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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: Organ Nuts

March 10, 2006

Dear Michael,
Just recently, during our chapter’s bi-weekly organ crawl (this one featured 4m/p unit organs based on a 4′ chorus with no more than 3r & 97n), I overheard someone refer to me as an “organ nut.” (I couldn’t hear everything he said because I was under the windchest measuring and photgraphing the triple-rise wedge schwimmer.) What is an “organ nut?” Should I be concerned? Are my friends making fun of me? I take organs pretty seriously, I know, but. . .

Thanks for your advice,
Dan Clayton
Ossining, New York

Dear Dan,
In technical terms, an ‘organ nut’ is nothing more than a small item, a bit larger than a slightly flattened pea, often made of leather.
This acts as a nut (as in the team nut-and-bolt) to secure some of the mechanism of a tracker-action pipe organ. When said nut is screwed onto the wire attached to the end of the tracker, it holds that linkage together.

Such ‘nuts’ usually are neither capable of using a camera nor appreciating the difference between single-fold and triple-rise wedge schwimmers.

Seriously (presuming that someone, somewhere, might like to know the real answer to your tongue-in-cheek question), my organ-builder friend Charles Hendrickson, who used to write a column in THE AMERICAN ORGANIST Magazine dealing with similar topics, has this to say:

Leather nuts in organs are an ancient and current device. Many builders tried plastic nuts some years back, but some cracked and were short lived. Mixed oipinions on plastic and leather lately, but both are in use. The traditional leather nuts are punched from real leather hide, and are round (from using the round punches) which vary in diameter from about 3/16″ diameter up to about 1/2″ diameter.
Thickness varies from about 1/8″ to 5/16″.

“You could envision round leather items punched out of shoe leather.
They look somewhat like small shirt buttons, but thicker, and dark brown. They have a small hole drilled in the middle for the action to go through. They are very useful because they can be adjusted by turning them on the threaded action wires, but are tight on the wire from then on, thus they retain their position until rotated at some future time. Also quiet and long lasting.”


On the other hand, anyone who would put himself through the contortions you describe in search of a photographic representation of a pipe organ’s innards deserves to be called whatever interesting term his protagonist can muster. In retaliation, you could put your friends in the furthermost of the quadruple swell enclosure, slam the pedal to its softest pppppp setting, turn the lights out, and activate the Vox Dei.

Give my regards to the team down at Sing-Sing.






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