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Wooden Pipes And Voicing


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There are moments in life when one is forced to confess to utter and complete ignorance of something, and this is one of those moments.

 

I have seen pipe-metal being cast, various metals formed into pipes (but never copper ones), soldered and then voiced.

 

I have regulated and even re-voiced a number of metal pipes with success, but I have neither seen wooden pipes being made, nor seen a voicer attack any; yet they clearly must undergo the same sort of process as metal pipes with regards to languid adjustment, nicking etc.

 

It seems fairly obvious that wooden pipes are much more difficult to manipulate; unlike metal-pipes, where it is possible to make something of a fist of it (assuming that irreversible cuts and nicking haven't been carried out), and then start all over again as a means of getting it right.

 

Could someone please explain how the manfacture and voicing of wooden pipes is carried out?

 

Finally, why do some 16ft basses have wedges driven into the corners of the wind-gap, and what affect does that have on the speech of a pipe?

 

MM

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There are moments in life when one is forced to confess to utter and complete ignorance of something, and this is one of those moments.

 

I have seen pipe-metal being cast, various metals formed into pipes (but never copper ones), soldered and then voiced.

 

I have regulated and even re-voiced a number of metal pipes with success, but I have neither seen wooden pipes being made, nor seen a voicer attack any; yet they clearly must undergo the same sort of process as metal pipes with regards to languid adjustment, nicking etc.

 

It seems fairly obvious that wooden pipes are much more difficult to manipulate; unlike metal-pipes, where it is possible to make something of a fist of it (assuming that irreversible cuts and nicking haven't been carried out), and then start all over again as a means of getting it right.

 

Could someone please explain how the manfacture and voicing of wooden pipes is carried out?

 

Finally, why do some 16ft basses have wedges driven into the corners of the wind-gap, and what affect does that have on the speech of a pipe?

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Milne's "building a 2 Manual Chamber Organ" contains the necessary information - or ask a freindly organ builder - most of them make their own wood pipes I think.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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MM asks:-[Could someone please explain how the manfacture and voicing of wooden pipes is carried out?

quote]

 

Please forgive me for intruding into an area which my cat probably knows as much about as I do. I eagerly await the experts replies to your question.

Having been stimulated to poke about on the net however, I stumbled into this site http://mmd.foxtail.com/Tech/Pipes_recipe.html .Whilst largely incomprehensible to me, it did throw up the piece of information which I think falls into the 'blindingly bloody obvious' category viz., that most of the voicing and regulating operations are carried out on a readily removable front plate. Presumably if such operations go too far, it is a reasonably simple, if irritating process to make a new one?

 

I have not the slightest doubt that Mr Mander et al. will expose my ignorance.

 

In my callow youth (early 1960s) I was engaged in voluntary service in Liverpool's Toxteth. At one stage our project required a quantity of timber which we could not afford. By what means of communication I know not, an invitation came from the Willis Organ workshops, [fall down and worship], just below the Cathedral, asking if we would like to carry away a very considerable amount of (yellow pine IIRC) boards. We shot off down there with roof racks, trailers, hand carts and dollies to be faced with several ranks of very large organ pipes. I dimly remember that the longest was in the order of 26 feet or so.

 

At that time it never even crossed my mind to enquire as to the sources of the ranks, or the maker. 45years on and I now feel pointlessly guilty at how we lobbed the small ones onto the fire. In the event of course, using the timber was problematic because of the varying sections, but with ingenuity, much wedging and packing, we created a floor of somewhat individual character. The place we did it, World Friendship House in Faulkner Square still stands, so I suspect that the 'Willis' floor may still be there.

 

Does anyone here recall St Saviours church, Huskisson Street, Liverpool 8 ? All I remember of the organ is that it was a Lewis 3 decker with a facing rank of the most sublime pedal Violoncello. Willis were looking after it at the time. I think it went into the developers' skip about twenty-five years ago...sods!

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Wooden pipes have to be made fairly carefully, but there are things one can do to adjust the speech for example by varying the angle at the top of the block and also making adjustments to the cap. If one does too much, the cap can be thinned down on the inside so that one can start again. One can also move the cap up and down slightly as well.

 

The wedges you have noticed in the side of the flue can sometimes help with the speech and eliminate chiff. Also of course, one can score the cap or block which also reduces chiff, so there is quite a lot one can do to voice wooden pipes.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67
Does anyone here recall St Saviours church, Huskisson Street, Liverpool 8 ? All I remember of the organ is that it was a Lewis 3 decker with a facing rank of the most sublime pedal Violoncello. Willis were looking after it at the time. I think it went into the developers' skip about twenty-five years ago...sods!

 

Sorry, no; I was born and brought up in Liverpool, where my dad was Minister at Gateacre Unitarian Chapel, and at Hope Street Church. The latter was demolished in the early 60's I believe - does anyone know what became of the organ? I believe it was 3 manual, and several worthy Liverpudlian organists played there in the 19th and 20th c's. A W Pollitt springs to mind. The last organist was a Mr Llewellyn. Gateacre Chapel still exists, and the last time I was there (20 odd years ago) it still had a pleasant 1 manual by an unknown builder.

