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Non-wooden Soundboards


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A couple of times recently I have played instruments which are suffering from warping/lifting/cracking soundboards. I don't think it is my playing!

 

Wood is such a 'dynamic' material. Are there any examples which spring to mind of instruments with soundboards constructed from a more 'inert' material? What are the benefits of sticking with wood, if you are constructing a new instrument?

 

Sorry if this is a dumb question...

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Have encountered clamps made from MDF, but I don't suppose anyone has been silly enough to (try to) build a soundboard out of it.

 

On the other hand I can think of a material used which was thoroughly non-inert, or should that be "ert". Would be interested to know how many chipboard soundboards are still going strong.

 

AJS

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Interesting, the other day Discovery Channel showed 'How it's made' on lamp poles (is that correct english) made of fibre glass and I was wondering how this would stand up as material for large pedal reeds (32's) ...

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Have encountered clamps made from MDF, but I don't suppose anyone has been silly enough to (try to) build a soundboard out of it.

 

On the other hand I can think of a material used which was thoroughly non-inert, or should that be "ert". Would be interested to know how many chipboard soundboards are still going strong.

 

AJS

Rieger generally use plywood. There are some things to be said for it, especially where there are likely to be problems caused by heating. It's not very aesthetically pleasing though. The 1970 Schuke here in the cathedral has partly chipboard chests. They seem indestructible.

 

 

 

 

B

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When I worked for HNB we made slider soundboards with marine ply tables, a mahogany grid, and a pallet board of birch ply. No upperboards - we were using individual plastic stands instead, one per pipe, which were christened 'pups' - Plastic Upperboard Pipe Stands. They were imported I beleive, but I don't know where from. Slides were made of a plastic material called, if memory serves, Delaron. The wells were made of 3/4 ply, as were all HNB's at this time. Some were installed in Gloucester Cathedral - I made two of them (West Great and one of two small pedal soundboards) myself. Does anybody know if they are still there?

Some years ago I visited Pennels and Sharp's place in Thetford, and they were making soundboards entirely of chipboard, but I don't know where they were installed, or how reliable they were in practice. They were using upperboards with individual pipe seals, which had to left to settle for some time - months I believe - before they could be operated - the seals were that tight.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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When I worked for HNB we made slider soundboards with marine ply tables, a mahogany grid, and a pallet board of birch ply. No upperboards - we were using individual plastic stands instead, one per pipe, which were christened 'pups' - Plastic Upperboard Pipe Stands. They were imported I beleive, but I don't know where from. Slides were made of a plastic material called, if memory serves, Delaron. The wells were made of 3/4 ply, as were all HNB's at this time. Some were installed in Gloucester Cathedral - I made two of them (West Great and one of two small pedal soundboards) myself. Does anybody know if they are still there?

Some years ago I visited Pennels and Sharp's place in Thetford, and they were making soundboards entirely of chipboard, but I don't know where they were installed, or how reliable they were in practice. They were using upperboards with individual pipe seals, which had to left to settle for some time - months I believe - before they could be operated - the seals were that tight.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

 

This is interesting. The last time I was in the organ at Gloucester Cathedral was about 2002/3 and I don't think anything really was changed from the soundboards from the Pedal certainly. I'll need to double check. I think in the 1999 overhaul Nicholsons might have added an extra schwimmer for the use of the Swell sub octave coupler (surprising as the job is extremely tight as it is!!). Were 'PUPS' used on the Carrs Lane job?

 

I'm surprised if P&S are still using chipboard. I'm pretty sure the Walker at St. Chad's doesn't have it (instead marine play and poplar etc). This organ is 16 years old and I've seen an 11 year soundboard from P&S with still the Poplar treatment (what a lovely wood that is).

 

Weren't the original soundbaords from Blackburn Cathedral of Chipboard on the Walker organ?

 

Are some organbuilders now going back to using the old fashioned grooving of upperboards and tables?

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This is turning into an interesting discussion...

Are some organbuilders now going back to using the old fashioned grooving of upperboards and tables?

Yes. H&H did this at Twyford in 2006 for their organ built in Victorian style. I don't know if any of their subsequent soundboards have copied this experiment.

 

For some time they had harboured concerns over slider seals and have been using telescopic slider seals for some time. The upperboards & table are made of marine ply (they considered solid wood but discounted it because of issues with stability) and the groves in the underside of the upperboard and table were cut with a router rather than a moulding plane. The grid is made from poplar (I think), the sliders are marine ply and the well is made of marine ply (I think). The edges of any marine ply are veneered so one never sees the tell-tale sign of plywood.

 

More details are in the Organbuilding Journal 2007.

 

Re. Blackburn Cathedral, yes I believe the original soundboards' upperboards were made of chipboard and I believe they started to sag shortly after installation, necessitating corrective work...

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I've added a few photos of the Twyford organ under construction, with photos of the Great and Pedal soundboard tables showing the grooving. There are a few photos of other interesting features, and the finished organ, for those interested:

 

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/pcmh1978/Twy...405127047035650

 

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/pcmh1978/TwyfordPhotos#

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I've added a few photos of the Twyford organ under construction, with photos of the Great and Pedal soundboard tables showing the grooving. There are a few photos of other interesting features, and the finished organ, for those interested:

 

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/pcmh1978/Twy...405127047035650

 

Its a beautiful piece of work.

 

Jonathan

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Re. Blackburn Cathedral, yes I believe the original soundboards' upperboards were made of chipboard and I believe they started to sag shortly after installation, necessitating corrective work...

 

All the Blackburn soundboards were replaced with new ones by David Wood in 2002 as part of the rebuild. This doesn't say much for the longevity of Walker's 1969 originals!

