, while also adding base plugs in selected areas while we had the peg board down.   The last 150 feet of the barrier was added this past winter.   While doing this, we found several direct air leaks, which we sealed.  

This picture shows the stone foundation wall, a portion of the vapor barrier and the pegboard cover.

Our success is demonstrated by the fact that we now need only 2 dehumidifiers, one running part time, to consistently maintain the desired 50% humidity.

Aside from the humidity control, this saves us about $20 per month on the electric bill.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

                                                REPAIR OF THE LINK AX Part 6

In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

You may remember that in our first check, we found the soft pedal system interfered with the repositioned drum and we left that problem for later.

The first problem we found was that both the on and off tracker holes were plugged.   That seemed an easy fix; but unplugging them fixed nothing.   So we started at the valves in the bottom leftside and traced hoses.

The #1 hose was plugged someplace, so we started tracing it.   The routing took it behind the valve area.   It was stuck and could not be moved.   Using the air compressor blew a hold someplace.

Pulling would not move it, so we decided to replace it.   Disconnecting from the tracker bar we followed it through the hose bundle on the right side of the case.

We replaced the line from the tracker bar to the valve.   A check showed all was well.   A later check showed it was still plugged, which meant the tracker bar had redeveloped a problem.    Attempts  to clean the nipple yielded more chaff, but also pierced the tracker tube.   We had to solder up the hole.   We then reconnected the tubing and all is well again.

It took longer to do, than to tell the story.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


                                                              Repair of the Link AX Part 5

You remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it had been used on the first floor as part  of our guided tours.   Very little work had been done on it.   In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

We made and installed a new mandolin rail, but the pneumatics and system was supposed to work; but would not function.

For the next few days, we traced hoses and fixed problems, such as the soft pedal that did not work, because the tracker was plugged.

Every few hours, I went back and tried to find out why the mandolin rail actuators did not work.
I emailed Paul Manganaro and he sent me a photo of the pneumatic actuator group.

At first I did not see the difference, but after some more looking and thinking, I realized that the one I was working with would hold the bar off, while the one Paul sent me, showed an assembly that would hold the bar.

During the last rebuild, someone put the locking bar on backwards.   Once you understand the problem, it is an easy fix.   To get to it, I had to take a few things apart, but in 45 minutes the problem was resolved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

                                                 REPAIR OF THE LINK AX     PART 4

You may remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.    Very little work had been done on it.   In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work on it.   Most of the detailed work has now been finished and reassembly started.

When the tambourine was put in place, we discovered one reason it had been damaged.   The paper music shelf had sagged over time and was actually sitting on top of it.   The question was what to do about it.

I decided to build a support on the tambourine mount to support the shelf high enough to clear the action.   It needed about 3/8 of an inch.

Having cleared that problem, it was time to put the back of the case on .   At some prior time, it looks like the cover had been flipped over and torn off the right corner of the back panel.   It had been glued back, but the alignment was off; with result being that the corner was too high.   The glued joint seemed solid, so we cut the corner down to match the rest of the top.

Probably as part of the incidence, some incorrect hinges were installed, ending up with 3 different sets for the 3 hinges involved.   We just took them off and will try to find a set of approximately original dimensions.   At least we will have them all the same.

The mandolin rail was discarded at some past time, so we will make a replacement.   The pneumatic controls are still in place, so all we need is the rail itself.   We have one which will be adapted; but more about that later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

                                                REPAIR OF THE LINK AX PART 3

You may remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.   Very little work had been done on it; but it became increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   On June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started to work on it.

The pump drive on the links was by a flat belt.   The motor pulley is 2 inches in diameter.   Jake had substituted a v belt turned inside out for the flat belt, which had been working since we got the instrument.

The belt was showing age and full of cracks.   We also suspected it of slipping on the drive pulley.   I know it is not original, but I decided to change to a v flat drive.   That meant a 2.25 OD v pulley to get the pitch diameter of 2 inches.   The moor has a .375 shaft and 2 1/4 pulleys all have 1/2 inch bores, so we had to get a reducing sleeve for the new pulley.

At some point, we realized that the motor leads were bad.    If you wiggled the leads the motor would stop.    A trip to our local motor repair shop, where as DeBence supporters they do small jobs for us a no charge, resulted in a motor cleaning and new leads.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

                                                            Repair of the Link AX Part 2

You remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.   Very little work has been done on it, but it has become increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   On June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.

The tambourine had shown some playing problems, so we looked it over.   The basic mounting was in trouble.   The lower support pin had fallen out, letting the upper pin take all the shaking load and it had worked loose while stripping the screw threads.

The hole was now so big that even an oversize screw would not work, so epoxy was used to hold the upper support screw in place.

Beyond that the next level support had split and had been repaired by adding screws to hold it together.   I cut off the split area and glued a new piece of oak in its place.

The wood nuts on the shaker link were rusted in place and also brittle, so they were removed and the threads wire brushed to clean them up.   Then it was reinstalled.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

                                                              Repair of the Link AX

Since the Link arrived from Jakes' barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor of the museum, as part of our guided tours.   Very little work has been done on it, but it has become increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   The most obvious problem was that the xylophone did not turn off and on reliably.   Jake had added a booster pump, which seems to indicate there were some other problems.

In June 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.

The drum assembly was in the way, so we took it out.   This let us see that the drum assembly had been moved to the left, which interfered with the soft pedal pneumatic.   This was immaterial, as the soft pedal control was unhooked.  Set that aside for later.   We could also see that while the control was in place, the mandolin rail was gone, another set aside.   The control for the stop and start of the xylophone was removed for repair.

The vacuum valve was rebuilt; but was not in bad shape and should have worked, so the control for it was rebuilt.   Everything was then reinstalled.

As this point nothing has been tried, so we do not know what the next issue may be.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

                                The Edison Standard Phonograph

The Edison Standard is a spring driven external horn phonograph model, that was introduced by Edison's National Phonograph Company, in April, 1899.   It sold for $20, but remember you were lucky to make $1 per day at the time.

We were given a good working one a couple of years ago and already had a non-functioning one.   Since the building is space limited, it seemed wise to sell one of them.

In order to sell one, it has to work.  So we decided to fix the broken one and sell it.   There were two main problems.   The spring was broken about 3 turns from the inner end.   The C reproducer  needed a lot of help.  We don't do reproducers, so we sent it out for repair.   The spring is simple, but as you probably know, it is dangerous to replace a spring if you are inexperienced at this job.   There was also a chipped tooth on one gear, which had to be replaced.

We got it all taken care of in early July of 2017 and will be sale shortly, but there is no horn to go with it, as they are readily available in reproduction form.