Back in Action!

Has there been nothing at all happening at Reed Organs Ireland in the two years since I posted a blog? There has been plenty happening but not necessarily in the area of reed organ restoration. I took a break from restoration because of the very exciting project of making an album. Details of that are on the home page of my site.

In the area of reed organ restoration I have completed the upper action the Estey Model H I started two years ago. The case is partly French polished and the bellows is partly manufactured. It will soon be finished for sure.

Before the Model H is finished I am actually starting another restoration. It is one which has a deadline. It must be finished by September. To do this I will be drawing on some help. More about that again.

I am kicking off this restoration with an open day. Discussed will be all things pertaining to reed organs with an emphasis on restoration. We will dismantle the next project with I am taking on and see what makes an organ tick.

If you are interested in coming you will find all details here along with a registration page.

Here’s to more organs being restored!

Here’s the next project:


Workshop Open Day Success!

The few of us reed organ enthusiasts who appreciate the beauties of the instrument and strive to preserve and restore as many of them as possible face the difficulty that we are a small group faced with a big task. I have been asked many times to restore instruments for people but the reality is that I can’t get to them all.

What is the solution? We must encourage more people to take on the task of restoring their instruments. How can this be accomplished? One way which I recently tried was inviting anyone who was interested to come to my workshop to take part in the dismantling of my latest project. Frankly, I didn’t think I would have any takers but I was wrong.

On Saturday, the 4th February last, I was joined by two enthusiasts who spent the day with me and took part in the disassembly of my Estey Model H. I am a firm believer that there is no better way to teach about something like reed organ restoration than the hands-on experience one up close and personal.

Dick went home with the encouragement to make repairs to his Estey Artist Model organ. Mick went home with the Mason and Hamlin child’s reed organ confident that he could dismantle it and bring it back to life. Good result.

I know one thing for sure. I enjoyed the day talking all things reed organ. Hopefully it won’t be the last day of its kind. I really hope to see others come to investigate. The possibility of that is increased since I did an interview for local radio one evening during the week. I fear I will be inundated!

Dick, Fr. Darragh and Mick with my latest restored Estey Model O.

Great things happening at Reed Organs Ireland

It is every craftsman’s dream to have a nice workshop and good tools. It makes it so much easier to work in good conditions. Over these last few years I have worked in the garage at my house and the dining room. Not ideal circumstances I’m sure you will agree. The garage is cold and damp and the dining room is taken up for months on end with organ entrails all over it. Don’t you just love the imagery? Sounds like an abattoir! I live alone so that isn’t as big a problem as first might appear.

Since I completed my last restoration, the Estey Model O, I have been preparing to move my workshop to a place where I will have two rooms. One will be the ‘dirty’ room for sanding and sawing and the other will be the ‘clean’ room for rebuilding. I have plenty of cabinet storage and big windows. I can’t believe it. I will include photos in the next blog.

I have also decided which will be the next restoration project. The circumstances of this decision are rather exciting. If you don’t’ know already I play the Uilleann Pipes and am fortunate to have a low pitch half set from a very skilled pipe maker called Martin Preshaw. A half set? I hear you ask. Yes, a half-set. In Uilleann pipe terms that means having a bag, bellows, chanter and drones. The other half of the set is what we call regulators. I won’t go into the details of what they are but handmade instruments of this nature take a lot of time and as such are understandably expensive.

So, what are these exciting circumstances? Martin has very graciously agreed to take a fully restored reed organ in exchange for the three regulators which will make my low pitch set a full set. I will be restoring the Estey Model H and please God, by the end of 2017 Martin will be the owner of a newly restored reed organ and I will be the owner of a new set of regulators. This barter system is fabulous!

Many of you receiving this email do not live in Ireland but a lot of you do. Many of you are interested in reed organs. It is my long time hope to see others in Ireland restoring these instruments. As such I issue the invitation to one and all to visit my new workshop and see the process of dismantling the Estey Model H in preparation for restoration. It is my firm hope that by seeing the dismantling process the fear a person might have about tackling the restoration of a reed organ might be dispelled. There is already one person signed up. If you are interested, please fill in a contact form and a suitable date will be arranged.

