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Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/Which is best in unheated church, except Sundays...

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Question
We are planning to replace our very old little Thomas, which is having problems, with a different organ.  I like my 1960's Conn full size theater, but we need a smaller size in the church.  I see a Gulbransen on Craigs list...never played or heard one, but I'm interested mainly in which Organ (Conn?.. Gulb?.. or whatever) will be least adversely effected being in our little unheated church all week long and then heated just on Sunday mornings.  We do have a furnace that kicks on at 42, so unless there was a power outage, it will remain above freezing.  We are also in the damp Northwest.  

I did see a loaded Conn this week (maybe an late 80's or newer model?), that had been left at least for a while in an unheated vacant house.  In spite of green growing on the keys, it still seemed to work fine with the exception of one stop, and the leslie made a lot of scratching noise.

Any advise  or suggestions... especially if there is one we maybe should avoid for our conditions?

Answer
Hello Sherri!  I am also in the Northwest and understand your concerns.  However, the organs you mention are all vulnerable because of the aging process more than temperature swings.  The hundreds of discrete components within them can't simply continue on trouble free forever.  One of the most common problems is neglect of use.  The electrolytic capacitors that are used by most all electronics need to be charged occasionally.  Some organs sit for years without being turned on once in a while.  When this happens, the electrolytics start to age more quickly and are likely to fail.  

Gulbransen organs, one of my favorites, on some models use about a dozen large electrolytics on the power supply alone.  When one of these capacitors fails, it will need to be replaced.  The concern is if one failed, are the others likely fail shortly thereafter also? That's a lot of capacitors to replace!

In some organs, the manufacturer would install a device called a "Damp Chaser".  It is a long metal tube, about 1 inch in diameter.  This device contains a heating coil rated at 25 watts.  The tube gets warm and stays warm as long as the organ is plugged in to the wall.  This low wattage heater helps to keep the internal components dry and minimizes extreme drops in temperature. If you find an organ that might work for your church, you can take the back of the organ off and check for a Damp Chaser.  If it does not have one, they are not particularly expensive and are easily installed.

In churches where the sanctuaries are not heated, I like to install a Damp Chaser directly beneath the keyboards.  This takes the chill off the keys so when the organist comes into practice at least the keys are not freezing, making the task of practice tolerable.  

If you would like to contact me with further questions, you can reach me at www.britson.com.  

Piano, Organ, and Keyboard

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Thomas Britanyak

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics. If you need a piano's date of manufacture, please go to http://www.pianoexchange.com/howold.htm or http://www.bluebookofpianos.com/pianoage.html I am happy to answer musical or technical questions, however, I CANNOT offer appraisals on pianos or organs. Please do not ask what an instrument is worth. For this service please contact an experienced local appraiser or try the following links: https://mmm1100.verio-web.com/blueb1/appraisal.html or http://www.57piano.com/questions.htm

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics.

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I am a full time organ/piano technician who has been actively involved with the design, building, repair, maintenance and installation of organs and pianos for 35 years. I began as a keyboard instrument apprentice and hold degrees in music and electronics.

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