This past month, I was able to finish wiring the rest of the manual chests as well as the chrysoglott. With that behind me, I started to focus on what was necessary to get the manual chests installed. Two continuous chest bearers are needed from the front of the chamber to the back. Thanks to John Cornue for the recommendation of Badger Hardwoods of Walworth. Here, I was able to pick out 12’, rough cut boards and have them mill it down to the same spec Wurlitzer used in their boards (oversized).
Switching gears to upstairs, the Uniflex relay PC was hooked up to our video system. This allows the manuals and pedalboard to display realtime output when an organist plays the console.
Perhaps the largest accomplishment was moving crates around and going through the tallest ranks. By doing this, I was able to determine how many pipes need to be mitered to fit into the chamber. A lot of thought went into how high off the ground to mount the manual chests. Too low and I won’t be able to squeeze my body under them after a few more years of Kopps Custard consumption. Too high and I will need to miter more pipes to fit. After laying on the ground with a screwdriver and yardstick, the height was determined to be 20 inches. The reservoirs and trems will not be installed under the chests, rather next to them and under extra wide walk boards. As it stands, 14 pipes will need to be mitered, mainly in the tuba.
Another item off of the to-do list was to connect the meter tubing between the control panel and wind trunks. Now you can see a real time reading of whatever the blowers are outputting in terms of water column.
Finally, a big thanks to Nick Renkosik for making the connection with the late Col. Jack Moelmann estate. Through this connection, I was able to get a set of wind chimes and a 30-note set of tuned bottles! These will be fun when it comes time for beer barrel polka…
This past month, the chamber construction was completed with vinyl tile flooring going in and left over finished trim from the building of our house making a nice finish to the space. With the chamber finished, the Marimba was moved in since it is so large. Efforts have turned to wiring up all of the manual chests. At the time of writing this update, the single and seven rank chests are complete. Thanks goes out to my assistant, Eleanor for checking all 517 magnets with an ohm meter. Not bad for a four year old. Only seven dead magnets out of all of those, which were replaced with spares that I had on hand. Since the chests will need to be relatively close to the floor to fit pipework, reservoirs will need to go next to the chests and tremulants under the extra-wide walkboards. To aid in making repairs down the road, every bottom board is getting wired with a “pigtail” of 25-pair cable with a plug on the end. This way, I just need to unplug the specific bottom board that needs to be serviced, unscrew it and walk it over to the well-lit work bench!
The other project that has been completed is the installation of both swell engines and re-leathering of the first stages of each power pneumatic. This was done with less leather than should be used to limit the travel of the first stage blades. The first stage only opens about an inch and the second stage opens about two inches.
The slide whistle was also mounted in the tone chute with accordion pneumatic facing out for all to see who happens to be down there. It will be loud. I lucked out with the odd spacing of the studs due to the corner angled wall. The mounting holes on the whistle are 6.25” apart which hit the 2x4’s on center! Couldn’t have planned that better.
Finally a word of thanks to my friend John Alford for sending me a Ludwig bird whistle! With some TLC, it shined up like a new penny. Thanks again John!
This past month, significant progress has been made on the chamber floor. Thanks to my Dad for assisting with laying the subfloor. Since we couldn’t penetrate the concrete floor (due to heating coils), we had to glue down the base layer of ¾” sheets of treated plywood. Next was another layer of glue and then sanded ¾” plywood on top, which was then screwed together with the base layer. The thickness of the sub floor is needed to be able to screw things down to the floor (such as chest legs and eyes for reservoir springs). The floor is now ready for the final layer. This has actually turned out to be the hardest part… that is the selection of what flooring to use! Hopefully this piece will be done by the next update.
The other project that has been consuming my time is the restoration of a six-stage swell engine, to drive the swell shutters. One of the two that came with my shutters and frames had the sixth stage sawed off due to space constraints in their previous installation. Wanting to make use of all 12 stages on this organ, I was able to get a used engine that was complete, however in very bad condition. It turns out that these swell engines make wonderful homes for mud dauber wasps. At the end of the day, four large nests were removed from the inside of the unit. They also got mud and other debris in channeling and all magnets. It was a mess. After a lot of cleaning, blowing out and sanding down, it looks like a swell engine again!
Aside from that project, I was able to fit in a fun one. I couldn’t think of a good reason not to… so Ella helped me run a cable and install a relay, which drives our house doorbell. That’s right, you can now ring our doorbell from the organ console! My wife did not approve of this project and I have already had a blast having her answer the door!
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who assisted me in lifting the seven rank chest onto horses. This will make for much easier wiring!
This past month, three main things were accomplished. The first in the power supply department, specifically the rectifier that will supply power to all of the organ magnets. I had a 12 amp rectifier that was used to test a siren (the model that spins to make sound). When connected to the 12 amp rectifier, the inside part that spins barely moved and certainly didn’t produce any sound. It was clear that a power supply upgrade was in order. Insert a new 55 amp unit and the siren almost spun right off of my bench!
