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Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

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  • Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

    Good afternoon everyone!

    As many of you may know from other threads I've posted on ... our church has decided to replace our pipe organ with a new digital one. I've considered taking the existing one (in part or whole) and installing it at my house. The only problem is it would have to go in my basement. It's the only room with space left in it. The longest pipes are the 8 footers as our 16 foot pipes are all mitered/stopped.

    However ... everything except the Bourdon and Great Open Diap. are winded from 2 main lines beneath the pipes that come up from the bottom. Is it possible to re-route wind lines so that it would enter from the side of the chests instead of the bottom? It's the only way I can get it to fit.

    Also ... it's 11 ranks crammed into a 700 square foot basement. Obviously I can't have it all open or I will go deaf. I know what it would do to the sound quality ... but I was thinking of putting up a wall in front of the pipes and leaving little slots for the sound to squeeze out (and a door so I can get to the pipes). Thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

    First, let me know if any celestes are not needed ;) Long term I'd love to add a string and flute celeste to my Reuter 5 rank.

    As to the basement install:

    My own 2 cents -

    Yes, a organ voiced for a church will hurt your hearing in a small space.

    I personally would put the pipes on one end of the room and the console all the way at the other end so that the sounds blend as much as possible before you hear them.

    that was my biggest mistake on my Reuter, we stuck the console literally right next to the pipes and it just about deafens you if you play the louder stops or full organ for more than a few seconds... thus I'm putting a 2nd console downstairs where it will sound much better at full organ etc.

    Point 2. If its concrete, keep it so, that is excellent for accoustics. My house has lots of soft wood and its just accoustically dead. I recently went to the trouble of installing wood floors downstairs and I get about 1/8 to 1/4 second of echo/bounce now. Which is better than none at all but still its not "live" at all.

    Point 3. Consider lowering the pressure so you can keep the organ out in the open and enjoy the open pipe dynamic. I'm just not a fan of enclosed/muffled organs.


    As to the there a way you can cut a whole thru the floors to let the bourdons go up enough so you didn't have to redirect the wind lines? (I have no idea if the wind lines could come in from the sides).


    • #3
      Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling


      One idea you might consider is to build a "rim" to mount on the floor underneath the chest with an access panel, like would be found on an Austin instrument. Make it whatever height you feel comfortable squeezing under, and then just leave the bottom boards of the chest off so you can climb in and access the chest. The rim would also allow you to mount a wind duct sideways. If you trust the chest and simply want to run a duct that way, a small 4" or 6" rim might do fine, At any rate, make it nice and strong so you don't get squished under it! (C:

      If you place the chest too close to the floor you will find that it is pretty hard to work on the action, which is a major bummer if you have to de-pipe it to work on it; therein lies one of the major stumbling blocks to the home-organ.

      What ranks are on this chest? Would it be feasible to introduce an offset chest to take the basses off so that the main chest can be high enough to accept the wind duct as designed?




      • #4
        Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

        Our basement has carpet, and ceiling tiles (removable). I'll have to take the tiles out to squeeze in more pipes. But I can't cut the floor above where the pipes would sit. The dining room table would then fall squarely on my noggin. My wife is always telling me I'm hard headed ... but I don't want to test it out that badly.

        The walls are concrete with a plaster finish. The ceiling tiles are reasonably hard. The floor is a nice thick/soft carpet.

        How much can you drop the wind pressure on an organ? I don't even know how you would do that? Well, I mean, I know you could drill a hole in the wind line to bleed pressure off. But I'm not dumb enough to do that.

        Here'sa question for you ... when you moved the Reuter to your house ... how did you handle/pack the pipes? I know that letting them just roll around in the bed of my truck isn't a good idea. But I don't know how to pack them either.


        • #5
          Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

          The chests are setup thusly:

          Great chest: Clarabella (8 and 4), Octave (4 and 2) and Dulciana (8).

          Swell chest: Open Diapason (8), Gedeckt (16 and 8), Oboe Gamba (8), Flute (4 and 2), Trompette (8)

          Mutation chest: 2 2/3 and 1 1/3 from same rank

          Great Open Diapason chest: (8)

          All of those are bottom fed.

          There are 2 bourdon chests that are fed from the side.

          When you talk about bottom boards on the chest and what not ... is there any where that has good diagrams of how unit chests are constructed? I really have no idea what the inner workings would even look like.


          • #6
            Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling


            For some reason I had it in my mind that you had some sort of Direct-Electric chest... If it isn't, it may be a bit more complex to put the chest up on a rim (although not impossible).

