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W. Bell 1895 Reed Organ

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  • #16
    Alright, here is the measurement of one reed, and a picture. The reed was 10.6 mm wide, and 2.3 mm thick at the tip (I forgot to also measure at the tail, I'll do that next time I'm cleaning). My caliper only does one decimal place of a mm, I'm afraid! Here is a close up of a few reeds once they've been cleaned. I am quite happy with the mineral oil and toothbrush. It did a pretty good job. To get some of the green oxidation off though, I had to scrub with paper towel and my thumbnail, but otherwise they came off quite clean.

    Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
    Former: Yamaha E3R
    https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

    Comment


    • myorgan
      myorgan
      Super Moderator
      myorgan commented
      Editing a comment
      Larason2,

      I enjoyed the photo–I've seen some of my reeds, and the tip of the tongues were curved in an "S" style (half above and half below), so it was nice to see one of yours the same way.

      Regarding the oxidation, I seem to remember
      SubBase
      ff Fortissimo
      SubBase providing another remedy at one point, and that struck me as a better choice. The green oxidation is a chemical reaction. Sometimes the chemical you use can de-stabilize the reed rather than neutralizing the chenical reaction that's taking place. For some reason, I think it had something to do with vinegar or maybe even ketchup? I'll look for it.

      Michael

  • #17
    FOUND IT!!! Casey talks about how to clean and de-burr reeds, but sadly, he didn't include a way to stabilize reeds so they wouldn't corrode again.

    https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...ng-organ-reeds

    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)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

    Comment


    • #18
      Thanks for posting Casey’s discussion on the subject. It’s something I’ve put a lot of thought into. Gellerman and the discussion on the reed organ society website both advocate methods where the corrosion is cleaned off chemically. My friend in Edmonton who also restores reed organs is convinced these methods make the brass brittle. On its own, brass doesn’t really corrode very easily. Recently I’ve been restoring a number of swords, knives and tools that had rusted. Here too, there are a number of different methods advocated. However, most of them involve water of some kind, which if not dried immediately causes rust to form. Still, once a sword is polished, it is usually protected with a thin layer of mineral oil rubbed on, then wiped off with a cloth. The mineral oil really sticks to the metal, and you need quite a bit of dishwashing detergent to get it off. So I have been removing rust on the steel items I have been restoring with 220 grit sandpaper and mineral oil. It leaves a layer of mineral oil on the surface, which really resists corrosion, even for steel. When I saw that the reed tongues weren’t very dirty, I decided to try it on the body of the reeds. The blue corrosion comes off with not much scrubbing with the mineral oil, and if anything is going to help the reed resist corrosion without hurting it, it’s mineral oil. You can buy mineral oil at pretty much every pharmacy or grocery store. The mineral oil also is quite successful at getting dirt off, if the dirtiness of the paper towels after wiping it off is any indication! So maybe I’m crazy for using a toothbrush, mineral oil and paper towel, but I think the reeds look great, and I don’t think they will corrode anytime in the near future. For the coupler rods that rusted, I also scrubbed the rust off with mineral oil and 220 grit sandpaper. Interestingly, in my organ, the coupler rods had a greased piece of fabric overlaying them, so the oiling strategy seems to have been used by the organ’s original designers as well.

      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
      Former: Yamaha E3R
      https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan
        Super Moderator
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Larason2,

        You've made your case well–especially with discussing the sharpening of knives. Now I remember my father sharpening knives. The mineral oil was put on the whetstone, and Dad would use it to sharpen the blade, then use a cotton cloth to clean off the excess oil (no paper towels because they can scratch). I would think microfibre cloth would work as well.

        In either case, I'd set the cloth aside, both for fire reasons (discarded oily cloths can spontaneously ignite), but also so I didn't use the oily cloth on glasses to clean them.😎

        Michael

      • DiapasonDan
        DiapasonDan
        ppp Pianississmo
        DiapasonDan commented
        Editing a comment
        My concern with using mineral oil on reeds is it could create a grimy layer that would cake with dust over time and alter the pitch, thus needing more frequent cleaning and tuning. As you likely know, suction reed organs are like giant vacuum cleaners with a lot of dust passing through and collecting in there over time.

