Organ matters - Organs matter!

Reed organs and harmoniums => Reed organs and harmoniums => Topic started by: bobtheorganist on April 10, 2017, 06:08:33 PM

Title: Pressure Harmonium winding!
Post by: bobtheorganist on April 10, 2017, 06:08:33 PM
I have just acquired a nice Trayser harmonium, hopefully to use in a performance of the Rossini Petite Messe.  All is well, and at pitch, in the upper half, but the feeders need re-leathering, and possibly the gussets of the reservoir.

Does anyone know of someone out there who does such repairs at a sensible price i.e. not something resembling a telephone number?! It looks a reasonably straightforward job, but I was just wondering....
Title: Re: Pressure Harmonium winding!
Post by: revtonynewnham on April 11, 2017, 09:16:31 AM

I assume you're in the UK.  Congratulations on acquiring an example of one of the most expressive keyboard instruments around!  Speccialists are few and far between at present, and the only person I know of in  the UK is Phil Fluke - see - tell him I sent you, but last time I was in touch he was very busy with his Harmonium hire business.  It would be well worth while you joining the Reed Organ Society ( (I'm currently the UK councill member) and I see the links page there includes a couple of well respected restorers on the continent, and also organ builders Holmes & Swift who have an excellent reputation for pipe organ work.

I would be a little reluctant to get ordinary pipe organ builders involved in Harmonium repair without making sure they understand what they're doing.

Repairing the existing leather may be possible (it's what Phil Fluke did on my Alexandre Harmonium about 10 years ago now, and the patches are still holding up despite some quite intensive use at times), although obviously a proper re-leathering is preferable.  Good luck with it - and please let me know how you get on.

The Reed Organ Society also have a database of organs - it would be good to add your Trayser to it (if you've not already done so).

Every Blessing

Title: Re: Pressure Harmonium winding!
Post by: David Wyld on April 11, 2017, 04:27:36 PM
We (Henry Willis & Sons) have done at least 20 Harmonium restorations/refurbishments over the past 20 years since I became Managing Director:  these have included work on instruments by Mustel,  Alexandre, Schiedmayer, Christophe et Etienne as well as the more common 'American Organs' such as Spencer, R&D Apollo, Estey and my very own Aeolian Grand Player Organ.

There is no simple way of doing a patch repair if it is intended for it to be able to be forgotten about for a lifetime - the internal leathering of a feeder rib joint for example is actually just as important,  if not more so, than the outer bit which one sees.    It might be more correct to refer Tony's comments to the matter of the leather to be used and not necessarily pipe organ builders - the techniques are identical,  merely the materials which are different.   Most current-day 'restorers' started off themselves as amateur enthusiasts,  they are qualified by experience and not necessarily training.

If you have a year of your own time to spare and you don't mind being without the use of the instrument,  you can have a go yourself and save the money,  but if you want it turned around in a matter of a few days then pay an organbuilder or anyone else who can do this professionally the rate of about 25 per hour - much less than you will pay a washing machine serviceman and certainly a great deal less than servicing your car,  even though it requires a vastly greater amount of skill.

By the way,  don't be fooled by its looking like a reasonably straightforward job!

Title: Re: Pressure Harmonium winding!
Post by: revtonynewnham on April 12, 2017, 09:12:42 AM
Thanks David - it's good to know of another firm that will undertake reed organ work - and I can vouch for the quality of their organ building work, having used them to restore the c.1820 chamber organ in my previous church.  I know where to come when I need work doing!

I did say that patching was only a temporary measure!  I'm surprised that what was done on y Alexandre (not extensive patching) has held up as well as it has.  As always, doing the job properly is the best solution.

I did recently come across a reed organ that had been restored by a pipe organ builder, and the results did leave something to be desired (both my opinion & that of someone who knows more about reed organs than I do).  Not sure exactly what the issues were, but winding was not really adequate.  (No names, no pack drill as I don;t know the full circumstances, and the firm is no longer in business anyway).

Every Blessing

Title: Re: Pressure Harmonium winding!
Post by: bobtheorganist on April 14, 2017, 07:02:18 PM
Many thanks to both of you. I know Phil Fluke, but he is fully booked for the reasonable  future...I have experience of re-building pianos, and am aware that a proper job is generally the best option, and also that the last generation of people who really knew harmonium repair are dead and gone. The top half of the instrument is in fine order - no running at all, even in touch and at pitch.
However, as with pianos, the cost of a repair is usually way beyond the value of the beast when eventually 'done'.
Time for a little head scratching, methinks!