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1899 Kimball Parlor Organ

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Reed cleaning - dusty reeds from 1899 Kimball reed organ

    Here's what some of the reeds looked like coming out the main (diapason/melodia) side, which is on the back. I had to put a light at a low oblique angle in order to show all the dust and debris on them. I used cotton swabs, one or more per reed bed, to gingerly poke around in there and pull out as much dust and dirt as I could.

    Nothing was particularly problematic, but I did find one broken reed on the celeste (front) side. It's the high B, so I'm not very worried about it. I also have a note that rings slightly, but only RARELY. I've looked at and put it back without change, so I'm going to ascribe this to the organ's character for now.


    Click image for larger version

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    That surface the reeds are sitting on was made from the packaging for a Roland USB-MIDI adapter. The organ has some rather profound scratches from past removals. They're unsightly but don't interfere with the closing of the swell shutter.

    In other news, I got the videos in from Johnson Music and have watched the first one - "Reed Organ Cleaning & Repair." It's pretty terrific. The example organ is a WW Kimball - with the metal plates saying so on the pedal bases - don't know if that's older or newer, but it's VERY similar to mine. I see how the bottom of the mechanism works now, although I still haven't grasped how it's getting the various sounds of the stops.

    The "Principal" stop speaks from the front side of the organ, too. I was surprised that some of the reeds in the celeste set (treble, from the F below middle F) are bigger than the reeds BELOW in the Principal range.

    The bass reeds have a very satisfying low growl now. They also have a slow buildup and collapse, which is going to take some getting used to. That might go away when I get the bellows fixed. And, hmm, that might be why the Principal has the smaller reeds - so when it's pulled WITH the diapason folks don't run away shrieking.

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Fortunately, the reed puller works on all the reeds. Milne's book (crazy book about how to BUILD a reed organ) says that new organs commonly came with a reed puller somewhere inside the cabinet. (Cearly found the clips for one in his M&H.)

    Found out that the high B that is not sounding on the celeste is due to a broken reed - the tip of it is missing. Guess I'll find it in the windchest or below later. The great reed cleaning caper is in progress... Found a spider ball in the the lowest note on the celeste side. Tomorrow I'll work on the main reeds.

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  • Organfella
    replied
    I used a 6" nail and machined down the head. However, some reed cells are narrower so I had to make a few of them to fit all the cells and reeds I have come across so far.

    Nico

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Saw on YouTube where one helpful fellow made one out of a nail (took a reed with him to the hardware store) and a file handle. Worked to pull the reed out and push it back in.

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  • Organfella
    replied
    Good going there Lamar! You are lucky to have found that reed-puller. I had to make my own....

    Enjoy!

    Nico

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    OK - I couldn't stand it... pulled the non-sounding D reed out and it had a piece of dusty spooge upon it. Lightly dragged a microfiber cloth along it and got a black smudge. Put it back in - ah, sweet relief, it works! Verified that all the keys were working and then got the idea to try all the celeste. It has a few more that need cleaning, but that can wait for the cleaning campaign. The reeds are easy to pull with the D-shaped-end tool I found in the organ. I used a thin plastic sheet from a packaging box to guard against scratches and that worked fine.

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Thank you, Casey and Rodney!

    Casey, the hinges are indeed stapled in. Johnson Music shows an image of them in their catalog. Hmm... they never called me back about that DVD.

    Rodney, I have the Presley book with me and the Milne book should be in next week. I am embarking on the great reed-cleaning campaign with my new slightly overkill ultrasonic cleaner and the ground-shipping only watch parts cleaner to use in it. May be here tomorrow. I think I can just put the "hooks" inside the knee pedals and get another couple of inches clearance on them. That would barely show. I've read the "Aunt Maude" series - I see the original writer has an illustrated version on DVD now. Need to find that again. It's a pleasure to hear from you here - I've watched a BUNCH of your videos on YouTube.

    I am going to go in there with my duckbill pliers and see if I can tighten up the existing hinges. Failing that, I will go with piano hinge. I've seen some brass-centered hinge somewhere... maybe at Van's Piano.

    Gentlemen, I am appreciative of your support in this endeavor.

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  • Rodney
    replied
    Hello SP,

    Congratulations on the ‘new’ Kimball! It looks like you are on the right track of getting this organ back to good playing condition. Take baby steps at first, read, and ask questions – a perfect start. The Horton Presley book is probably the only book available on DIY restorations, but there are some errors that should be noted… When he mentions ‘white glue’, replace that with ‘hide glue’. White glue will work, but if it fails or needs to be undone you will have a lot more work ahead of you separating and cleaning up modern glues as opposed to hot hide glue, liquid hide glue or liquid fish glue.

