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NutmegCT
08-29-2018, 06:49 PM
What do you do when it's too darn hot outside for yard work and MG driving?

You restore an 1874 reed organ, of course!

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Because I'm interested in "old tech", I was given this 1874 George Woods cabinet organ. Been in one family since new - and never repaired or "maintained". With all the stops drawn, and full pumping - instead of a big loud chord, it sounded more like choking a squirrel.

A work in progress:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/cHvp4tHM5QtPufQ99

I've spent the last week literally pulling it apart (the organ, not the squirrel), cleaning, and removing corrosion from the few steel parts. The wood and steel are in remarkably good condition. Next up: replace the cracked rubber cloth around the bellows, the leather valves, and the fabric tape hinges on the mutes and swells, and clean the 100+ brass reeds

Yesterday I even found the workman's signature on the back of the keyboard.

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"T. Campbell July 27 1874"

Sure hope I can get it all back together eventually.

Basil
08-29-2018, 07:09 PM
Now that is very very very cool!

JPSmit
08-29-2018, 08:34 PM
definitely a noteworthy project.

Related: This is my cousin (we've not actually met) he used to be flown all over the world to voice and tune pianos - now he lives in China where he runs a piano tuner school.

https://www.thevoiceofthepiano.com/

DrEntropy
08-30-2018, 05:22 AM
Wow. Good for you, Tom.

Got a grin out of the carpeted treadles. Hope you can bring it back to full voice. :thumbsup:

Popeye
08-30-2018, 09:18 AM
That is neat!! Keep us posted!

(And how, precisely, do you know what a choked squirrel sounds like?? We might have to call PETA!! :wink-new:)

NutmegCT
08-30-2018, 09:22 AM
Choked squirrels? Sounds a bit like white mice:


https://youtu.be/F9nGyPz9uT0

Popeye
08-30-2018, 09:35 AM
You cruel people! First the squirrels can't breathe, then the mice get squashed. Next you will be stepping on cockroaches!!!

(All in good fun, of course - great video, thanks for the laugh!!)

drooartz
08-30-2018, 09:39 AM
Excellent project! I'll be curious to hear how your restoration goes.

I've got a similar project to tackle some day. We have in our family a Melodian (small "portable" reed organ) that my grandfather bought from the salvation army sometime in the 1930s or so. He paid $25 for it (a lot of money for him at the time) and apparently went back a number of times before he purchased it. It's still at my parent's house in RI, but I'm working on a plan to get it out here. There are a few restorers in New England that we're looking at, but if those don't work out it'll be on me to figure it out. Needs new bellows for sure, not sure what else. Our best estimate is that it's from the mid 1800's.

NutmegCT
08-30-2018, 09:46 AM
Drew - the real "melodeons" were the small reed organs that were popular before the Civil War. After then the bigger "parlor organs" gained the advantage.

Three forms of melodeon.

Early 1800s:

https://www.reedsoc.org/DBPictures/ros-0213.jpg

"Piano style", closer to 1860:

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"Traveling" melodeon, often used by itinerant teachers and preachers:

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Those are much simpler to restore than the larger parlor organs like mine.

Basil
08-30-2018, 10:24 AM
Tom, you are a man of many surprising and eclectic talents!

NutmegCT
08-30-2018, 10:52 AM
Tom, you are a man of many surprising and eclectic talents!

Basil - unfortunately, I have no talents at all. Just many interests, trying to keep my brain working!

Tom M.

PAUL161
08-30-2018, 12:20 PM
This is not ours as ours is presently in storage, but identical to it. It's an Estay of the late 1800s. All I had to do was restore the bellows valves, it plays very well, the wife used to play it around Christmas time, when we lived in our big old Victorian house. Kinda miss that. PJ

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NutmegCT
08-30-2018, 12:45 PM
Paul - meet your Estey's twin.

https://www.reedsoc.org/Database/scrollfulldetails5.asp?regno=0490&Choice=2&fs=ESTEY

https://www.reedsoc.org/DBPictures/ros-0490.jpg

AngliaGT
08-30-2018, 05:03 PM
We have a 100+ year old box piano,that the Wife just HAD
to move cross country.Needs tuning,etc.
I was hoping that someone would steal it!

