Sunday, 19 February 2017

Wherein I Falsely Accuse A Mouse

Righto folks - confession time and some super sleuthing.....

When I first brought the Estey Artist home, I tried to play it but it sadly wheezed a few tunes out then gave up with a final sigh and creak.  Clearly the bellows were chewed by the predicable and proverbial mouse. Ah well - a full recovering was planned anyway. If the bellows were in the same condition as the case then they would be a truly awful sight to behold.

Well, the mouse-chewed bellows theory began to come under question as I was dismantling the upper action.  If there was going to be evidence of mice they would certainly be messing around in the upper action. Mice love the softwood, the dry nooks and crannies of the upper action and especially all the beautiful fluffy felt. However, there was zero evidence of mice in the upper doubts began to grow at this point.

The next job was removing the bellows and feeders.  As I unscrewed the bellows and slid them out, I was amazed at what good condition both the feeders and the bellows were in - where was the mouse hole?  Oh, and then I saw the problem - the bottom batten that is secured (nailed in this case) to the bottom edge of the bellows had been loosened and one edge hanging off.  I gently removed the batten to reveal the bottom edge of the bellows cloth taking the full strain of the bellows springs and the middle section of the glued bellows cloth having separated from the frame.  That was the mouse involved. (My apologies Miss Mousey).

The batten pulled off the bottom edge of the bellows

The bellows cloth lifting away from the frame

...enough of a gap to slide an Opal card into...and to render
these bellows useless

I was not satisfied with just finding this. I want to know why? (Yes I'm annoying like that). I reflected on what I had seen whilst removing the bellows and remembered seeing a random wood screw sitting proud on the very bottom of the organ's base plate - I wandered over to contemplate it again and to let the possibilities settle in my mind regarding this anomaly.

Sipping my coffee and staring at the proud wood screw in the base plate, I allowed my mind to play through the mechanics of how this errant screw could impinge on the bellows action - then the penny dropped.  The screw would have caught the edge of the bellows batten (probably on one of its many rough moves) and pulled it off and in turn this would have left the bottom edge of the bellows cloth less supported. Over time, and with the ever-present pressure of the bellows spring, the bellows cloth would have, little by little, unstuck itself from the bottom edge of the bellows frame till the inevitable separation occurred creating an instantly ineffective set of bellows.

The proud screw....

...enough to catch the bottom of the bellows and loosen off the
batten....the rest is history.

The bellows and bellows feeder cloth looks in excellent condition, so now I have to decide if I do a 'clever' re-adhesive job using a very long straight wire primed with hide glue along the semi separated section of bellows cloth......or do I replace the entire bellows cloth just for the sake of it even though I know this is a repairable breach?  My frugal mind wrestles with my idealistic mind on the matter.

Whichever path I choose with these bellows, I will have to remember to screw in that proud screw in the base plate or we'll be right back to square one!

Take care folks


P.S.  I am still very puzzled at why there is so much of this organ's action still in marvelous condition - yet the case is so badly treated.  I am sure the answer will reveal itself eventually.


  1. interesting, am sure the answer will come to you eventually
    thanx for sharing

  2. What a job you have ahead of you but I can tell you are like a pig in mud, Phil and are thoroughly enjoying yourself :-)

  3. Nice blog Phil. My vote would be to recover the bellows. The old cloth, although I'm good condition, is still very old and will give in eventually. If you re-cover it you won't have to think about it again in your life time.

    1. The more I ponder, the more I am leaning towards the same conclusion Darragh. Now to wonder what material would be the best.....

    2. Yep, i think so too
      Sis x