THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FROM DOUG POWERS ON THE PROPER ADJUSTMENT OF
WURLITZER VALVES IN PRIMARY-LESS WURLITZER CHEST MODELS.
To John and Roc...
My comments here come from having worked on and restored 11 ranks of
original Wurlitzer primary-less chests (and dozens of standard ranks too!).
I do not profess to be the world's foremost expert, but I have been around
theatre pipe organs since 1962. (just for the record) So.....
As mentioned, the "sluggishness" of these actions does not come from the
attack - it comes from the release. If you think about how the secondary
pneumatic is responsible for pushing the spoon or sticker attached to the
pallet valve over which the pipe ultimately sits, I believe you will agree
that the distance travelled by the secondary when collapsed (and hence the
sticker) is directly related to the opening of that pallet valve.
I guess another way of saying it is that once
the secondary pneumatic (or in the case of primary-less, these would be the ONLY
pneumatics!) collapses, the closer the sticker or spoon is to that bumper on the
pneumatic, the wider the opening will be when the pallet valve moves. What you
want here is to minimize that opening and to maximize the lost motion between the
sticker and the bumper.
Here's why: If that sticker is adjusted very close to the bumper, you run the
risk of "wheeper's" or tiny ciphers caused by the pallet valve being ever so
slightly depressed and allowing a tiny amount of wind to pass through into the
pipe. Sometimes these can cause a full blown "cipher" which is a son-of-a-gun
to diagnose since nothing else in the chest appears to be at fault. It gets
worse if the magnet also has a tiny leak (which unfortunately can happen even
in the best of maintained organs). So.... CAREFULLY bend the sticker (or spoon)
AWAY from that pneumatic bumper as FAR as you can while still allowing that pallet
valve to open just a little (can't tell you exactly how much - this comes from
experimenting) while the pneumatic is fully collapsed. Believe it or not, 1/4"
or less between the top of the pallet valve and the underside of the topboard is
about right. One might think that the pipe would not speak properly with that
small of a pallet valve opening. However, it will sing out just fine!! Even
the diapasons and tibias will get plenty of wind under these circumstances.
Don't forget that the total area of wind needed for that pipe to properly speak
is predetermined by the slit in the top board and the opening of that channel
leading to the pipe toe. (of course the very large pipes at the end of a chest
or any offsets will need a bit more clearance).
The reason this helps speed up a primaryless chest is that once the note is released,
the pneumatic cannot relax fast enough (or as fast as a secondary on a "standard"
chest) due to the smaller square area of the opening in the magnet base. While
a primary-less chest magnet has a larger port than a standard chest, the total
opening is somewhat smaller than that of the primary valve assembly which allows
a bit more wind to pass back into the secondary... which of course allows that
secondary to snap back quicker.
By maximizing that lost motion as described above, you are shortening the distance
that pallet valve must travel when it closes and therefore it takes less time to
totally close off, and the pipe stops speaking more quickly.
Now having said all this, I must tell you that the standard chests (properly
rebuilt) do have a better chance of being faster than these very late types
- BUT... by adjusting them this way, they will be very noticeably faster than
if they are NOT adjusted this way - of this I can guarantee! Before making
these changes, a trill of two notes often blended into what seemed like two
notes actually being held down - UGH! But now, trill away and you get just
what your fingers expect - a trill!
One more comment. I mentioned that you must move these stickers (spoons) very
carefully. No kidding. Especially if one is doing this in a chest that is
installed in place. I found the best way was to hold the pallet valve closed
with a finger of one hand, and very gently pursuade that sticker away from the
pnuematic bumper with a finger from the other hand. This way one runs a smaller
risk of popping the pallet valve off of its spot.... and minimizing a very
frustrating job of placing it back. In the treble end of the chest (closer
to the center, of course) in narrower ranks - strings, slim reeds, etc) I found
carefully holding a screw driver (with a removable pencil eraser on the end to
avoid digging into that 70 year old pallet valve wood) helped a lot. Remember,
too - that if you gently push the sticker, it WILL move and stay put. But be
careful not to split the wood where it is attached to the pallet! As careful as
I was - I had to remove about 1/2 dozen pallets and re-glue the stickers in
place.... but not too bad considering there were about 700 in total!
Well - that's about it. Like I said, these chests seem to work just fine - they
are a lot lighter to move, cipher less often, are quieter, and frankly, I am sold
on them. But then - I can't play "Dizzy Fingers" or "Roller Coaster" as lightening
fast as they were meant to be played!
By the way.... if you are interested, the organ in which these chests reside was
recorded by Walt Strony - his label # WSOC-2N, and it's called "By Request".
I dont know if it is available to the public or not... but his version of Tico Tico
which is pretty darned quick shows off the responsiveness of the organ - primaryless
chests and all! Also - if you're interested - and you get the Theatre Organ magazine,
check out Kenny Crome's ad - there is a photo I took of the console to this organ -
it's a replica of the ex-Brooklyn Paramount, now L.I.U. Wurlitzer console - Kenny
did a fabulous job! Good luck - let me know if you have any success!