            At any rate, many, if not most E-P unit chests are fairly simple pouch chests where the pouches are dumped through magnets. Sometimes, the larger bass notes go through a primary valve to amplify the capacity of the magnet. At any rate, there are usually pouch boards or blocks that attach to the bottom (inside) of the toe boards, and are either tubed down to magnets mounted to the bottom boards with rubber tubing, or are channeled through the chest walls/dividers down to the same. There are some variations on this, particularly notable would be the one by OSI where the entire action will come out with the bottom board; pipe pouches and all.

            The second and more unfortunate kind would be the Kilgen style where the pouches are mounted in the bottom boards themselves where the magnets are. There are valve wires which go up from these pouches and are registered by guides. I take pity on anyone who in any way bends or disturbs the orientation of the wires, because they are an absolute bear; particularly when the builder will channel the pipe over from the valve such that it is no longer accessible from the top through the toe hole.

            There are also non-pouch chests that have hinged pneumatics, puffers, and other clever little devices, but operate more-or-less like #1. Everybody was different as it turns out.

            Really the two factors that will largely determine how you install your chests would be the following:

            1. Are the pouches channeled through the walls of the chest? If so, you do not want to bore a big wind-duct hole through the channels or you have big trouble.

            2. Are there exhaust magnets on the bottom boards? If not, you could easily put the chest on a rim.



            P.S. Who is the builder of the instrument?


            • #7
              Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

              1. Um ... no clue! Do you have a sketch or something I can look at telling me what the different parts are? Maybe like a cross section? I really have no idea what the pouches and different things are.

              2. What do exhaust magnets look like?

              At one point I was told it was a Holtkamp. But now our technician is backing off and saying possibly Wicks as well. It was bought used like 75 years ago so no one knows for sure.


              • #8
                Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling


                If the bottom boards are plain wood with nothing mounted to them, then chances are you have a Wicks-like Electro-Mechanical action.

                The visible portion of the Magnets would be cast pieces of metal, rectangular in shape... They have ported caps that unscrew or detach somehow, which contain a small disc of metal which serves as the armature which opens and closes the aforementioned port.

                By the way, since Holtkamp used OSI to supply their chests, they would be pouch chests where the action comes out with the bottom board.


                - N


                • #9
                  Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                  Dropping the pressure is easy. You find the big main bellow. If it has weights on it, remove some. If it has springs, then it is a bit more complicated, but you will have to lower the spring pressure. Either remove some springs, or change the mounting so they are further away from the surface of the bellow.

                  But the chance is great that the organ will sound completely different after you drop the pressure. Pressure and voicing go together.


                  • #10
                    Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                    [quote user="Havoc"]But the chance is great that the organ will sound completely different after you drop the pressure. Pressure and voicing go together.[/quote]

                    Yes they do!

                    I learned that sadly the other day. I tried putting some hymnals on the reservoir at church, hoping to increase the pressure.

                    The pressure was indeed increased (noticeably) after 8 hymnals, and still was even slightly louder when I removed 4. However, the mixture sounded just TERRIBLE so I decided to live with the lower pressure as opposed to living with the mixture sounding badly. The rest of the pipes sounded different, but weren't specifically bad.

                    In my opinion, you should

                    1. Remove that darn carpeting! Replace it with tile. Sure, hardwood floors are better than carpet, but in my opinion, tile is better than hardwood.

                    2. Put the console on one end of the room, and the pipes on the other, being as far apart as possible, so when the sound (or noise) gets to you, it blends and mixes as much as possible.

                    3. (here's what should cause some argument) In my opinion, you should put the entire thing in a swell box. Don't mess with the pressure, and don't spend any money trying to get the entire thing revoiced. Just put the entire thing in a box. And, if you're like NYCFarmBoy and want to be able to see the pipes, put glass shades on and install a light at the top of the box. Problem solved. You can control the volume and not blow your ears out but yet still get the majestic loundess and whatnot of a church organ.


                    • #11
                      Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                      Well, both tile and hardwood will be fun since this is a basement installation I'm looking at. I know the floor is reasonably level but not level enough for either without some work. I just checked last night and it would need some leveling.

                      I was just thinking ... maybe the best solution to my space and volumeproblem is to simply use part of the organ instead of the full thing. I mean ... do you really need 11 ranks in your basement?

                      Also ... what do you guys think of keeping 1 8' rank for pedal and taking the unison pitch up to 4'? Or is that just dumb?


                      • #12
                        Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                        I may have missed it in a cursory reading, but has anyone suggested mounting the longest pipes horizontally? The valves should still work, maybe with some adjustment. If not, then keep the chests horizontal, turn the bottom six pipes on their sides and run the shortest possible tube to the pipe base. I tmight slow the speech some, put pedal tocattas in the 16' octave are muddy nomatter what you do.

