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MMD > Archives > March 2001 > 2001.03.05 > 01Prev  Next

Seek Help Making Organ Pipes
By Marc Elbasani

Dear MMDians,  I know it's been long time, but I'm still in the hobby.
As I see it, the appreciation of band-organs is sort of like one of
those rare diseases that won't kill you, but stays with you forever.

Anyway, I now have a table saw and I got my own bench planer (it's a
13" Ridgid!) and close to a metric ton of freshly planed wood that has
come from numerous ranks of old stopped flutes and gross flutes from
church organs.  I was called in to remove old organs from churches and,
in the process of getting some boring metal pipework -- a complete 8'
Dulciana, 4' cello, 4' cello celeste rank, 4' diapason, various
mixture ranks, awesome swell shade actions, two big air regulators, and
a bunch of smaller regulators -- I got a few hundred pounds of wooden
pipes.  They were all quietly voiced and incomplete ranks.

So what did I do?  I cut 'em all up and harvested the wood.  Now,
I know some of you out there might be a little upset that I killed
those pipes so to make new ones, but I promise they made really standard
sine-wave sounds.  What is nice about them is the quality of the wood:
that turn-of-the-century pine is wonderfully close grained stuff.  I
now have scales for violin, stopped flute, and diapason pipes in wood.

I also acquired a nice 10-inch Rockwell table saw, the contractor's
type.  (It has the cast iron table, so that's what counts).  I've made
a number of "practice" pipes including a few diapasons, stopped
flute, and even diapasons with great success.  I feel I am now ready
to attempt to build my own band organ.

But the construction of the Gavioli-style brass freins is tricky for
one who doesn't have a metal shop.  If there are any MMDians out there
who are in the band organ business and willing to furnish me with brass
freins bought in bulk, please let me know.  I recall an old article in
which someone was offering freins for $1 apiece?  Very tempting.
Anyway, for me, the cheaper the better.

I feel I should take this opportunity to mention that when it comes
to getting those higher harmonics and virtually no wind noise, the
traditional harmonic frein can't be beat (versus the later method using

A quick update on the B.A.B. organ at Tilden Park: the violins in the
bass (the string basses) are scaled wider than Bruder violins.  In
fact, they are about halfway in-between the Bruder string scale and
the standard church organ diapason scale.  I took measurements.  The
string bass is coupled directly to the stopped flute in the bass, so
to produce an alternating rank of violin-flute-violin-flute-violin...
Could this help us in understanding the origins of the Tilden Park
organ?  Who in band-organ history did this sort of arrangement?

Also -- can I buy one (1) single band-organ trumpet from anyone out
there?  I mean, if you're a restoration artist and have one lying
around or something.  You see, that's the biggest hurdle I have yet
to deal with: the trumpets.  I'm considering just buying church organ
trumpets, but if I can build them, more power to me, I guess.

What would really help is if I had all the different scales from
band-organs such as Frati, Ruth, Bruder, Hooghuys, Gavioli, B.A.B.
(if they made their own pipes), North Tonawanda <Yeah!>, and Artizan.
If anyone out there has organs of this sort, simply taking the
measurements of the inside width and depth of the pipe, internal length
from block to top, and cutup will be enough for me to reproduce the
whole rank of whatever-pipe-you-have via computer programming.  As long
as it's in a band-organ, be it a stopped flute, violin, or mystery
rank, I'm very interested.  So if anyone can donate measurements,
scales, or anything of that sort, that would really help a lot.

Also, if anyone out there knows anything about tricks of the trade
regarding voicing, etc., lemme have it.  For example, Ken Smith has
distributed diagrams that show the voicing of band-organ violins being
done with a filing method whereby the windway is filed down so that it
is aligned at an angle that meets the upper lip.  I want my violins to
be loud, wind-noise-less, and similar in tone to the real thing.  The
scaling of pipes seems to be quite crucial to the end result of a
band organs sound.

I need to know what methods are best for treating and preserving wood.
People say that orange shellac lasts forever if you just throw a coat
on the pipes, etc.  In constructing these pipes, I want to put on a
coating that will protect them for hundreds of years.  I know I sound
optimistic, but with the invention of polyurethanes, I would imagine
I could acquires such results.

What I was thinking of doing was applying one thin coat of orange
shellac (tainted with eucalyptus oil to repel termites) followed by a
generous coat of interior/exterior clear varathane.  Now, varathane's
supposedly tough stuff, but it hasn't been around for the thousands of
years that shellac has.  Does anyone know anything about the chemical
stability of varathane?  Should I use varathane alone?

Regarding shellac, I've been using the commercial orange shellac by
Zinsner.  Is there any difference between Zinsner shellac and actually
getting the crystals and making the shellac yourself?  What would you
recommend to protect these pipes from severe climate changes and bugs,
etc.?  What makes them last?

I'm sorry I haven't kept in touch, but I'm still alive, though barely.
College is racking hell on me.  If this letter seems really scattered
and misspelled, I blame it on my studying for three exams tomorrow.
I just had to take a break and this was it.

Warmest regards,
Marc Elbasani

(Message sent Mon 5 Mar 2001, 08:40:06 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Help, Making, Organ, Pipes, Seek

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