The second was in the virtual category. Having a Uniflex Relay obviously allows real pipes to be driven. What it also allows me to do is to drive virtual ranks using Hauptwerk. This is a very important feature on the instrument after 7pm when the kids are sleeping (out come the headphones!). This concept was nothing new to me, having done it with my previous two-manual console. What was new is that a friend had given me a PC running Hauptwerk 4 (the version that doesn’t make you pay to use it every month). Also on the PC is a 32-rank Wurlitzer sample set that I can use! Since Hauptwerk would now be running on this separate PC, I needed a way to connect my Uniflex Relay computer to the new Hauptwerk PC. For this I purchased a USB to MIDI interface, just like the one that is driving my piano. When it arrived, I hooked it up but Uniflex couldn’t differentiate between the two interfaces. After talking with Zach Frame, he suggested that I connect with Jim Gallops, who had a large virtual instrument and may have some input. Jim was extremely kind and indeed knowledgeable on the topic, having run over 200 virtual ranks from his Uniflexed console. In fact, he wrote a program that works alongside Uniflex and acts like another chamber interface. After some time (okay, several hours) of programming, the console now plays!
Finally, the pedalboard! The second 25-pair cable was installed on the pedalboard which took care of wiring the three expression shoes (12 contacts each), the crescendo pedal (a potentiometer), seven toe studs and the sostenuto switch (located on the general shoe). When I purchased the organ, the pedalboard was completely disassembled and almost complete. The only parts that were missing was the back "up stop" piece that has the twill tacked on. The other piece was a pedal sharp cap. Luckily a friend had a spare up stop piece and OSI still makes Wurlitzer replica sharp caps! Like everything else, there was a several week lead time for this cap but it has arrived! I would like to thank Jeff Weiler and his very helpful staff for locating the copper tacks needed to secure the bushing leather used on the tops of the pedals. I especially enjoyed the direct-to-you shipping made possible by Nick Renkosik who works for Jeff! All I had to do was meet Nick at John’s shop on a Monday! With those tacks, the pedalboard is now complete.
This past month has seen much progress… the project is finally starting to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel! After several days of watching YouTube videos, buying tools and supplies, I might have covered myself with more drywall mud than the wall saw. Calling a PROFESSIONAL drywaller was one of the best moves I made during this project. If you are faced with a drywall project, just call someone. Money well spent! In three hours, the chamber and tone chute was completed. After the mudding was done, white paint was applied to the chamber and black to the tone chute. Since there isn’t any cloth below the grills in the floor, I wanted it to appear as if nothing was under the grills, unless lights were on and we wanted people to see down from the first floor. The black paint accomplishes this very well.
My wife Lindsay located a nice wall mounted light for the control panel and trim has started to go up. Track lighting was installed in the chamber to highlight things to be installed. The swell shade openings had double stacked 2x4’s installed around the entire opening. This allowed me to slide the shade frames in from the chamber side and lag bolt them in place. A light sanding and re-shellacking of the shades and frames really brought the finish back.
This past month has been consumed with hanging drywall and wiring the pedalboard. At the time of writing this article, all drywall has been hung and doors installed. The wire wrapping tool made quick work out of wiring the contact rail for the pedalboard, which is now complete.
The other focus was to cut down the swell shades to fit into the opening in the wall between the chamber and tone chute. Because of the opening dimensions, it made more sense to have the shades open horizontally, rather than vertically. Special thanks to Zach Frame for assisting me with cutting these down. Let’s just say Wurlitzer didn’t intend for these to shrink in size….what a pain! After hauling the frames back into our basement, a quick test fit was performed (see photo). Please note that the lovely maroon color that exists from the previous installation in the Theatre Guild will be refinished!
After recovering from moving all of those crates down stairs... the focus remains to get the console 100% functional. This includes wiring in the Uniflex interface board, terminating console commons, magnet supplies, installing lights and light circuits and fixing some sticking keys on the accompaniment manual. Oh yea, and programming the entire definition file within Uniflex. In addition to that, the "no-faith" breaker from the Crome organ company was retained from the last console and re-installed in this one. Unlike my previous console that ran on 12 volts, this one has 24 volt SAMs in it. The idea is that these will fire quicker. This requires either batteries to make the 24 volts or a rectifier / capacitor setup to handle the inrush current that the coils consume upon energizing. Such a circuit exists for 12 volts, but one for 24 volts is not known. Carlton Smith forwarded on the design for the 12 volt model, which I gave to my father who is an electrical engineer. He is scaling the design to accommodate the higher voltage. Upon design completion, components will be ordered and installed to his specification. I will then of course share the design with Carlton and anyone else who wants it. I feel it is important to share knowledge in this small corner of the world!
The lighting circuit required me to install the lights themselves as this was not completed during console restoration in 2013. I learned that notches had to be made for the light sockets to sit in. This was achieved by using files and the central vac! Once those were mounted, I wired things up and reused the original toggle switch that gets mounted in the key desk. The old wiring on the switch was suspect despite metering out okay. To try and address this, I applied heat shrink tubing to them. The original switch plate was missing so I fabricated one using a piece of brass. After testing the switch under load, I noted that the contacts were less than ideal within the switch itself. Not wanting to start a fire, I ordered a modern replacement switch and... let there be light.
