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Orchestrelle, Chapter 4.3
Rebuilding the Æolian Orchestrelle
58-Note Player Reed Organ, 1912 Model "W"
by Richard Vance
Copyright (C) 2000 by Richard Z. Vance
rev. A, 5 August 2000

Chapter 4.3 - Making and Installing the Bellows Hinges

    Every different maker's bellows I have taken apart seems to use a different hinge style, all the way from Standard's elaborate "ropes in holes" to a few simple canvas tabs in a cheap reed organ,  Aeolian was no exception; I never saw this form before.

    Two 1-1/2" wooden strips, with the hinge line made from bellows cloth folded inside.  Then reinforced with three to five strips of heavy canvas.  First apply and trim the bellows cloth, with the two strips touching when unfolded.  Some of the sticks broke when I tried to unglue them, so I had to make some new ones.

    When dry, fold the hinges and clamp them tightly closed.  Glue the canvas only on the back of the hinge first.  The canvas must be tightly glued here, since one of its apparent purposes is to hold the fold in the cloth sharp, and prevent it from pulling loose into a U shape at the crease.  When this is set, then glue the canvas ends to the sides of the strips, and trim.  The screw holes are redrilled right through the canvas and cloth.

    Now here is a case where the original builder had the advantage of starting from scratch, when installing the hinges.  Apparently the procedure was as follows:  The hinges were made up ahead of time, but without the screw holes.  A thick layer of short glue was swabbed onto the board.  The hinge was slapped down in the right pace.  Huge staples from an air gun were shot through the sticks, at points midway between each canvas tab.  The sticks bowed down a little since there was a gap between the stick and the board between the canvas.  This "clamped" the stick in place along its whole length, and the thick glue filled the gap.  The procedure was repeated for the other board, making sure it was properly aligned.  Then the screw holes were drilled and the screws installed.  Quick and elegant; a crew of two men could probably hinge a bellows in less than five minutes.

    But lacking that equipment, I had to devise a procedure which replicated the final effect, but allowing me to work alone, in stages.  First I added strips of additional canvas between the hinge tabs, so the gap would not be a potential leak point.  (Shame on me!)  There is no way that the existing screw holes could match up exactly as they were originally, so I omitted the screws for the time being.  The most important point here is to end up with the two boards of the bellows exactly aligned, so the cloth can go on straight later.  First I glued the hinge in its correct place on the fixed bellows board.  Then, when this was set, I set up the moving board so that it would glue onto the other leaf of the hinge in the correct place.  Note the blocks clamped to the frame, so that that would happen as soon as the glue was quickly applied to the long joint, and the board dropped into place.  After I did this, I clamped the whole waz together as shown in the second picture.  Note the two notches in the main frame board, on the right side.  These are not original, but were sawn in the panel to make room for the feet of the blower.  The one near the middle intrudes into the feeder's space, so that hinge stick was made wider to cover it up.
 
 

    The last step was to go back in and insert the screws.  The holes might not have been in perfect alignment, but the #10 x 1" screws, driven into maple, "drew" the countersunk holes in the softwood sticks into place, leaving the bellows boards in perfect alignment.  Hot glue is a lot stronger than screws in soft wood; just ask Craig Brougher.  Another application of glue along the place where the inner edges of the sticks meet the boards, insured that there was no possibility of a leak along the gap.  The strip of cloth applied along the finished hinge line after the bellows are covered, is notorious for coming loose, and can't be depended upon to prevent leaks along the hinge line by itself.

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