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Organ Buildings Techniques To Be Avoided


Guest spottedmetal
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Guest spottedmetal

Dear All

 

The other day I came across a pipe-organ pedalboard which used felt circles on the pedals against the slats entering the front of the instrument, a practice that is prevalent on the cheap mass produced consoles of toasters. After 15 years of use, in my experience the pedals rattle and replacement of the felt by graphited leather is an obvious and long term improvement. I challenged the pipe organ builder about his use of such felts - he replied that they were synthetic, did not wear and his had been in use for ten years without wear and were replaceable easily in any event.

 

Unless the secret is in different types of felt, I can't say I was convinced!

 

On other threads we have heard of the Italian organ which only lasted 7 years . . . one wonders how it could have been so disastrously constructed as to lead to this, and upon mentioning a horror at seeing "cardboard" pipe trunking, Kopex, DW replied that no such stuff is used by Willis, although others champion it.

 

Meanwhile, with a neurotic horror of woodworm infestation, I'm sure that I have been guilty of using a very unapproved method of prevention which could cause significant corrosion damage in the future.

 

In view of the nature of a tracker instrument as an investment which should be significantly sound in 100 years time, but bearing in mind that very successful advances have been made in using modern materials and techniques in tracker instruments over the past 3 decades, what techniques of

design

materials

remedial botches

have been seen to have been troublesome and be avoided in the future like the plague?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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Guest Barry Williams

I add to that the reprehensible and nasty technique of using anything other than leather to bed the top boards of chests. Our top note chest (120 pipes) was made by an ex HNB employee who used some kind of cork. It will have to be fully stripped and re-covered properly in the near future. I find it difficult to accept that HNB would ever have sanctioned such a very doubtful practice.

 

Another horrible matter is re-covering motors and bellows without quirks. This always leads to problems, including an instrument mentioned elsewhere on this forum.

 

Using Kopex creates wind rustle and is best avoided, except in very short stretches.

 

I have serious doubts about modern tracker action, bearing in mind that it bears no relation to what has gone on in the past. Quite a number have had to be rebuilt or replaced within twenty or so years.

 

Another bugbear is tuners who cannot lay a scale but who nevertheless tune accurately in octaves from an imperfect set of bearings.

 

I could go on!

 

 

Barry Williams

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It all depends what you want to achieve. Many would deplore the use of felt in addition to leather on the face of pallets, on the basis that if you true the surfaces up correctly you can do away with the felt and have superior control over the touch, less chance of ciphers and less to wear out.

 

There was a trend in the 70's to replace leather with a synthetic cloth which proved not to be long lasting. Cork on upperboards is not exclusively an HNB thing by any means - I've dismantled several Daniel organs like this. Fine when you first put it together, but after being screwed tight down for ten years or so trying to part it from whatever is below often makes it break down. And then you're stuck... I don't know whether the same firm's trends of using cork stoppers in stopped pipes causes similar problems but I can well imagine it would cause issues for the tuner ten years down the line.

 

Other things are avoided or deplored for aesthetic reasons - pozidrive screws, the wrong cut of timber, and so on.

 

The very best builders who avoid many modern materials on principle are not blinkered to using others, avoiding certain traditional techniques which are unsatisfactory. For instance, brass against oak in stop actions has a tendency to squeak and can be effectively bushed with neoprene curing both that and any seasonal expansion/contraction.

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I don't know whether the same firm's trends of using cork stoppers in stopped pipes causes similar problems but I can well imagine it would cause issues for the tuner ten years down the line.

 

Interesting point this, and after spending a day dismantling a Norman & Beard yesterday I had intended to post a question. I removed a rank of Rohr Flute pipes. All the metal pipes had cork stoppers pierced with a chimney made of pipe metal. Has anyone experienced this before. Needless to say that the stoppers are crumbling somewhat after nearly 100 years.

