Building the 26-Note Universal Organ

by John Pettifer

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So far this organ has taken me a little over 12 months, bearing in mind that I have a full time job, (and an understanding wife).  It is a project not to be taken lightly. The plans are close enough for a reasonably competent DIY person to follow with the help of the video.

Picture No.1 shows my second attempt at the main windchest because I had some obscure ciphers, which did not show up until the octave pipes were fitted and I had glued an MDF bottom board, which could not be easily removed.  It also gave me the chance to increase the gap between two of the rows of pipes to allow for the extra depth of the double bourdons I intended to try out.  A cardboard one has now been used which can be removed if necessary.

Most of the casework has been made of MDF and sealed with "sanding sealer" (a cellulose based varnish) both inside and out all wind contact surfaces. I've found out the hard way that sealing is probably the most important task and cannot be ignored, so would-be builders take note and if in doubt seal it again, it definitely pays off in the end.  Incidentally the pipes were made from Canadian white wood, which were library shelves in their earlier days!  The front row is a set of double Bourdons which is the result of a visit to Bob Essex, who had some in one of his organs.  The second row are stopped Flutes.  The third row is octave open.  The back row is open flutes.  I may alter this configuration in the future and try a set of violins when I can get one to work.

The design on the front has yet to be decided & there is room for animated figures on the sides so who knows how it will end up.  I was able to scrounge most of the materials used, with the exception of the leather, which I bought from Russel's organ supplies who were very helpful.  Anybody who wants any information is welcome to contact me.

The organ has just had its first outing to the Little Downham Bygones festival, where it had very favourable comments from John Smith (the designer) and Edward Murray-Harvey (O Carioca) music arranger, who lent me some of his 20 note rolls. This organ can play both 20 and 26 note rolls.

The underside of the main chest with the valves fitted, prior to the bottom board being glued in place.

Topside of wind chest. Note the space between the first two rows.

Bleed bar and tubes. Note pipe positions identified.

Front view. Note the front con rod and first pipes as yet unmitered.

Bass pipes in position. Note the triple bellows.

Assembly of Puffers.

Pressure box showing tracker bar tubing and the crank shaft
(a ball race has since been fitted to the handle end).

The complete set of pipes installed.

Helper pipes mounted on top of the bellows.

The bass pipe wind chest & note two springs to give a water pressure of about 6½". The pressure valve is on the left. The small handwheel is the fast rewind.

The trolley is made to dismantle into six pieces, which include a box at each end for roll storage.

The glockenspiel still needs some work to make it sound better. Why did I use alloy tubes?  Because I had a supply of the tubing in the workshop.

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