Category Archives: B. A. B. Organ Company Blog

The B. A. B Blog follows museum staff and volunteers as they restore a recently acquired historic band organ music roll maker (“perforator”) to operating condition. Posts written by Doug H. and edited by Dennis Reed Jr.

B. A. B. perforator is loaded with paper and punching holes

Pleased as punch

IMG_1790After completing basic assembly of the perforator on 2/27, the team has reached another milestone: We loaded “blank” paper onto the perforator and successfully punched holes into a paper roll! For this basic test the holes were random, but when arranged properly the holes can be “read” by a band organ to trigger its musical instruments and play a song. They are the “sheet music” of the organ.

Nitty gritty details

To try to give you a better sense of the mechanisms involved: There are 8 shelves to the stack. About 11 punches are operated by each shelf. We are installing the shelves (an exacting, time-consuming job) one at a time and then testing the shelf before installing another.

The brass stack is awaiting pneumatic tubing to the tracker bar. After tubing, the Machine Tester stencil will be run (that is like the test page you print out to calibrate your home printer). If performance is verified we will be almost ready to punch a “real” music roll. Before that, we must install and adjust paper trimmers (which cut a large roll of paper down to the right size to be played on the band organ) and resolve some adjustment problems with the paper tractor.

Whew! Thanks for following. Remember the museum opens April 1st.

Photo gallery from 3/3 and 3/11

See also: A perforator in action

Watch an overview of the steps involved in making a paper music roll. This video features a Wurlitzer perforator in the museum’s collection, but the concept is the same. Perforator at 0:52.

B. A. B. music roll perforator restoration is complete

Ready to “roll” again

Black beauty. Photo by Dennis Reed Jr.

Black beauty. Photo by Dennis Reed Jr.

2/27/17: On December 7, 2016, we unloaded the B. A. B. / Acme perforator and its paraphernalia off a truck from Maine and into the museum. Our hope was to restore the machine to operating condition. Today, that hope has been realized. The cleaning and rebuilding is done and the three sections are set up and everything works. We even gave her a fresh coat of paint.

The crew

THE CREW  Dean foreground, George hidden left, Don center,  Doug, right.

THE CREW Dean foreground, George hidden left, Don center, Doug, right.

Pictured is a truly phenomenal crew; talented, dedicated, eager, relentless. Not present for photo is Bud, Marv, and second Doug (my friend for almost 70 years). My heartfelt gratitude to each of these men, who have been helping for two workdays a week for months to restore this important piece of history.

See it in person this April

Temporarily, the perforator is set up in the Lockman (horse) Gallery where there is power available to run it. It will move from there to the Wurlitzer Music Department exhibit, probably before the museum re-opens for the season on April 1st. It will ultimately move to a “new” building on the museum campus that will be dedicated to celebrating the artistry and technical wizardry of band organs and of music roll production.

Making music

There are still some pieces left to install before full operation and music roll production is possible. The first music to be punched will be 61 key as used by our Artizan “D”. It is the only format which we can “proof”. We will need to make arrangements with owners of organs which use other formats for the purpose of “proofing” those rolls. We never sell any music rolls we haven’t played and approved.

Photo gallery

Learn more about the B. A. B. perforator and its place in carrousel history.

B. A. B. progress: Motor “scare,” a little help from our friends, and funding a building

Progress on the perforator

You haven’t heard from us in two weeks, but we have been busy! We have been examining the machinery and cleaning it, which requires dismantling much of it, repairing and rebuilding many parts after years of disuse.

Throughout all of this we are learning how this machine operates. It is very different from the Wurlitzer machines we’ve been using for years, but the background from using a perforator and making music rolls is valuable help.

And we put up this improvised sign, a banner to rally us to our cause! Thanks to Dennis Reed Jr for producing it and then spending his own Sunday convincing Doug that it’s what I want.

Motor “scare”

This is the first the MOTOR and PUMP were reunited and run together.  The 'diaper" under the exhaust pipe was there to catch any fresh oil which might have been spewed out.  There was none!

The MOTOR and PUMP reunited and run together.

We had a bit of a scare with the MOTOR last week. After cleaning and servicing it, then almost bragging about its delights (see previous blog post), we discovered it had no power to run the pump!

The solution was obvious and now seems laughable: the wiring of the power cord was wrong. The motor was running on half its required voltage!

