Pump Organ

Dec 2014 we picked up an old pump organ,,,   it had big problems,,,  but we were able to get it at 1/3 rd the asking price… but I ended up paying the difference in labor.

After getting it home,  we took out a couple screws on the back,  and four more holding the wind-chest to the case,   pulled the stops, keyboard, wind-chest, and bellows,, Game On.

Feeling overwhelmed looking at the action,   I decided to start on the case and work my self up to the  rest.

The best we can tell is this organ was built somewhere around 1895.  The wood is dried out, Brittle, and the glue holding it together,,,  well let me say holding it together is a bit of an overstatement. Everything I needed to get apart came apart with a little wiggle and a light pull….  and that was where the glue was holding well…   I am not sure how some parts stayed on during the ride home.    For example, when I removed the back from the case,,, there was a good crash when parts hit the floor.

repairreglue cleaning

Not having been a furniture restorer, the learning curve was a bit steep at first.  I wanted an antique pump organ that I could play and enjoy,  pass it along to the kids if they want.  After gluing it back together I spent time sanding, and going over it with steel wool to get it ready for a coat of oil.   The main cabinet in the photo background was done while I worked on the top.  We started with oil soaked rags  rubbing lemon oil into the wood,,,   but the next morning it had soaked in and you could barely tell what we had done.   That is when I started brushing heavy coats of Lemon oil on with a brush.  By the time I had finished the first coat the part I started on was already dry.  I ended up giving it all three heavy coats of oil.  I have a friend that in an earlier life time had finished furniture for a living.  After letting this rest for a month or so  I’m going to duplicate the recipe he gave me and give it another go.

cleaning-keys keyboard

Several of the keys were warped and twisted…  I ended up clamping them to a oak rail.  Wrapping the key with a damp cloth and heating it up with an iron to steam the wood.  It surprised me how well they came out.  Next cleaned the surface stain and scratches with 2000 grit wet dry paper, followed by polishing compound and wax.

cleaning paletscleaning-reeds

Some of the pallet leathers did not completely cover the openings to the reeds.  Ended up removing a couple of leather and felts and re positioning them.    Cleaned, polished,and tuned the reeds.   Well to be honest,,, I had to get it back together before I could tune them.


Cleaned up and put new felt in the key couplers, installed the keyboard, stop board, assembled it all to the repaired Bellows, then final assembly.   The pedals were covered in 1970’s red foam backed kitchen carpet on warped pine.   I did not have the heart to put them back on…  My wife and found some 1 X 8 oak and cut it to fit.  After carving them to match some of the detail on the top, we soaked them in water to raise the grain in an effort to make them look old, then stained them to match.


My second pump organ was purchased in Salt Lake City for $80.00.     Wished I knew then what I know now,  ever heard the term 20/20 hind sight.    In reality, for the price I thought it would be hard to go to far wrong.

This organ had been gone through in the early seventies.  The failing finish was top coated with a heavy coat of dark brown varnish almost completely covering any visible wood grain.  Ended up scraping, sanding, gluing, and refinishing the surface.  Here is a before and after shot.   The light colored panels have been scraped sanded and ready for finish, compared to the case that has one coat of  natural Watco finish.  I am not sure if the color was the woods natural color, or if the finish reactivated some earlier stain.



After putting on several coats of the oil finish, rubbed with 0000 steel wool,  everything was ready for assembly.



We are very pleased with how this has turned out.

My thanks to Jim K. for his help and guidance on which finish to use.  Also Sharp Powder Coating in Brigham City  for the great job  and low cost on refinishing the pedals.  Last and certainly not least,  my wife,  for letting me take over the kitchen,  the countless inquiries,  and just plane help.  (pun intended, check out my other pages)

I don’t think three organs on the house will be permitted for long.   This one will go on the sales block.  If you are interested, drop me a note.