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by Dr. Bill Black


PHOTO A shows the unrestored keyboard in the calliope before the restoration of the machine was begun. The original key coverings had been removed and replaced with formica coverings. In the process, the keys had been sanded making them a bit smaller than they had been previously.

PHOTO B shows a front view of the keyboard and the linkage rods to the stack linkage.


PHOTO C shows the underside of the keyboard after removal from the machine. The metal fingers are attached to each key to provide a connection to the stack linkage.

The keyboard restoration was done by the late Mike Kitner before he passed away. The calliope restoration is a project which was in progress a year or two before he passed away.

Examination of the keyboard after removal from the machine showed the tail ends of the keys were worn in addition to the results of the sanding and recovering problem. Mike thought that the original keys were not worth recovering. Mike also reasoned that Tangley had not made the keys but had purchased them from another source, perhaps a piano company which made keys for their pianos.


He wondered what the size of the keys on an old pump organ would be. A mutual friend had such an organ which was only good for parts. The keyboard was obtained for comparison. In a stroke of good luck, they were almost exactly the same size, close enough that they could be made to fit. Plus, the key coverings were in very good shape. The bed frame was much longer of course since the pump organ had a larger scale.

PHOTO D shows the old keyboard (in the back) and the pump organ keyboard in the front with the appropriate keys which will be used. The angle of the photo makes the keys on the front bed look much longer but they are actually all most identical in size. The other difference in the two keybeds is the location of the pins which mount the keys and hold them in alignment.

In order to deal with this difference, the pump organ keybed was cut off on each end and new ends made to the same configuration as the original keybed. In PHOTO E you can see the new ends of the keybed being glued in position. This will give us a keybed of the same physical proportions as the original and permit the use of the pump organ keys using their rail and pin arrangement .


PHOTO F shows the completed keyboard. The black keys were lacquered and the white keys cleaned. The keyboard arrangement is now the same size as the original and looks great!

Dr. Bill Black is one of the nation's most knowledgeble Wurlitzer band organ experts. He has made recordings of many band organs and other mechanical music machines which are available for purchase in our Gift Shop .


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