Making Organ Pipes with Free Reeds

by Gisli Olsen

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Free Reed Organ Pipes
Free-reeds are normally used in accordions. The reeds are mounted in pairs on an aluminium plate; one reed for "air-out" and one for "air-in".  Here I am only using the "air-out" reed, so I closed the other one with a piece of strong tape and in this way I have a spare reed, I just have to turn the plate around.

These reeds are tuned in the factory to a tuner with A=420 Hz. But on my organ I am using A=440 Hz and that means all the reeds are too high, about 20 cent. To lower the reeds I had to scratch with a needle or the edge of a small file on the MIDDLE of the reed.  Scratch only in a length of about 3-4 mm, laying flat on a hard surface, little by little, very light and carefully until the reed sounds only about 4-5 cent above the zero on the tuner.

Method
Saw out the wood in a good length and 20 by 20 mm square. Now use the wood to form the 0.5 mm thick cardboard (from a cornflakes box) around and in a length of 12 cm, making all 13 resonator tubes. Cut the wood to a length of 65 mm, drilling the holes in the ends and using a zigzag saw to make the rectangular hole, 2 mm smaller around, comparing to the reed-plate.

Glue the nipples and the tube to the wood (see the drawing).  "Glue" the reed-plate over the rectangular hole with beeswax, using a soldering iron and a small amount of beeswax, and moving the soldering iron very quickly around the reed-plate. The plate must not be heated.

Now tune the pipe by moving a stopper up and down in the paper-tube in order to find the resonance. It is possible to hear by good ears, but it can also be seen on the tuner.  It starts high and goes lower and then the tuner turns up again.  Here at the lowest point is the resonance to the actual reed. Now you have the length of the resonator and can close the tube at the top.

The length of the resonator for the low C is about 10 cm from middle of the reed to the inside of the top of  the resonator.  High C is about 6 cm long, and all the other pipes length are in between.  I have been told that the length of the resonator is not critical, but I don't know.

Glue on one layer of newspaper around the cardboard tube to reinforce and make the tube air-tight with thinned PVA glue.  Later on, add a coat of paint.

The rank of the "accordion" pipes sounds good but it gives a special sound, so to say, and it is funny to have. Together with the first row of stopped organ pipes the sound is much better, almost singing.

Gisli Olsen in Sweden

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