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1871 Estey Reed Organ-anyone help?

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  • 1871 Estey Reed Organ-anyone help?

    I am new to the topic of reed organs. I recently acquired an 1871 Estey Reed Organ that is in EXCELLENT shape. It has 3 treble ranks and 2 bass ranks with a 13 note sub bass. For an estey, I was surprised at the sound of it for its age. When we first got it, I vaccummed it out, replaced the swell shade felt and replaced the foundation board gasket. While the action was off, I taped the bellows intake shut and collapsed it all of the way-it held for about 1 minute. Because of that, it is very expressive with a good wind control. There were many markings inside which told me that it had been redone in the past. From the 1960s until today it was used as a stage prop.

    I just need some of these questions to be answered so I can really tear into this thing.

    First, which way is the best way to clean ivory key tops? We tried toothpaste and rinsing but it didn't do much.
    Also, many of the key tops are very rough and grainy, is there any way to fix that?
    Next, as you can see in the attached photo, there is a high c key that has been replaced with a plastic key top. It sticks out very bad, and where can I find look-like ivory key tops?
    Also, the left treadle's roller is squeaking very bad. What is the best way to lubricate it? It clacks and squeaks and it just doesn't want to stop.
    Also, at the treble side of the case there is a fairly large crack. How should I fix this?
    Last, what is the best way to clean reeds? Many of the reeds have caked on dirt. I have seen vinegar and water, does that work?
    I hope someone can answer some of these questions out there; I have found very little information on these.
    I would attach a video but I can't seem to figure it out.

    I am 14, is that too young for a restorer?

    Anyway, if anyone can answer any of these questions that would be great.
    Any other tips will be gladly taken as well.
    Thanks!
    PM

  • #2
    Preston,

    Welcome to the Forum, and I hope you continue to participate here.
    Originally posted by prestonmiller20
    I am 14, is that too young for a restorer?
    Absolutely too young. You need to be at least 13.5!;-)

    First, which way is the best way to clean ivory key tops? We tried toothpaste and rinsing but it didn't do much.
    Toothpaste is one option for cleaning ivory keys. With a little searching of the Forum, one can usually get answers to their questions. For starters, try this thread: https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...ivory-key-tops. You can see the results in the photos the poster took.

    Also, many of the key tops are very rough and grainy, is there any way to fix that?
    Many times the genuine ivory key tops are a bit rough and grainy. That's how you tell it's real. We've become used to plastic keytops which are quite smooth. Before we give you suggestions regarding the rough key tops, you should check to make sure that's really an issue beyond what one would expect of an instrument ca. 100 years old.

    Next, as you can see in the attached photo, there is a high c key that has been replaced with a plastic key top. It sticks out very bad, and where can I find look-like ivory key tops?
    I would suggest visiting a local piano tuner or restorer. You should be aware there are potential legan issues when purchasing or selling any ivory in the USA in the last 50 years. A local piano tuner should have old stock, and may actually have actual reed organ keys available.

    Also, the left treadle's roller is squeaking very bad. What is the best way to lubricate it?
    Is it wood against metal, or metal against metal? With metal, you should be ok with something like WD40 (WD=water dispersant). However, if wood is involved, it might be better to use graphite to lubricate the wood. In a pinch, a pencil with graphite lead will work.

    Last, what is the best way to clean reeds? Many of the reeds have caked on dirt. I have seen vinegar and water, does that work?
    There are probably better recommendations on here than I have, but I have heard that catsup will work well. IF you use water, you need to make sure you get them ABSOLUTELY DRY when done. Water can be destructive to organ reeds. Be very careful with the tongues, as they are the most fragile part of the reed. If one is broken, it is highly unlikely you'll be able to repair it.

    I hope that gets you started, and 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)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

    Comment


    • #3
      A recommended book is “the American Reed Organ” by Robert Gellerman. He has detailed instructions for every part of the restoration, including cleaning the reeds. Briefly, he recommends cleaning the worst of the dirt off carefully manually, then soaking in a cleaning solution, then letting them air dry. He recommends ammonia containing solution, but apparently there are others that might be suitable, including toilet bowl cleaner! If using that, I would dilute it quite a lot. After air drying, he recommends inspecting the reeds to make sure the edges are clear all the way around. He recommends doing them all by ranks, so you don’t mix a reed up.

      -Current Instruments: Allen Mos-2 225 RTC,1870's W. Bell Reed organ, 1890's Singer Chicago upright grand piano Former Instruments: Yamaha Electone E3R
      -Website: https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Thank you!
        I have heard of that book before, but I haven't found it yet.
        I am actually 13, yes, maybe a little too young for my age group.
        Also, does anyone know how to join the Reed Organ Society? Are there any requirements to it?

