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bell reed organ 1888, pitman (plus other) questions

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  • bell reed organ 1888, pitman (plus other) questions

    hello everyone, i am new here and hopeful to gain some insight. so thanks in advance

    So, i acquired a Bell Piano and Organ Co. reed organ from 1888 the other day, seemed to be working somewhat at the place i got it from. got it home with the help of a friend and played for a while and inevitably discovered a few issues.

    1. when all stops are disengaged i still have sound coming from the middle of the keyboard, not all keys.
    2. when the two highest stops are engaged there is no change to the sound, also no change to the sound when the levers these stops connect to are manipulated.
    3. not all keys make sound regardless of stop configuration, all of which are in the last octave of the treble
    4. when no keys are pressed and i pump the bellows i am getting sound (also only from the treble)

    of all these problems, no.4 is the one that is the biggest issue as it stops me from being able to play

    so, yesterday afternoon i took the top off, took the keyboard out and had a look at the pitman rods, one seemed to be missing. I found it had fallen through the guide hole and was just leaning up against the one next to it, i managed to retrieve it with a small set of tweezers and realign it in its hole. but it wont stay there, just keeps falling through, the rest of the pitman rods seem to press onto springs beneath them but this one doesnt seem to have a spring under it.

    i couldnt see any obvious way of accessing where that spring might be so i am stuck.

    does anyone have any idea how i might be able to get in there without ruining anything, it was terrifying taking everything off to that point and i dont want to break anything.

    i have zero experience with reed or pump organs other than playing them occasionally, i have however helped restore a similarly ages piano so i have a basic understanding of being very cautious around very old things...

    please help me...

    i will take some photos to accompany this post

  • #2
    Stoodnitski,

    Welcome to the Forum! I look forward to your contributions here. I see you purchased a pump organ that only works in its original space, and once you move it, it doesn't work properly any more!

    Seriously though, there is a spring and/or pallet under the pitmans, and that one is probably either missing, or sometimes if the key is struck too hard, it goes off to the side, and the key doesn't return. You will probably have to remove the action to access that. It also sounds like you may have some stops disconnected inside the organ (#2 above). On many pump organs, the furtherest stop to the right is usually a treble coupler, and it adds the octave above the key you're playing. Congratulations on knowing the proper names for many of the internal parts–that's better than where most people (including me) started!

    To help you temporarily until our current pump organ experts can weigh in, check these people's threads:
    • Tom (Nutmegct)–Has posted several threads with photos of his restoration work. His posts are here.
    • Joshua (Valiant Farmer)–Recently acquired an organ, and his restoration efforts are here.
    • Nico (Organfella)–Has many pump organs and regularly advises others on their repair. His posts are here.
    • Casey (SubBase)–Professionally restores reed organs and his advice is gold. His posts are here.
    I apologize if I've left people out (like Rodney). I'm sure these guys can answer your questions, or can refer you to places where you can get answers.

    Again, welcome to the Forum!

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 10 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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    • #3

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      • #4

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        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          Funny! Someone wanted the user to think it had pipes. Thanks for all the photographs.

          Michael

      • #5
        On what you call the "pitmans" - where's the circular bottom cap on the missing one, like on all the others?

        Tom M.

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        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          @nutmegct,

          Isn't the only function for that "circular bottom cap" for the coupler? If I am looking at the picture correctly, yes, that coupler piece is missing, but I see the top of the "pitman" just under the coupler mechanism. If it is that low, that indicates either the rod is too short (i.e. taken from another place), or the spring has either broken or disconnected inside the chest.

          Never having been inside the chest (like you have), I my questions are based on conjecture.

          Michael
          Last edited by myorgan; 05-01-2020, 07:20 PM. Reason: Fix spelling.

        • stoodnitski
          stoodnitski commented
          Editing a comment
          by the circular bottom cap, im guessing you mean the larger round piece maybe a quarter or so down the rod that the coupler presses down, it is still on the rod, the rod itself doesnt seem to be connected to anything, ill go take a photo now

      • #6
        Thanks Michael. I get confused with the word "pitman" - to me, it's the rod most organ builders call a plunger. Maybe the pitman the OP says is slipping is a plunger? A photo of the plunger area might help.

        Comment


        • stoodnitski
          stoodnitski commented
          Editing a comment
          dont quote me on what it is! haha, i was reading as much as i could online today trying to figure this out and thats just what i reckoned was what they were talking about

      • #7
        Originally posted by nutmegct View Post
        On what you call the "pitmans" - where's the circular bottom cap on the missing one, like on all the others?

        Tom M.

        Comment


        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          Well, your photos are too close now, but we understand what you're doing (holding it up in the 2nd photo). I will stand by my first conjecture regarding the spring for the valve being either broken or off to one side.

          Michael

      • #8
        so is that just a case of accessing the springs and putting them right? or is this far more complex than that?

        Comment


        • #9
          Originally posted by stoodnitski View Post
          so is that just a case of accessing the springs and putting them right? or is this far more complex than that?
          In order to access the springs, you will need to remove the action. If you do that, you're liable to find other issues (i.e. reed cells, bellows, etc.).

