This month, work was done to further regulate the accompaniment manual on the console. Although most keys were about right, there were little differences between them that made things look uneven across the whole manual. To level things out, a piece of aluminum “L” channel was purchased and cut down to fit on the manual. With a straight edge present, it was easy to make very small adjustments up or down to level things out. With that project behind me, the console should be ready for our December program!
Downstairs in the chamber, the glockenspiel, xylophone, toy counter and sleigh bells were wired. Although not installed yet, the rear toy counter spreader was made, wired and installed where the counter will be mounted. Both toy counters go to a 66 block (the only one in the whole installation!) for easy punch down patching of things. Two traps on the front toy counter consume a lot of current, and thus need another relay. Those things are the auto horn and enclosed siren. The organ actually has two sirens – one in the chamber and one in the tone chute. Together, it sounds like a full air raid is upon us… our son likes playing with those buttons. He will stand at the drawer, hold them and smile. Perhaps he will be an organist. Perhaps he will take up percussion. Back to the auto horn – this thing uses so much current and creates so much electrical noise, that I installed a separate power supply in the closet, just for it. The power supply has a voltage dial on it so you can dial things up or down to change the sound of the horn. The power supply is plugged into an outlet that was added on switched power (with the rectifiers).
Next was the sleigh bell project. About half of the bells were on the wrong straps, so ringing individual notes sounded more like arguments than a single pitch. There was no easy way to fix this problem outside of taking each strap off, removing all the bells and using a tuner to find the pitch of each bell. Once figured out, the proper bells were re-attached to the straps and mounted back on the action. Although there are some bells missing due to being cracked or needing major tuning, there are plenty of bells to make a lot of noise with.
Continuing to work our way down from the console to the floor… under deck lighting was installed so that the reservoirs would be lit up in case of future maintenance needs under the decking. LED tape was installed in aluminum housings with plastic diffusers. A toggle switch was installed near the back of the chamber, where you could enter the enclosed area. Finally, the entire chamber was given a good cleaning out and vacuuming. Although at the time of writing this article (11/15), the toy counter and percussions are not yet winded, that is the plan ahead of our December 9th program!
Just outside the chamber in the tone chute, the magnet rail was installed on top of the stack for the upright player piano. Together with two 25-pair cables, an extension cord for the vacuum pump and vacuum line for a control panel gauge, a bundle of cable was made to feed that piano. Although the piano still needs some work to play from the organ, this was a good step in the right direction. Along with installing the magnet rail, two conductors were added on a terminal strip to drive the LED light that illuminates the inside “guts” of the piano, which is visible from above through the grills in the music room. This light turns on when the rectifiers are on.
Finally, I’d like to thank Andy Meyer for mitering a post horn pipe to fit. Andy continues to do phenomenal work on what is more of an art than a science. More on that in a later update.
Today brought us a new instrument to co-exist with the Wurtlizer within the music room. A Seeburg "KT Special" from 1927 (a year before the Wurlitzer was built). I submit this "update" as they are cousin instruments made in the same mechanical music era.
Beginning about 1910, reaching a manufacturing peak in the 1920's, and continuing until the early 1930's, the U.S. and some European countries designed and built coin-operated mechanical musical instruments for restaurants, bars, dance halls, and other types of parlors. They were usually built around a piano and one or more instruments such as xylophone, bells, organ pipes, and drums. They were operated by punched paper rolls with multiple tunes. Driven by electric motors, these machines contained large reciprocating pumps circulating air through long lengths of small tubes, through elaborate valves, and into tiny bellows controlling each piano note or other instrument or control. To attract attention, the machines had elaborate leaded glass fronts and fancy colored lighting.
These machines were the forerunners of radio, jukeboxes, and other forms of musical entertainment. Besides offering musical enjoyment, they were money making machines for the proprietors gobbling up nickel after nickel. Captivated patrons were delighted to snappy popular tunes of the day and received hours of musical entertainment. Some machines had keyboards similar to upright pianos, but most were simply in large, elaborate cabinets.
The Seeburg KT Special was introduced in 1924 and originally sold for $1,500. Marketed as "Ballroom Favorite”, it was designed to serve in places requiring the ultra-supreme in automatic orchestral development. The elimination of a keyboard reduced the instrument to convenient dimensions.
The great depression of the 1930's and newer forms of entertainment such as radio and jukeboxes brought a rapid decline to these instruments during the 1930's and 1940's. By the 1950's, most had been cut up for scrap until few were left.
As these are fairly rare, especially in this condition, a special thanks goes to my friend Paul Woelbing for making this acquisition possible. We look forward to sharing this machine and the music it makes with all who visit.
October brought on many visual changes for the organ chamber. On October 17th, the decking structure was completed, percussion upright legs assembled and installed, along with the Xylophone, front toy counter, Sleigh Bells and Glockenspiel. The main reservoir also received legs to help support the spring tension. Next steps will be to wire and wind those things so they can be ready for Christmas!
