My Pipe Organ - from dream to the real thing

How I built a pipe organ in my garage

From dream to reality

In the late sixties, on several occasions, I was sent to London for training on new computers. In my spare time I often attended concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. On one occasion an organist whose name I have forgotten, perhaps it was Ralph Downes, performed Charles-Marie Widor's Organ Symphony no. 5. This event opened my eyes and ears for the extraordinary possibilities of this magnificent instrument. I studied the brochure describing the Royal Festival Hall organ and bought a book named "The Organ Today", by Herbert and H. John Norman (Barrie & Radcliff, 1966). Studying the book I found that organ building, to a great deal, at least, is carpentry, so given the necessary tools, a workshop and a lot of time and patience, I could eventually build my own organ. Hear Widor 5, 5. movement

However, various reasons kept me from starting the project right away. For one I did not have access to a workshop and my garage was not suitable for this kind of work. Most of the time I did not have much in the way of woodworking tools. Quality wood is hard to come by in Iceland, and expensive if found. And I knew that it would take a lot of time.

Finally, in 2007, after my wife and I had retired and moved to the town of Hveragerdi, having a 30 m2 heated garage as part of our house, there was a workshop in the making. From my father I had inherited an Emco Star woodworking machine, and I had gradually been adding a few tools, such as a hand held router and a small drill press.

I have sought inspiration and ideas to quite a few websites, but primarily I am gratefully indebted to three organ builders, Phil Radford, whose Youtube videos showed me that MDF can be used to build organ pipes, Matthias Wandel, whose home built organ featured a windchest directly coupled to the manual keyboard, using plastic tubing to feed wind to the pipes (I am using his windchest design with only small alterations), and Raphi Giangiulio, whose wonderful organ website has inspired me tremendously. Both Matthias and Raphi are engineers, therefore understand how to draw things, and both had access to fairly well equipped carpenter's workshops.

As I am tone-deaf as they call it, I had somehow to get access to an external ear. Early in the project I purchased Dirk's Chromatic Instrument Tuner, a software program for my laptop, which has proven indispensable for testing the pipes and the voicing of the organ.

Like to play the organ?

My videos on Youtube

Me and the organ.