        In other applications I use oil to protect bare steel. For example, I found a very rusty hatchet and cleaned all the rust off. I then coated it with oil (canola oil, which smells better than mineral oil and is nicer on the skin). However, a hatchet doesn't see much dust to build up a grimy layer when it sits in storage in its case for most of the year.

      • Larason2
        Larason2
        f Forte
        Larason2 commented
        Editing a comment
        You're probably right, but dust or dirt on the reed doesn't bother me as much as oxidation, which permanently destroy the reed. Whether you protect the reed with oil or not, dust and dirt will collect on it! I can see myself pulling the reeds out every 10 years or so to clean them, and the grime will probably come right off with more mineral oil. After cleaning them, I wipe them again so a minimal amount of oil is left on, just like when I oil my swords and knives.

    • #19
      Thanks Michael for your contributions! That’s a good point about oily rags. I don’t let my paper towels get too sodden with the oil, and I just use the minimal amount needed, so hopefully there are no garbage can flare ups!

      Thanks Dan for those spreadsheets, some pretty interesting data! I measured a reed tail, and I didn’t notice any significant taper. 10.5mm wide and 2.3mm, so within the error of the instrument. I also determined the pitch. I measured 2 A’s at 447 Hz. The reeds all look pretty tuned up at the base of the reed, so I wonder if there was a pitch lowering at some point?

      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
      Former: Yamaha E3R
      https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

      Comment


    • #20
      I thought it was time for an update! Since the rubber cloth has arrived, I thought it was time to finally take apart the bellows. One thing I found was a stamp with the name G.A Barker on the side of the bellows. I wonder if that was the last person to restore it? I guess I owe them for keeping the organ long enough to get it, and for at least using hide glue on the bellows! The bellows were very well recovered, so there is that. There was CS Barker, who invented the Barker lever, but he died in 1879 in England. Maybe a son or grandson?

      The bellows cloth at least was able to be ripped off, so that made my life easier! There was probably about 100 of those tiny tacks, for which I kept all the ones that didn’t break. There were a few surprises. One was that the exhausters had neither stiffeners nor springs! The rubber cloth was left to lie floppy, and was just supported with some leather straps. That doesn’t seem optimal to me! So, I’m going to recover with stiffened rubber cloth like Rodney Jantzi did on his Bell. I’d like to use the closing springs I bought, but I’m not sure how to install them given they weren’t designed for one. I’ll probably still use some leather straps just in case, though Rodney didn’t use any. The reservoir had two steel springs that still have a lot of oomph! I’m going to test them, and if they still have at least 20 lbs left in them, I’ll probably just reuse them. The wood was protected from the springs by some carpet that has completely disintegrated, so I’m going to replace it with some felt.

      I thought the spring was integrated into the wood and was poking out, but I was mistaken! What was there was a brass rod 3/16 thickness, probably meant to reinforce the springs. It was broken on both sides, and the screw holding it on one side was broken as well! Still, I’m planning on replacing it with brass again, as it isn’t that easy to bend 3/16 steel without breaking it. I suppose I could heat up the bend, but I feel like that’s too much work and I’ll probably burn myself! I’m going to reinforce where it previously broke with some JB Weld, so I don’t have to replace it again. I’m going to see if Blacksmith bolt can repair/replace the broken screw, along with any other broken screws I find.

      Currently I’m half way through scrubbing off all the old hide glue. The beauty of hide glue is that once it all comes off, and the surface has dried, it looks perfectly sized! Ready for regluing! I’m still thinking if I should separate the bellows boards from the base board. Rodney did, and it sure would make gluing on the exhauster rubber cloth easier. It looks like it might be attached with hide glue, so I’m going to give it a try with a spatula and a hair dryer. If it’s easy to take off, that solves my dilemma! I think I’m going to leave the original hinges for the back reservoir board. They still look in pretty good shape!