Looking forward to great things in the world of reed organs in 2017!

I know I have been quiet but there is great news


It is May since I have last blogged but have been busy in the workshop completing the restoration of the Estey Model O. The day has arrived. It is finished. 

I am sure you would be delighted to look through the photos and see the transformation.

Here's a link:

The next blog will be about the next candidate for restoration. Yes, I am thinking about it already. But perhaps time for a short break.

How many organs did I bring home from Oxford?

I referred to this trip as a trip of a life time in my blog a few days ago. Did it indeed turn out to be a trip of this calibre? Yes it did. Never have I had a chance to see such a variety of instruments from so many different manufacturers and talk with a man who knew so much about reed organs and harmoniums. When your head is filled with nothing but the thing you so enjoy for a few days you know you have left behind all the cares of life.

Wednesday was loading day. How many reed organs do you think you can fit in a Ford Transit? The answer is as follows: two Smith of Boston Connoisseur model reed organs, a  Gilbert Bauer harmonium and a John Malcolm reed organ.

Why two Connoisseurs? Simply because one is going to act as a spares donor for the other.

Why did I pick a John Malcolm reed organ? Because it was unusual, I liked the tone. It spoke to me I think you could say.

Why the Gilbert Bauer harmonium? Because I really wanted to bring home a pressure harmonium to begin learning about the workings of the harmonium and perhaps cut my teeth on restoring it. A reed organ and harmonium are really quite different beasts, you see, and it is time I branched out. I know you have been waiting for me to.

Above all I bring home from this trip much valuable knowledge learned from Ian Thompson, a man passionate about reed organs and harmoniums but more importantly a gentle, kind and generous man who gives freely of his knowledge and time. You don’t need a Ford Transit to bring such a gift home. For this treasure I am very grateful.

My father and I drove from Oxford to Holyhead in Wales this morning in about 4 hours 30 minutes. Then on to the Swift ferry and home to Ireland.

Thanks to my father, Brian, for all the photos. He was busy with the camera this week.

Now I just have to get them off the van!

Pictures below.




An update from Oxford.

Greetings from Oxford!

A quick update from Oxford. Have you ever travelled by ferry across the Irish sea? If you have not you should give it a try. You drive your vehicle on, park it and get to walk around, sit down, eat, shop at your leisure and with no stress. Then you drive off and away you go. Compare this to the airport experience, checking the last ounce of luggage weight allowance and then lines for security and stress all over the place. Next, factor in the extra stress of certain low cost airlines and it becomes one of the most stressful possible experiences you can have.

My father and I drove down across north Wales through the most stunning scenery and arrived safely at the home of Ian and Akiko Thompson. A most gracious and welcoming couple.

After a good night’s rest we began looking at Ian’s amazing collection of reed organs and I began the process of thinking about which to bring home. Ian is extremely knowledgeable about reed organs I am privileged to glean from him so much knowledge gathered up over many years of taking care of these often forlorn instruments. What I bring back with me from this trip isn’t just the instruments in the van but more importantly what I have learned from Ian.

Tomorrow is loading day and travel on Thursday. What a trip so far.

I will blog tomorrow about what instruments I am bringing home.

See some pictures below of Wales and the the Irish sea.



Trip of a lifetime!

We all have a different answer to the question: ‘what would your trip of a lifetime be?’. Mine is actually happening this week. I am taking a van and going to visit a fellow reed organ enthusiast in the UK. Ian Thompson has an extensive collection of reed organs and harmoniums and loads of spare parts. Ian has kindly offered me several of his collection. The one I am most excited about is one of Ian’s three Smith of Boston Connoisseur model reed organs. I have wanted one of these since I restored one a few years ago.

I will be blogging over the next week with exciting findings!