 

Jonathan

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Interesting point this, and after spending a day dismantling a Norman & Beard yesterday I had intended to post a question. I removed a rank of Rohr Flute pipes. All the metal pipes had cork stoppers pierced with a chimney made of pipe metal. Has anyone experienced this before. Needless to say that the stoppers are crumbling somewhat after nearly 100 years.

 

Jonathan

 

The Lieblich Gedackt on the Choir organ of the 1909 N&B from Cradley Heath (now in China: http://www.paulcarr.co.uk/page9.html) had this too. The odd one had started to crumble by 2004, but most were still sound.

Lovely stop, especially when coupled to the other 8' flutes.

P

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The Lieblich Gedackt on the Choir organ of the 1909 N&B from Cradley Heath (now in China: http://www.paulcarr.co.uk/page9.html) had this too. The odd one had started to crumble by 2004, but most were still sound.

Lovely stop, especially when coupled to the other 8' flutes.

P

 

The church has been empty for a while, and has had major structural issues meaning it is pretty damp, it was only 4 degrees C in the church on Monday.

 

Jonathan

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I don't know whether the same firm's trends of using cork stoppers in stopped pipes causes similar problems but I can well imagine it would cause issues for the tuner ten years down the line.

 

I had heard of someone, I think in Australia, using wax on cork stoppers, but I have never heard of any problems with cork stoppers.

 

Brindley & Foster may have used this. An organ which I play had a B&F Lieblich Gedackt which as far as I can remember had cork stoppers.

 

JA

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Are there any reputable builders who use flexible plastic pipe for wind trunking? While practicing at a local church I happened to play a large diminished seventh chord (no, not that one) in both hands on the Great principal chorus. If I released and attacked more than two notes at once, the pitch of the entire division bounced and fluttered in a most nauseating fashion. A glance inside revealed the Great windchest was supplied by 5" corrugated pipe that appeared to be AWOL from a drainage ditch.

 

On a separate topic, can anyone identify the bright green material supplying what I assume must be the Grand-Orgue and Positif Cornets at La Trinité? It looks so out of place compared to the other materials pictured. Is it a protective coating over lead, or have they replaced the original materials with something new?

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Are there any reputable builders who use flexible plastic pipe for wind trunking? While practicing at a local church I happened to play a large diminished seventh chord (no, not that one) in both hands on the Great principal chorus. If I released and attacked more than two notes at once, the pitch of the entire division bounced and fluttered in a most nauseating fashion. A glance inside revealed the Great windchest was supplied by 5" corrugated pipe that appeared to be AWOL from a drainage ditch.

 

On a separate topic, can anyone identify the bright green material supplying what I assume must be the Grand-Orgue and Positif Cornets at La Trinité? It looks so out of place compared to the other materials pictured. Is it a protective coating over lead, or have they replaced the original materials with something new?

 

 

As to flexible pipe - I'm totally confident that absolutely all kinds have been adopted; organ-builders are by definition problem-solvers! I note the complaints above about Kopex, but a conveyance made of this material need not be any worse than a purpose-made traditional lead trunk - indeed, if trodden on, Kopex is both easier to replace, quicker and cheaper. Being able to go around tight corners in a rounded way, rather than 90% degree mitres I reckon it might give less trouble to pipe speech than other methods. To reassure Spot, it may look like cardboard, but there are layers of aluminium foil inside. If he worries about damp, it is worth noting that every part of an organ suffers if damp is present.

 

Even some smart looking organs over here have sometimes had surprising materials inside - I always think of Merton College, Oxford with its attractive architect-designed case. Look inside, and there is no traditional building frame. It is held up by Dexion bolt-together shelving, more usually seen in Kwik-Save or your neighbour's garage.

 

As to the green tubing at La Trinite - I agree this looked both out of place and somewhat suspect. It can't be garden hose, can it?