PAUL161
08-30-2018, 05:52 PM
There is a slight difference between ours and the one I pictured, ours is solid cherry with a more reddish color. I couldn't play it if the keys were numbered! :highly_amused:

Basil
08-30-2018, 06:20 PM
Our upright grand is well north of 100 years old.

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NutmegCT
08-30-2018, 06:33 PM
You can almost follow the progress of the American middle class, by listing the keyboard instrument in the "parlor".

First, the small melodeon. 1800-1830
Then, the piano-style melodeon. 1830-1860
Then the parlor organ. 1860-1900
Then the "vertical grand" piano. 1900-1940
Then the spinet piano and electronic organs. 1940-2000.

The horizontal grand piano never quite caught on for homes, other than for mansions. Seems to have stayed in the concert hall.

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It was our growing prosperity that allowed the upward mobility - and caused all those old melodeons and parlor organs to end up in the basement.

pdplot
08-30-2018, 07:19 PM
I have a grand piano that I bought back in the 1970's - a Steinert. Knockoff of a Steinway, so good that Steinway sued them and won back in the 1930s I believe. Mine is a 1929 by the serial number. The pin block is cracked but somehow it (almost) stays in tune except for an occasional pin slipping, but I have a wrench that I bought many years ago from the American Piano Supply Co. - in fact I used to tune pianos as a hobby. A wrench and a hammer puts that pin back in the block to stay for a while. You can't buy from APSCO now unless you're a certified technician. I tried to buy a couple of new mutes - no dice. I have never learned how to read music and play at the same time. Only problem - you can't even give away a piano today unless its a Steinway - nobody wants them. it's a shame.

DavidApp
08-30-2018, 10:25 PM
Tell me about it. We have an old player piano in the basement. The player part is missing. Our Daughter started to play on it before she took lessons and we bought a real piano that all the keys worked on.

On the Organ thread I acquired a Hammond electric organ. The church my wife went to had this organ and they had spent a lot trying to keep it in operation. They finally gave up on it and asked me to take it to the dump. Stopped at home and out of curiosity plugged it in. Almost nothing worked but looking inside it seemed simple enough. Just big circuit boards and not much else. So I pulled a couple out and cleaned up the contact strips. When I plugged those back in a few things worked. Carried on like that till almost everything works.
It now lives in the basement with the player piano.

This came to mind as I was plugging stuff back in.

David

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARJ8cAGm6JE

NutmegCT
08-31-2018, 07:53 AM
Dave - thanks for the reminder.

Daisy, Daisy ...

drooartz
08-31-2018, 08:20 AM
Drew - the real "melodeons" were the small reed organs that were popular before the Civil War. After then the bigger "parlor organs" gained the advantage.

Ours is that early style. My mother dates it to sometime in the mid 1800's:

https://www.drooartz.com/public/melodian.jpg

Here's what my mother told me about it: "My father (born in 1904) bought this melodeon before he was married in 1937 at the Salvation Army and the story is that he went back a dozen times before he bought it. The cost was $25. He was a professional musician and a piano tuner and repairer (necessary job). I remember that from time to time he would take it apart and replace the bellows."

My goal is to get it out here to Utah and in working order again so that I can play it. I've never heard it in full song, it makes some noise but the bellows are bad so it doesn't really sing. I know they're not worth much in actual dollar value, but this one has been in my family a long time and deserves to play again.

NutmegCT
08-31-2018, 08:50 AM
Drew - thanks for the photo. That's called a "lyre leg" melodeon. It's the typical five octave F to F keyboard; the two foot pedals are volume (on left) and bellows pump (the longer one on right).

It's likely the music rack has been replaced, as most of those pre-war instruments had much fancier racks.

I can't quite make out the maker name in the center of the vertical board right behind the keys. There were hundreds (literally) of reed organ makers throughout New England back in the 19th century.