Reed Organs Ireland makes it to the National Concert Hall!

I haven't blogged for a while but that isn't because there's been a lull in the exciting world of reed organs! The restoration of my Estey Model O is coming along nicely. I've even made another purchase. It is a Canadian Karn. I couldn't resist it. It has a nice 16' stop in the bass and treble.

Do you remember the monstrous Doherty reed organ from Monaghan? The one which made it all the way back to Canada? The restoration of this organ has begun at the hands of the very capable and competent Rodney Jantzi. You can find follow progress on Rodney's site.

The most exciting happening, and this time I really mean full blown proper excitement, is that my Estey Chancel organ has made it to the stage of the National Concert Hall in Dublin. If you are not excited by the prospect of dismantling a reed organ to the very last screw and then putting it back together having cleaned and refurbished every last piece then surely you will be able to share my excitement at this occurrence. Click here to see some pictures and a little bit of background. 

I will be back again soon with some more reflections and thoughts on all things reed organ. 

You too can restore a reed organ!

You might remember about a month ago I gave a talk about reed organ restoration in the Cavan town Men’s Shed. I had planned blogging about it sooner than this but time didn’t allow.

The night was a great success. There were 12 men in attendance. A man who receives my blog emails even came from Dublin and brought with him a beautiful folding Estey Chaplain’s reed organ which he hopes to restore. I look forward to working with him on that project. Another man who heard about the talk on the radio even came from Co. Tyrone.

My main objective in giving this talk was to promote the idea that reed organ restoration is well within the grasp of any person who is in any way ‘handy’. If you can figure out how something works, take it apart and put in back together you can do this. I have no formal training in woodwork or certainly not reed organ restoration but with lots of patience, persistence and assistance from other reed organ buffs online I have been able to develop my skills over the years. This can be the same for many more.

How does one go about giving a talk like this anyway? I came well prepared with lots of resources. I brought my restored Estey Model N, my folding Estey Chaplain’s organ along with an unrestored Endsleigh organ to demonstrate before and after condition. There is nothing as effective as showing what you are talking about so I also had felt, leather, bellows cloth, boxes of old screws and spare parts with me and my trusty hot glue pot. The modern means of technology also allowed me to show some videos from my YouTube channel and use my website to show the process involved from beginning to end in restoring an organ. I brought plenty of Reed Organ Society Quarterlies and several books. Lots to see and touch.

It is always easier to give a talk when the audience has questions. This audience certainly did. They showed great interest and had a great spirit of fun. Some even tried and played the Estey Model N. I hope that the fruit of this talk might be one man taking on the restoration of what is a really beautiful and desirable Chaplain’s folding reed organ. Is there anyone else out there considering restoring an organ? Do it! If you need assistance it is out there for you.

Giving a talk on Reed Organ Restoration

There is a wonderful movement which has spread around the world called the Men's Shed Movement. At these locations men gather together to work on projects in workshops and have a chat and cup of tea. It is a wonderful mental health initiative which staves off loneliness and isolation.

Given that most reed organs are restored by hobbyists and amateurs like myself I have taken the opportunity of giving a talk at the local Men's Shed in Cavan town. If we are going to have many of these wonderful instruments available for playing in the future we will need more people restoring them.

If you are in the Cavan area please come along. If you are not we are only an hour and a half from Dublin. If you live outside of Ireland get your plane ticket booked now!

The talk is next Monday the 9th November at 7pm in the Men's Shed at the back of Cana House on Farnham St.

More to follow....

A new family member

When you find a Mason and Hamlin for sale at a reasonable price it is very hard not to take a look. So I did look at it and brought it home. What are you going to do? There is a part of the case work missing from behind the knee levers which will have to be replaced some day but it is in good condition. Some pictures at this link: 

Doherty Cathedral Organ goes home to Canada from Ireland

You may remember a Doherty Cathedral model organ I blogged about a few months ago. I decided not to restore it and was going to part it out until the happy news came from fellow reed organ enthusiast, Rodney Jantzi in Canada that a friend of his, Rowan Lalonde, was interested in bringing the organ back to Canada to include as an exhibit in his planned musical instrument museum.

