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Restoration of a Chamber Organ

Pipes and completion

Once the organ’s action was complete and working from the manual and pedal keys, the next stage was the pipework itself. I started from the back, working with the open diapason first. The wood basses were largely okay, just needing dusting off inside and out and greasing their stoppers, but the metal pipes were a very different story. All metal pipes were very carefully inspected and rounded out where they had been "pinch" tuned. Many had been badly split at the top where they had been repeatedly cone-tuned in and out. Coning out is the accepted way of raising a pipe's pitch but done too many times can split the metal. Once that happens the only solution is to re-solder the splits again, or by introducing a tuning slide. That latter method was religiously avoided with this organ, as it would compromise its historic value.

The Dulciana pipes were, on the whole, longer than necessary, and cone-tuned outwards, and their tops resembled trumpet bells. It’s possible that this rank replaced an earlier one (maybe a reed) when it was a barrel organ, but was of a slightly lower pitch. On the larger pipes I have cut slots and tongues for tuning without any trouble, shown on left, (a few already had tongues) and I have slightly shortened most of the smaller pipes and coned them inwards, which is better for metal strength and prevents splitting at the top edge. One of my tuning cones is shown at right, cast in bronze.

An unconventional remedy I used for treating a pipe that was damaged to the extent that it failed to tune flat enough – it was too short – was to glue a small piece of felt inside the top. It had the effect of lowering the pitch, so it could be tuned using the conventional cone method. If not too much felt is used the timbre is not affected.


Re-fitting the case pieces was a bit of a challenge. There was no internal framework for the case to be fixed to: it just sits on the floor, built-up in layers. I had levelled the organ itself, so I would have to see how the two would fit together again.

Firstly I levelled the plinth as near as I could without making it look silly, then worked upwards. The central beading which runs across the top of the music desk sits directly on the lower panels, so I had to create a support for this near the blower, so the lower side panel can be removed easily for access to the blower box, without the panels on top of it pushing downwards preventing the lower panel going back again. Above this beading the back and side panels sit directly, screwed together at the corners, without any internal frame for support.

The swell shutter frame sits on the ledge above the music desk without any other support, so I fitted one side frame (with the center panel removed) and tied it to that and then put up the end pipe tower and screwed them together - all display pipe are dummies made in wood. The picture (below left) just shows the string at the top. Then I did the same on the other side. The side panels are now be easily removable for tuning access to the end sections.

Once the pipe towers were both in place, a beam could be fitted between them, locking the shutter frame into position. That beam would then be the anchor point for all the other front panels to hang onto.

That left the front tuning access, which had to be through the shutter assembly: the frame cannot be removed easily. The usual way to access a shuttered box is to remove the shutters individually, but these were fixed from the inside. So before re-assembly of the front I cut slots into the frame on one side to allow each shutter to be individually taken out. I lined the shutters with felt so they operate relatively quietly.

It was now an easy matter to take out five of the shutters to tune the pipes within (above right). Tuning had been done with each rank when fitted, and again upon completion of the work. All that remained was to refit the central display piece, containing the smaller dummy pipes. It was very heavy, but hooked into place easily enough.


Manual 51 notes    
Open Diapason 8 14 lowest notes from A 37 pipes
Stopped diapason 8 A 51 pipes
Dulciana 8 from Tenor C 39 pipes
Principal 4   51 pipes
Twelfth 22/3   51 pipes
Fifteenth 2   51 pipes
Pedal 15 notes    
Bourdon 16 8 notes: pull-downs 7 pipes
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