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MMD > Archives > February 1999 > 1999.02.24 > 10Prev  Next

Band Organ Pipe Construction
By Mark Chester

Hello, friends!  As I said in my "introduction" last week (in MMD
990216) I have some specific questions about band organ construction.
These are _really_ construction-oriented, too!

I found the discussion about pipe construction and organ tone in MMDs
990202, 990203 and 990204 most helpful; the technical yet crystal clear
explanations of Robbie Rhodes, Paul West, Hans van Oost, and Stephen
Kent Goodman either enlightened me or confirmed what I already sus-
pected about design and material.  Although I did not ask the original
question, I thank you all for the very useful and informative

But to be more specific, what kind of wood should be used for pipes?
It seems to me to be crystal clear that the wood used will affect the
tone, as will other factors such as whether the wood is sealed inside
the flue.  At the extremes, a wood of lower porosity and higher
density, such as maple, would sound differently than a lighter, more
porous wood which would sound more muffled, I believe (the extreme
being balsa!)  Also, sealing the wood inside the flue would increase
the surface density and close the pores, thus affecting the tone.
(A "hardwood" sound from a softer wood, perhaps?)

I believe that the cap is to be made of dense hardwood such as maple
-- is that correct?  Beyond that, can anyone tell me what wood would be
best for a Wurlitzer 165 replica?  Various band organs I have seen
appear to have softwood pipes, at least in the larger ranks.  The woods
appear to be spruce or fir, from the grain.  But I believe they may
also be poplar, but I do not believe I have seen them in pine.

Audsley, "The Art of Organ Building," chapter XXXIII (33) discusses
pipe materials; it is most helpful, but I would like more specific
information relevant to the band organ.  Some of the information
I am sure is generally applicable, such as the desirable grain pattern
(rings perpendicular to the board's face.)

I know there has also been much discussion in this forum a while back
about the curing of the wood, with a partiality toward older, aged wood
for mellower tone without sacrificing volume.  I have a very large
quantity of salvaged wood (maybe enough for more than one band organ,
but I am anticipating a lot of waste!) -- mostly white pine or southern
yellow pine, some of which was salvaged from a 1903 vintage house in my
town, and some of which was shelving in a hardware store, circa 1960's.

I would assume that all of the pipes of a rank should be made of the
same exact material.  Must this be consistent throughout the entire
organ?  What thickness of stock should be used for the pipes?  Does
this vary with the pipe size?  (Thinner for smaller pipes, thicker for
larger pipes?)  Much of the wood, as I said, is salvaged.  I would
assume that I should use only clear wood, free from splits, nail holes,
knots and other imperfections.

Am I being too fussy?  Would a nail hole, if properly filled, make a
difference?  How about a tight knot?  Obviously, I can make the wood
go farther with less waste if I do not have to lay out around knots and
nail holes, but I am primarily interested in the quality of the result
and do not want to compromise to save wood.  But I am curious whether
I am being too exacting!

Audsley, Chapter XXXIV (34) details the construction of wood pipes.
I have Doyle Lane's pipe scales, but the stock thickness is not
specified, nor is pipe length, nor joinery details.  Are any special
joints required, or are they primarily glued butt joints?  Would the
use of other fasteners (such as nails or biscuits) affect the tone?
And what kind of glue is recommended?  I use hot animal glue crystals
such as from Player Piano Company  for all period furniture repairs.
Should I use the same for pipe construction, or would one of the modern
carpenters' wood glues such as Titebond or Elmer's be sufficient or
even better?

Last for now; what woodworking equipment is essential (or desirable)
to do the job efficiently and properly?  I currently have a 10" table
saw with carbide tipped and dado blades, a tenoning jig for the table
saw, a surface planer, a drill press, a mortising attachment for the
drill press, a router, a belt sander, a dual action sander, a biscuit
joiner, and various hand tools.  I also have a few C-clamps and a pair
of pipe clamps.  I suppose I might like to have a few more clamps.  I
also could probably make good use of a jointer, but am I missing
anything else that I would need to keep the project moving?

Thanks for your insights.

Best regards,

Mark S. Chester

(Message sent Wed 24 Feb 1999, 03:56:51 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Construction, Organ, Pipe

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