There are many issues which arise when exporting a reed organ across the ocean to say nothing of when the organ is as big as the Doherty Cathedral. Rowan did all the ground work with the relevant authorities in Canada about import requirements. Did the organ have to be fumigated before leaving Ireland? If so how, where and how much would it cost? Thankfully fumigation was not required. Rowan also organised the shipper.

My job in Ireland was to find someone who could crate it up and certify the crating according to standards required by Canadian authorities. Having googled many times and made inquiries I found nothing until one day I came across a crating company ten minutes from my house. I called the company and in no time it was organised. I delivered the organ to the company and in a matter of days it was ready to be picked up by the shippers and off it went to Canada.

From this point it is over to Rodney Jantzi to decide if he is going to restore it or preserve it as an unrestored example of one of the biggest reed organs manufactured in Canada.

Here are some pictures of the crated organ and a link to a video showing the arrival in Canada. Over the next few months you will hear more about this exciting project as hopefully it will live to play another day.

Two nice new legs

I recently took delivery of two nice legs and two case caps for the Model O. The reed organ community is a very friendly and helpful community. A reed organ friend in Ohio put me in touch with a man who had an Estey Model O which was ready to give up its parts. He was happy to harvest the parts and ship them to me. I won’t be doing anything with them any time soon because it is a full core press on the upper action and the case is on hold at the moment but here are some pictures of the new parts.

The reed pan is now clean and a few loose joints are now sound. It has been sanded and now sports a fresh coat of French polish. This organ clearly spent time in a room with a coal fire and a chimney with a poor draw consequently a lot of greasy soot got sucked into every part of organ. Every cell had to be cleaned out with a small brush. This is normal in the restoration of one of these instruments.

I have a couple of sets of reeds cleaned with clock cleaning fluid already and reinstated over a nice bed of fresh red felt. I have also cleaned the pallet valves of their coat of soot and removed the old leather. The felt on the pallet valves is in good condition for ninety years old and will live to serve another many years.

Reed cleaning stuff

Filthy Pallet Valve

Exciting Developments

How busy can it really be in the world of reed organ restoration? You’d be surprised. Over the last couple of months I have been contacted by several people about repairing or buying reed organs. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to restore all these organs and have none to sell at the moment. We need more people restoring them here in Ireland. I have a request for an Estey chaplain’s organ tuned to A440. So if anyone out there  has one I have a very worthy home waiting for it if you are willing sell. Fortunately I have sourced a ‘folder’ which will need restoration and will hopefully fit the bill very well in the absence of an Estey. Of course you will hear plenty about that in the next few months.

I paid a visit to our old friend the Bell reed organ in Mayo. Unfortunately it showed signs of live wood worm despite having being treated for this before. So I treated it again. I’ll have to keep a close eye on that over the next few months. I have discovered that every organ teaches something new. The Bell taught me not to deliver an organ back too early. Even though it was restored completely it needed time to show what needed tweaking. Consequently I have brought home the coupler mechanism which was simply too tight. The organ is housed in a very cold and damp church so the surface rust which has accumulated on the linkages has left it too tight so the bushings will have to be replaced again with thinner cloth so that it moves more smoothly and easily.

I also returned the original restored organ stool for this organ which was in the church there for many years and which I only discovered when returning the restored Bell last summer. The organist reports that it is much easier to pedal the organ with the specially designed sloped stool.

One of the contacts I have received through the website of late was a request to give an opinion on a Mason and Hamlin reed organ. It is in sorry condition showing evidence of woodworm and is suffering from past incorrect adjustments. I have to consider seriously what to do with that one. We shall see.

You remember the big Doherty Cathedral Organ? There have been really exciting developments in this case. I’ll tell you more in the next few months. All I will say for now is that it is no longer in my garage. You’ll never guess what happened to it.