 

Sorry to have gone off topic here!

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Wooden pipes have to be made fairly carefully, but there are things one can do to adjust the speech for example by varying the angle at the top of the block and also making adjustments to the cap. If one does too much, the cap can be thinned down on the inside so that one can start again. One can also move the cap up and down slightly as well.

 

 

A few years ago while note-holding for Bert Prested in Durham, he told me that in many cases, the body of a wooden pipe is made at double the required length and literally cut in half. After fashioning the mouth, foot and cap, each pipe of the pair is then pitched to its respective semitone.

 

Seems logical and practical, up to certain length anyway !

 

However, and here's my daft question - Starting at middle C and cutting the bodies in half, I can understand C & C#, D & D#, but what happens at E,F & F#. Do you [i'm going to regret this] make one odd one or three the same? :)

Fortunately, I am not a sensitive soul and can tolerate almost unlimited levels of ridicule.

 

Regards, Chris Baker

 

If God intended me to be an organist, how is it that He only gave me two hands and two feet?

 

When a cypher is closely followed by a chromatic scale........ the organist is tone deaf. :unsure:

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If I may add to my previous display of ignorance, could you take a look at this page http://woodgears.ca/organ_tour/pipe_making.html , and scroll down to the bottom of it. My experience follows close on the heels of my incompetence, but I have never seen wooden reed pipes like this. Are they in fact commonly employed? Anyone got some?

Best etc.,

Chris Baker

 

Hill wooden pedal Trombone pipes looked just like this. I seem to remember some in St.Stephen's Bournemouth.

 

You will find higher pitched wooden reed stops on some `fairground' organs.

 

FF

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Guest Cynic
If I may add to my previous display of ignorance, could you take a look at this page http://woodgears.ca/organ_tour/pipe_making.html , and scroll down to the bottom of it. My experience follows close on the heels of my incompetence, but I have never seen wooden reed pipes like this. Are they in fact commonly employed? Anyone got some?

Best etc.,

Chris Baker

 

Wooden reed resonators are good news. Hill, Willis and Bishop (and no doubt others) often used them in preference to metal. I have one such here. I believe that the use of wood is beneficial to the tone - less rattle seems to get through.

 

It may interest you to know that there have also been occasional reed resonators made out of plywood. Michael Brough made a 32' extension to the Walker Trombone at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square about twenty years ago. It is extremely good in every way.

 

The Trombone resonators that always make me smile are the Father Willis ones that can be glimpsed on the West side of the (presently out-of-use) Mander/Willis three manual at Sheffield Cathedral. For no very obvious reason, the body of each pipe is painted white and this 'sock' effect is completed by a smart band (4" or so wide) that runs completely around the tops in bright red.

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My experience follows close on the heels of my incompetence, but I have never seen wooden reed pipes like this. Are they in fact commonly employed? Anyone got some?

Best etc.,

Chris Baker

 

 

Chris, if you have the time, take a trip into Winchester Cathedral, and there you will see a 32' Wooden Contra Bombarde, built (I think) by Hele. It has a huge 'rolling' sound, giving a most splendid effect, entirely appropriate to the huge building in which the organ is situated!

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Chris, if you have the time, take a trip into Winchester Cathedral, and there you will see a 32' Wooden Contra Bombarde, built (I think) by Hele.

 

Many thanks for the info, though being in Durham, It may be a while before I get there.

 

Cheers,

CB

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Chris, if you have the time, take a trip into Winchester Cathedral, and there you will see a 32' Wooden Contra Bombarde, built (I think) by Hele. It has a huge 'rolling' sound, giving a most splendid effect, entirely appropriate to the huge building in which the organ is situated!

 

Isn't that stop known as 'Big Bertha'? :o

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Guest Cynic
Isn't that stop known as 'Big Bertha'? :o

 

 

The Winchester 32' reed is an excellent stop, whoever made it!

One of my favourite 32' reeds is the Willis II stop at Hereford Cathedral. These are unusual

1. in having pneumatic starters to kick the reed tongues into movement (resulting in prompter speech)

2. that the boot enclosure for each pipe in the bottom octave is covered by a glass panel so that this mechanism can be seen!

 

If anyone wants to admire these in use, wait until after a Sunday evensong (having suitably bribed the organist to play a loud piece) and wander into the South Choir Aisle where the lowest reed pipes are sited with their backs to Decani Stalls; noting (in passing) some 32' woods opposite the verger's door that (if I remember rightly) speak through grilles in the floor because the mouths are below normal floor level.

 

Apparently Father Willis provided a 32' reed, but this was replaced by his son with the present stop because the first was not considered loud enough! Rest assured, they have taken no chances this time. Nicholsons added a 32' reed to the Gloucester Cathedral HN&B a few years ago, these had to be re-worked for the same reason.

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Guest Barry Oakley
The Winchester 32' reed is an excellent stop, whoever made it!