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In our galleryorgan by Maarschalkerweerd there is ao. cardboard trunking to the front pipes. These are over 100 years old now, so given the way things work here, they're historic, they're 'artisan', they should be kept/restored/copied, and above all should be admired to as better then anything 'modern'. :blink:

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
As to the green tubing at La Trinite - I agree this looked both out of place and somewhat suspect. It can't be garden hose, can it?

 

This I argue is the ultimate in observance. No more apposite colour for such a dedication of a church, I suggest. But I am wondering if they are purple at the moment. Can anyone pop in?

 

Best wishes,

N

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I note the complaints above about Kopex, but a conveyance made of this material need not be any worse than a purpose-made traditional lead trunk - indeed, if trodden on, Kopex is both easier to replace, quicker and cheaper. Being able to go around tight corners in a rounded way, rather than 90% degree mitres I reckon it might give less trouble to pipe speech than other methods. To reassure Spot, it may look like cardboard, but there are layers of aluminium foil inside.

 

As to the green tubing at La Trinite - I agree this looked both out of place and somewhat suspect. It can't be garden hose, can it?

 

I'm sorry Paul, I'm afraid that I totally disagree - The only interesting thing about Kopex is the fascinating machine that makes it!

 

Kopex pulls wind off to an alarming degree, to the extent that if a one-inch diameter conveyance is required, you will need to use a one-and-a-half inch diameter Kopex line. We did tests here on blower pressure loss through Kopex (about ten years ago) and the loss is horrifying and worsens almost exponentially with distance.

 

As to whether it does or doesn't affect pipe speech - just watch a length of Kopex bounce about when you put anything through it (someone else also mentioned this in this thread).

 

Ref. the green 'tubes' in the Trinité organ: The Mutin-Cavaille-Coll organ at Highlands College in Jersey has an enormous amount of conveyancing on the Great soundboard (partially due to the fact that there is Pedal Transmission on two slides) and this is ALL finished in a bright-green size, obviously original. I must say that it's not quite as green as the Kermit-like stuff in the pictures. I'll try to find out what that actually is!

 

DW

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I'm sorry Paul, I'm afraid that I totally disagree - The only interesting thing about Kopex is the fascinating machine that makes it!

 

Kopex pulls wind off to an alarming degree, to the extent that if a one-inch diameter conveyance is required, you will need to use a one-and-a-half inch diameter Kopex line. We did tests here on blower pressure loss through Kopex (about ten years ago) and the loss is horrifying and worsens almost exponentially with distance.

 

As to whether it does or doesn't affect pipe speech - just watch a length of Kopex bounce about when you put anything through it (someone else also mentioned this in this thread).

 

snip

 

DW

 

 

Dear David,

naturally, I bow to your superior knowledge.

 

P.

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I had heard of someone, I think in Australia, using wax on cork stoppers, but I have never heard of any problems with cork stoppers.

 

Brindley & Foster may have used this. An organ which I play had a B&F Lieblich Gedackt which as far as I can remember had cork stoppers.

 

JA

 

Most of the small Walker 'Positve' type of insturments which I have played, and the small Osmond extension organs (quite prevelant 'round here) have entirely metal pipework (except for the bottom 12 of the Bourdon) and the cork lined stoppers inevitably decend southwards, after a few years. They are nearly always badly out of tune, especially after a few cycles of the heating system!

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Guest spottedmetal

What about non-wood trackers, non bronze trackers, flexible trackers going around bends?

 

Not necessarily thinking about trackers: Plastics? Epoxies? Glass?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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(At least in many German instruments) One often can found that noise-reducing little pyramids made of (PS?) foam. (Quite often green, too!) The same material is used for cheap sonic modification of recording studios or to fill loudspeaker boxes. The material used in the 60ies has already started to disintegrate - the foam structure crumbles and the the blower inhales the crumbs to transport them to the most far corners of trunking and windchests...

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(At least in many German instruments) One often can found that noise-reducing little pyramids made of (PS?) foam. (Quite often green, too!) The same material is used for cheap sonic modification of recording studios or to fill loudspeaker boxes. The material used in the 60ies has already started to disintegrate - the foam structure crumbles and the the blower inhales the crumbs to transport them to the most far corners of trunking and windchests...

