The Upper Action

Reed pan

When the entire upper action was stripped down the rebuild started with the reed pan. This was cleaned, sanded and shellacked. New reed-bed felt was applied. The holes for the 'damp chaser' were drilled and plugged. All reed cells were thoroughly brushed out. The pallet valve guide pins and pallet valves were all removed and polished. This will ensure smooth movement of the pallet valves.

(Click on images to enlarge)

A bare reed pan finished in shellac

The reed pan with new reed bed felt and keyboard supports

A close up of reed cells with new reed bed felt

With this part of the restoration complete the rest of the upper action in its turn could be restored and added to the reed pan.

Pallet valves

Pallet valves are the valves which open when a key is depressed. They were all stripped of their old felt and leather and new felt and leather applied. These are then returned to position.

Pallet valves in situ

Pallet valve guide pins


Pitmans are the dowels which connect the keys to the pallet valve. All pitmans were cleaned, re-felted and re-graphited before being reinstalled. 

Some of the pitmans have a coupler collar covered with felt.


All reeds were removed and carefully kept in order so they could be replaced in their original position. They were cleaned using an ammonia based clock cleaning fluid in an ultrasonic cleaner and finished off with fine grade wire wool. A tedious task where each reed is polished individually.

All reeds were tuned to A454 - this was the very last job completed.


The reeds are stored before cleaning in rank and sequence, on masking tape, rolled up with a paper layer to protect the tongues. 

A rank of reeds in the basket ready for the ultra sonic cleaner

The reeds are stored in boxes after cleaning to protect them since re-installing is a long way off.


Mutes are the valves which cover each rank of reeds in both the bass and treble register. When opened, by pulling a stop, they allow a rank of reeds to sound. These had their old leather removed, hinges polished and springs replaced.

Bass side, 8ft rank mute in place

Swell shades were stripped, hinges and springs replaced and shellacked.

Rear swell shade before cleaning

Rear swell shade re-installed

Swell shades stripped and new hinges installed

Vox Humana

The Vox Humana is a fan which causes a tremolo effect on the 16ft and 4ft reeds when selected. The Vox Humana mechanism was completely dismantled and cleaned. Some of the vanes in the turbine were cracked or broken. These were replaced using thin softwood. The card blades were replaced using similar grade card. The felt bushings were replaced. An upgrade to the original method of assembly here was the replacement of the nails in the end panel with small brass counter-sunk screws. This will allow for easier servicing in the future. Leather gaskets were replaced. The screw holes where the Vox Humana attaches to the reed pan had enlarged so they were drilled, plugged and new holes drilled.

The Vox Humana

The Vox Humana dismantled

The broken vanes

Turbine repaired

Reinstated turbine

Restored Vox Humana

Stop board

The stop board was completely dismantled. All shafts were sanded and repainted in gloss black. The leathers were replaced and lubricated with graphite. The stop knobs were sanded and painted. Some of the fronts were missing and were replaced using the donor organ. Felt was replaced throughout; all linkages were cleaned and polished.

At first it was not clear if the original decals could be saved. The name board was in bad condition. Using advice from Rodney Jantzi in Canada I sanded the board, touched it in with matt black paint and varnished it.

Rodney Jantzi very generously donated a whole set of stop labels from an old Bell organ and sent several more spares, as a result stop labels could be replaced using vintage originals. Determining the correct fronts was done by determining rank pitch and referencing the Reed Organ Society database of other Bell reed organs. It was also easy to recognise function of couplers, Forte, and Vox Humana.

Original makers decal saved

Place of manufacture decal

Linkages with graphite

Reassembled and rebushed

Stop shafts and stop knobs sanded, ready for painting

New stop faces and bumper felt


Stop board linkage assembly dismantled and cleaned for assembly


New coat of gloss paint applied


The keys were badly worm eaten; not uncommon since they are always made from very soft light wood. I treated them with Cupernol Wood Worm treatment and then sealed them in plastic bags and put them in the freezer for three weeks to make sure the worm was dead.

All the celluloid key fronts were loose and some were lost. One key top was damaged and needed replacement. All fronts were removed, sanded and glued back in place. All keys were polished. The sharp keys are of walnut and needed to be polished and part painted black. All keys were sanded (except 3, explanation below). All keys had their under felt replaced and were re-bushed using woven bushing cloth from Schaff Piano Supplies.

The key frame was stripped and cleaned. All brass guide pins were removed, cleaned and polished to ensure smooth operation of the keyboard.

The keyboard was meticulously levelled using small card disks and fish glue.

I refrained from sanding three keys because they contained a pencil signature of the tuner of the reed organ.

Keys all polished

Key bushings removed


Keyboard before levelling 

Sharps before and after painting and polishing

Keys with new bushings and under-felt. Where coupler peg screws had seized and broke the wood was re-drilled, plugged and the screws replaced

Keyboard after levelling

Knee Swell and Great Organ Mechanism

All parts of the swell and great organ mechanism were re-felted. Some of the wood was so badly eaten that it required filling before felt was applied. Badly rusted screws were replaced. The holes in the linkages were drilled and plugged to receive their new screws. All retainers were sanded, bushings were replaced, metal linkages polished and graphite applied where necessary.

Coupler Mechanism

The coupler mechanism is a system of rods which, when selected, link a key with the corresponding key an octave above in the treble or below in the bass.

The coupler was particularly dirty since it is located directly under the keyboard. All the felt bushings were worn or eaten away and the retaining clips were badly rusted. Many replacements had to be handmade.

Retaining clips cleaned with bushing cloth ready for instalation

The first coupler linkage is installed

Bass coupler with some new brass retaining clips