One of my favourite 32' reeds is the Willis II stop at Hereford Cathedral. These are unusual

1. in having pneumatic starters to kick the reed tongues into movement (resulting in prompter speech)

2. that the boot enclosure for each pipe in the bottom octave is covered by a glass panel so that this mechanism can be seen!

 

Don't know about the pneumatic starters, Paul, but the large pedal reed on the Willis III in Sheffield City Hall has the same type of boot enclosures.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
................noting (in passing) some 32' woods opposite the verger's door that (if I remember rightly) speak through grilles in the floor because the mouths are below normal floor level.

 

Having recently been to Ripon, the 32ft Double Open there goes into the ground in the South Aisle - next to the Virgers' door - and metal grilles cover the holes where the mouths are. It was a day before I realized that there were pipes standing there and the grilles were not part of the heating system. The scale is so enormous that I am sure two strides see you pass from one pipe to another. The whole instrument is a sonic experience. And a charming city too. I hope that I left a part of it standing.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

P.S. And because Ripon has an excellent and hugely useful Violone 16 too (Lewis?), I am reminded to remind readers of the (unsurpassed in the UK?) Violones of Taylors' of Leicester. They are of Vienna Philharmonic quality. Go to Emmanuel Church, Loughborough or some Leicester churches (like St Andrew's Jarrom Street), and you will hear real quality bass lines from wooden pipes.

N

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Chris, if you have the time, take a trip into Winchester Cathedral, and there you will see a 32' Wooden Contra Bombarde, built (I think) by Hele. It has a huge 'rolling' sound, giving a most splendid effect, entirely appropriate to the huge building in which the organ is situated!

 

Yes, it was Hele & Company's only attempt at a 32p reed. It is certainly a very full sound.

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Guest Cynic
Having recently been to Ripon, the 32ft Double Open there goes into the ground in the South Aisle - next to the Virgers' door - and metal grilles cover the holes where the mouths are. It was a day before I realized that there were pipes standing there and the grilles were not part of the heating system. The scale is so enormous that I am sure two strides see you pass from one pipe to another. The whole instrument is a sonic experience. And a charming city too. I hope that I left a part of it standing.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

P.S. And because Ripon has an excellent and hugely useful Violone 16 too (Lewis?), I am reminded to remind readers of the (unsurpassed in the UK?) Violones of Taylors' of Leicester. They are of Vienna Philharmonic quality. Go to Emmanuel Church, Loughborough or some Leicester churches (like St Andrew's Jarrom Street), and you will hear real quality bass lines from wooden pipes.

N

 

 

'Senior moment', or worries about.....

You know, I could be muddling up the two cathedrals/organs. The verger's offices are in similar positions. I realise that Ripon and Hereford are not exactly close together, but I'm leaping in to be embarassed now rather than later. I am 100% certain about the 32' boots and action on show at Hereford but as to the Double Open Wood....... Lord only knows!

 

[Looks like I won't have to wait too long for senility......

Thinks: maybeI'll mellow in my old age?

This could be useful.]

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
'Senior moment', or worries about.....

You know, I could be muddling up the two cathedrals/organs. The verger's offices are in similar positions. I realise that Ripon and Hereford are not exactly close together, but I'm leaping in to be embarassed now rather than later. I am 100% certain about the 32' boots and action on show at Hereford but as to the Double Open Wood....... Lord only knows!

 

[Looks like I won't have to wait too long for senility......

Thinks: maybeI'll mellow in my old age?

This could be useful.]

 

Paul, don't be so cynical about senility. You have far to go . When you get to my age .......!

 

You have just played in far more places than me and so you have every reason to muddle.

 

Hereford doth display, me thinks, just as you say.

 

All the best.

Nigel (I think)

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'Senior moment', or worries about.....

You know, I could be muddling up the two cathedrals/organs. The verger's offices are in similar positions. I realise that Ripon and Hereford are not exactly close together, but I'm leaping in to be embarassed now rather than later. I am 100% certain about the 32' boots and action on show at Hereford but as to the Double Open Wood....... Lord only knows!

 

[Looks like I won't have to wait too long for senility......

Thinks: maybeI'll mellow in my old age?

This could be useful.]

 

Yes, the 32 Reed is in a glass case, but the Open Woods are all at ground level, although they are opposite the vestry door, just where the choir line up for the pre and post service prayers... :unsure:

If you select just the 32 reed at Hereford and tap a note in the bottom octave the starter motor sounds just like someone slamming the South (St John) door, although I never managed to get the verger to actually run to the door!

At the recent rebuild (year before last?) I believe the 32 reed was loudened. (again?) That's at least what I was told and later read somewhere but I couldn't really tell when i played it last year. Perhaps I've spent too long over the last few years listening to the incredible reed 32 at Notre Dame de Paris... :)

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Wooden string type pipes can also be very nice too. Gray and Davidson were rather good at these. They often tended to put in a 16' contra dulciana in pedal organs of a moderate size. They also borrowed the bottom octave as the bottom 12 notes of a swell double diapason - in essence, a bourdon. This was useful as it didn't fill the Swell box up with large 16' bourdon pipes. The change in tone quality was noticable in single notes, but in chorus, pretty undetectable.

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