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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Player Piano Roll Cabinet (ca. 1920)

One of the pieces I am currently working on is a player piano roll storage cabinet. Player pianos read "music" which was laid out on a paper roll. As the roll was wound from one side to the other, holes in the paper would indicate to the piano which notes were to be played. When a roll was not in use, it was stored in a cardboard box with a label on one end indicating the tune that was played by the roll. The player piano was the record player of it's time and as such a listener could amass a large collection of rolls. to help with this, the manufacturers started to offer cabinets dedicated to the storage of these rolls. Often they could be bought along side a piano and would be finished to match. The rolls in there cardboard cases would be stored on shelves with the ends sticking out so the labels could be read. Below is a photo of some rolls being stored in a player piano roll cabinet.
The heyday of the player piano was from the 1900's to 1929. Two things that lead to the fall in popularity was the rise of the phonograph as well as the collapse of the stock market in 1929. It is hard to be much more specific with the dating of this cabinet, so I figured 1920 was as good a guess as any.

The cabinet is made up of Birch that has been stained to simulate Mahogany. the secondary wood on the cabinet is Poplar. Below are two photos of the cabinet as it came to me.

The cabinet was in good shape structurally, but the finish was in pretty bad shape. In addition, there was some mold growing on the panels of the doors. The knobs had been replaced with porcelain knobs and the casters were missing. After attempting to restore the finish, I decided that the best thing to do was to refinish the cabinet. The customer and I also decided to add bun feet and new knobs as well. below are some photos of the initial work on the cabinet.

These first few photos show the addition of the bun feet. The feet were first mounted on boards to provide additional stability. this also gave the cabinet a little lift allowing the feet to be seen. Otherwise the feet would have been recessed into the bottom and hardly noticeable. Here are the feet mounted on their boards.
This next photo shows the feet installed. They were later stained to match the cabinet.
These next few photos show the cabinet after the finish was removed and then after staining. The stain makes the cabinet look pretty dark, but when the finish is added the color lightens up.

First, the drawers.
Here are the doors with the finish removed.
The doors after staining.
Here is the cabinet with the finish removed...
...And again, after staining!
I will post some photos of the completed cabinet next week.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting! I have just removed the finish (crackled and dirty) from an old roll cabinet and about to start light sanding, staining and refinishing. Mine has shelves held inside with teeny brad nails. They will not be seen after restoration as they will be FILLED with rolls. I'm debating whether I really NEED to restore the inside since it will never be seen. I'm not sure of the wood used on the outside. It appears to be a mahogany veneer. I will be using Minwax sealer, stain and later satin pulyurethane as we have several housecats, and I've noticed scratches :( on one of the victrola's I restored using a hand-rubbed oil finish. I restored my player piano with Minwax back in the 70's, but just found this roll cabinet in an old barn in hay..and with mice. I LOVE the old furniture. Anyway...saw your site and noticed the great workmanship!!