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Preston and welcome to the Forum young man! Its good to start young - many of us fossils started when we were older and regret not having started many years earlier.... Oh, yes, by starting I mean Reed organning...:->
          You mention the organ has a good sound and volume. If the notes are true and clear I would recommend you do not mess with the reeds. Many an ugly face have a good singing voice - meaning that even though the reeds may look dirty, they may still sound true. I have a cleaning solution which is very simple and easy but every reed should be removed and cleaned either singly or only a few at a time. This process naturally means undoing a lot of parts and fittings. Sometimes these old ones do not like it when their innards are scratched besides you may find some other things that need doing.
          You sound like someone who likes to have things neat and tidy - from your comments and questions about the key tops - by all means clean up and make the old organ look as good as she can but I would leave the reeds alone if they work properly.

          Good luck and enjoy your new treasure

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

          Comment


          • Larason2
            Larason2 commented
            Editing a comment
            What Nico says about the reeds is also seconded in the Gellerman book! Often after a good cleaning, the reeds need tuning, which isn’t a fast or easy process, and you need a special scraper to tune reeds (and lots of care and patience!). Therefore I agree, if the old fella sounds good as is, then I would leave the reeds alone!

        • #6
          It is in the garage right now.
          After I clean the case it will move into the house.
          And yes, responding to myorgan, the rollers are a metal axle with a wooden roller. I will try graphite.

          Comment


          • #7
            Larason2 , I have seen reeds tuned and yes it is a slow process.
            Also, does anyone know how to attach a video to a post?
            I would attach it so you fine helpers could hear how great it sounds.

            Comment


            • myorgan
              myorgan commented
              Editing a comment
              Most link to a YouTube or Vimeo video and imbed the link here.

              Michael

          • #8
            And, in response to myorgan , there is one bass 4ft melodia reed that has a very small chip taken out of it in the top right corner, it still sounds but was dirty and not sounding. I blew on it and the dust dislodged and it sounded fine when I placed it back in.
            Also, I hope my bombarding of questions isn't too much. This is an 1871 Estey, with a 8ft Viola bass and a 4ft. Melodia bass. Shouldn't these two be switched or something?
            If anyone can answer these questions (again!) that would be great, too.

            Comment


            • myorgan
              myorgan commented
              Editing a comment
              Assuming it was original when you received the organ, I would recommend leaving them as is. Also, the reed cells are sized for the reeds currently in them.

              Michael

            • Larason2
              Larason2 commented
              Editing a comment
              I agree. 4 ft melodia is a principal type sound, and the viola is a string. You would use a 4 ft stop in the base to give more definition.

          • #9
            I agree. The Viola is the bass version of the the diapason, NOT its own thing. I was just thinking someone put the wrong stop knobs on; I have never seen an 8ft viola and a 4ft melodia.

            Also, here is the stoplist.

            Sub Bass 16ft
            Viola 8ft
            Melodia 4ft
            Vox Humana (fan tremolo)
            Vox Jubilante 8ft (opens celeste and diapason)
            Flute 4ft
            Diapason 8ft
            Harmonic (octave coupler)

            Comment


            • #10
              To anyone who wants to see, I just made a recording that can be viewed!
              Here it is!
               

              Comment


              • #11
                Hello all (whom follow this).
                In response to myorgan I was able to contact my local piano salesperson and they said that they have ivory key tops from parted out pianos. They said that they have a lot of them so I have options. The G below the C seems like someone dug valleys into it with a screwdriver; I am going to see if I can get two to replace.

                Comment


                • #12
                  Hello Preston! I am 17 and started working on these when I was 14. It's great to hear that other young people are taking an interest in these instruments too. So far I've only worked on ww1 and ww2 era small and portable single rank organs, but eventually I'd love to get my hands on a bigger project like you have here. Good luck!!!

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    For the followers out there, the old english wood oil really set in. These old organs really shine up nice, but there are some sections of missing veneer that I am going to start to have to hunt around for. Mustellover, I was originally going to get a portable Estey from about 1930, but it didn't work out. I would prefer something with more options, but those acclimatized portables are probably great for camping, especially in a place where it gets warm and cold, like Indiana! Today, it was 84 in Arizona, I am sure everyone reading this is having envy! I have heard that the northeastern US has gotten so much snow!
                    Also, because of your username, do you like Mustel pressure harmoniums?😁
                    I am glad to see someone closer to my age that likes reed organs!
                    Thanks,
                    PM

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Yes it's very snowy here, but I like it like that. It's alway exciting! And yeah, though I have never had the opportunity to play one, I love the clean and clear sound of a Mustel.

                      Best of luck to you and I look forward to seeing your progress!

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        Another question: What is the best way to restore the Vox Humana tremolo? Mine is of of vacuum and has a channel that sucks in between the exhauster. It has been taken off, and is just sitting on my workbench waiting to be fixed. It spins but clacks.
                        Any suggestions, or thoughts?

                        Comment


                        • myorgan
                          myorgan commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Preston,

                          What clacks on it? Other than the clack, is it working properly? Photos?

                          There is a leather flap on the top of the round drive portion of the Vox Humana, and sometimes that needs to be replaced. With the Vox Humana off, it will cover the hole, and with the Vox Humana drawknob out, it will lift the flap so air can be pulled through the mechanism.

                          Hope that helps.

                          Michael
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