      I’m still working on cleaning all the reeds! I’ve been doing a little at a time, and they sure are shinier with the mineral oil! I suppose that’s one advantage of this treatment, you can break down the work. Still have to repair the vacuum cleaner holes, recover the pallets, and replace all the felt that needs replacing. Then I’ll start refinishing the cabinet!

      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
      Former: Yamaha E3R
      https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

      Comment


      • #21
        It has been a while since I followed up with this thread, it looks like you are making good progress! Reading back, I see that you are in the process of cleaning reeds and there were some concerns about oxidization. Any subject of cleaning reeds will open up more opinions than reed organs looking for homes! So I'll offer what works for me and what I learned:

        1. A clean reed (just smooth and dirt free) is a happy reed.
        2. A shiny reed might look good, but I have never heard a difference, other than polishing and handling will remove the voicing curve which creates more harmonics (this is bad when it changes the sound of a flute into a kazoo).
        3. The sound of a reed has nothing to do with the colour of the reed (tarnished or not), the reed is only a catalyst of creating "pressure points" of air. If there is anything on the tongue that does not belong, such as dirt or residue, it will affect the weight of the tongue, which will affect the amplitude at which it vibrates, which affects the cycles per second that it vibrates at, which affects the pitch/tuning, which affects your listening experience, which affects your happiness lol :) - which takes us back to point 1.
        4. It's your instrument and you are the restorer - if your cleaning method works for you, then go for it! :)

        Whenever I remove corrosion, it will be on the reed frame only where the mute was touching the brass between the pull slot and rivets.

        Gluing bellows/exhausters - you are correct that it is much easier with less blind spots to remove the foundation board. It can be done with the foundation on, it just takes more time to do it well. To remove the foundation, it can take up to an hour or more of slowly wetting the seam with hot water with ammonia, slowly working in a wallpaper scraper or large putty knife. If you rush it, there will be tearing, which is common anyway, it just means you should glue the tear-out back in or filler, depending on the break. When joining it back together, I have always used a leather gasket instead of gluing it. Just in case you did not see this, here is a video on exhauster rebuilding:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znMhNqHrD2c

        Every Bell I have seen has used ribs on the exhausters. I'm wondering if someone else already serviced the bellows in the past. The spring arrangement is also suspect from original, although your springs for the reservoir sound good, maybe even a little over powered - so keep them as is.

        On one of the Bell organs, I found a name of Putzler stamped in it, it could have also been Putzier. I never did find out why these are stamped there, maybe they were the assembler? Who knows...

        Well done, and best of luck as you continue with your restoration!

        Rodney
        To play a reed organ or harmonium, it helps to disconnect your feet from your brain and connect them to your emotions.
        Most of all, be creative, make music and have fun...


        Website: http://www.rodneyjantzi.com/

        Comment


        • #22
          I have found name stamps with the same name in a couple of places in the 1861 Smith Melodeon I'm restoring. I suspect it's the name of the person who originally assembled the organ.
          Ed Kennedy
          Current Organs - Conn 645 Theater, 1861 Smith Melodeon

          Comment


          • #23
            Thanks Rodney and Ed!

            Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
            Former: Yamaha E3R
            https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

            Comment


            • #24
              Hello everyone, I thought I would let you guys know about the progress I've been making on a little side project related to this organ. I bought some of the stop knobs from Steves, and while they are nice, they are not an exact match for the current stops. So, I decided to buy a small wood lathe, and it has been an adventure since then!

              The lathe I got was a $200 CDN one from Home Depot. I wasn't really willing to spend any more than that for it, as useful as it has turned out to be! I also didn't want to spend too much money on tools for it, so I bought two old chisels from second hand stores, and an old rusty file, and sharpened them on my inexpensive bench grinder (also from Home depot!).

              There were a few mis-steps along the way. At first, I wasn't quenching the metal when sharpening, which "blued" most of them, which according to a wood lathe book I bought after the fact, isn't a good idea! I also started with some Hemlock, which turns out is way too soft. Instead, I found some inexpensive Maple, which has been turning much more nicely. I also needed some practice before I got the right technique! To make the profile of the knob face, I grinded down the file into the correct shape using my dremel tool.