                        Re: pressure changes. There is a reason that 19th century organ builders developed Expression controls (Swell chamber>England, Crescendo roller>Germany, Ventil chests>France, combination pistons> US). You can't change volumn by changing pressure without disaster.

                        Let the whole basement be your swell chamber. Put the hole(s)for the shutters somewhere other than the dinning room, put the console in the living room, and lock the basement door.

                        Yes, you could probably get by with as few as 4 ranks highly unified, but it seems a shame.



                        • #13
                          Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                          If not, then keep the chests horizontal, turn the bottom six pipes on their sides and run the shortest possible tube to the pipe base.

                          If I understand your comment correctly ... you are suggesting that a plastic tube or some such flexible line be run from the wind chest to the bottom of the pipe? An intriguing proposition. As I see everything lying in my head I would imagine the run would be one to two feet. However, I don't think it would slow it down that much. There would already be air in the line. Opening the magnet would just have to start putting the existing air in motion which isn't really any different than what it is doing now. Very interesting idea. Would you just sit the pipes on the floor then? Would that cause any damage to the pipe? I can't imagine it would but I don't know if the shape of the pipe would shift over time from sitting flat like that. (remember ... I can play a bit but know very little of the mechanics of the instrument). Also, what would you use to adhere the new wind line to the base of the pipe?

                          I also have a CONN up in my living room (which sits above the basement). Again, I'm starting to wonder if I could pitch that piece of junk and put the pipe organ console in its place. I know what my wife would think of me cutting holes in the living room floor. But still ... it's carpet so it wouldn't be a big deal to put down some plywood flooring and stitch the carpet back up if we had to sell the house.


                          • #14
                            Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                            Yes either a flexible plastic or rubber tube, or some PVC pipe and couplers that you could cut, glue, and twist to fit. You would not want to use tubing so soft it would give you a ballon effect though.

                            Square wood pipes could be laid one on top of another on their sides, with some straps holding them togather to prevent unwanted sympathetic resonances, the bottom pipe with some supports to keep it about an inch above the floor, and Decon to keep out the mice.

                            A really soft (high Lead content) pipe might deform slightly, but the tonal difference should be undetectable;however for them I would place them in a support rack or usesmetal straps with a possible felt liner to hang them on the wall.As to attaching the ductwork to the base of the pipe, the adjustable metal rings on the tubes to your car's radiator will work fine except with the PVC, then use Duc(k)tape. This is all at the back of the pipework anyway so it shouldn't show.

                            All soundlike fun [<:o)]: Lee


                            • #15
                              Re: Retrofit Organ For Short Ceiling

                              Several issues have come up during the discussion. I have a pipe organ which once had the large bass pipes installed horizontally. These pipes are on offset chests so that the chest and pipes were changed for horizontal mounting. Springs were used to keep the pipe feet in the chests. This works OK for zinc or wood pipes. Lead, tin, or Hoyt metal pipes will slowly deform and somewhat flatten due to gravity. It is better to miter this type of pipe. I have had to make repairs to some of the Hoyt metal basses to correct the flatteneing that occurred due to the horizontal mounting.

                              I have modified a bedroom to raise the ceilinhg height to accomodate the longer pipes in the present installation. In a previous basement installation, the basement floor was excavated out about 3 feet deeper to accompdadte the pipe height.

                              A word of warning about reducing the wind pressure. To maintain the sound of the pipe, the mouth height needs to be lowered if the pressure is reduced. Also, the rank will go out of regulation, i.e. the uniformity of sound quality and loudness will vary from one note to another. Enclose the pipe work in a chamber as suggested in another post to control volume that way.

                              Another note. I originally tuned the organ to use a lower temperature (66 degrees) rather than the standard 70 degrees. The regulation of the pipe work suffered in that volume from note to note became irregular. Changeing the chamber temperature and retuning brought the pipe work back into regulation. Note that temperature primarily affects flues not reeds. I now have a heater in the chamber to maintain the pipe work at a constant temperature.

                              I originally thought the same way that sound from the pipes should directly enter the room. It works that way in a large church so why not do it in a home installation. In my first installation the pipes were directly at one end of a 30 foot room with a lightly constructed chamber wall. My hearing in my ear turned toward the pipes has diminished. In my present installation, the pipes speak into an entrance hall. The sound comes into the listening room around a corner which allows for a better blend and reduces the intensity. This makes for a simulation of the case in which the organ is mounted at some distance from the listener such as in a church building.