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.
Organ update - May 2022
This past month, things started to come to life! An equalizer was installed in the tone chute closet and now feeds the Chrysoglott, slide whistle and bird whistle in the projection alcove within the Music Room. While the wind line was getting connected, I decided to let the blower run wide open for five minutes to blow out all of the dirt within the line. After five minutes, I glued everything together and called it a night. The next morning I woke up, got my cup of coffee and walked into the music room - realizing then that I never checked to see what blew out of the pipe… It looked like a snow storm hit the room with PVC dust everywhere. Luckily I was able to get the vacuum cleaner out before my wife saw the furniture and rug covered in white dust! Close call.
Now that the Chrysoglott is connected, all of the hammers were regulated so that they make each note speak at approximately the same volume. All of the magnet armatures were replaced and port holes milled using the machine acquired from Kenny Crome’s shop. It is amazing how much of a difference milling and new armatures made in quieting wind noise down!
Spare Uniflex boards were also received in case one goes out. An extra output board was also purchased for the tone chute piano. The organ came with boards with enough pins available for some spare things… however the tuned beer bottles pushed that need further than I had pins to go around.
Finally, the new wind chimes were cleaned, mounted and wired up!
April 2022 Update
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…
March 2022 Update
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!
February 2022 Update
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!
January 2022 Update
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.
December 2021 Update
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.
November Progress Update
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!
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