I began working for Tom Sprage in LaGrange Indiana in 1972 learning the restoration trade. He taught me the wisdom of doing things exactly as the old timers did them. I restored my own player, and boy, did I play that thing. By the time I sold it 4 years later, I had worn 3/4 slots where pedals tie into the linkage. After I graduated high school in 74, I did work for dealers in the area (very poorly paid) while I put myself though college. In 1978 I moved to Lafayette Indiana and restored player actions for a large music company. I must have done at least 250 players in the seven years I worked there. The recession of the early 80s caused a steep decline in the piano business, and I was becoming tired of just doing regular players all the time.
In 1984, I started working for a small woodworking company. A few Amish and one German craftsman composed the main workforce. I learned a lot of European techniques, inlaying, lathework, carving, etc.... I learned about the American & European systems of grading lumber. We also had very high-tech knife cutting and molding machines, I discovered that I had a natural talent for design as well as construction. I ended up designing and constructing period pieces, Backbars, staircases, fireplace mantels. I also constructed cabinets for stereos and Big-screen TVs which I designed from German orchestrion cases!
In 1989,the millwork company closed down and I went back to players again, taking over pneumatic restorations for James Brady in Indianapolis with much more interesting and challenging work than I had in Lafayette. At the same time I was seeking to get out of the city to more primitive and cost effective surroundings, which I found in Cannon county Tennessee, and where I have been set up for the last six years. During this time I have tackled a wide variety of difficult projects; the most extreme being a Weber Unika that was completely disassembled and water damaged, Others: Organs for Swiss boxes that were nothing more than kindling wood, Barrel pianos with their tuning scale erased, retrofitting gutted player grands, complete fabrication of reed and pipe chests and player stacks. I've always played around with arranging rolls. The Unika I was restoring had a large library of rolls. I was very impressed and inspired by the arrangements. Mr. Brady had just sold a Wurlitzer Photoplayer to a Fancy amusement "Mall" They wanted some Holiday music that wasn't available on AAP rolls, so I did a 5 tune roll for them. After that I did a version A'la Nashville, of "Rocky Top" in the "O" roll format....That was fun! I've pretty much given up on collecting any thing big and expensive. I'm in process of building an Arts & Crafts style cabin up in the hills here, and I put a lot of capitol back into the business. I've slowly amassing ranks of pipes and other parts to build my own orchestrion based on the Maesto scale. Anyway, I have found once I acquire something, I have fun with it for a while, then it just sits. When things come in for restoration, I get them going, probe all their mysteries, enjoy what I have accomplished for a time, then move on to the next... I do have one piece that I will probably be buried with me; A Fancy carved Weber 65-88 note Themeodist-Metrostyle Pianola Piano made in 1908. I got for the hauling from a house in South Bend that was being torn down. It has the most Bawdy rich sound.... A gift from the gods! I'm always looking for Standard 65 note rolls of heavy classical and orchestral works.