February 2023 Update
This past month, the remainder of the reservoirs were put together and winded. The last one being a 20 x 30 that feeds the swell shutters, percussions and traps. With that last one in place, the shutters have been winded, defined in the relay and brought online! It is amazing how well they do their job. Work was also completed to wind the solo chest. Initial measurements were taken to develop a design and material list for building a platform that will enclose the reservoirs. This will aid in sound deadening (Wurlitzer reservoirs are very noisy), as well as provide more space for two toy counters, an offset chest and some percussions!
The final relay board was installed in the tone chute closet, which will feed the tuned bottles and the upright piano. Since the bottles have LED tape on them, I installed a light switch and dimmer to control those lights from the closet. Thanks to my friend Steve Southworth for the dimmer!
Finally, the “flapper door” that allows air into the blower room was installed. When the wind system is pressurized without anything playing, the door is closed. When wind is consumed somewhere in the organ, the door opens slightly to allow air into the room. This cuts down on the blower noise outside of the blower room. In fact, our furnace is louder than the two 5 h.p. blowers running only a few feet away!
January 2023 Update
This month has seen a lot of behind the scenes preparation work. More pipe and fittings were purchased for the next winding session. Now there are piles of pipe and fittings by size for easier assembly. I also worked on restoring a spreader and wiring it in between the shade frames. This spreader will connect the swell shades and tremulants.
Finally, the largest project of the month was to make and install batten strips for the swell shades. By design, the shades have small cracks between the individual shades. In a theatre, this isn’t a big issue. In a house, every little bit of sound deadening helps. The strips are made from poplar and have a channel cut in them that was inlaid with felt. The strips are fastened to the edge of each blade with the felt portion covering the cracks. Thanks to Zach Frame for letting me burn through a router table bit of his and to my assistant Ella for sanding/painting and Charlotte for holding up the other end of each strip, which made mounting them that much easier!
Carol of the Bells
Enjoy this recording of "Carol of the Bells" as performed by organist, Zach Frame.
More on Zach here: https://www.c-2productions.com/
Organ Update - December 2022
We were happy to welcome many friends, family and fellow DTOS members to our house on December 11th for a Christmas social, featuring Perry Petta. Perry played a 45-minute program followed by open console.
Much of this past month included cleaning things up in preparation for showing off progress made. Three more reservoirs were winded that all sit below the marimba harp. While Zach and I were at it, the marimba and chimes were winded (just in time for the social!). It took six springs and a lot of tweaking to get 15” of wind out of the reservoir, but it is working now! A six inch line comes off of the solo trunk and T’s off, feeding the 15” reservoir. The rest of the T continues on and 90s into the offset reservoir and from there goes straight into the post horn reservoir. Many notes needed to be adjusted on the Marimba and all needed to be adjusted on the chimes. What made the adjustment piece much easier was the help of the Uniflex remote tuner app. Individual notes could be commanded on or off from within the chamber. What a nice product!
Although I am clear on how everything functions electrically, the winding piece of this assembly puzzle has allowed me to learn quite a bit about this particular “art”. Regulated pressure is achieved by adding spring tension / weights, which push down on the lid of the reservoir. The more tension, the more pressure. At first, you start with as little tension as possible, then slowly add by taking links of chain out. This is always done in pairs, kitty corner from each other. You never want to have one corner more than the rest. Always in pairs. The last little bit of progress downstairs involved the tuned bottles, which were tested and mounted in the tone chute. While on the bench, I replaced the LED tape that was originally installed so that the bottle lights could be a little more “warm”.
The slide whistle also got releathered and a spring added for it to function properly as it is mounted. Upstairs, three more SAM shields were installed in the console after Perry rehearsed and found some stops that didn’t want to come on or cancel consistently. Those issues immediately went away post shield installation. Now I keep a few spare shields in a drawer just in case! A wireless microphone was also purchased to aid in hearing the organist speak. This worked out quite well for people that were around the corner from the music room.
