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  1. #1
    ppp Pianississmo WhatAreTheAudz's Avatar
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    Hello Hello

    Hey everyone,

    I'm new here! I just was gifted a Wilcox and White reed organ by a member of my church, and I've been figuring out how to get it up and running at full capacity ever since. I have a few newbie questions, though, and I thought y'all might have some answers.

    1. The organ is overall in quite good shape, but the bellows need to be recovered. I've found a few places online that sell bellowscloth, but any recommendations on where to find it would be much appreciated. Same with felt-- the stuff lining the reed bed seems to be mostly eaten away, as well as the lining around the bottom of the soundboard. It should all be replaced, but since it's so chewed up, it's hard to tell what it *should* look like, and therefore what thickness/type of felt I should use to replace it.

    2. The reeds could really use a tuning. Would it be better to attempt this myself, or try and find somebody else who knows what they're doing to handle that part of the restoration?

    2b. In addition to being out of tune with itself, the organ is also tuned nearly a half-step sharp. I'd love to be able to play this organ with other instruments, but recording anything on it/playing with anyone else live would be a pain. Retuning all the way down to A440 seems risky, but I also heard of people shifting all the reeds up a half-step on organs like this, then trying to find (or make) a replacement reed for the low F. Do I have any hope of success here, or should I just accept the pitch as is?

    3. I can already feel the reed-organ mania setting in (I want one with a sub-base so badly!). Anything I can do to save myself, or is it already too late?

    ~Audrey

  2. #2
    ff Fortissimo Silken Path's Avatar
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    Greetings, Audrey. Welcome to the forum. I'm new to reed organs, too, but I can get you started before the older and wiser members chip in. (Yeah, right.)

    This is the link to RSoc -- the reed organ society -- http://www.reedsoc.org/

    In the left menu, you'll see two database links. Check both of those and you may find pictures and specifications for the organ you have. The link under "Repairing reed organs" goes to the "Aunt Maude" essay. Always worth a reed. (Heehee)

    Books - Restoring and Collecting Antique Reed Organs" Horton Presley - is a 70s "TAB" book with good information. You'll find "The Reed Organ: It's Design and Construction" out there, too. This is only great for entertainment - it's about how to design and MAKE a reed organ. The author is slightly pompous. I ordered both from Amazon.

    Clean thy reeds! That may fix the (internal) tuning issues.

    The fellow I got my Kimball from also said the organ was a half-step high. The Kimball is something like A:443 and IS internally tuned to itself. I have a Roland stage piano that I can tune up to it.

    You may already have a sort of sub-base... The Kimball has some BIG bass reeds on the Diapason/Dulcet set. (Dulcet takes some imagination). The Principal reeds, of the same pitch, on the front side of the organ, are much smaller. They also "speak" faster. Those big reeds can get honkin' loud but take some air.

    I know what you mean, though. As well as selectable sub-base, I'd like more stops at different pipe lengths. (This organ is all 8'.)

    Retuning reeds isn't easy. Cleaning them isn't hard. (A little clam shell ultrasonic cleaner would suffice.)

    You might also want to suffer through my famous Kimball thread linked below. I started it right after falling off the rutabaga truck.

    When you find your organ at the reed organ society, give us the link to it, and we'll go peer at it. Photos are appreciated.

    There you go. You probably already knew most of that, but I'm practicing getting it all in one place.

    And, alas, I should be restoring my reed organ, but I bought an external suction pump and made up orifices to regulate the suction... so it's more like having power steering for the first time... and now I'd rather play it than work on it. Eventually something will BREAK and that'll be end of that!
    -- 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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