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Restoration of a Chamber Organ

Actions

There are two main divisions under "actions": stop action and key action. I worked on the stop action first. Pulling a stop knob out causes the appropriate slider to move across the pipe chest, until the holes line up to let wind through to the pipes of that rank once keys are pressed.

The starting components for the key actions are the two keyboards. The manual keyboard and pedalboard (below) were completely dismantled and cleaned up - unfortunately there are no pictures of work on the manual keyboard. The keys had been extensively attacked by woodworm in the past (not recently), but I treated them with killer fluid anyway. Surprisingly, the manual keys were topped with “celluloid”, not ivory. If the organ was converted from barrel operation, it must have been no earlier than 1870, when celluloid was invented.

The guide pins were all thoroughly cleaned, and the frames fitted with new felt. The pedals were treated with teak oil, and the sharps set-off in black shellac. All the pedal springs were corroded, but not bad enough for replacement, so they were treated with a generouns coat of Kurust.

The pictures above show the stop action on the right hand side. It operates the three sliders at the rear of the organ. The three triangular metal plates are cranks which transfer the in-line movement of the stop knobs to a transverse movement to reach the long trundles operating the sliders. The crank supports which were seriously damaged on removal needed to be completely re-made. I modified the crank pivot arrangement to make it easier for replacement in future. The steel pivot pins were replaced by phosphor-bronze. The Open Diapason stop knob was replaced by a new one, and all the other knobs were treated to a waxing to enhance their engravings. The top end of the F# bass pipe just shows on the right.

Work then began to restore the roller-boards (above). These are specially made for this particular instrument, used for transferring the vertical movement of the keys to a different place horizontally within the organ. There is a set for the manual action, and a set for the pedal action. They were completely dismantled, blocks re-set or replaced, and the pivot pins were either cleaned and coated with Kurust (leaves a rust-proof zinc coating) if they could not be removed, or replaced by phosphor-bronze pins if they were heavily rusted.

Now came the job of restoring all the stickers and trackers. They are fitted with guide pins or threaded wires at their ends, which were all replaced by new, made from phosphor-bronze. All metal-only pull-down wires were re-made from phosphor-bronze wire, and threaded on my thread-rolling machine. This doesn’t cut the thread, but rolls it between hardened die wheels, so no metal is lost.

The items on the right are the staple parts of mechanical action. The threaded wire is phosphor-bronze, and is made from straight lengths. The one here was made up in the workshop for the main chest pull-down. The button is plastic, half the price and longer lasting than leather buttons which rot over time, especially in damp conditions as was experienced in this building. The oval felt pad was custom-stamped in the workshop for a cushion between metal hooks, all of which are shown in the picture (below left).

Below centre: These four actions are transferred to the right of the chest from the left side of the keyboard. Some low notes are placed on the right to help balance weight distribution. Below right: the eight upper pedal notes which get their sound from the lowest eight notes on the manual keyboard. These stickers push up under the backs of the keys. This kind of action is called “pedal pull-downs”, as they appear to pull the keys down.

The only action part to be done now was for the F# pedal pipe mounted in the back of the organ, lying horizontally. This was a single-pallet box (below left) connected from the reservoir by a short lead tube, actuated by crank and tracker from the pedalboard (below centre and right). The cover plate was seriously damaged on removal, so it was re-made. The pallet was re-covered with felt and leather, and new guide pins and spring were made from phosphor-bronze. The same treatment was given to the two main bass chests, one of which also needed a new bottom board.

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