By the way, $25 at Salvation Army for something during the Depression - that sounds like a lot of money!

Tom M.

DrEntropy
08-31-2018, 09:32 AM
Great respect for those who play a keyboard. And those who make them live.

Growing up I don't recall not having a piano or organ in the house. Mother was the one to play, brother and I were "enrolled" in piano lessons as kids. "Volentold". I couldn't even play Chopsticks now if my life depended on it.

The keyboard progression went from an upright to a huge Hammond organ and several portable electronic keyboards. Brother inherited the talent for music, the only keyboards I'm proficient with are like the one I'm typing on now.

JPSmit
09-01-2018, 09:54 PM
The keyboard progression went from an upright to a huge Hammond organ and several portable electronic keyboards. Brother inherited the talent for music, the only keyboards I'm proficient with are like the one I'm typing on now.

Likewise Doc. My mother bought an electric organ that came with 6 free lessons. I had taken 2 years of music lessons so I was the logical recipient except the day came and I wanted to play with my friends so, sent younger brother instead - lights went on, he learned organ, then piano, then woodwinds and high school and sea cadets, then a few years playing sax for the changing of the guard on parliament hill, then a degree in music and a music teacher for many years before becoming a principal. Still plays a few gigs - he and his wife have a small local band - and, interestingly he now repairs woodwinds - pads etc in his spare time.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA8XtUFjsgY

DavidApp
09-01-2018, 10:44 PM
That was a great piece. Enjoyed it.

Thank you for sharing.

David

DavidApp
09-27-2018, 11:28 PM
This guy is building a marble machine. This is where he got the idea from.

Automatic Piano and Violins

David

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs0mP2cOmJs

NutmegCT
11-12-2018, 09:49 PM
Just so you guys don't think I'm a total slouch ...

Still lots of parts and systems to repair and re-install, but here's the first test of the organ after putting the lower action, cavity board, swell, and keyboard back on today:


https://youtu.be/MyX1w8s7cJ0

All the bits and pieces were literally strewn around the house and workshop for the last four months. Slowly coming back together.

Need to do a lot of reed tuning. Discovered that the rear swell wasn't even hooked up when I got the instrument, so I fixed that too.

Not quite an E. Power Biggs (!), but making progress. Tomorrow I re-install the stop system, tremolo, sub bass, and celeste. If all goes well, I hope to have the instrument back together by the weekend.

Tom M.
1874 George Woods

Bayless
11-13-2018, 11:22 AM
Nice. My late father-in-law restored pipe organs as a hobby and even built a very nice one into his home.

pdplot
11-13-2018, 01:12 PM
Phantom of the Opera. Nice work, Tom. JS Bach would approve. I was a lousy organist. The foot pedals got me.

YakkoWarner
11-13-2018, 08:16 PM
I have a later 1920's Estey that I picked up from a charity resell shop about 15 years ago - I was looking for an inexpensive piano and saw it sitting OUTSIDE (under a shed roof but still not really protected)...it is all hardwood and even just sitting on essentially the outside porch it was playable, so I gave them the $150 and hauled it home. The bellows definitely leaks but the reeds and keys assemblies are all in decent condition. One of the stop knobs was broken off, but the shaft is still intact and it enables/disables a vibrato like device that was essentially a big wooden paddle on a small vacuum motor that spins, so the instrument is playable without that particular stop knob. You have to pump like mad to keep enough vacuum on the system which makes playing harder. It is very pretty though, being mostly solid hardwood. It needed some tuning and one reed was broken, it could still use a better tuning but I got it reasonably close.

If I remember correctly one of the key differences between the melodia and the reed organ is that the melodia is a pressure instrument using positive pressure, whereas the reed organ is actually a vacuum instrument that uses the bellows in reverse to suck air through the reeds.

