A short video

Here’s a short video taken last year by Nora Sawyer with her cellphone.  The registration is built around the Gemshorn 8′ pipes, supplemented with 4′ and 2′ electronic voices.  The pedals are entirely electronic, and it sounds distorted at times because the cell phone couldn’t handle the loudness close up.  Still, it gives something of a feel for the instrument.



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Metal munching mice foiled! Blockflöte doth tune it’s merrie note

Damaged organ pipeTemporary repairAs previously mentioned and shown in the upper picture, mice had munched one of the Blockflöte pipes. Proper repair will be difficult, but a carefully applied layer of aluminum tape (lower picture) has allowed the pipe to regain its voice. In fact, its sound is essentially indistinguishable from its neighbors. Although I plan to install the Blockflöte as a 2′ rank on its own chest, I have temporarily placed it in a 4′ position on the main chest, with 1-12 supplied by Geigen Diapason pipes.

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Has anything happened this year?

Well yes, but not much concerning the pipe organ except playing it from time to time. Right now we are having a geothermal heat pump system installed, which will provide much better climate control for us and for the organ.

After that, I expect to hook up a second driver board to get another rank of pipes up and running.

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The unkindest cut-up of all: metal munching mice!

Damaged organ pipeMice got into the pipe trays in my basement.   They must have fancied themselves experts on pipe voicing; otherwise it’s hard to explain why they nibbled away at the lead-tin alloy of this Blockflute pipe.  Apparently they thought it would sound better with a higher mouth (more cut-up) and that the mouth should be arched to help ensure a flute-like tone.

Damaged organ pipeBecause they also damaged the windway, I can’t really tell whether they were on to something — the pipe barely makes any sound at all.   I’ll have to get this pipe repaired or more likely have a new one made.  I might try a temporary repair with metal tape first.

Luckily, the mice abandoned their re-voicing work after this single attempt.

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Gemshorn Basses

windchest with Gemshorn bassesMy old Wicks windchest was originally designed for pipes with a maximum sounding length of about four feet. That means that the low octave of any eight foot stop will have to sit on a bass chest on the floor, which is a common practice. But I don’t have any bass chests yet.

The metal Gemshorn stop came with a nice set of wooden bass pipes. I’ve been wanting to try them out, and it occurred to me that some of them would fit under the ceiling if placed on the Gedeckt toeboard. The Gedeckt toeboard originally held a Trumpet (long before I got it), so it came with a support arm to hold the bass pipes in place.

temporary adapter for Gemshorn bassesAs the first picture shows, when I removed twelve Gedeckt pipes, I was able to replace part of the front row with six Gemshorns. That gets me down to F# at the bottom of the bass clef, and I could probably squeeze F in behind as well; anything lower pitched would be too tall. I made a simple wiring adapter, as shown in the second picture, to temporarily hook these pipes to the Gemshorn driver board.

Whoever originally voiced these pipes a century ago did an excellent job of matching the tone on the wooden and metal pipes — the transition from C to B is inaudible.

Since the Gedeckts need some rebuilding, I’ll probably leave things this way for a while — it’s much more fun not to run out of Gemshorns at Tenor C.

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Organ moves to lofty perch

100_1180It’s taken more than a year, but we have finally moved the pipe organ (and the rest of our possessions) to our new home.

The Diapason stop, which was far too loud in our old living room, now sounds impressive rather than excessive. 

Related: Future organ loft.

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Although the organ is far from complete, I’ve been having fun playing it.  Yesterday one of the Gemshorn pipes (F below middle C) kept sounding after I released the key — a cypher!

Quite apart from its other meanings, the term “cypher” is used to describe an organ pipe that keeps playing after the key is released (or in some cases, before any key at all has been pressed).

In most cases this is due to a mechanical problem with the valve which controls the pipe.  Sometimes playing a series of staccato 64th notes on the key will clear it, but not this time.

Since this instrument uses electric values, the other possibility would be an electrical short.  When I shut off the power, the note kept sounding as long as there was wind pressure, so that ruled out any electrical problem

For now I’ve adopted the traditional organist’s work around: a small piece of paper (traditionally torn from a service leaflet) inserted under the foot of the pipe.  Far better for the pipe not to play at all than to sound all the time!

A better solution will be to remove a bottom board from the windchest and adjust the valve.  Fairly simple, but time consuming due to my crowded installation — most of the wind system will need to move so I can get in to make the repair.


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Future organ loft

picture of room overlooking the living roomThe real estate ad called it a “family room”, but the oddly shaped room overlooking the living room is obviously an organ loft. When we have completed some necessary renovations, the organ will move to this new space.

view of living from from the loftAt the high end of the loft the ceiling is over ten feet, allowing for full length 8′ pipes. Anything taller than that will have to go in the living room, where the highest point is nearly twenty feet.

Related: Organ moves to lofty perch.

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Staying with 2.8″ wind for now

When I reduced the wind pressure, the Diapason began to produce a very sharp and unpleasant chiff.  It sounds far better at 2.8″ wind, so I’ll just leave it that way for now.

The organ will eventually be moving to a larger space, so the Diapason may not be too loud after all…

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Trying out the Diapason and Flute d’Amour

Although I’m waiting for parts to hook up more driver boards, I decided to go ahead and try out the Diapason and the Flute d’Amour (Gedeckt) with the one board I’ve completed.

My Diapason is a 19th or early 20th century rank by an unknown maker.  At some point after 1950 it was installed in E. M. Skinner opus 368 as an “improvement” over the original Great Diapason.  A few years ago Spencer Organ Company restored opus 368 using a Skinner diapason identical to the 1922 original, so the “improvement” became surplus.

While residing in Opus 368, the Diapason operated on about 3.6″ wind and sounded rather harsh.  I’m using about 2.8″ which produces a more agreeable effect, but is probably louder than I need.  I will try it on lower pressure to see how it does, then decide whether to reduce the pressure, try closing the toes a bit, or just leave it alone.  (The Gemshorn is happy at 2.8″ and could probably be regulated to work on less, but I’d rather not mess with it.)

The Flute d’Amour is in worse shape than I thought.  It was removed from an instrument which suffered water damage, and turns out to need new leather on the stoppers and other repairs.  Most of the pipes sound, but some make dismal noises and many cannot be tuned because of the condition of the leather.  The ones that work sound nice, so the repairs will be worth the effort.

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