    The only document that I had to get me started was the previously mentioned ROS article by Jim Tyler, I still like it the best. Casey was instrumental in answering questions, and I still strive to restore as well as he does!

    Dead notes are usually just dirt stuck in the reeds – carefully clear the dirt away from the tongue and in most cases it will work again. Reed are quite resilient, even if they look ruined (other than broken) they can often be brought back to life.

    Regarding playing reed organ, everyone is different and you will likely find what works best for you, even if you need to make risers for the organ. Michael Hendron (youtube search mustel1887) towers over me in height, yet he has no problems playing any reed organ. If the knee levers are too close together for you and this is not a historically significant instrument then I would not have any reservations relocating the knee swells and modifying the linkages to suit your needs.

    Regarding treadle hinges, sometimes the sleeve around the pin can be squeezed to tighten them. I have had success (so far) falling away with historical replacement parts with this, and using a blank steel piano hinge, cut to the entire width of the treadle, and drilling 6 – 8 holes in it for mounting. To date these hinges have remained quiet and wiggle free.

    All the best in your restoration journey,

    Rodney

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  • SubBase
    replied
    There are no more old-stock treadle hinges. China would make them, but minimum order 100,000 pieces. lol.
    The old pattern with the steel "staple" and brass hinge was great because it was squeak-proof. I have used brass piano/continuous hinge for treadles. It works OK, but will it last 80-100 years?
    Casey

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Thank you, Casey. The screws that hold the front lower panel on are non structural and the holes "wallowed out." Since I'm going to be working down there, I should replace the hinges on the pedals. Right now, I have to remember to hold my feet in just the right place to make the pedals quiet.

    Just looking in there with a mirror and flashlight, it looks like they were pretty industrial. Do you or anybody have a preferred source or model # for good hinges? (I looked through them at Lowes, but they don't seem to be heavy-duty.)

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  • SubBase
    replied
    If the screw hole is weak, you can improve it by working in some 5-minute epoxy. It hardens the loose fibers. Wax the screw before reinstalling, or the threads might cement themselves. heat+ candle wax.
    If the screw hole is beyond that, mix wood flour with the epoxy, fill and re-drill when it is completely hard.
    Or drill out 5/8 and glue in a face-grain plug of harder wood (they liked poplar, but it is not longest-lasting for screw threads.)
    Casey

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Thank you, Mark - duly noted. Still, I think I need to raise the organ an inch or too. Pretty easy the way it's constructed in front.

    Today I glued the the cracks in the music rack and added reinforcement in the back - must be a stress point that fails every 100 years or so. I'll address the fine-line cracks that still show when I work on the finish.

    The acoustic fabric seems to be a rather stiff linen. It's still intact, but I think a slightly fuzzy modern scrim cloth in burgundy would look good in it.

    Some of the screws are magically placed and don't actually "bite" into anything. In the past I've "fixed" piano music racks by filling the rounded-out holes with wood putty and pilot drilling new holes. I noticed at Lowes that the wood putties have gotten high-tech with fletching-like fiberglass (probably an industrial waste product) and poly (another magical term). I would like for this overhaul to be a 75-year one, so I need to consider whether this stuff will eventually attach the substrate -- old wood! Anyway, I'll be dead and gone by the time it needs this again.

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  • Mark Carter
    replied
    I would certainly recommend an original, sloped bench, as it automatically makes you adopt the correct posture. Enjoying your organ discovery: power to your elbow(s)! Regards, Mark.

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  • Silken Path
    replied
    Unfortunately lightning came in on my phone line and took out some equipment, including my modem and router. Right now I'm using a 6 GB mobile hotspot. It won't last long with much Rodney. Rodney keeps his elbows pretty high and has a proper sloped bench - or a wedge shaped cushion. I haven't decided yet.

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  • Organfella
    replied
    I agree that perhaps the older folk were a tad smaller in stature....

    I am 6'4" and also sport a pair of #12's, plus I have my own version of a sizable gut. Adjust the height of the stool so that your elbows are about 90 degrees with hands resting on the manual. If your legs are able to fit under the manual cradle it will be fine (gut permitting). One cannot play properly while sitting uncomfortably. Remember the knee swells that need the knees to operate them freely, so they do need to be under the manual.

    Finally watch some more videos and take note of the posture and position of the players.

    Have fun!

    Nico

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