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Thread: Introduction and Advice on Purchasing a Reed Organ

  1. #1
    ppp Pianississmo ColoradoJoshua's Avatar
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    Smile Introduction and Advice on Purchasing a Reed Organ

    Hello people of the Organ Forum!

    My name is Joshua and I'm from the great state of Colorado! (haha, no surprise there) I graduated high school back in May of this year and I've been a huge fan of organs for as long as I can remember.

    Over the years I've had the opportunity to hear various organs at different events and churches. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to briefly play both a church organ and a theater organ in town, but because I haven't had ready access to one that I could practice regularly on, I would still classify myself as a beginner organist. There is a guy in town who offers pipe organ lessons, but they're $80 an hour and that hasn't ever been feasible for us. I'm at an intermediate level when it comes to the piano, but the organ and the piano are very very different instruments. I'm confident that I could teach myself organ if need-be as I've already done so with quite a number of other instruments, but there again is the whole having-access-to-one problem.

    12 to 13 years ago, a family friend gave me an old electric Kimball Valencia home organ from the 1960's. I've had that ever since, but now various components are starting to give out and it's slowly giving up the ghost. The main reason I've kept it is for sentimental reasons, but I've wanted to replace it for a while with something that would fit my needs and taste in music better. I've never really been a huge fan of electric organs. There's just something about a raw sound coming straight out of a pipe, reed, or bell that just can't be replaced digitally. I've always really loved pipe organs, but being a poor student with little space to work with and very little budget, owning one of my own has never been a possibility for me, obviously.

    Recently, reed organs came on my radar when I ran across one at a local thrift shop. That one was in pretty bad disrepair, but after playing it, I instantly fell in love with it. While they can sound similar to pipe organs at times and have that classic church organ feel, they're much more affordable and fit into a space the size of a piano. I've been researching them (and organs in general) on and off pretty diligently since.

    That being said, I was wondering if you guys could give me some tips about things to look for when buying one (signs of anything that would classify one as being a "bad egg" that's not easily fixable or general things to look for), fair price, etc. so I can make the smartest, most cost effective, long lasting choice I can. Currently I don't really have access to a garage or workshop with the tools required to restore one and I really don't have the budget to do that either. I know a lot of things go into appraising one of these (history, age, condition, manufacturer, etc), but I was curious if anyone had any tips as far as fair price for a fully functional organ (or one that just needs ultra simple repairs) and maybe things that would be easy and inexpensive to fix that wouldn't require much in the way of tools.

    I'm also curious about the best, safest, most cost effective way to transport one and any specific tips as far as upkeep or even learning to play.

    I apologize for the long winded post, but thanks in advance for any advice you're able to give!

  2. #2
    ff Fortissimo Silken Path's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    Hi, Josh - Welcome to the forum. It's nice to see another youngster (we have a few here) interested in organs. You can read about my adventures with an old Kimball in the link below. I'm no expert with reed organs at all, but some folks here ARE.

    I'd think it would be important to hear an organ play - see if it sounds when lightly pumped with a high and low stop pulled. The organ may have "flat" pedals, meaning the straps to the bellows' feeders is broken. You may be able to reach up inside and feel the straps, and get a pump or two in that way.

    Just looking at the way my Kimball is made, I'd think it would be best to transport a pump organ upright. A strip of felt and tension holds the reeds in place. If that felt is gone to dust, the reeds could be banging around in their cells. If a "swell" shutter (the long wooden cover closing out the reed cells) is missing or has a broken spring allowing it to flop, the reeds could fall out in a jumble. Of course, this should not be the case if the organ is playable.

    My other hint is to look for a reed organ with more than eleven or twelve stops (knobs). I found out that Kimball made organs in the same case shape as my parlor unit with more reeds and stops. Unlike pipe organs or modern digitals, a row of pull-stops does NOT mean there are thousands of combinations of sounds available. Far fewer. The reed organ can be "split." In other words, my Kimball has Diapason and Melodia coming from the SAME set of reeds. The bass goes up to the F below middle C (Diapason) and the rest of the way up with the Melodia.

    Estey was the biggest manufacturer. Kimball made 430K of them. Mason and Hamlin are up-market.

    This is RSoc - or the reed organ society.

    http://www.reedsoc.org/

    They have searchable databases with pictures and descriptions of reed organs. That's a great shopping aid.

    And this is just my opinion, but many folks advertising on eBay seem to think they have some rare and valuable antique. A reed organ is an old sort of rare, money-eating, time-consuming liability that can offer a spot of squeaky joy and melodic beauty every now and then. One forum member said that he'd been given great organs and bought $300 junk organs. Conventional wisdom is that a thing is worth what someone will pay. So be cautious and don't over-pay.

    Again, it's great to have you here. Please keep us posted with your search.
    -- I'm Lamar - 1999 Rodgers W5000C - Conn 643 Theater - Hammond M3 and E-112
    -- 1899 Kimball pump organ (forum thread) -- Allen TC 4 Project (forum thread)
    -- Public domain hymn search: https://songselect.ccli.com/search/r...t=publicdomain

  3. #3
    ppp Pianississmo ColoradoJoshua's Avatar
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    Thanks for responding!

    Looks like your advice confirms a lot of my research.