I can't really do anything with the bellows because someone (before I owned it) apparently decided to use GLUE in conjunction with the screws to hold the lower back panel in place, so even with all the screws out I cannot remove the panel to access the bellows. I am guessing this may have been done to solve a vibration/rattle issue since I have run across similar things on big PA speakers from time to time (I've made "gaskets" from old sweatshirts in a pinch to go between bass drivers and the cabinet in a pinch to solve a rattle/buzz), and I can't imagine any other reason for doing something like that. I have no idea how to get that back panel off without doing substantial damage, and the only woodworking wizard I know is 200+ miles away down at the coast so hauling it down there isn't really practical.

NutmegCT
11-13-2018, 08:32 PM
Yakko - many folks back in the 1960s would use a small vacuum cleaner (with a long hose) to replace the belllows. The hose would go onto the flat board (the "foundation") that lies horizontal over the bellows system.

Most American melodeons and reed/pump organs used "vacuum" - not pressure. The European versions (which are often called harmoniums) used pressure. Some folks believe the pressure system gives more volume, but less control. Vice versa for the vacuum systems.

You can get a good listing of various Estey models here:

https://www.reedsoc.org/Database/ROSIntro.asp

Here's a 1920s Estey model:

https://www.reedsoc.org/Database/scrollfulldetails5.asp?regno=0125&Choice=2&fs=estey

I'd be happy to take a look if you want to PM me some photos.
Tom M.

PAUL161
11-14-2018, 10:41 AM
As I posted once before, we have a turn of the century Estey organ. Been in storage and hasn't been played since we sold our 1860 Victorian home 20 years ago. Very pretty Cherry wood. Wife used to play it at Christmas when the gang was all there. Many happy times to remember. :encouragement: PJ

Jerry
11-14-2018, 11:09 AM
Very interesting project. My wife and I rebuilt my mother in laws traveling melodian. It was an interesting project. when we got done it actually worked except for one key. The searching on the internet said some debris was caught in that key and play the organ really hard until the air dislodges it and blows it into an area that won't interfere. Since finishing it, it has never been played. Just sits there.

Basil, we have a duplicate piano to yours. The year is stamped on the sound board, 1892. It is so heavy.

Jerry

YakkoWarner
11-14-2018, 03:58 PM
Yakko - many folks back in the 1960s would use a small vacuum cleaner (with a long hose) to replace the belllows. The hose would go onto the flat board (the "foundation") that lies horizontal over the bellows system.

Most American melodeons and reed/pump organs used "vacuum" - not pressure. The European versions (which are often called harmoniums) used pressure. Some folks believe the pressure system gives more volume, but less control. Vice versa for the vacuum systems.

You can get a good listing of various Estey models here:

https://www.reedsoc.org/Database/ROSIntro.asp

Here's a 1920s Estey model:

https://www.reedsoc.org/Database/scrollfulldetails5.asp?regno=0125&Choice=2&fs=estey

I'd be happy to take a look if you want to PM me some photos.
Tom M.


I'll try to get some after the holiday and then get someone to explain how the sending thing works.....

Basil
11-14-2018, 04:34 PM
Just so you guys don't think I'm a total slouch ...

Still lots of parts and systems to repair and re-install, but here's the first test of the organ after putting the lower action, cavity board, swell, and keyboard back on today:


https://youtu.be/MyX1w8s7cJ0


:applause:

All the bits and pieces were literally strewn around the house and workshop for the last four months. Slowly coming back together.

Need to do a lot of reed tuning. Discovered that the rear swell wasn't even hooked up when I got the instrument, so I fixed that too.

Not quite an E. Power Biggs (!), but making progress. Tomorrow I re-install the stop system, tremolo, sub bass, and celeste. If all goes well, I hope to have the instrument back together by the weekend.

Tom M.
1874 George Woods

:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:

drooartz
11-17-2018, 04:53 PM
Nice progress, great to hear it play again. That's got to feel good.

Our melodian is currently with a restorer up in Maine (Nick Orso) and is in many pieces now. He'll get the innards all restored and I'll haul it back to Utah in April if the plan plays out. Nick's current research puts it at 1842-48, pre Civil War.

I'm really excited to get to play it, after seeing it all these years and never hearing it. I'm not much of a keyboard player but I can do enough to get by. Will be fun to work it in on a recording, and just to have it to play around with.