Probably find the dust is carcinogenic and has been quietly poisoning organist and congregations for years!

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Guest spottedmetal
Probably find the dust is carcinogenic and has been quietly poisoning organist and congregations for years!

That was the problem with my magic solution to woodworm. Needed to reach those parts that others couldn't reach . . . I disconnected the blower, inserted a fumigation bomb on a ceramic plate inside the metal pipe, and covered with a bag. The smoke was killing. What leaked out was worthy of 1st World War chemical warfare . . . and whenever the instrument was played for three months one ended up coughing.

 

No woodworm guaranteed now . . . but a lot of pipes to clean (a shot of compressed air in the mouths?) and doesn't this approach lead to possible corrosion of pallet-springs in due course?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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Bah....After all, "Alle Menschen mussen sterben", oder ?

We have countless swellboxes in Belgium which are made

of Eternit -crammed with asbestos- and not the first Penny

or Cent to remove them, let alone replace the stuff with something

else.

Cemetaries we still have, so..... :lol: :lol: :lol:

 

Pierre

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest spottedmetal

Dear All

 

When having to deal with console electrics, is anyone else finding the the new lead-free solder to be horrible to work with? The surface always looks like a dry-joint, and somehow the new solder doesn't flow into old lead-based solder joints. Is there any way to achieve better results?

 

When soldering KA combination pistons, the plastic melts at a lower temperature than solder, so one has to be rather quick in applying the iron giving little time for the joint to flow. Is there a particular technique to soldering them apart from sheer speed? As a matter of interest are combo pistons from any other manufacturer made of higher melting point plastics?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

 

PS Sorry - this thread should be in Nuts and Bolts . . . but there again, organ longevity is of general discussion interest. Elsewhere people have been talking of pipe organs not lasting as long as they should, and longevity should be the moral highground against which electronics cannot compete. If longevity cannot be guaranteed, then a cash-strapped PCC will be tempted to compromise even with a horrid console with cheap 90pence PCB mounted combination buttons instead of pistons, top-resistance keyboards without purpose and foul sounding speakers.

 

There is a difference, however, between the commercial box-shifters and the professionals designing real systems. Having listened this evening to a number of Carlo Curley recordings of at least two if not three hybrid organs, one is aware of just how the gap is narrowing when those responsible really pull their fingers out. Indeed, if pipe organ building is to produce a result that is of no greater life expectancy, then there is little philosophical superiority to be obtained in the Trönö argument where electronics has successfully enlarged a pipe instrument where space was limited.

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There is a difference, however, between the commercial box-shifters and the professionals designing real systems. Having listened this evening to a number of Carlo Curley recordings of at least two if not three hybrid organs, one is aware of just how the gap is narrowing when those responsible really pull their fingers out.

 

But surely, on a recording, pipes and speakers will sound much more similar when coming through the speakers on your CD player. It's in the actual hearing live that the differences are far more detectable.

 

Having said that, I am finding that electronics can now compete well with pipes for 16' stops both on tonal grounds and, in the case of open pipes, on commercial grounds. It's the higher frequencies that seem, to me, less convincing.

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Dear All

 

When having to deal with console electrics, is anyone else finding the the new lead-free solder to be horrible to work with? The surface always looks like a dry-joint, and somehow the new solder doesn't flow into old lead-based solder joints. Is there any way to achieve better results?

 

When soldering KA combination pistons, the plastic melts at a lower temperature than solder, so one has to be rather quick in applying the iron giving little time for the joint to flow. Is there a particular technique to soldering them apart from sheer speed? As a matter of interest are combo pistons from any other manufacturer made of higher melting point plastics?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

 

Hi

 

Use lead solder! It's quite legal for repairs and modifications to equipment built prior to the legislation. It might take some tracking down though.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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