          As I stated before, you're going further than I've ever been before. I don't feel qualified to guide you from here. I highly recommend you view the threads I linked above, and search advice from others.

          Michael
          Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
          • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
          • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
          • 10 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

          Comment


          • #10
            Welcome to the mob! The Bell is one of my favorite makes and it has a nice sound (all reed organs have a nice sound ). In any event you have come to the right place for assistance - some have already proved that with their usual valued contributions.

            Those pitmans now - it is very important that they work properly, particularly their sliding action through the holes. some restorers use graphite lube to facilitate this but the main factor is that they must be smooth and fit nicely in their holes. Another important point is that they must go into the same holes as where they came out because their respective lengths determine the levelness of the keys after re assembly. I have replaced broken or missing pitmans with bamboo knitting needles of appropriate diameter. They are very strong but have a tendency toward warping. They are also almost always not perfectly round and I used a slightly thicker diameter and sanded down the circumference to obtain the roundness and diameter required. I even used plastic knitting needles as an experiment. They work better but again are prone to wear which makes them rough and promote stickiness. After that mouthful I would add my conclusion that wooden dowels are perhaps the best option.

            As you have already heard and perhaps realized, you will likely have a bit of work to do on this one, after all, she is more than one hundred and thirty years old and will demand some TLC. So... while you are at it, consider doing a full restoration of at leas the bellows, feeders, treadles and action. The outside can be gotten to while the old gal is playable.

            Again, welcome and do keep us updated as you progress.

            Nico
            "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request...

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            • #11
              Update:

              So along with this, I am lucky to have found a great resource in Darragh Connolly, who last night spoke to me for almost 2 hours about everything i could think of plus some incredibly helpful tips for doing some things i need to do.

              So my next plan of action is to continue to clean everything, having examined her further it seems that her bellows we reconditioned at some point, pressure is very stable when playing and the bellows indeed to exhaust extra pressure after playing for a minute or so. Along with the straps looking very new and being made from seatbelts.

              once i have everything on top clean i will take off the action, Darragh (with the help of a video call) showed me where all the screws that i needed to remove were, and which ones i definitely should not remove!

              He advised me to examine and depending on the condition, clean or replace seals as well as lubricate (with graphite) the grooves where the springs move on the pallets.

              After i do that, i intend to clean all the reeds, ive heard that soaking them in ammonia is a possibility? if anyone here has any other tips for cleaning that would be very much appreciated.

              Once all that slog is done i will reassemble and see where she is at. Darragh informed me that some of my concerns may not be as concerning as i originally assumed. So im hopeful that i will be able to bring her up to playing standard relatively quickly (at which point i will probably play too much and find new problems, haha)

              thank you all for your advice and thoughts so far, its nice to find such a knowledgable community of helpful people

              Darragh, if you ever read this by-chance, thank you so much for spending so much time with me on this!!!


              will keep you all updated with how i get on
              thanks again

              Comment


              • #12
                everything seems to work! thanks for your help, im sure i will be back with more questions soon! for now though, i can play!

                Comment


                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Do you mind telling us how you fixed the dropped key issue and the ones leaking in the treble? You know–curious minds and all that!

                  Michael

                • stoodnitski
                  stoodnitski commented
                  Editing a comment
                  yeah, so for the dropped pitman's/rods/plungers/god knows, i took the whole action off and just had to put one pallet that had fallen off, back on, and realign another one. gave everything a little check over and the leather seals seem in surprisingly good knick.

                  for the leaking notes in the treble, the piano wire spring for the mute had broken so when the whole action was assembled i think just the weight of the iron rods that come from the stops just kept the mute open a little bit. luckily i have a very good natured and loyal piano technician and tuner that i have been using for years, he popped over and gave me the right size piano wire and we put the new spring in, had to do it twice because we didnt realise that the tension in the spring comes from it being slightly twisted. he also was kind enough to give me some new felts for the keybed, as well as some graphite lubrication.

                  i still cant seem to get any sound from the highest key, on both sets of treble reeds, this i dont mind so much, but if its an obvious answer to anyone let me know!

                  i went through the dead keys after all that and cleaned the reeds, which brought all of them back singing

                  i missed a couple reeds that need cleaning in the back but i just wanted to put it all back together and see if it worked and fit in my room, ive been playing it pretty much since it landed in its spot, and i couldnt be happier

              • #13
                Great work you have been doing there! Bells are very good organs. I'm originally from Canada, so I may be biased...
                If you look at this link, photo three, you will see at the back of the organ there are some wooden pipes that reeds speak into, and they called it Pipe Diapason. They may have had some Karn labels available to replace missing ones! I guess someone might use Scribner Tubes and call the stops Pipe Diapason!
                As to the stops not changing sounds, this may help.
                "Pipe" Diapason - an 8' "foundation" stop.
                Dulciana - called a "muted", borrowed or soft stop, it lifts the Diapason mute halfway.
                Celeste - it is a slightly detuned rank of 8' reeds that when played with Diapason gives a Celeste-ish sound - very beautiful!
                Echo - again, another soft stop, off Celeste.
                You have probably seen this video (and the others in its series), but it will help explain some things on video better then I can in writing!
                Hope this is helpful!
                Joshua

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