Organ Update - May 2023
This past month, the blower room air conditioning system was installed. This system includes a thermostat that is located upstairs in the music room. The thermostat will display the temperature of the blower room and allow for remote control of the system.
Work wrapped up on the toy counter with everything complete minus the snare drum head. Poplar from Badger Hardwoods has been sanded and is ready for shellac. The three remaining cymbals were purchased (splash, crash and ride).
Finally, the drawer that came with the console was assembled and wired with Kynar wire. This 30 AWG wire makes it possible to cram a ton of cable in a small space… perfect for a junk drawer. I’d like to thank Carlton Smith for his guidance during this part of the project. Since I wanted to change some of the buttons, he was able to provide me with the part numbers used for the existing buttons. Thankfully, the buttons used (NKK switches) have button faces that are sold separately (and are easily detached). This way, I only had to purchase new faces, versus entire assemblies. Once they arrived, I shipped them out to Hesco to get engraved. A second drawer for sound effects will be added at a later date. Until then, basic relay functions will be covered, including memory level (up/down) and a two-digit display to show memory level information. Perhaps the most important button is the “SOLO LEINENFlÖTE 8” or in other words… the beer bottles!
Organ Update - April 2023
Since getting the six bourdon pipes back from Nolte’s, it was decided that installing them in the chamber was the best move given the large amount of space they consume in the basement when not installed. They fit perfectly and it feels quite good to finally get the first six pipes installed!! Only 882 to go.
The organ has two pianos - the baby grand in the music room and an upright in the tone chute. Both produce dramatically different sounds, especially with the mandolin attachment on the upright. This piano operates on vacuum with an action that came with it and a rail of direct-electric magnets that can be connected to Uniflex. That rail was completely rewired and several bad magnets replaced.
The next large project is to construct the platform that will cover and enclose the reservoirs. For this, a trip to Badger Hardwoods of Wisconsin was in order. The owner, Bob, was able to get me the two 16’ boards needed, along with a dozen or so more to complete the task. Along with getting nice lumber, Bob will also mill things down to spec, which he did for me, to match Wurlitzer’s specifications (can’t buy that at Home Depot!).
With the lumber procured, the toy counter has been dismantled to be lightly rebuilt. Although the primaries and many gaskets were done prior to me getting the instrument, many contacts and gaskets weren’t gone through. In addition to cleaning those things up, everything is getting a coat of shellac to bring the finish back to life.
Organ Update - March 2023
Since the swell shutters are now in operation, our kids like to watch them move. This requires someone to go downstairs and turn the light on. Ella raised the idea that it would be easier if we could turn the lights on from upstairs. Good point. A relay, some wire, a dimmer switch and some track lighting were procured and installed. Now, the tone chute automatically lights up when the organ is on!
Speaking of controlling things, the relay that controlled the two rectifiers was failing due to the upgrade of the magnet rectifier (larger). Although still under the rated capacity, the contacts would sometimes stick on. The other component that was giving me trouble was the circuit breaker for the control panel. Although properly rated for the load, it didn’t like the inrush current that the rectifiers took on startup. Thanks to a new breaker and contactor to replace the relay, those issues have been resolved. Now the panel makes a nice “ca-chunk” sound when turned on. That was worth the price of admission.
Turning my attention back to winding things, the main chest feed manifold has been installed on the chest. A cover was made to seal up with the original rectangular hole for the “J” trunk that would have gone to the reservoir underneath the chest. Since my chamber layout is different, two 4-inch holes were cut in the cover and flanges were installed. Another slight modification to the manifold was the addition of a piece of wood to allow the clarinet and diapason to be winded separately from the strings and flute (musically desirable change). If someone down the road wants to push the undo button on that change, it will be easy to do so.
Next up, four of the largest pipes in the organ in the Bourdon (bottom octave of the concert flute) were mitered by Nolte’s in West Allis. Conveniently located across the street from Grebe’s Bakery!! These should now fit nicely in the chamber (would have hit the ceiling unmitered). Given the finished dimensions provided, they should fit in our minivan. We shall see tomorrow…
Finally, we welcomed the youngest addition to our family, Liesl Ruth Jonas (think sound of music). We look forward to starting her piano lessons shortly.
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.
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