Finally, at the eleventh hour (Wednesday before the program), the baby grand piano developed a note that would stick down when played from the player system. Luckily, the installer who put the player system in could make it out the next day for an emergency repair. The issue was a tight flange in the back action. Later that night, the note acted up again, as well as another on the bass end of the piano. Friday consisted of a frantic day of calling around a dozen technicians in southeastern Wisconsin - quite possibly all of the technicians left in southeastern Wisconsin! One was able to make it out that evening and asked if after supper was okay. I said, “sure” we will be hosting a Christmas Vacation party and dressed up in character, but why not? In the middle of the party, he arrived and found the culprit. Dirt that had made its way into the cylinders where each player plunger rests under the keys. Pulling the plunger and vacuuming the dirt out is all it took!
Organ Update - November 2022
This month has seen a lot of progress with the blower room. The drywall, painting and electrical are complete! With an LED equivalent of 400 watts of lighting, a work light shouldn’t be necessary. For safety, a red “emergency stop” button was installed on the outside of the blower room. If something happens, one just needs to hit the button to stop the blowers.
On the other end of the house, the one shiny Chrysoglott bar bothered me enough to pull the entire assembly out. Now they all look shiny and have new felts and surgical tubing installed.
Finally, static winding to the main and solo trunks have been completed. Two additional “helpers” found themselves in the chamber with me. With their “touch everything in sight” nature, I found that placing them in the wind trunk kept them from getting into too much trouble!
Organ Update - October 2022
The theme for this past month has been “boxes”. A noted trend throughout this installation is that we build boxes and make them so they don’t leak air. Then we drill holes in those boxes and seal them up again. It is an interesting pattern… The boxes needed are manifolds that will attach on either side of chests. On one side, you have “feed” manifolds. This is where wind lines will connect, coming from reservoirs at the appropriate pressure for each rank. The other end of the chest calls for another box, where tremulants will be connected to. One modification was made to the original feed manifold on the main chest. That modification was the installation of a piece of wood that separates the clarinet and diapason from the flute and strings. This is so that those two ranks can live on their own wind supply and tremulant, a desired modification from a musical perspective.
To continue to make strides in the winding department, a lot of PVC pipe and flanges have been acquired, including various fittings that will be needed. Our basement is starting to look like the plumbing aisle in Home Depot. To close out talking about winding, Ryan Mueller finished rebuilding the two reservoirs that needed TLC. Thanks Ryan!
Another accomplishment is on the hauptwerk end of things. I was able to successfully chase out two bugs that were causing a popping sound as well as a buzz. Both are now eliminated, which makes it so much more enjoyable to play!
Finally, I have started to give the Chrysoglott the surgical tubing treatment. The issue is that some of the notes make more of a thud than a ping sound. In other words, they self-dampen almost immediately, rather than reverberate. As the Chrys is getting played more, this thud sound has gotten quite annoying. Insert a new felt punching and a piece of surgical tubing. The difference is amazing! While the first bar came off, I decided to get the steel wool out again to polish it up. Still debating whether or not that was a good move since it sticks out now. I guess I’ll have to do the rest of the notes!
Organ Update - September 2022
This past month, the remainder of the cables running into the chamber have been terminated on the relay boards. The only things left to wire up would be the offset chests and some percussions / traps. That took quite a bit longer than anticipated. I’d like to recognize Steve Hansen for serving as inspiration for how those boards were wired.
In other news, all of the chime tubes were polished with “0000” steel wool. It is amazing how they came back to life with some muscle. Originally, they would have been hung on their action with wax covered string. As we have seen in other installations after many years of hanging, the string breaks, chime tube drops and oftentimes crack when they hit the floor. To try and avoid this from happening, I cut out the original strings and replaced it with aircraft cable. Ferrals were crimped on and hidden inside the chime tubes. At the time of writing, all of the tubes are now hung.
The rest of the insulation has now been installed in the blower room walls and thanks to Tim Lethlean, there is now a 24v clock with a stepper motor in it that connects to the simplex system in the wall (why not?). There is also an opening roughed in for the air inlet.
Upstairs, there has been some progress with chasing out some bugs with a couple of SAMs. The issue is related to magnetic cross-talk between SAMs. Given how close they are installed to each other, the little reed switches sometimes pick up magnetic fields from neighboring switches, which cause things to stay on when they should be off or not turn on when they should. Of course, one of the problems was the 8’ Post Horn in the pedal not canceling. I am happy to report that building and installing little sheet metal shields has solved the issues. Tape was applied to these shields to prevent shorting between components.
