Sunday, September 25, 2011

2006 - Lincoln Chord Organ

Taking a break from guitars, I bring you the Lincoln Chord organ.

Many years ago I became obsessed with the sound of a Harmonium. Unfortunately, they're not exactly easy to come upon, nor cheap when you manage to find one. The next best thing, I discovered was an electric motor powered wind organ.

It's a pretty simple setup, a switch a 12v motor with a fan attached, and some little metal strips (tines) tuned to a certain pitch (Like a tuning fork). The air flows over the tines and produces a metallic reed type sound.
The problem with the chord organ that I have is that it was too noisy. I've rebuilt it a few times, but the fan was always very loud, so there was no way to dampen it without getting into the electrics. Frankly that was something that terrified me. Mains power is scary, when you have no idea on what you're doing.

I got sick of it at some point and loaned it to a friend, who evidently had a similar issue, since it never saw a lot of use. When he gave it back, he told me that the power socket was a bit iffy. When I got it home and plugged it in, I discovered that he wasn't kidding. As soon as the power was switched on, there was aloud bang, sparks and the cable had flown across the kitchen.

Upon further investigation, it was clear that the old power socket on the back of the unit had become very fragile. The metal prongs had somehow managed to touch, which resulted in the shower of sparks. I figured that this would be a good time to sort out the motor control once and for all. So I took a trip to my local electronics dealer and picked up a controller for a light dimmer. I was still deeply paranoid, so it sat in a box for another 3 years, until I decided to give it a go.

Installation of the controller, was a fairly simple affair. Just a matter of identifying what was meant to go where. About a 10 minute job if you don't count the time it took to get my tools together.

The fan controller worked as I thought it would. It gives control to slow the fan down enough, to still produce sound when the keys are pressed, but also quieter than before, to the point where you hardly hear the motor.

Unfortunately, something has happened to a couple of the tines, so they don't produce sound, and a couple of the old felt stoppers were worn, so that the keys didn't close some holes. I made my way to one of the local discount goods shops and picked up a packet of felt for $2 and went to work on the organ.

Under the chord keys, the felt wouldn't stick with craft glue, so I ended up using double sided tape (glue was fine under the regular keys). It took a while to sort out the holes with a scalpel, but it seemed to function much better than before.Still not perfect as a few tines seem to be prevented from vibrating by some unknown hindrance, probably a bit of fluff from the felt. But it works for now, just got to tweak it a little more to get it 100% working.

Chord organs are decent sounding instruments if you can get your hands on one nice and cheap, they add a certain old timey charm or an eerie drone to a song. Don't overlook them as junk shop items.

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