(More than) a little help from our friends

We are so grateful that friends of the museum and band organ and mechanical music enthusiasts from all over the county have come forward to help with this project, and to generously share their expertise. People from Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, Florida, and probably more have helped us so far.

People have shared service literature, catalogues, information about other owners, sometimes patent info. We have a detailed service and parts manual for the CENTURY Single Phase 1 H.P. motor. Patent drawings for the Leaman Bros. (suction supply) pump, and a predecessor of the perforating machine. These resources are invaluable to us now and will continue to be for the next generation of caretakers.

The expanding band organ exhibit

The museum’s Director, Rae Proefrock, has begun the arduous and daunting task of funding the replacement of the only building originally part of the Herschell Carrousel Factory campus which was demolished. When completed it will be dedicated to the expanding Band Organ Exhibit which was begun here over 20 years ago and continues today.

An unrealized dream?

The museum can boast Wurlitzer and Artizan band organs. But we’re still looking for a band organ made by The North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works. This firm was organized in 1906, made beautiful machines, and was Wurlitzer’s most potent competitor.

Photo gallery (2/3/17–2/13/17)

See you next time

Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week with more progress reports.

B. A. B. perforator progress: Hot under the “collar,” motor wiring, and an overview of sections

Isn’t it funny how the things you think are going to be dead simple sometimes end up feeling impossible?

Cutting off the COLLAR.

Cutting off the COLLAR.

Last week, the seemingly simple task of removing another of the many “collars” that keep various components in their place on the perforator gave us fits. Our careful and expert volunteers exhausted all normal and reasonable methods to loosen the collar, until finally the only remaining option was to saw it and grind it into pieces which could be broken off the shaft (see photo at left, or full gallery below).

Believe me, this was not a “sledgehammer” approach. We are mindful at every step of the enormous responsibility of preserving the vanishing history that rare machines like this represent. We took every precaution to destroy only the collar and leave every nearby component unscathed. After much sober and diligent work, I am happy to report (and you will witness in our photography) that the shaft and all its components, and a newly made, matching-the-original collar is now safely installed!

Motor is looking–and sounding–good

MOTOR in shining new livery.

MOTOR in shining new livery.

While we don’t know if the huge CENTURY 1 H.P. electric motor is original to the machine we know it is old enough that it may be. We cleaned it and tested it thoroughly and found it to be entirely operational.

We received several enthusiastic messages from people who own similar CENTURY motors and delight in their appearance and even the sound of their operation. You never can tell what will interest people so we try to show whatever we have on this blog.

The wiring of the motor which leads to a control box (a combination of line fuses and a switch, mounted on the perforator chassis) was examined and the cord found adequate and in good condition. A grounding lead was added between the MOTOR and the perforator chassis to eliminate the chance of any metal parts becoming “live” and dangerous.

Overview of perforator sections

The webmaster has asked me for a brief rundown of how the parts of this perforator work together in the hopes that it will make the photos and captions more enjoyable and easier to grasp. So here goes:

The TANK is part of the suction system which is the PUMP, the TANK, the SPILL VALVE, and the GAUGE. This system provides and regulates the suction which powers the STACK. The STACK is a very detailed and complicated component which receives information from the MASTER STENCIL, through the TRACKER BAR and controls the punches which transfer the information on the STENCIL to the new MUSIC ROLLS which are being produced.

Photo gallery

See you next week!

I am always seeking information which will help us understand the operation of the machine, as we received it with scant documentation, so please email me if you have something to share. Also let me know if there is something specific you would like to know about the B. A. B. perforator. I’ll be back next week with more to report of the journey of literally one-of-a-kind machine to making band organ music rolls again!

The B. A. B Blog follows museum staff and volunteers as they restore a recently acquired historic band organ music roll maker (“perforator”) to operating condition. Learn more about the B. A. B. perforator and its place in carrousel history.

B. A. B. perforator progress: the motor roars!

Lots of progress from the week of January 20th, 2017. We banished more grime, and even started the motor! It leapt to life instantly, with a low growl, and refused any notion of untoward pitching. In a couple seconds it snapped into “overdrive” and continued with a low hum.

Everyone is now even more eager to continue and finish the work on the perforator chassis and the other motor board inhabitants. Stay tuned.