The final piece of exciting news is that I will be taking a trip to England in the next few months to bring back some future projects including a Smith of Boston Connoisseur organ. Does that sound familiar? I have already restored one and documented in on my website. Needless to say I will blog about that trip in due course.

Meanwhile I have continued with the restoration of the Estey Model O I blogged about last time. I have updated the story of the restoration at the link below. Click there for lots of new photos. It will keep me very busy for the next several months.

Model O work continues

Over the last several days I have continued work on the Model O. I have stripped the case to find that the front legs had been replaced with walnut alternatives. Disappointing. I have yet to determine the solution.

New caster(Click to enlarge)

I have removed the upper action and lower action from the organ. Fortunately the upper action in this Estey was held in place at the front by screws through underside of the bellows platform rather than above. This meant that the action could be removed in nearly one complete piece. I have now set this aside until later. I am relieved that the bellows and bellows platform in this organ are in restorable condition. This cuts down significantly on the work needed.

The casters had been removed from this organ so I have now replaced them using replacements from my spares supply. Good to keep old parts in plenty.


Some parts of the case had been damaged. I have now repaired these with old stock oak. The pictures tell the story.

So work continues over these next few days. Main work at this time is on the case.

I just had another article published!

It's a long time since my last blog but I have been busy with reed organs none the less. I just had another article published in the Reed Organ Society Quarterly. A nice picture of it even made the front cover. Click the link below to see it.

Remember the large Cathedral Model Doherty Organ I blogged about a couple of months ago? I have decided that I won't be restoring it but believe it or not I am currently assisting someone in Canada who is interested in shipping it back to Canada for restoration some time in the future. Apparently they are like hens teeth over there. The organ will have to be fumigated to fulfill Canadian import regulations. We will see how it goes. It may end up not being viable. If not I will be scrapping it.

Another blog will follow soon.

Have I bitten off more that I can chew this time?

Is it possible to bite off more than you can chew where a restoration is concerned? The answer has to be yes. There is no way I could have done my last two restorations as my first restorations ten years ago. They would have confounded me and been beyond my ability to restore. Of course experience teaches much and I have had some of that over the years. It is not just experience which teaches however, I have had the benefit of the advice of other enthusiasts on the Yahoo! Restoration group. Many times I would have had languish in frustration unable to complete a restoration with out them.

The most instructive teachers are of course the organs themselves. They give up their secrets very easily and only ask to be dismantled and thoroughly understood in return. They demand that each movement of every linkage is followed to the end so that it can be clearly seen what was intended by the builder.

Have I taken on too much this time? I have just bought a Doherty Cathedral model organ which is quite the basket case. It will be a marathon restoration which will happen years into the future.

Here is a link to some pictures. (Click on Doherty Cathedral below.) You can judge for yourself if I have taken on too much this time!

Remember that explosion in my workshop?

The stop mechanism of my Estey Model N is now rebuilt. It is sporting a nice coat of polyurethane on the name board showing off the gold lettering of the Estey Organ company. I touched up the damaged underlying black finish with matt black paint first. The result is really quite pleasing.

I have replaced the nails in the linkage bar retainers with screws to make reassembly more easy and secure.

Even though the stop shaft bushings and the felt at the back of the stop knobs was previously black I replaced it with red felt. The red felt against the black name board is really beautiful.

This restoration is at a really advanced stage. I have begun tuning so the end is nigh. Final assembly soon.

Pictures below. Before long there will be video.

Explosion in my workshop today!

Gotcha!! I 'exploded' the stop mechanism of my current restoration today. It is the final part of the restoration. I rebuilt the Vox Humana mechanism the other evening too but photos of that later. See below what the stop mechanism looks like in bits. Meanwhile I am levelling the keyboard. Levelling a keyboard is a tedious task but essential. It must be done before tuning. This restoration is coming close to conclusion.