Finally, more time was spent on the console, where each keyboard was regulated / contacts adjusted. The three swell coupler switches were also swapped out with new switches, as the originals were completely worn out.
This month, a day was spent planning, measuring and cutting various pieces of lumber to make the decking that will be installed over the reservoirs. While the table saw was in use, cleat stock was also made, which will be put to good use as the construction process continues. As of the time of writing this update, one support and associated legs are standing in place that will support the deck (and everything on top of it).
Work was also done to complete wiring the drawer in the console. Spreaders were tucked into the console, taking the 30 gauge wire bundle from the drawer and transitioning it to 24 gauge wire to the Uniflex boards. The two-digit display (with 14 segments) each had to get a resistor wired in series between the output board pin and the individual segment. This was necessary to drop the voltage and current down to an acceptable level for the segments to function properly.
Finally, the surf got some attention as when it was originally installed, it leaked wind very badly. After some investigation, it was determined that there was a screw hole that was stripped out, holding the piece of wood tight which covers the slot where the wind comes out when it is operating. The hole was drilled out and a dowel was installed along with some wood glue. After it had dried, the dowel was shaped on one side to match the slot. Then a pilot hole was drilled, screw reinserted and the unit reassembled. Back in its place between the Marimba levels, it no longer leaks and operates properly!
This past month, the remainder of the manual chest winding was completed. Screw eyes were also located and installed under each reservoir so that the springs have something to attach to once ready to go.
Perhaps the largest accomplishment was actually upstairs at the console, where the right side drawer was installed! Thanks to Zach Frame for the assistance with this very tricky installation and to Neill Frame for use of his plunge router!
The drawer is ultimately attached to the key desk using a long, threaded bolt with some washers. To ensure that the slide out drawer doesn’t travel too far right or left, a pin is inserted into the back side of the drawer that sticks up around ¾”. That pin rides in an arched groove in the bottom of the key desk. Felt was installed in the far extreme corners of the groove so that the drawer may have a soft landing when getting opened or closed.
While we were at it, a second groove was cut in on the left side for the future left drawer, containing buttons for more traps (sound effects). We also installed the back box for the swell shoes. No more seeing through the opening and looking at little lights flashing from the console components.
Finally, I’d like to thank my Dad for coming over and helping me with squaring up the blower room door and installing some trim!
This past month, custom buttons were received from HESCO for the right drawer. These include controls for the second piano and other “important” things like the tuned beer bottles…
Speaking of the piano, I have wired in a 12 volt relay in the control cabinet to connect Uniflex to the vacuum pump relay. This pump will sit in and run the upright piano in the tone chute. It isn’t desirable to have the pump run all the time, so a button in the console drawer will activate the pump.
Finally, the xylophone was gone through and wired up with a plug. I am now done pre-wiring percussions!
This past month, the sleigh bells and glockenspiel were gone through, polished up and wired with plugs. As per all of the bottom boards, I am putting plugs on each piece in case something needs to be removed down the road for maintenance.
In preparation for connecting the tremulants to the manual chests, holes were drilled into the chests to exhaust wind into the trem manifolds that were built. One section of the manifold will connect the clarinet and diapason, while the other will connect the flute and three strings. In order to not damage any pneumatics, the bottom boards were dropped and holes started from the inside of the chest, then finished carefully from the outside. A thorough vacuuming finished the job in an attempt to prevent future ciphers.
Perhaps the largest accomplishment was going through and regulating the marimba. Up until this point, it was mostly the way it was received when it came off the truck. Much was learned through doing this process. Most mallets came down sluggish, almost presenting a delay when playing it with other things. Some came down so slow that it didn’t actually touch the wood bar at all. Those were resolved by making adjustments to the valves. Another issue that was gone through was some notes that played but made more of a “thud” sound rather than reverberating. There are felt bumpers on set screws that can be adjusted that stop the mallets from traveling. The fix for those thud notes was to raise the stop bumpers so that the mallets stopped just shy of the bar. The spring steel allows for the mallet itself to travel just slightly past “stop”, striking the bar and then springing back so that the bar can reverberate. Another issue was the actions not returning quick enough. For this, there is a spring attached to the back of each hammer and a threaded rod with a wing nut on the bottom. Stretching the threaded rod down and adjusting the wing nut resolves those issues. Finally, and perhaps what makes me most happy… the marimba always sounded like a wind storm with many leaks. Although all of the internal leather components were redone nicely ahead of me getting the instrument, the valve gaskets were original 1928 leather. As soon as I realized that, all of the 49 covers came off and original gaskets were steamed off. New gaskets were cut and punched, then applied with fish glue.
Lastly, all of the erecting lumber was spray shellacked with a mixture of amber shellac, die and denatured alcohol (cut about 50%). Eight coats with that mixture were applied to get a finish that is pretty close to some original Wurlitzer finished lumber. Ready for platform construction!
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!
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.
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.
Check out this page for project updates!