Mechanical Philosophy

Pipe organs incorporate extensive mechanical resources, and it is essential that they be as musically conceived and carefully built as the pipework that they support. If the mechanics do not cooperate in achieving the same goal as the tonal design, the instrument will never reach success. Complementing our primary focus of supporting worshiping congregations, our mechanical resources provide reliable, sustainable support that encourages the style of voicing we employ.

Winding is always plenteous and stable. We employ large blowers to raise wind pressure, and we regulate the flow with a series of reservoirs, schwimmers, and concussion bellows. The wind supply should never be taxed or interfere with the speech of the pipework.

Our design of pallet and slider windchests marries the time-honored benefits of common key channels with the flexibility of remote key action. Throughout modern organ building, the slider chest has been redesigned and refined by builders working in Europe and America. The efficiency and simplicity inherent in this system have long been recognized for their contribution to the long-term viability of an instrument. Slider chests have few working parts to wear out, and when the time for major maintenance comes, access and scope of work are optimum for easy restoration. One of the specific design considerations of our chest action was the ease of long-term renewal so that an institution will not be saddled with exorbitant costs typical of many rebuilding projects.

The tonal contribution of matrix layout is perhaps its greatest merit. In a slider chest configuration, all pipes of a stop are lined up in a row. The rows are aligned so all pipes of any one pitch are in a column. Therefore, the middle C pipe of a Trumpet would be in line with the middle C pipe of the 4′ Principal. The columns sit atop channels which fill with air when the corresponding note is played at the console. Only the pipes whose slider is in the on position (as controlled by the draw knobs will play. When several registers are drawn, they all “breathe” together from a common wind supply. This imparts a blend and focuses to the sound, producing an ensemble reminiscent of an accomplished choir or orchestra.

The Goulding & Wood, Inc. slider and pallet wind chest benefit from all of these characteristics common to the finest examples of organ building throughout history. With the exception of the electro-magnet that serves as a median between the console and the chest, the mechanical system is entirely wind-driven. The pneumatic pull-downs use the chest wind pressure against itself to guarantee responsive action. Further, the closed system alleviates the need for introducing large electro-mechanical motors to operate the pallets or stop actions. The smooth, regular motion of the pneumatic motors creates, in turn, a smooth pressurization of the tone channels. Pipework is thus spared a jolting blast of air that can cause turbulence or even harsh articulation.

Key action is an important facet in organ design. Direct, mechanical links enable organists to sensitively control the shading of the chest action. However, this benefit is largely constricted to intimate pieces from the repertoire. Both bombastic pieces, such as Widor’s Toccata, and accompaniment, be it hymns, anthems, or service music, require far less nuance in the subtle phrasing of individual notes. On the other hand, service playing benefits from detached consoles, providing sight lines and the ability to watch directors, or even direct from the keyboard. With tracker organs, keys that are removed from a direct mechanical linkage lose the sensitivity which is the hallmark of a good tracker action. What remains is the cumbersome issues of mechanical couplers, lack of sub- and super-couplers, and complications in laying out and maintaining the organ. Electric key actions have been stigmatized by some of the unreliable and maintenance-unfriendly systems developed in the first half of the twentieth century. In actuality, reliability has much more to do with the quality of craftsmanship than the type of action. Further, the use of digital controls and solid-state controls have produced electric action of unprecedented reliability, flexibility, and projected longevity.

At Goulding & Wood, our focus has always been on instruments informed by the needs of liturgical musicians. While we spend great energy ensuring our organs can play the rich repertoire masterfully, our fundamental concern is the ability of our instruments to accomplish all aspects of liturgical music solo and accompanimental with excellence. We feel that the marriage of slider wind chests with reliable electronic key action provides the greatest tonal and practical benefits available to organists today.

Each instrument receives the exclusive attention of the entire team of craftsmen during the period of construction and installation. Only one project is active at any given time, with the exception of a short amount of overlap at the end of the project for main chest construction on the subsequent instrument. While our mechanical systems and tonal architecture have consistency throughout our work, each design is unique. We have no stock models and no formulas for stop lists, mechanical layouts, or case designs. The process of designing, building, and installing an organ brings with it the opportunity to come into close association with representatives of the congregation. We maintain close communication throughout the course of the project, including sending many photographs of work in progress. We welcome interested members of the congregation to visit our shop whenever possible, and we frequently host open houses when the organ is completed and tuned in the shop. One of the greatest benefits of this highly personal approach is a sense of collaboration by which we continue to expand our understanding of the art of organ building as well as our circle of friends.