Various Hints And Tips

by Vic Searle

Buy Music
Special Offers

Music Samples
Choosing an Organ
Organ Buyers Guide
Organs for Sale
Harmonette Busker Organ
John Smith Busker Organ
Organ Maintenance
Organ Tuning
Music for Other Organs
Pipe Stopper Lubricant
In John Smith's plans for the 20-note organ he suggests using talcum powder to make the stoppers moveable until the final tuning when he seals with beeswax.  Fine, if you have talcum powder but who wants to buy a can for a few pinches of dust? Someone mentioned that graphite was better but hard to come by.  No problem. Just get a 2HB pencil and scrub it on a piece of #80 sandpaper.  Tap the sides of the stopper onto the sandpaper and maybe a bit inside the pipe top may help.
For some really fine facade ornaments, if you are not up to carving your own, go to  They make a zillion different ornaments that you can spray with gold or silver paint and stick onto the case.  I built over a dozen band organs, copies of Wurlitzer 125's, one 150 and six 165's and used the curlicues from DecSupCo. I heartily recommend them.
Tracing Leaks
In John's posting about leaks, he suggests a homemade stethoscope. After some 40 years of pipe organ building, I have found that the surest way to find a leak is to use a lit incense stick. You get a visible signal where there is the tiniest leak. Also perfumes your workshop!
Idler Wheel
If you have trouble with the "U" shaped part of the crankshaft hitting the idler bearing, just screw the idler wheel onto an upright piece of wood with a guide to keep it in place inside the case, and skip the 18mm dowel rod.  Suspend the slider from a spring and make a hole in another piece of wood glued onto the slide at a 90 degree angle.  The pin of the clutch handle will fit the slightly oversized hole in this piece. This is the simplest way to make an idler wheel adjuster.
Take Up Spool
Don't laugh, but I made mine from a Pringles Potato Chip can cut down to 141mm, with turned hardwood spool ends glued to the inside of the roll. The cans are heavy paper with an O.D. of 70mm. A small hole at either end of the roll allows a screw-driver to fasten the set screw from outside.

These sound crazy but are simple enough for me to do in my cell in the nursing home where I live.  The potato chips are a bonus!

Making Pipes and Stoppers
I have been having a lot of trouble making the pipes for my organ.  Living in a small room in a nursing home, I don't have either room or lovely tools.  My problem has been in making the pipes square, without any jigs or clamps. All the wooden pieces are cut square on a tiny table saw, but when put together with PVC, as the glue dries, the 90 degree angles don't hold up due to absorbing moisture.

What I do now is to apply the glue in patches, leaving a centimeter space between the patches. Here I put a very fast drying cyano-acrylate glue in gel form (SuperGlue in the UK, I believe). This holds the pipes together square while the PVC dries. It would be nice to use the "SuperGlue" for all the joining work, but here in Japan it is fiendishly expensive, requiring a whole tube or more for the longer pipes, and a 10 gram tube is 3.93 British pounds!

And the easiest way to make stoppers for any but the tiniest pipes is to cut a piece of hard balsa wood to the ID of the pipe. The handles I cut from hardwood dowel and SuperGlued in. The soft wood is easily sanded down to take the chamois, and does away with the need for card board shims which are almost always necessary when you cut the stoppers from a harder wood.

Vic Searle in Tokyo


Back to the Articles Index


This web site is copyright (C) Melvyn Wright and individual contributors