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Thread: Wicks organ in need of multiple repairs

  1. #1
    ppp Pianississmo CarBuilder's Avatar
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    Wicks organ in need of multiple repairs

    I have access to a pipe organ, in a historic Community Center. I found the blower drive leathers had broken, and fixed that. Now that it plays, folks are interested in playing it. The console is Wicks, vintage 1940 or so.
    The list: main bellows leaks; Great shade engine is compromised, but does move; Swell shade has a leaking motor (of the 4 or 5); console has some wiring damage, suspect rats. There is a cipher ln a wood pipe windchest, and the longest wood pipes have some cracks. There is more, but that will get me started.
    There is no budget, (unless I can write a grant) but there is my time. I am my own mechanic, audio engineer, guitar repair tech... former house carpenter and currently Network Security admin.
    I plan to tune what notes sound, and tighten up the wind supply, fix the broken pedal, and clean things up.
    I am in Tidewater area, looking for adequate bellows repair method and supplies.
    If that goes well, I’ll take a look at the broken miters and pencil pipes

    Thread moved to Pipe Organ Repair where it will get more views -- Michael, Moderator
    Last edited by myorgan; 04-14-2018 at 04:03 PM. Reason: Reason for thread move.

  2. #2
    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    Is that Tidewater as in Virginia?

    Wicks organs are pretty straight forward. The only thing about repairing them is that the Wicks organs of that vintage use a slightly different action unit, and the bottom of the toe boards have (what we in the business call) 'donuts'. They are intended to provide a better seat for the valve pads to seal against, but as the pads get hard - which they all do - the seal is not fully effective, and can cause weeping notes. The pads can be replaced, and are available from Wicks, as are the complete magnet action units (BUT you HAVE TO specify that these are the "old style" chests or the units they send will have a pad that is too thick to work.

    Depending on the size of the organ there might be remote relays OR the keying and switching will all be inside the console....pull the back off and you can tell by the junction boards. if all the switching is IN the console, the junctions will be labelled by which rank, otherwise the junctions will have rows for the keyboards, pedalboard, and stops.

    The swell shade actions can be patched as a TEMPORARY fix, but either the ganged shades or those with individual motors will need to be properly rebuilt for long term reliability. Same thing with the reservoirs, which are fairly labor and materials intensive to rebuild. Also the wind stabilizers that should be mounted on the main wind trunk to the wind chests will eventually fail as the rubberized cloth gets stiff and cracks causing leaks.

    Organ pipes,while made of metal (tin and lead alloys of various percentages) are delicate so PLEASE be careful when tuning or working around the pipes. Pipe repairs are 'professional only' for the most part (the wood pipes can always be re-glued, they originally were most likely done with hot hide glue, so they can be easily repaired by someone with woodworking expertise.

    Rick in VA

  3. #3
    ppp Pianississmo CarBuilder's Avatar
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    Thanks, VAPipe, I see rolling knife switches in the console. The solenoids look like the Direct Electric pictures. I am presuming that is also what is in the chests. It looks like I would have to disconnect the harness in order to pull a chest out, before I could get at a failing valve/action. Is that likely? Or would you expect to be able to open the chest in place, after setting the pipes somewhere safe?
    The harness terminations are on pins, like tiny nails in rows. I would like to replace them with Centronics plugs and 25-pair cable, pax style, as I go.

  4. #4
    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarBuilder View Post
    Thanks, VAPipe, I see rolling knife switches in the console. The solenoids look like the Direct Electric pictures. I am presuming that is also what is in the chests. It looks like I would have to disconnect the harness in order to pull a chest out, before I could get at a failing valve/action. Is that likely? Or would you expect to be able to open the chest in place, after setting the pipes somewhere safe?
    The harness terminations are on pins, like tiny nails in rows. I would like to replace them with Centronics plugs and 25-pair cable, pax style, as I go.
    The Wicks chests are serviceable by removing the bottom boards. No pipes need to be removed. The individual valves can be unsoldered at the terminal at the back end of the coil, then by removing the slotted round-head screws the DE valve will drop out. A new valve can be installed by holding the new valve in place while getting the screws started (I use a screwdriver that has grips to hold the screw by the head while starting them). You need to make sure the valve pad is aligned carefully to the chest seal ('donut') as you tighten the screws as they will tend to shift about while the screws draw down tight to the bottom board. Then re-solder the wire carefully. If this organ is in a commercial building (a church, or civic auditorium, or other commercial structure) I would encourage you to NOT replace the cotter pin connections unless you are going to re-wire the ENTIRE organ, because the current wiring is grandfathered according to the NEC code (there is a whole section pertaining to pipe organ wiring practices)...if you alter ANY of the wiring, the whole organ wiring will have to be brought up to code...that means ALL the wiring from the console to the chests and/or relays has to be redone.

    Rick in VA

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