              So here are the preliminary results. I'm quite happy overall with how it turned out! I need 7 of these, so a few more to make. I also ended up making it a little too wide (I eyeballed it when I should have been using my caliper!), so I will probably need to make 7 more, but otherwise I think it is just right!

              Here is a picture:
              Click image for larger version

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              Here are the improvised tools! I use the big chisel as my roughing gouge, and the small chisel as my carving tool. The file is dremeled into a sort of die to cut the edge of the stop face.
              Click image for larger version

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              Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
              Former: Yamaha E3R
              https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

              Comment


              • #25
                Another short and interesting update. I decided to experiment with gluing on polyester felt with hide glue. The objective was to glue on some felt to provide bushing for the reservoir springs. At first I tried roughing up the surface of the polyester felt with some sandpaper, but that decidedly did not work! The felt came right off. So trial 2 was to punch some holes in the felt with a small bit of leather and my leather punch. Then, I gooped on a goodly portion of hide glue over the holes, put on a plastic bag, then weighted it down with a scrap wooden board and a toolbox. After about 10 minutes, the polyester felt was very well adhered! I still have to let it cure 24 hours, but this looks like a viable strategy for some applications. Downsides are the surface where it is attached is not felt covered, and it uses a lot of hide glue. Upsides are that polyester felt is cheap and easily available, and is otherwise quite durable. Removal and re-preparation of the wood is easy, because it’s hide glue. I’ll still use wool felt in mission critical areas, but I think sparing use of this would be ok using this technique.

                Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
                Former: Yamaha E3R
                https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

                Comment


                • #26
                  You are doing well! Thanks for sharing your experiments which serves well to inform even the oldest of the old timers.... 😉, meaning me.
                  Nico
                  "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request...

                  Comment


                  • #27
                    Another mini update! My wife bought me some real wood turning tools for Christmas, that was very generous of her! They make a huge difference, much easier to get just the right shape, and less problems like overheating and nicks in the wood. So, thanks to that, I have completed all 7 remaining stop face holders. Now I just have to make the 1 missing knob. Then to paint them, and they will be ready. I got some one step interior paint from Home Depot in black I intend to use to paint them.

                    For the actual white faces, I bought some 0.125 inch white opaque acrylic sheet from Canadian Laser Supply. The plan is to cut it into the 2.36 cm circles needed, then hand paint the letters on using Black Testors model paint (which I can get from Michaels), and an appropriate very fine paint brush. I have also thought of getting some acrylic paint instead, but I am familiar with the enamel paints used for models, so I think it should be appropriate. I used the "What the Font" app to find a suitable font, called "Wedding Regular" by Monotype. It's not perfectly like the Bell original, but close enough to help me figure out how the missing letters should look like. I bought it on the "MyFonts" website, and produced a sheet of paper with a replica of all of the stop knobs on it with the new font. The plan is to try to get the missing letters to look like the same style as the original.

                    I took my first shake at trying to glue the bellows cloth onto the reservoir with hide glue, but I didn't quite make it! I have a heater in my garage, but because of the very cold weather here currently, I wasn't able to heat the garage enough so that the hide glue didn't gel almost immediately after application. I still tried to glue it on, but I wasn't very satisfied with the result. I also tried to use my pipe clamps to hold the reservoir in shape, but when I moved them to apply the cloth, the wooden sides moved, and the cloth wasn't even on both sides. So I ripped off the bellows cloth, and will try again! The beauty of hide glue!) The plan for trial 2 is to use a block of wood to keep the bellows at the right extent, and use a heavy tool box to keep the top of the reservoir against the block. Then, I'm going to use a blow drier to heat the whole surface of the wood the glue is going on for some time before actually applying any glue. I tried small patches of wood with the blow drier, which worked for a small patch, but it took too long to heat other patches before adding more glue. I guess I can wait until the summer to do this job, but I'm too impatient! I was going to use the old springs, but they are pretty rusty, so I ended up using the new springs I got from Steve's, which are exactly the same size (though still very similar spring strength!).