Makes me wonder about the condition of the organ at the Met. Liverpool which Walkers built in 1967, I would have thought that the method of soundboard construction would be the same as Blackburn.

 

DT

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Were 'PUPS' used on the Carrs Lane job?

 

No. Carrs Lane is an all electric one pallet per pipe Organ - no slider soundboards. At least, it was when it was installed; I assume it's still the same. It's an interesting job, as the church isn't square; I can't remember if it's six or eight sides - six I think - and the Organ stands in a corner. So the little Choir soundboard isn't square either, as it fits in the middle of the whole thing. It was quite fun to make - don't mean to boast, sorry, that that's one of mine as well!

 

Another comment about MDF asks ' isn't it OK until water gets on it'. True, but then so is wood! Not mention leather and much else in an Organ. They don't like getting wet.

 

Regards to all

 

John.

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Willis organ? Isn't MDF ok unitll you get water on it?

 

We try and keep the water away from the organ! Apart from perhaps some of the metal pipework, the rest of the instrument would not take kindly to the stuff. Best kept for the occasional whisky!

 

Seriously, for some strange reason the specification did not include a mixture on the Great when it was enlarged to 4 manuals & installed in the church in 1957. This omission was corrected in 1991 when a completely new 3 rank mixture & mdf soundboard etc. was installed whilst the organ was being rebuilt. Since then it has performed flawlessly & always remains remarkably in tune, despite some widely fluctuating temperatures,- the URC's do like it hot!

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Guest Echo Gamba
We try and keep the water away from the organ! Apart from perhaps some of the metal pipework, the rest of the instrument would not take kindly to the stuff. Best kept for the occasional whisky!

 

Seriously, for some strange reason the specification did not include a mixture on the Great when it was enlarged to 4 manuals & installed in the church in 1957. This omission was corrected in 1991 when a completely new 3 rank mixture & mdf soundboard etc. was installed whilst the organ was being rebuilt. Since then it has performed flawlessly & always remains remarkably in tune, despite some widely fluctuating temperatures,- the URC's do like it hot!

 

Going off-topic Mike, although I have heard the Redland Park organ, I have never played it. WHat is the difference tonally between the swell Cornopean and Horn? I can't think of another organ with both, although I have known a Trumpet and a Horn - eg Norwich Cathedral. Do I assume the Cornopean to be more of a Trumpet? Also, how useful is duplexing the Horn on the Solo?

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Going off-topic Mike, although I have heard the Redland Park organ, I have never played it. WHat is the difference tonally between the swell Cornopean and Horn? I can't think of another organ with both, although I have known a Trumpet and a Horn - eg Norwich Cathedral. Do I assume the Cornopean to be more of a Trumpet? Also, how useful is duplexing the Horn on the Solo?

I'd hazard a guess that, on the organ that you mention, the nomenclature is to help the player work out the extension derivations. As far as straight Sw divisions are concerned, Hill generally called the loudest Sw reed on his small -> large organs 'Horn', I imagine to differentiate them on the console from the Trumpets found on the Gt. On his v.large instruments, a Horn and a Trumpet often appear.

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Going off-topic Mike, although I have heard the Redland Park organ, I have never played it. WHat is the difference tonally between the swell Cornopean and Horn? I can't think of another organ with both, although I have known a Trumpet and a Horn - eg Norwich Cathedral. Do I assume the Cornopean to be more of a Trumpet? Also, how useful is duplexing the Horn on the Solo?

 

Having 3 swell 8' reeds, including an oboe, is a bit of a luxury! I suspect the Horn has been re-voiced at some point in the past as it is very similar to the Cornopean, the main difference being that it is a little rounder in tone & louder. It's availability on the solo is very useful, both as a solo reed & coupled down to the pedal in 8' or 4' pitch. The cornopean is likewise available on the choir & is as you describe, more of a trumpet, if a little quieter.

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Going off-topic Mike, although I have heard the Redland Park organ, I have never played it. WHat is the difference tonally between the swell Cornopean and Horn? I can't think of another organ with both, although I have known a Trumpet and a Horn - eg Norwich Cathedral. Do I assume the Cornopean to be more of a Trumpet? Also, how useful is duplexing the Horn on the Solo?

 

York Minster has both Cornopean and Horn on the Swell, they appeared under these names in the 1960 Walker rebuild, but if you trace the history of the organ back though its various incarnations you will see two 8ft swell reeds with varying names going back to 1859/62.

 

DT

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York Minster has both Cornopean and Horn on the Swell, they appeared under these names in the 1960 Walker rebuild, but if you trace the history of the organ back though its various incarnations you will see two 8ft swell reeds with varying names going back to 1859/62.

 

DT

Chester and Norwich cathedral organs both contain a Sw horn and trumpet by Hill; as do the instruments in Birmingham TH and Belfast Ulster Hall. This provision would appear to have been fairly common practice in his largest instruments, usually coinciding with trumpets at 16 & 8 and posaunes at 8 & 4 on the Gt.

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Guest Echo Gamba
Chester and Norwich cathedral organs both contain a Sw cornopean and trumpet by Hill; as do the instruments in Birmingham TH and Belfast Ulster Hall. This provision would appear to have been fairly common practice in his largest instruments, usually co-inciding with trumpets at 16 & 8 and posaunes at 8 & 4 on the Gt.

 

According to NPOR (and my recollection), Chester and Norwich both have a Horn and Trumpet on the Swell

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  • 4 months later...
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If it's not too late, New College Oxford has (I believe) MDF soundboards. The GD&B book says they built a lot of their chests from something called Tabopan imported from Poland, and from the description it sounds like MDF rather than chipboard.

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