Comprehensive Repair Services are available from mechanical and electrical repairs to repair work needed on pipework.
- Pipe repairs and tonal regulation
- Console repairs and upgrades
- Wiring and switching repairs, upgrades and replacement
- Casework repairs and additions
- Keyboard restoration and re-bushing
- Wind chest repairs
- Key and stop action repairs
- Winding and blower repairs
After the initial inspection you will receive a detailed quote specifying the work as it is proposed and details of the materials that are going to be used. My quotes will be written in plain English and the details outlined in the document should enable you to meaningfully compare my bid with the bid of other organbuilders.
As with all of my work I will only use materials and workmanship that will withstand the test of time and is of good quality. I believe, although the initial investment may be a little higher, in the long term that money will be saved multiple times over when the components will function more reliable and for a longer period.
Touch-up tunings are available if the tuning is generally still in good tune and the reeds need a touch-up for a concert or recital. This type of tuning may also include a very limited number of flue pipes. The general idea is a limited tuning within a limited amount of time.
Initial tuning may be necessary to get to know an instrument before a regular tuning and maintenance service contract will be implemented. The time required is normally a little greater than for a regular tuning visit and depends on the design and condition of the instrument.
Regular tunings in most cases are twice a year in the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter. All pipework is checked and tuned as found necessary. This tuning will always include all of the reed pipes and the flue pipes as found necessary. The checking and setting of the temperament is included and carried out if necessary. A re-pitching of a division may be carried out if necessary but that shouldn't be a regular occurrence.
The idea is to tune as many pipes possible without it being a general tuning. I usually allow a little time for maintenance as well to remedy small mechanical faults if needed.
For organs under my regular care I recommend a general tuning every five to ten years. I also recommend a general tuning for instruments that haven't been tuned for a long time. This tuning will include a re-pitching of the entire organ or divisions as found necessary. If the organ doesn't receive regular care I would also attend to individual reed pipes as found necessary, as dirt, dust or insects often affect reed pipes. General tunings will take the longest of all types of tunings.
Rohlfs Pipe Organ Services is currently offering tuning and maintenance services in the Southwestern Virginia region and the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Durham/Raleigh, NC areas.
Please contact me for more detailed information about the tuning service and my Terms of Business.
A TYPICAL TUNING VISIT
Typically at the commencement of each tuning the proper functioning of the components of the instrument is tested. This test is carried out from the console. Following the functional test the tuning of the pipework is assessed, including the overall pitch of the instrument and each division.
Typically the pitch of the organ is set to 440Hz at 70°F. While the re-pitching of the organ is generally not within the scope of a regular tuning and requires a general tuning, the re-pitching of a division may be carried out if needed. The pipework is tuned and minor adjustments are carried out as found necessary. The regular tuning and maintenance service will be customized to the instrument and the musical needs of the parish.As well as the above a tuning visit may also include:
- Minor repairs and adjustments as needed and allowed within the established time
- Reporting of any existing or pending problems
QUESTIONSWhy do organs go out of tune?
The most common reason for the change of pitch of organ pipes is the ambient temperature. As the temperature rises the pitch of the flue pipes (Diapasons, Flutes, Strings and such) goes up and likewise the pitch goes down when the temperature falls.
Due to the nature of reed pipes (Trumpets, Oboes, Posaunes and the like) the pitch of these pipes is fixed at the pitch they were tuned at. That is the reason why the reeds may seem out of tune when if fact they just stayed at the fixed pitch.
That the pitch of the organ is affected by temperature is a fundamental difference to the piano. The piano's pitch is affected by humidity and the two are seldom in tune with each other unless both humidity and temperature are very tightly controlled and don't vary.
What I described above affects pipework in general but individual pipes go out of tune for different reasons. The most common would be the tuning device on the pipe itself. Depending on how a pipe is constructed and what material is being used you will find different means of tuning a pipe.
The tuning device of flue pipes may be fitted too tight or too loose causing the device to slip. Quite often the gasketing material has hardened or shrunk (especially in wooden pipes) and doesn't provide a proper fit anymore. This will affect the speech and tone of the pipe and needs to be remedied.
