Monday, January 11, 2010

Square 84: Organ building

Square 084

Work on the blanket has taken a hiatus over the holiday season while I busily knitted gifts. 2010 is a new year and I have new projects on the burner—well, actually not so new, but an old project tackled with refreshed vigour and concentration. You can read about it on my other blog, Eramosa River Journal. Meanwhile I plan to continue working on these squares, perhaps at a more relaxed pace than before, but with some regularity.

Another important change is that work has picked up. For months my boss has had a contract in the works to build a new pipe organ for a church in Vancouver. During December we were able to get started on some preparatory work, which set me up to keep busy while he has been on holidays the past several weeks. This job will keep us busy until next fall.

One of the woods we use to build organs is tulip wood, known at the lumber yard as poplar. It is a beautiful tree, uncommon in Ontario, but further south it is grown commercially. The wood has two colours, pale cream with a rosy undertone, and a greenish-brown. This darker colour reminds me of yarn I dyed with black walnuts.

We use poplar to construct toe boards because it cuts cleanly and is stable, not prone to warping. The toe board is the structure on which the feet of the pipes rest. It is full of holes and channels to conduct air into the pipes, and is set up with a system of valves and sliders to shut the air on or off depending on which pipes are being played. We use the band saw, table saw, jointer and thickness planer to cut the boards to precise thickness, then the drill press to drill holes, and the router to hollow out channels on the undersides of the boards. This is my current undertaking.

Many of the pipes are being subcontracted to other shops specializing in their construction. The majority are made of metal but a few are made of wood. We will build some of the wood pipes ourselves. But that is all weeks in the future. Rack boards will also be assembled to hold the pipes in place on top of the toe boards and the rest of the organ—the winds lines and casework—will be constructed around them. Much of the organ will be built in the shop in Fergus, then taken apart and shipped to Vancouver where we will assemble it again.

Building a pipe organ is a journey.

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