Organ Update - August 2022
This past month, work was completed to install the wall around the blowers. The ceiling joists were filled in with fiberglass insulation, four lights added and a smoke detector that is tied into the rest of the house system. If one goes off, they all go off! For an extra safe measure, there is also a fire extinguisher directly outside of the blower room. The door for the room is an exterior door that matches the ones used for the chamber and tone chute (sound insulating properties). This room is now ready for the drywallers (I have come to the conclusion that I am not good at drywall work).
On the other side of the basement, more than half of the relay has been wired and offset chests have been placed in the locations they will live. In preparation for pipes, Ryan Mueller has taken the 15 that need to get mitered, which should be done soon. He also took the two 20x30 Wurlitzer reservoirs with him that needed to be rebuilt. One had a four-legged friend eat through a gusset and the other was missing outside corner pieces of leather.
Although not directly connected to the organ, our in-floor heating system was installed this past week. At the time of building, tubing was installed in the entire concrete slab, minus the blower room. The organ has its own zone and thermostat to help keep it at a constant temperature. According to a document that Carlton Smith shared with me, the chamber should have a nominal temperature of 74 degrees and humidity should be between no less than 40% or higher than 50 %. The boiler is so quiet, I can barely hear it while standing next to it. If only the blowers were that quiet!
Finally, Zach Frame stopped by and assisted in troubleshooting some console issues. A sticky key on the accompaniment no longer sticks, two pistons now are wired (never were wired to the input boards) and a very odd issue with a SAM that would now cancel now cancels. Turns out a blob of solder connected two of the output pins on the back of an output board. That one took a bit to find but an ohm meter helped track it down. There are only a couple of SAMs that have some issues with reed switches not canceling or being impacted in some way by neighboring SAMs (magnetic cross-talk). Sheet steel was purchased and little shields are being constructed to help block the cross-talk from occurring. More on that next month!
Organ Update - July 2022
July brought a trip to New Orleans, followed by a week of Covid! Although all of the symptoms were no fun, it did provide a two day window of isolation in the basement. This meant a solid two days of wiring! At this point the marimba, chime action and all manual chests have been wired. Many amphenol ends had to be made as custom cables were put together. Now everything is tied up and connected on the chamber end of things. Work now continues terminating a fairly large clump of wires to the relay boards!
Finally, I’d like to thank Andy Meyer of Jerome B. Meyer & Sons for repairing two orchestral oboe pipes that had resonators mangled and broken off. Thankfully what remained of them was taped to their boots. Andy worked his magic and brought them back to life!
Organ Update - June 2022
Much progress has been made since the last update! Thanks to help from Zach Frame, all of the manual chests are now placed and mounted to the floor. This required measuring the dowel holes in the chests so that matching dowels could be drilled and tapped into place so that the chests could be simply set down on the chest bearers. All of the legs needed to be cut down due to ceiling height restrictions. Due to adding new poplar boards alongside the original 1928 boards, die had to be added to the amber shellac in order to make it darker than it comes out of the can. This dyed mixture was then sprayed on the boards in a variety of layers. At the end of the day, most reservoirs were placed, chests mounted, marimba harp mounted and the chime action mounted on top of the marimba. It was a long day but finally there was more visible progress in the chamber. To assist with the placement of the chests, all of the bottom boards were removed to shed weight. Since that very productive day, I have been doing little aside from putting amphenol ends on each bottom board. These cables carry all of the magnet wire, spare wire and ground returns back to the relay boards. If one bottom board needed to be serviced, it could be unplugged, dropped and moved to the well-lit work bench for service.
I’d like to thank John Cornue for lending his amphenol crimper to me for installing ends. It is an incredibly tedious process that takes me about 30 minutes to complete, per board. For reference, I have included some photos of the crimping process.
Finally, the surf was installed on the marimba and the shuffle (referred to as a sand block on this organ) is getting rebuilt (came in pieces). As of the time of writing, the shuffle is completely reassembled minus the valve assembly which was missing.
Check out this page for project updates!