Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Art of Georgian Cabinet Making

An interesting little challenge came into the workshop recently. Part of the case of a chamber organ made by George England in about 1760 was missing. This particular case had been in storage for many years in various locations and one of the tower caps had somehow been mislaid. The tower caps are very distinctive features of organs of this period and with quite complex mouldings. The task was to make a copy of the matching tower cap.

The tower cap is made of mahogany on a pine carcass.
The side mouldings are made separately and all the profiles were made by hand using a mixture of traditional wooden moulding planes and more modern (but now discontinued) Record combination planes.
The top of the cap is solid mahogany and had to be carved by hand as the radius was far too big for my lathe. I suspect that the originals were made as a pair with a circular cap made on a large lathe and then cut in half. The rest of the carcass is covered with a mahogany veneer and smaller mouldings. There is also a pine 'roof' on the tower cap to keep out dust.

The natural mahogany colour will be stained and polished to match the rest of the case later in the restoration.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

What lurks inside a windchest

I am currently building a practice organ for a client using a compact secondhand windchest with two sets of pallets on a common grid. When I finally got wind into the chest many of the pallets leaked and there were quite a few runnings. My usual technique of applying hot glue to the tail end of the pallets in situ often fixes such problems but in this case had almost no effect. The pallets were covered with a fairly thin layer of leather on a white felt base. The tails of the pallets seemed to be covered in very thin leather that was lifting. There was nothing for it but to take the chest apart and examine the pallets carefully with a view to releatherng them. The first thing that was evident was that the tails were not covered in leather at all but in some sort of canvas or calico. Secondly the tails of the leather seemed to be fixed to a rather odd type of leather - something with lines on it and the occasional flash of colour.

When I removed the screwed-down strip many of the pallets were actually loose - not glued down at all. When I removed all of the pallets the awful truth was revealed! The tails had been 'glued' to a very Sixties-like piece of plastic table cloth.

When I took off the covering it was possible to read 'a Nairn-Williamson product' on the back. Nairn- Williamson were producing waterproof plastic table cloths and the like in the early to mid 1960s. It didn't look as if there had been any attempt to roughen the surface of the cloth before trying to attach the pallet tails. I suspect that someone had done a bodge job on this organ and it probably never worked properly. One pallet had a jointed piece of leather that was bound to leak.
So tomorrow's work is to strip all 112 pallets and recover them in a double thickness of leather, as well as replacing the loop of thread (yes really) with a properly fixed brass eye to attach the pulldowns.