                    Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
                    Former: Yamaha E3R
                    https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

                    Comment


                    • myorgan
                      myorgan
                      Super Moderator
                      myorgan commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Larason2,

                      For the font, check out various Diploma true-type fonts. Just be careful, as some fonts come with virus payloads attached–depending on the provider.

                      Michael

                  • #28
                    Well, here are the knob faces and a spare knob. That completes the turning work! They're not perfect, but as perfect as I care to make them!


                    Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
                    Former: Yamaha E3R
                    https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

                    Comment


                    • #29
                      In the late 1950's when I lived in Wales, I came across a delightful Bell two manual reed organ built in the late 1890's. The sound was extraordinary, as I recall, better than the Estey of the time. It was 70+ years ago but I clearly remember some of the stops that set this instrument apart from many others. It had two manuals and on the lower manual it had a full compass 8' and 4' set of reeds, plus the single octave 16' Sub Bass. The upper manual had a full compass 8', 4' and a 2' set of reeds. The 2' reed ( called Piccolo) went to the very top note. I have never seen a reed organ with a 2' stop on it. Most noteworthy was a stop called a Cremona 8'. It had a distictive Krumhorn, Clarinet-like sound far different than the rest of the other stops. The full organ with manual coupler and octave coupler of the lower manual gave an amazing sound.

                      Comment


                      • Larason2
                        Larason2
                        f Forte
                        Larason2 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks Antoni! I don’t think this organ has quite as many ranks as the one you’re referring to, but I think it’s going to sound great once it’s done! It doesn’t have the Cremona of some Bell organs, but it does have the Euphone, which is a rank of 16’ reed equivalents just in the top half of the manual. That with the sub bass, coupler and the 2’ reeds is going to sound very full, I’m sure! Looking forward to it!

                    • #30
                      Hello and well done so far. I have followed this thread with interest and enjoyed the effort that is obviously fired by enthusiasm for the hobby - and the beautiful instrument.

                      As for the stop faces and fonts here is my two-bits worth:

                      Consider printing the stop faces on suitable paper (anything stiff enough to withstand the following steps, even thin white plastic will work)
                      Since you are by now quite proficient with turning, make some holders with the same or slightly smaller inside diameter of the wooden stop face holders. These can be disposable as they may be sacrificed in the next step. If you can make them from aluminium even better (but in this case the inside needs to be lined with a thin layer of Vaseline or similar.

                      Place each printed stop face, carefully cut out (a suitable round punch will leave a perfectly round face and smooth edges) to match the recess in the mould and place them inside the mould to lie exactly flat. Note that the Vaseline lined moulds may contaminate the printed paper and another method or type of paper may be considered (You get the idea).

                      Mix a quantity of clear resin and carefully pour some into the mould on top of the printed stop face. Ensure a smooth and glossy upper face. The total depth of the resin can be as thin as about 2mm.

                      After the resin has set and hardened, carefully break away the wooden mould and do some sanding on the underside of the resin covered stop face to get it smooth and even. Be careful not to damage the paper, just get the underside smooth enough to fit properly in the stop face holder. Trim the sides to be exactly round and to fit perfectly into your newly turned stop faces. Glue them in lightly.

                      Now you will have beautiful glossy stop faces that will not scratch, fade or fall off...

                      I am sure a few heads are spinning right now....

                      Good luck!

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

                      Comment


                      • Larason2
                        Larason2
                        f Forte
                        Larason2 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks Nico! That’s a very good suggestion, and I’ll certainly try it if my other two ideas don’t pan out! At the moment I have two leads on the problem. One is I bought a 1” drill bit with an open center, and I’m going to try to cut out an acrylic disc using that. Then I bought a very fine paintbrush from michaels, a 20/0 lining brush, and I’m going to try painting the letter on with that like they were done originally. Failing that, I got the stop faces printed on an acrylic sheet by a company called Best Canvas. It was only $20 for an 8x8” sheet, and I fit close to 40 stop faces on it. the challenge will be cutting them out! I saw a package of epoxy at the hardware store that looks like it will work with your technique, so that is next on the list if the others fail!
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