Ill fitted tuning devices also affect reed pipes but more often dirt will be the culprit for the pitch or speech to go off. Often a simple cleaning with a Dollar note slipped under the tongue and pulled out gently with the tongue depressed will remedy that. Sometimes the tongue of the reed pipe has come loose and the wedge needs to be re-fitted. A competent organbuilder or tuner should only carry this out.
What about humidity and air-conditioning or heating?
Although the pitch of the organ is unaffected by the humidity of the environment the organ itself can suffer considerably if the humidity is allowed to go out of the normal range. The worst is for the humidity to greatly vary from too humid to very dry or vice versa in short intervals of time.
The reason is that all of the wind chests and often parts of the internal mechanism of the organ are made out of wood and are likely to shrink and expand with the humidity. Extreme dryness will cause cracks in the wood and will allow air to leak causing ciphers and wind noise.
On the opposite end extreme humidity will cause the wood to swell and cause joints to crack and parts to be out of alignment. Prolonged dampness will also affect the leather and felt that used in the organ creating mold and attracting insects to cause damage and costly repairs.
Humidity shouldn't fall below 30% in winter or above 80% in summer. Monitoring the humidity is particularly important during the winter months if the heating is on during the week. A humidifier may have to be installed to prevent damage to the organ. Drastic changes in temperature should be avoided especially when turning the heating off to avoid condensation. Generally a temperature change by about 2 degrees per hour will avoid any damage.
For more information about pipe organ temperature control please read the guidelines published by the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO) in 2006.
What about turning heating/air-conditioning the system off during the week?
With the energy costs rising constantly the question of whether to turn the system off during the week is understandably being asked more often these days.
The size, shape and positioning of pipe organs vary a great deal but generally I would not recommend turning the system completely off during the week if the organ is used during the week. It would better to turn the system up or down by 5-10 degrees rather than for the system to have to catch up more than that. That may be more cost efficient as well.
If the organ is only used for services the HVAC system can be turned off to a minimum setting. Allow for sufficient time for the temperature to reach the normal designated setting. The time needed will vary from situation to situation. Please keep the following in mind.
The organ will be out of tune until such time that the temperature has caught up to the normal designated temperature. The temperature should reach the designated normal setting only gradually by about 2 degrees per hour. It is important to develop clear and simple procedures for the operation of the HVAC system at your church or institution.
Unless all of the pipes of the organ are unenclosed there will be a lag in the time needed for the pipework to catch up to the temperature set by the system. Most likely there will be some pipework enclosed in a Swell box or even inside a chamber, maybe even behind a screen. This will restrict the exchange of air to take place and for the temperature to change uniformly. The better the air can circulate around the organ chamber or pipe work the faster the normal pitch will be achieved.
The greater the difference in temperature the longer it will take for the temperature to even out within the instrument. If the temperature of the pipework and wooden parts of the wind chests have been allowed to change drastically by turning the system off it may take more than 8-12 hours to come right. It is also very important to raise the temperature gradually and a change by 2 degrees per hour is recommended.
For more important information about pipe organ temperature and humidity control read the guidelines from the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO).
My past involvement with restoring pipe organs has always been a very interesting and fruitful.
The restoration guidelines of the Organ Historical Society give guidance to carry out such work.
Often restoration projects are a team effort and I am not shy to involve experts in their respective fields to collaborate. Extensive training and experience in organ building and restoration techniques enable me to carry out restorations to a very high standard.
My approach to rebuilding is to look at the organ in its entirety and create a musical instrument that has integrity. This includes the use of high quality components and workmanship that will last the distance. Taking a long-term view, I believe that this will ensure the dependability of the instrument and will lower the costs of upkeep in the future.
During my 30 plus years in organ building I have serviced many re-built organs and I believe in exercising some restraint when it comes to rebuilding organs. Apart from tonal considerations I believe that the litmus test is the maintainability of the instrument. If an instrument can be maintained easily and all components are easily accessible it is far more likely to function reliably and larger costs can be avoided down the track.
The re-use of worthwhile components and pipework will always be an option keeping my above points in mind.
I have many years of re-leathering experience. From small pneumatics to large double-rise reservoirs or high-pressure reservoirs as used in theater organs you can be assured of a quality job.
Only good quality materials and supplies will be used to carry the work. This includes the use of hide glue. I generally will stay away from synthetic materials and glues as natural materials have stood the test of time and will allow future work to be carried out without damage to the substance.