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Author Topic: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium  (Read 1087 times)

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robotmay

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Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« on: August 22, 2016, 12:40:33 PM »

Ambiguity in the title because I'm not sure which it technically is ;D



I bought a small folding reed organ to have a go at restoring. It has its own built-in workbench, which is handy. It took me half a day but I've figured out how it disassembles. Bit of a challenge in places; the front panel was a particular bitch thanks to it being a poorly-fitting replacement that someone had nailed in place (if only I could go back in time and uninvent nails).



The reeds all seem in good nick and it's remarkably in tune, at A=455hz. Not sure I'll change that, as it sounds rather nice. The big problem is the bellows system, however, which is very leaky.



They look to be a rubberised canvas sorta material, and I suspect they need replacing. I assume they're glued on, and need cutting to remove? I'd probably replace them with leather, if possible, as it shouldn't wear in the folds quite as much. Might have to be quite thin though I suspect.




It does play at the moment, but AFAIK it's supposed to work using a vacuum in the air reservoir, which uh, doesn't work when there's so many holes in it ::)

Anyone had a go at restoring one of these before? Got any tips?

Theo

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2016, 01:03:34 PM »

I've rebuilt two harmonium bellows.  It's a lengthy job, and very dirty getting all the old glue off.
I agree with your plan to replace the rubberised cloth with leather.  Soft goatskin is the best, tough flexible airtight and durable. Some sheepskins are suitable too.  A good source is Pittards in Yeovil.  You can buy in person at the tannery, or on line.
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Theo Gibb

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robotmay

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2016, 01:28:41 PM »

Ooh, thanks Theo; I've been after a good leather supplier for ages. I've come across some via re-enactment but they rarely have websites; makes window-shopping tricky!

Would hide glue be the best choice of glue? I'm not sure how much strain the bellows fabric has to take; it seems slightly slack at the moment so I guess it has an internal limiter to stop them extending too far or putting weight on the fabric? I guess I'll find out when I get this material off :D

Theo

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2016, 02:02:12 PM »

Hide glue was probably used originally, and you could use it again, but you probably will need more time to get the various pieces together.  I used Fiebings leather cement, but you could also use fish glue.
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Theo Gibb

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Owen Woods

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2016, 11:12:57 PM »

Animal glue definitely good for leather. Hide or pearl glue is fairly easy to work. Use a baby bottle warmer or similar (or build yourself something more elaborate). Put some glue in, put some water in, let it dissolve, it's ready when the glue coalesces after five second dripping from the brush. If you have a hairdrier then warm the joint first, or use a (NON-STEAM) iron afterwards. The glue sets quite quickly, but is easy to undo with heat. A soft stick (rounded plastic would do, we use ivory but for obvious reasons not everybody has a lot of ivory lying around...) to smooth down the leather is useful. Beware of making the glue too thick. Or too thin.
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robotmay

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2016, 09:34:23 AM »

Thanks guys! I'm going to try some leather cement first, just because I suspect I might lose my deposit when I drop hot hide glue all over my flat >:E
When I finally have some form of workshop I'll look forward to getting in a right mess with various glues; I need to practice with hide glue for concertina repairs too.

robotmay

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2016, 01:37:17 PM »

Had a chat to someone at Pittards to see what skins they have. Looks unlikely that I'll be able to find a goat skin that covers the full length required to do the bellows in one piece. I could however stitch/glue to build the full length, as I have the tools to do so. Would that be a particular problem? I think if the seam was in the center at the front of the bellows then it wouldn't cause any folding issues, and the skins are thin anyway at around 0.9-1mm. Any thoughts? :)

Theo

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2016, 02:28:18 PM »

Yes you will need to may a join. A plain lap joint with about 3/4" overlap works. To avoid extra thickness at the join taper the thickness of both pieces across the width of the join.
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Theo Gibb

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robotmay

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2016, 02:40:45 PM »

Great, thanks Theo. Time to crack out my leatherworking tools then!

RogerT

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2016, 07:55:12 PM »

Pittards is definitely worth a visit, though if you want to talk to a leather specialist I'd check first if anyone suitable is around.

Psuggmog Volbenz

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2016, 02:56:32 AM »

Sorry to chime in so late, i have been away camping and playing music with dear friends at a once per year gathering. I have repaired and own a few pump organs. I would suggest starting with this article before makimg your repair job more challeging to undo:
http://www.reedsoc.org/Repair/jGenericApproach.htm
I use hot hide glue if originally used, but fish glue might be easier due to no time/temperature constrainsts.
Here is a possible source for repair materials, but not located in the UK.
http://www.pumporganrestorations.com/reed_organ_materials.htm
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Psuggmog Volbenz

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2016, 04:28:12 AM »

Here is a link to a video of my World War One era folding chaplin's organ in action, played by Scotty Leach.:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UwIxfVJVibs
I would suggest replacing the bellows with the proper rubberized cloth as originally used in this application. The bellows of the organ in the above video are just now leaking, but tne original material lasted 100 years.
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robotmay

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2016, 04:02:22 PM »

Thanks Psuggmog! Do you know of any reason why the rubberized cloth was used over leather? I would assume it was originally cost, unless it perhaps doesn't stretch over time like leather would (a little at least).

I had actually been reading that guide, as it was the only one I managed to find on the subject anyway ;D

On another note, I took some of the reeds out yesterday to look for the cause of some buzzing, and I've noticed that every reed has been adjusted in an odd way. Certainly intentional, as there are markings on the crease point on every reed shoe. Anyone know what the purpose of this is, and what effects it'll have on any attempt to bring the instrument back to concert pitch?

Psuggmog Volbenz

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2016, 04:21:10 AM »

Thanks Psuggmog! Do you know of any reason why the rubberized cloth was used over leather? I would assume it was originally cost, unless it perhaps doesn't stretch over time like leather would (a little at least).



I would speculate that the rubberized cloth might remain airtight longer that leather and possibly take up less volume when collapsed, which would be a consideration for a folding organ. I don't know about the reed question. You might search photos of reeds from other organs and observe if they have similar markings.
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Kimric Smythe

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Re: Restoring a folding reed organ/harmonium
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2016, 05:07:41 AM »

Never seen reeds set up this way, the only thing I can think of is that it would mellow the tone in some manner.
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