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Reed organs

I am fascinated by reed organs, how they work and how so many were once built in Canada. I have four.

Repairing various problems goes with the territory of owning such an instrument. But because no one makes them nowadays, information about how to do it is difficult to find. Some experts have made fabulous, helpful websites. My favorites are by Rod Fudge here and Rodney Jantzi here because they have good pictures and explanation. Macon Campbell in Windhoek Namibia completed a project on a Chicago Cottage Organ with youtube videos in 24 episodes, summarized here. However, beyond the basics common to all, each organ is somewhat different and the information cannot be directly applied from one to another. Opening an organ is an adventure in discovery.

I try not to buy more. I love the fact that they are completely mechanical and can be taken apart and put back together with only a screwdriver. And I am fond of their wheezy tone that can credibly play tunes from Palestrina to Procul Harum with Piaf in between.

On these pages (click on links below), I hope to explain how I try to repair them with photos and descriptions of my problems, containing the kind of simple information that I am always grateful to find when I stumble upon it. I have no expertise or qualifications for the work. I am not into restoration. I just want to maintain them in order to be able to keep them playing.

Portable Melodeon, made in Boston, circa 1860

Uxbridge reed organ repair, made in Uxbridge, Ontario, 1880s?

Wm Bell cottage organ, made in Guelph, Ontario, circa 1887-8

Sherlock Manning Organ, made in London, Ontario, 5 November 1907

Sources on Canadian manufacture include

Robert F. Gellerman, The American Reed Organ and Harmonium, Vestal Press 1997.

Robert F. Gellerman, Gellerman’s International Reed Organ Atlas, Vestal Press, 1998.

Robert J. Allan, excellent “chapter” on Canada at this web-based book the Free Reed Organ in England, , 2003-2020.

Last update 19 Feb 2022