Estey Chancel Organ Debuts in Concert

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing my Estey Chancel Organ used in a performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle in The College Chapel of Maynooth College, Kildare. After so many years of restoring these organs it is really encouraging to see it in the beautiful Gothic chapel. It may be a small instrument but it filled the chapel surprisingly well. I hope to have some video of it and will post it. There are some pictures below of the organ in place before the rehearsals and then at the end of the performance. (Click on images to enlarge)

The Scrap Organ

It was the first spring-like day in Cavan today. It was a day for outdoors. Since I was off today I decided to tackle the old Doherty organ I saved from a skip. It has been out the back of my house since last November. There is no reed organ which can’t contribute spare parts to help save other organs in better condition and more desirable. There are dozens of screws, reeds, guide pins, pallet valves and springs. Pitmans, key tops and key fronts among many other valuable parts. It isn’t really possible to authentically restore an organ without a healthy supply of old parts.
See below some pictures of and organ which will never play again but will give life to many others. Click on the picture to move to the next one.

Estey Chancel Organ goes to Maynooth!

It’s been a while since my last blog entry. This is not because reed organ restoration work has ceased. Much progress has indeed been made with the Estey Model N. The bellows is almost complete but delayed because I was waiting for valves to come from America. The new bellows platform is finished. I have cleaned refinished the reed pan and re-leathered the pallet valves and mute valves. All reeds have been cleaned and installed. I have treated all the keys for woodworm and will move on to them soon to clean and re-bush them.

I had to take a break from the Estey N model for good reason however. I was contacted by my former music teacher from Maynooth wondering if I had an organ which would be suitable for use in the Maynooth Choral Society production of Rossini’s Le Petit Messe Solennelle. Rossini arranged this Mass to incorporate a harmonium. My first answer was no. Why? Because the only organ I had that was suitable at all was my Estey Chancel organ pitched at A454. Modern concert pitch is A440. What a disappointment. But then, a brainwave! I took the reeds out of a later unrestored Estey reed organ which was pitched at A440. I cleaned and tuned the reeds and did a straight swap. Eureka! I also re-bushed the keyboard and put an extra layer of felt under the stop board to help dampen the bounce of the keys to make it quieter. So my Estey chancel will head off to Maynooth in February.

Below are some photos of the current restoration. Click to enlarge them.

A Restoration or a Resurrection?

Sometimes it is the better part of valor to leave well enough alone when it comes to a restoration. Sometimes an instrument is just too far gone to try to save it. But sometimes one just can't resist a challenge. The biggest challenge I have faced in a restoration is that of a Bell Reed organ I restored for a little presbyterian church in Co. Mayo. It was the worst case I have ever seen. Click below on the link to go to the video page where you can click on the before and after video and others. If you want to see other pictures of the restoration click on the background and specs link and others on the Bell tab on the home page.

Should this organ be scrapped?

While work continues on the Estey I recently rescued a reed organ from being thrown into a skip. I'm not sure if it should be restored or not. It has a lot of woodworm. Click on the images below to enlarge them. Take a look and let me know what you think? You can add comments to the bottom of the blog posting.

Sanding and Staining

Work is progressing well. I have completed the sanding and dying process and begun French polishing. Some photos below and an underlined link to a video on YouTube.

Video Link Correction

I've noticed that although I embedded the video in the blog that was emailed out yesterday it wasn't visible in the email so click below on 'Restoration Videos'  to see the video if you had problems:

This blogging and feedburner stuff brings a lot of learning! We will see how it goes this time.

Stripping the Reed Organ Case

I have now completely stripped the case of the organ and have begun sanding it. I have recorded progress on video this time. Please leave comments about the video since it is the first time I have used video in this way.

Since I made this video work has progressed significantly so hopefully I will have another video soon showing the process of sanding, using wood dye and beginning French polishing. My kitchen and dining room have now been taken over by the organ since French polishing can't be done in the cold damp environment of my workshop.

I have had difficulties with Feedburner  so when I published this blog no email notifications went out letting you know that this post was available so I am re-publishing it and hopefully this time it will work. If you would like to subscribe to this blog please click here:

Dismantling Finished and Repairs Begin

The organ is now completely dismantled and some initial repairs have begun. Mainly a gluing and clamping exercise.

You’ll never guess what I found in the bellows when I dismantled it. Pictures below.

There is plenty of evidence of wood worm throughout but it was well treated by the previous owner. None the less I have treated it again just to be sure.

The case top (part with mirror) is in good condition bar a couple of spots but the finish on the main case is in terrible condition. I now face the task of trying to match the new finish on the case with the old finish on the case top. Worst case scenario? If nothing matches I strip the whole lot and start from scratch. We will see.

On a different note, the RF Steven’s organ which I was working on last is almost now completely finished. I will fill you in with pictures of the final product in the next while. Work so far in documented on its page on the main site. Here is the link:

Click on each photo below for full size and move your pointer over the picture for the caption.

More pictures and info soon…

The Restoration has begun

The restoration has begun! This is a nice Estey parlor organ made in 1898. It is going to need a new bellows and bellows platform since the original ones are riddled with woodworm. The case will need to be refinished completely.

I have treated it for woodworm although it was treated before. You can’t be too careful.

I will keep posting pictures and let you know how it is going. Sign up if you would like to receive email notification of new blog entries. Lots of photos below.