Tricks and Tips on Making the Pipes

by Jean Nimal

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Making the Pipes
1) Building Pipes
One of the most interesting things in the way John Smith builds the pipes of his busker organ is that he uses a scale which doesn't need difficult measurements.  But one difficult thing remains: How to cut perfect parallel sides for the four main parts of a pipe (bottom and inside partition are cut from one of these parts).  Here is a method which doesn't need measurements, which is quick, safe and needs very little preparation.

Take a board, as long as the longest pipe (about 60cm), 10 to 20cm wide. Add a side along the board (glued or nailed).  This side overlaps the board by about 1cm. That's all!

Cutting Sides:
Find a bit of balsa sheet (1mm thick).  Using the paper scale, mark this sheet to the internal (or external) width. Cut the sheet square on the mark (about 10mm) then cut along this small rectangle in two parts which will make your cutting guides.

Take the sheet of balsa for pipes, put it on the board against the side.  Put the guides at each end of the board and lay the rule.  Firmly applied, you can run your scapel along.

Of course both opposite sides of pipes are prepared in only one cut, as the only important precision needed is to get them the same width.  The 60cm board allows this for all the front pipes (longest is 31cm) but not for the bass pipes.

2) Pipe's Appearance
The front of J. Smith pipes shows the gluing line of the sides.  It is hardly visible with balsa wood, but unsightly with other sorts of wood.  Of course you can apply a veneer on balsa, but why not make a long upper lip which covers the whole front of the pipe.  It gives the traditional aspect with a nice look.  This cover will be glued and side-sanded after tuning.  While tuning, use rubber bands only near the lip to be sure it is firmly applied against the aperture.

3) Hard Balsa
You can find different qualities of balsa at this French provider HEIMA.  They sell 3 qualities of balsa wood: A very light one - COLIBRI; a standard one - CLASS A;  and a NAVAL quality (for ship models).  The last is a little heavier and harder (but still easy to work) and much cheaper than other qualities!


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