    There's actually a bunch of reed organs for sale on Craigslist around here and I definitely want to take a look at them and hear them play before choosing one. I've certainly been on the lookout for flat pedals as you said and I've heard of pieces falling out and going who-knows-where inside if you transport it laying down, so I'm definitely going to try not to do that. I'm just trying to figure out how exactly.. I currently don't own a pickup and an open trailer might be a little precarious, especially if it has a mirror.

    And yeah, I have been looking for organs with the most stops possible (sub-bass anyone? Haha) since I want the widest range of sound and I'm a big fan of the low end.

    I hadn't thought of using the RSoc as a shopping aid, so thanks for the tip!

    I found a fully restored, 18 stop organ for $300, which I'm guessing is a really good deal.. Problem is that it's several hours north of me and that was a hair more than I wanted to spend. Might be worth it though, if I can manage to get up there.

    I'll definitely keep everyone up to date on what I find. Thanks for the tips!

  4. #4
    ff Fortissimo Silken Path's Avatar
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    Ah - I can give you another tip, then. U-haul has a couple of vehicles that fit the bill for moving an organ. One is the small Ford van. They're pretty new and I haven't seen many of them. The other is the two-axle trailers. You'll have to find a tow-vehicle, of course, but the longer trailer is highly resistant to sway and has a nice ride. Both have low platforms - lift-over height is important to me. Getting a Conn theater organ up a ramp into the back of my truck in 100-degree humid heat (Charleston) nearly killed me and my teenage nephew.

    Mirror? Take the top off and transport it separately. My Kimball's top fit neatly behind the seats of my Dodge. It was held on by TWO screws, both visible from the front. I did carry the organ in the back, but it was only 60 miles and a nice day.

    I'm glad I got my current reed organ, but I'll wait for the next one.
    -- I'm Lamar - 1999 Rodgers W5000C - Conn 643 Theater - Hammond M3 and E-112
    -- 1899 Kimball pump organ (forum thread) -- Allen TC 4 Project (forum thread)
    -- Public domain hymn search: https://songselect.ccli.com/search/r...t=publicdomain

  5. #5
    ff Fortissimo SubBase's Avatar
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    a good starter instrument. https://cosprings.craigslist.org/msg...349832039.html
    Bulletproof, easy to fix, less than 100 years old. and just $50
    Casey

  6. #6
    ppp Pianississmo ColoradoJoshua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silken Path View Post
    Mirror? Take the top off and transport it separately. My Kimball's top fit neatly behind the seats of my Dodge. It was held on by TWO screws, both visible from the front.
    Oh yeah, duh. I forgot about that, haha. I'll have to bring a drill or screwdriver.

    That heat sounds painful. I'm glad to live in Colorado.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by SubBase View Post
    a good starter instrument. https://cosprings.craigslist.org/msg...349832039.html
    Bulletproof, easy to fix, less than 100 years old. and just $50
    Casey
    Oh yeah, I saw that one. Wasn't huge on the color or number of stops, but for that price I figured it'd be worth taking a look at.

    This is the one I'm currently interested most in:
    https://fortcollins.craigslist.org/m...384566763.html
    Would you consider that a reasonable price? I know that's hard to say without knowing many details.

  7. #7
    ff Fortissimo SubBase's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    https://fortcollins.craigslist.org/m...384566763.html
    This is a Cornish. They are known for an ostentatious display of stop knobs in relation to the minimal sets of reeds.
    They sold for very low prices, and had monthly payment programs.
    All that said, if you like the way it sounds, and can afford it...

  8. #8
    ppp Pianississmo ColoradoJoshua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SubBase View Post
    https://fortcollins.craigslist.org/m...384566763.html
    This is a Cornish. They are known for an ostentatious display of stop knobs in relation to the minimal sets of reeds.
    They sold for very low prices, and had monthly payment programs.
    All that said, if you like the way it sounds, and can afford it...
    Hmm, okay. Could possibly be worth looking elsewhere then. That one is two and a half hours away anyway and I don't really want to travel so far for something that may not be what I need. I really appreciate info like that because I don't know those things being very new to the reed organ world.

  9. #9
    ppp Pianississmo ColoradoJoshua's Avatar
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    This church organ just became available really close to where I live, has 15 stops, made by Hinners Organ company, and it's only going for $100. Worth checking out?

    https://cosprings.craigslist.org/msg...392406248.html

    Update:
    Just set up a time to look at it tomorrow. Did some research on the RSOC and I believe this model has a Sub Bass and a bunch of other great stops I was looking for! Will keep everyone updated.
    Last edited by ColoradoJoshua; 11-19-2017 at 03:58 AM.

  10. #10
    ff Fortissimo Silken Path's Avatar
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    Good luck, Joshua. The lack of more front openings (and that a church has it) suggests it is a chapel model. Look for cabinet openings on the back too, and don't be surprised if it has been electrified at some time.
    -- I'm Lamar - 1999 Rodgers W5000C - Conn 643 Theater - Hammond M3 and E-112
    -- 1899 Kimball pump organ (forum thread) -- Allen TC 4 Project (forum thread)
    -- Public domain hymn search: https://songselect.ccli.com/search/r...t=publicdomain

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