Work also continues to reassemble the pedal board (which was completely disassembled as far as it would go). I ordered a wire wrapping tool and some 25 pair cable / plugs. Once they arrive I will complete the installation of the pedalboard, swell shoes, toe studs and wiring of the two piano pedals.
Running out of things I could do on the console without more supplies coming in, I turned my attention to drywall. The tone chute is getting worked on next with the chamber getting done last.
Through conversation with Mark Herman, a musician and organ broker in Pasadena, I had learned of an opportunity to purchase an organ that was completely restored. It included a three manual scroll type console (what I was looking for in the end) and everything that goes with it. All that would be required would be to wire and wind the instrument.
After careful consideration, I made the realization that the current project would take me at least 10 years or more to complete, about the same amount of money and a ton of my time. This route would allow me to get a functional instrument within a year and that much longer to share it with others. As someone asked me, do you get more enjoyment out of playing the organ or restoring it? Great question, and the answer is playing it and having others find enjoyment from playing the instrument and listening. Perhaps most important, the purchasing route would allow me to spend more time with my family, and less time in our basement working on restoration projects.
The decision was made to purchase it on Saturday, October 2, 2021. The next logistical challenge was to get everything that we currently had in the house out and the new one transported from storage in Indianapolis to our house. A deadline of Sunday, October 10th was communicated to get the instrument out of storage, leaving a week to carry out mission impossible.
On Wednesday, October 6th friends Gary Bieck and Gary Klechowitz assisted in moving parts out of the basement. Second shift help of my aunt and uncle, wife Lindsay, brother-in-law Shawn and neighbor Joey continued where the first shift help left off! Since The Dairyland Theatre Organ Society is actively working on an organ installation at the East Troy Railroad Museum, most parts were donated to their project. By the end of the night, one full pick up truck and covered trailer full of parts made its way to the basement of the Depot building at the museum.
On Thursday, October 7th, my Dad and I, along with friends Devin Deuter and Nick Renkosik and brother-in-law Shawn (who apparently didn't have enough fun the night before) picked up two 26 foot trucks and loaded the parts from our basement that were to be traded as part of the sale agreement. These parts included the two-manual console, tuned sleigh bells, xylophone, master xylophone and a ton of pipes.
Friday, October 8th was the big day, which started at 3:50am when we hit the road for Indy. Arriving at Mark's storage locker at 9:30am (eastern time), we unloaded the parts that went down with us. Broke for lunch nearby and then arrived at the Stutz building (where they used to manufacture Stutz cars). This is the home of Carlton Smith Pipe Organ Restorations. Located on the second floor, this was actually one of the easier organ moves I was a part of (at least this phase of the project...!). Since the building was a car factory, we had use of a freight elevator that was capable of moving a car. This proved very useful as did the indoor loading dock, where both trucks fit nicely. I also appreciated the help of Mark Herman and "local" assistant John Arnold, both of which helped greatly. By 7pm, we were loaded and headed back to Wisconsin... arriving sometime around 11:30pm. I would like to thank my Dad, Nick and Devin for spending the entire day assisting with this part of the project. A very full 20-hour day was a lot to ask and I am very grateful of their help.
Saturday, October 9th I was joined by Chris and Tori Pawlowski, my parents John and Lisa, friends John and son Sean Cornue, Mike Jacklin and Gary Klechowitz. Together, we were able to get both trucks unloaded and returned to Penske of South Milwaukee. Made it back home just in time to volunteer at the railroad as a bartender on their dinner train! With that being said... 23 crates and the console, which didn't fit through the front door remained in the garage.
On Sunday, October 10th, I was able to de-wire (unplug) the console horseshoe, keyboards and back rail. This allowed the console to come apart in more pieces. My wife Lindsay and I were able to carry everything in the house with the exception of the base of the console.... and 23 crates...
On Monday, October 11th, my neighbor Travis, friends Derek and Nicole in addition to their friend Uly helped carry the remaining crates and console base into the house. The organ is now completely IN the house!
This past month, the chamber walls were insulated and drywall installation has begun. Two exterior doors were purchased to be installed in both the chamber and tone chute walls. A platform was also constructed for the chrysoglott to sit on, featuring a channel for the bundle of cable that will run between the relay and the organ chamber.
Also, thanks to my friend Jim, I now have a logic rectifier and that has been installed into the control panel. Now two meters do something!
As a reminder, project updates, including more photos can be found on my project's website: jonaswurlitzer.com
This past month, the two baffle boxes were completed and installed. This involved lining the insides of the boxes with acoustic insulation tiles and then attaching moving blankets over the insulation. The end product really does a nice job quieting things down. This also involved an erector set of unistrut and threaded rod to suspend the boxes from the ceiling.
The static wind lines were also completed into the wind trunks that run into the chamber. The chamber now has wind! Thanks again to my friend Steve for locating the 10” pipe clamps. Those were difficult to find.
Check out this page for project updates!