June 2015 - just getting to grips with one of our up-coming projects - the Alex Chestnutt organ in Clara, Co. Offaly.


We were tasked with taking this organ down, placing into storage, and re-fitting when works to the church are complete. Not to miss an opportunity, as this organ has individual pipe control we suggested to make it more versatile with the addition of a 2nd keyboard. And so.......the recipe requires (1) a nice new Peterson switching system (we opted for a bomb-proof diode system....highly reliable):

Clara switching system

(2) a set of two keyboards;


(3) a nice new batch of Peterson pallet magnets.....(these are quiet, efficient and highly reliable);

New magnets

To explain more: the original specification was Open Diapason 8, Rohr Flute 8, Dulciana 8, Voix Celeste 8, Gemshorn 4 (playable from a single keyboard), with a Pedal Bourdon 16. Manual/Ped coupler and super and sub-octave couplers. A little limiting.

The organ will now operate from 2 keyboards, giving the player the opportunity to solo on one and accompany on the other:

Great Open Diapason 8, Rohr Flute 8, Gemshorn 4, Fifteenth 2

Swell Flute 8, Salicional 8, Voix Celeste 8, Flute 4, Nazard 2 2/3

Pedal Bourdon, Gt-Ped, Sw-Ped

A lot more versatile altogether. We did something similar some years ago in Limerick Presbyterian......the results were good.

The other benefit is that we can get rid of unreliable pneumatics (they had given years of trouble). Here's a pic of some of the lead tubing that was;

Clara lead tubing

And here is the rather forlorn soundboard as was. There is one dome pallet per note (that would be.....let me think.....266 for the manuals.......it is shown with the upperboards fitted to the far 1/2, and the internal pallets nearer.

Under this then resided boards travelling L-R (as seen in the photo below, but front-back when in the organ), with a pneumatic purse (envelope) for every pipe. These inflated to raise the dome pallets. The boards carry purses for 2, 3 or 4 notes, depending on where they are in the compass........2 notes at the bass and 4 at the treble. You can see where some of the purses were replaced with new in a desperate attempt to keep this poor ole organ going....... waaayyyyy too much to go wrong here!



Here's a pic of the pipes as they stood. All we're doing now is accessing them in a different manner, a manner that allows for more versatility;

Clara pipes

Accessing them was done via the new switching system, as mentioned above. Here it is mounted to the expression box wall, in readiness:

Before we got this far however, the new magnets had to be fitted and wired to the upperboards:

Here you can see the upperboards in-situ, right way up, with the cables snaking their way to the end of the soundboard to join forces into a bigger cable altogether.....snaking to avoid where pipes need to stand:

Before any of this could happen we had to replace the soundboard as was to new, as the air holes now needed to be accessed in a different way. For this, a frame was constructed to carry the whole lot, carefully dimensioned to allow access to every air hole:


It was then treated for woodworm as a precaution (complete with Mick's tail in the foreground!):

And here it is......a dry fit, fitting the old to the new:

The view from underneath prior to the magnets being fitted:


And the underside with the magnets fitted.......(final fitting was on site as the combined weight would have been difficult to transport):

While we're at it we'll be doing other improvements - a new blower to replace what was the most crude thing ever (you can see the blower box in the next photo.....crazy big for a little organ such as this, with background mechanical/induction noise to match).....and getting rid of this awful stud wall that served as the organ's side panel. All that timber did was to support 9mm plywood!

This is the front pipe block getting kitted out with its new magnets:

And the keyboards getting the once-over.......with a visitor popping in that day.....Poppy likes to help now and then!

And lastly - the pipes are carefully boxed for the journey to temporary storage.....important they don't get damaged....especially the strings.....tiny damage can cause big upset to speech. They will soon be back happily singing their little hearts out;

And so now we look back at site fitting. Here we see the initial phase.....an organ-less church:


And then the fun begins.......to fit the Pedal Bourdon in required cutting into the wainscotting at the treble end of the chest.......forcing us to relocate 2 notes elsewhere:

And so......with a little tlc all round, incl. blue paint to the front pipes to match the carpet, with gold leaf to the mouths, this is what we end up with:

And happy customers all round.......here I am with Bishop Pat Storey+ at the re-dedication of the works.