Piano World Home Page
Hi All,
This is my first post to this community so first off I want to say hi.
I was lucky enough to acquire ( for almost free) a 70's era Aeolin player piano in very good condition. It sounds great, I've tuned it up, and the player action works fairly well but I'm thinking that later this year I will do a pneumatics rebuild.
I'm a long time hobbyist, computer programmer, machinist, etc.. so I decided to put myself to the task of making my own piano rolls. The process is working out well. It goes something like this;

1) Find midi files with strictly piano, one or two tracks
2) Convert them to text tiles using this site - https://tonejs.github.io/MidiConvert/
3) Using visual basic I made a program that strips out the notes, start times, and end times and write them to a file.
4) Using another visual basic program I read this file and write out a program with x values, yvalues, and laser off/on commands.
5) I built a small machine using inexpensive stepper motors using an Arduino board with a CNC shield to drive the mechanism.

Results - ok so far. I found a need a more powerful laser so I'm going from .5 watts to 3.5 watts. The choice of getting 11.25 wide suitable paper has been stumping me. I ordered a 12" wide roll of white butcher paper and I have high hopes that this will work. I widened my machine to accept 12" paper and I will simply cut it down .75 inches after printing. Will use a razor and straightedge ruler ( will make a benchtop fixture to make this quick and easy.)

I'm going to try to attach pictures of the laser burning machine.( In my initial build the holes were going off track in the x direction but I think my new improvements to this machine should solve that.)

So, if anyone would like to talk about this, the good, bad , or ugly of it, if it has been done before, or learn more about what I am doing, please drop me a message!
John Chaplain
North Port, FL

This is what I'm working with. Waiting for the new more powerful laser to arrive from ebay. Also waiting for the new paper to arrive so I can add a feed roller for the proper paper inside diameter.

I think this is a very interesting project. It reminds me of the collaboration between the famous American actress Hedy Lamarr and her composer husband George Antheil. Together they came up with an invention -- roughly based on the design of a piano roll -- which "scrambles" a radio signal between a ship and a torpedo that guided the torpedo to its target.

Best wishes for your success!
Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil were just friends and collaborators. Antheil was married to someone else.
Hi there
I'm also new to this forum and I registered because of your post here. I got an early Aeolian push-up player which I restored during the first half of this year. It is working fine now but it's a bit difficult to get 65 note rolls, especially with more modern music (modern = later that 1920 or so).
So I came to the same idea as you did.... why not use a laser to cut small holes out of thin paper. That should not be a problem.

I also found some nice software that converts MIDI files into printed paper strips. (holes punched manually). The name of the software is NOTEUR and MIDIBOEK (dutch website but also in english).
I used it sucessfully to make small strips for my tiny 30 tone music box. But it can be configured for any kind of paper with and notes count.
So the only part missing is a software driver between that existing software and your laser thingie. :-)

I also had the idea to move the laser only horizontally and move the paper vertically, cutting it in the same time while it moves.
I also bought a laser deflection unit (from Aliexpress) which could be used to draw small circles with the laser. This would punch out a paper circle like the original punches did (just a bit slower). This would eliminate the need of moving the laser head to much.

So my idea would be this:
Move paper one step.
Position laser at first note
Cut circle (with deflection unit)
Position laser at next note
Cut circle
-- all notes done on that line?
Advance paper one step

Depending on the laser power, that should move quite quickly. And it could be set for 88 notes or 65 notes. Also the diameter of the holes can be changed.

What do you think about all that?
My problem is that I'm quite talented with mechanics and electronics but I'm a poor programmer.... :-) Maybe we could solve some problems together?

Software link: http://draaiorgelweb.nl/software/midiboek.htm
My Aeolian player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KW7Zk8Iy3g

On my Youtube channel "Play with Junk" are some more videos about the restoration of the player... :-)
https://www.youtube.com/playwithjunk (click videos)
It's been a long time since I posted about my laser burning project here. It seems that I forgot about this forum but now I think I will be using it more often.

My laser roll burning program was a great hobby but also a complete failure. I spent a few months making the burner and programming it but the problems were;

1) Mechanically it wasn't tracking and feeding the paper accurately enough. A rebuild of a better mechanism could have solved that but I decided it wasn't worth it ( read on.)

2) Getting the right paper. Some paper would not burn ( too translucent, transparent?) Some paper would catch fire. Most paper would burn unevenly. Also getting paper the correct width was a problem.

3) Time. Burning a roll, even if I got it working perfectly, might take 6-10 hours.

So, after several months of attempting to burn paper I gave up on that idea and I purchased 100 solenoids from ebay, a 3d printer, and pulled together some circuitry and programming with the help of a friend, and I ended up with a pretty good midi controlled player piano.


It was all good fun, but the Aeolin piano was large in my den and not a great sounding piano so I tore out the electronics and got rid of the piano for now I've purchased a nice Roland FP-30 keyboard and moved back into actually learning to play better myself.

I noticed that a few people had asked me for more information on what I had done and I apologize for not responding but I will check back here more often now as I can see that pianoworld is also a great resource for aspiring pianists and all things piano related!
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums