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W. Bell 1895 Reed Organ

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  • Larason2
    replied
    Thanks Rodney and Ed!

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  • edkennedy
    replied
    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.

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  • Rodney
    replied
    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

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  • Larason2
    replied
    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!

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  • Larason2
    commented on 's reply
    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.

  • DiapasonDan
    commented on 's reply
    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
    replied
    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?

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  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    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

  • Larason2
    replied
    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.

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  • myorgan
    replied
    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

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  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    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 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

  • Larason2
    replied
    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.

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  • Larason2
    replied
    I do have a vernier caliper, and I’m currently cleaning all the reeds, so maybe I’ll be able to contribute!

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  • DiapasonDan
    replied
    I have another question related to my reed organ research and documentation work. I've been collecting measurements and photos of reeds from different Canadian organ makers over time. The idea is to better understand which reeds are compatible to be interchanged between different organ makers, with the goal to help supply missing reeds for restoration projects from my spare supply -- and to attempt to piece together some history about which reed makers supplied which organ makers over time.

    Here is my progress so far on this work. It's perhaps a bit ambitious, given how many different types of reeds were made for the many different organ makers, but at least for now I'm having fun with it, lol.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing

    If you happen to have a micrometer handy, let me know the dimensions of your reeds so that I can add them to the spreadsheet. Also send a close-up photo showing the rivet design, which I'm using to help identify them. I only need width and thickness, since length varies. Measure both the tip and tail of the reeds, as shown in the diagram in the spreadsheet, as there can be some variance.




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  • Larason2
    commented on 's reply
    Thanks! I’m leaving the bedding felt for now, but I’ll have to pull it apart if I’m getting ciphers from it! Thanks for letting me know about the ROS database. I’ll just have to wait! Now that I know that the rug is probably from the 1870’s, I’ll try to make a needlepoint replica of the pedal carpet instead of the rubber coverings I had planned. So a lot of work there too!
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