Having read Ed Gaida's article on the John Smith busker organ, I feel
I need to present another point of view. Some of Ed's points are truly
accurate, but the building plans are not engineered drawings and were,
I'm sure, never meant to be. They are the result of a very brilliant
guy's mind being shared with those of us who want to build a very
inexpensive organ using locally available parts and wanting a bit of
an adventure. Yes, we do design our own case beyond the basics and
use our own intelligence to make modifications here and there, but that
is not too hard for people who like to think and create.
There are some mistakes on the plans, but none so drastic that can't be
easily corrected. In my experience, John has been more than happy to
correspond with me. Just because he is not on the net doesn't mean
that he cannot be reached. I have been building electronic circuits
from magazines for years and cannot tell you how many mistakes I have
found in well respected magazines, but that doesn't stop me from
building each new idea. John's punch machine is also a solid design
which makes it fun to punch your own music. As Ed says, Melvyn
Wright's paper masters are wonderful. I have had kids punch music on
my punch, and my wife's school kids will build their own punch next
year as a project.
I have built an organ of John's design with school children of ages
10-14 years. The project worked beautifully. We redid a few parts
here and there, nothing major, and learned a lot along the way. The
balsa wood works great and they are pipes that people and kids can make
without fancy tools. John does suggest that they can be made out of
other woods if so desired. We had no problem with the "cereal box"
spacer. It was specified .5 mm in the plan and we measured our cereal
box to make sure it fit the bill. As we say in Boston, pretty good
Yankee engineering. This organ was constructed by 40 kids working in
teams who never before used power tools or assembled parts. They were
fascinated and proud of their beautiful organ. If we had quit because
each detail on the plan was not perfect we would have missed out on
learning opportunities and a great project.
John's methods may not always be polished, but they truly work. The
result is a delightful organ with the builder's own soul built in to
the design and final product. John's plans and video help the average
guy build an organ that he might otherwise never be able to build.
I have bought plans to build an organ which were so detailed and
complicated that I could never build to the accuracy required. John's
is simple -- a tweak here and a tweak there and it really works --
and making mistakes with his materials is cheap.
Please don't give up on those of us who share (quite inexpensively,
to be honest about it) our visions and plans. I have never felt this
project was a "bomb" and feel that the need to write so uncharitably
about it is sad. We are all interested in promoting new ideas and old
ideas in new or unique ways. I would like to feel that the very people
who share my interest in automatic music are the same who will
encourage me and yes, if need be, give me constructive criticism, in
a way that will make my idea better, not demote it. People like John
Smith and others who offer creative ideas should be encouraged. I bet
Thomas Edison had a few mistakes along the way. I do know that when I
crank my organ the kids and adults come running to listen so I'm happy.
I'm anxiously awaiting his new 26 note valve operated organ plans.