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Bombarde16

Voicing jack

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Sometimes, the best way to make a dream happen is to make it happen.

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In my day job, I play the pipe organ. Building an actual pipe organ is a recurring fantasy for many organists and I'm no exception. For most, it never goes beyond self-indulgent and frequently silly little thought experiments. In my case, I've been dipping my feet in the pool here and there, volunteering for every organ builder who'll tolerate me in the shop or on a jobsite. I've been Sketchupping things for years and figure it's time to start making sawdust. Most recently, I did this.

This thread will document the construction of a small organ known as a "voicing jack". These are used in the shop to prepare freshly-made pipes for eventual installation in an "actual" organ. I'm looking forward to this for a few reasons: It's halfway between a musical instrument and a shop project, which lowers the bar a little. Sure, I'm still going give it my best try. But, over the years, I've sat at and poked fun at plenty of instruments bearing the title "opus 1"...Surely my own opus 1 will be no different despite all of my best efforts. Building a voicing jack therefore gives me the liberty to revel in the fact that this will be a homely affair of warts and learning experiences. Since it's going to live in the shop, I can build it as a bare frame, focusing on the mechanical internals without the need to build pretty cabinetry on the outside. I can also use this as a project to hoover up all of the mismatched scraps of wood that I've been hoarding. Once it's done, there's a few research projects (nerdy mathematical and historical stuff involving pipe dimensions) that I'd like to tackle. And, finally, this voicing jack will be an invaluable tool should the day arrive that I build a musical instrument worthy of sharing with the outside world.

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The church parish house recently went through a massive HVAC renovation. Demo for that job involved tearing through a large pile of built in cabinetry and thereby liberated a massive pile of utility grade pine. Several layers of paint covered over a homely collection of knots, nails, and corrugated metal bridging doohickeys. I couldn't bring myself to see it condemned to the landfill, so here we are turning it into the frame of this instrument.

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As sketched, the instrument has four vertical posts, seven long transverse beams, and six short bits to connect the posts. I've glued these up as glorified glu-lams and, after several hours and about a hundred gallons of sawdust, we have what looks like this.

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I know this instrument will get disassembled and moved around, so the long transverses will poke through the upright posts with through mortises and wedged tenons.
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This looks like it is going to be fun to watch.  Something really different.

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I was going to toss in a link to Matthias Wandel's pipe organ project, but I think you already have the necessary technical knowledge to go past what he did. This is going to be interesting to follow along with!

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57 minutes ago, wtnhighlander said:

I was going to toss in a link to Matthias Wandel's pipe organ project, but I think you already have the necessary technical knowledge to go past what he did. This is going to be interesting to follow along with!

Sure, there's nothing wrong with tipping the hat to several precedents out there. Specifically:

  • Matthias Wandel documents a very early build. It was fun to see that he reached some of the same conclusions I reached about certain aspects of pipe construction. Matthias also followed this up years later with a repair video for the instrument.
  • Raphi Giangiulio built a significantly more involved instrument with copious documentation and then proceeded to build three more instruments on his own before eventually taking a job with one of the finest organ builders in the western hemisphere, Paul Fritts & Company.

Adding to this, there are two standout firms that build small organs with entirely wooden pipes:

Beyond that, wood organ pipes are somewhat of an outlier. They have their place in professional work; but building wooden organ pipes has always been an expensive proposition compared to making pipes of metal. Historically, much of the work of organ building focused on metal, to the extent that much of the cabinetry would even have been done by separate artisans or guilds. Building an organ exclusively with wooden pipes borders on the absurd, since the increase in labor costs and physical bulk doesn't come with much of a payout in musical benefit.

That said, I know how to work with wood and I like the way my shop functions now. I also receive young visitors from time to time, so having a workspace that's constantly contaminated by lead alloys would be bad. For what I need to do, it makes more sense to stay with this rather than ramping up to work in metals.

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This is going to be really exciting watching you turn your pipe dream into a reality.....

I couldn't help thinking though. Weren't you building a bench? Did that get finished?

 

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1 hour ago, Chestnut said:

This is going to be really exciting watching you turn your pipe dream into a reality.....

Haha! No such thing as a bad pun.

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25 minutes ago, drzaius said:

Haha! No such thing as a bad pun.

:D I spent about 20 min trying to think of a good one.

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4 hours ago, Chestnut said:

I couldn't help thinking though. Weren't you building a bench? Did that get finished?  

Shhhh...

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Best intentions and all that. I wanted to get a time lapse of gluing on the top skin but forgot to set the camera rolling. Use your imagination: A generous bead of glue all around the frame of the grid plus on top of every single bar in the grid. Then lay another sheet exactly in place on top without dragging it around. Then pile it with all the remaining fiberboard in the shop to weigh it down flat. The end result looks something like this.

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From the bottom: One sheet of MDF underneath just as a flat, clean surface. Then the lower table of the chest. Then the sides of the grid. Then the upper table of the chest. Then every piece of heaviness I could lay my hands on. "Flat and airtight" are more important than "neat and pretty" at this stage. There's drips and squeezeout galore on the inside...things to be revealed later when we start cutting holes in this thing.

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