Pipe organ reed repair

Got a note that won’t play? Here’s how to potentially save your church a lot of money and time!

Occasionally all organs that employ reed-based pipes (most commonly trumpets) will run into trouble with a note that doesn’t sound. I’m not talking about a note that is out of tune – just one that doesn’t sound at all. When this happens it is worth checking out yourself if you are reasonably confident of your abilities working with slightly more advanced than medieval technology, and if you can physically fit into and work safely within the pipe chamber.

Put some ear-plugs in and have a friend at the console to play notes. Here is what you are generally looking for (follow your ears first):

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The reeds in this picture are the silver pipes with resonators. They are tuned with a tuning wire that comes out of the block below.

Once you have located the non-working pipe, lift it out of position and carefully remove the boot that covers the reed assembly. You will now have something that looks like this:

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On the right is where the air enters the pipe and causes the reed to vibrate. Because of the tight tolerances of the tongue of the reed and the shallot (the wood backing the reed), any little piece of dust that happens to enter and get lodged can cause the reed to stop vibrating, silencing the pipe. Take a clean piece of paper and gently insert it sideways, flossing out the area from the end of the reed to the point where the tuning wire presses against it. Replace the boot and reseat the pipe – it should be fixed and ready to go!

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