48-Keyless Hand-Turned  Reed Organ Makes a Return
by Gary Hall
BOGA Menber Gary Hall writes about his restoration of his 48 Keyless Trueman Reed Organ:

Having answered an advert in Old Glory magazine in Autumn 2004, I purchased a Trueman 48 keyless reed organ from Mr Roy Shaw in Derbyshire. The organ had been made in 1987 by Peter Trueman as a prototype when he first started building organs. It was a one off and was purchased by Roy Shaw in 1988. The organ had been in Mr Shaw's collection until it was disbanded at the end of 2004 when six organs were put up for sale due to the closure of his museum.

The organ uses the reeds from a harmonium with punched card music operation. The first job was to remove the organ from it's trailer and this lead to discovering that, not only did the front of the trailer open up, but the lid lifted up and the sides opened out as well and the back came out so the handle could be turned to operate it.

Having cleaned the dust off the inside of the organ I was now able to see how things worked and, as there were a number of notes that weren't playing correctly, I removed the front baffle box to gain access to the keys, at which point I discovered the reason some weren't playing properly. The fine leather tape holding the pads to the keys had perished on a number of them so first of all the old tape and spacers were removed and the keys cleaned. New leather spacers were glued onto the keys and finally, a small piece of canvas was glued over the key & key arm to hold the key in place. This canvas allows the end of the key to move and form a good seal on the reed chest. The felt pads were also checked and re-glued where required.  Along with this, a number of loose springs were adjusted and the baffle assembly was given a good clean to remove years of dust.

Whilst the organ was out of the trailer, decorative panels were made to brighten up the side and front panels. Each panel will get five coats of primer, undercoat and gloss before the frame and carvings are attached. The colour scheme chosen was red and leaf gold for the panels with antique gold and silver for the carvings and sign-writing.  Meanwhile, the keys were lubricated and re-fitted to the organ. The next step was to send the organ to Nick Williams who was going check the entire pipe work and valves and check the instrument throughout and check the notes that weren't playing.

The organ had its action adjusted and Nick had to work hard to get the balance between the spring tension and bleed screw adjustments right in order to achieve the optimum note repetition. This was achieved by resetting all the bleed screws so nothing played then adjusting each one in turn in combination with the spring tension to get it right.  He also got the percussion and swell shutters working, with the snare drum producing a nice 'roll' and fixed a couple of wind duct joints. One of the pallet springs was weak and a replacement had to be made and fitted and the keyframe needed adjusting to stop ciphering and to get the music to go through straight without wandering off!

The trailer had all its wall panels and roof removed in order to be re-painted externally, the interior varnished, decorative carvings put in place and, once this was completed, work had to start on the electrics for the organ lighting.  New wooden brackets replaced the metal angle brackets that held the keyframe. This raised the keyframe slightly and tightened the tension on the belt. A mahogany fronted pine shelf was fitted below the keyframe to stand the books on whilst playing and to store additional books as required.

The one final problem was discovering the motor that had come with the organ was not strong enough now to turn it. So, I have decided to keep the organ as it was built, it will remain hand-turned. The electrics that were put in place to add a motor have now been used to power a small heater to keep the frost out in winter.  Three curtain panels were fitted and a small light was fitted above the back of the organ so you can see what's happening whilst it is playing. The decorative lights have now been connected up to the lighting controller and transformer, as these are all 24v. These are mounted on a board together with the RCB fuse box, 13a socket (for the tea) and fused switches for the lighting and heater.

Finally, I have also made a storage area which boxes in the keyframe, and a set of shelves for the books to play from and to give room to store books whilst the organ is playing. An additional storage cupboard to one side of the organ has also been added.

The organ made an appearance at the FOPS event at Widnes last year. This was its first public outing on a rally field and is certainly the first time it had been played in public during the last few years. The organ will hopefully be out at a number of events this year and willing volunteers will be most welcome to come and turn it for a while if they see me at an event!