The Wallis's ~ The Complete Story
Jeep and insisted he was taken out again, so we realised he certainly was enjoying it even though he had had a mishap.
After I started my “Odd Job” business something I was forced to do as I was unable to find professional work . I found that as Christmas approached few people would want work done and I was on a loose end. At the time I had taken an interest in Mechanical music and managed to find an old 1929 Aeolian Piano player. I thought such a renovation project would keep me busy while my Odd Job 0work was not in demand. The Piano player was going very cheaply and I got my son in law Andrew to help me collect it in his trailer. However we soon found we had problems for the room it was kept in had been modernised since the piano had been put in and the access door that had been fitted was a very narrow one. We could not carry the pianola through the opening it was too wide! There was nothing else to do, we had to remove the keyboard which protruded out too far. We had to dismantle the whole machine but this was the first time I had tackled such a job and was concerned that I would be able to get it together again. I tried to mark each part as it was removed and where it had come from and made notes as I could was be dismantled the piano. We knew the player was not working and that I would need to rebuild and repair the whole vacuum mechanism so I was not too worried. We got the whole piano home at last and there started the sort out of over a hundred Bellows miles of pipe and all the controls. At the time I had very little work in my odd job business.
The whole project was exciting I learnt such a lot all about Tosh, the bellow fabric, seals valves and slides. After some months I had it working and fitted a vacuum cleaner suction unit surrounded with thick carpet to keep the electric motor noise down and it was as good as new.
Later I fitted “Reed” switches to each note operated by a small magnet attached to the movement so I could operate a Midi circuit board, which was fed, into my computer. In this was I was able to store any music played on the Pianola and use the recording as I wished.
With all my investigations to find out how the Pianola worked and obtained many books from the library to help me. While I was searching I 0came across details of the “Violino” a mechanical violin made in the 1900’s I was able to see one of these machines working at Brendford Piano museum and was hooked. Where could I get one of these machines to rebuild? I soon found they were few and far between and their antique value was way out of my reach. However I did obtain a good service and operating manual and decided to try my hand at making my own machine. My idea was to use an up to date approach and bring in my computer. Here I had music available in a digital format. If I instructed the computer to take out only the melody from a piece of piano music, then divide this melody of notes into violin string lengths and bow operation. I should be able to pass these messages to my proposed home made violino which would shorten the length of the string, while bowing the string alongside the piano.
I have given the project a lot of work, with only partial success as yet for a great problem is the string control. I did not know if I should use vacuum bellows or electrical solenoids to damp the strings.
There were 60 points required and to get all these bellows in the space available which is very small. I have been using electrical solenoids with levers, which take up less room, but I have found they are not strong enough and do not always dampen the string enough to give a clear note. They also use a great deal of current. At present the work is “on hold” I am tempted to go back to using the bellows system. In the meantime I am able to modify and work of my computer-recorded signals and play these back on my Yamaha Piano which can be operated from the Midi signals.
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