Midi Controlled Organ - "ChrisTina"

"ChrisTina" has now mostly been finished & has been working hard since April 2006 (see events page). Some modification are being made & will be noted at the end of this page

A video recording can now be seen on youtube

This is the progress report as she developed

My next organ is still in the development stage.

So far I have made 3 octaves of flute pipes, fully chromatic

It will be controlled with controllers from J W Electronics, driven from a midi file player

Feb 2003

I have made the blower based on a turbine blade from a hover lawn mower (from a local lawnmower repair centre). I used an electric motor with a speed of 2700 rpm. It gives me a water pressure of 5 inches and plenty of air volume. I can't find a way of increasing the pressure yet, so I will voice my pipes to this unless anyone can help with ideas or another blower.

I have made the wind chest which is 100cm x 45 x 8cm high (40 x 16 x 3") and fitted the reservoir


I decided to have a separate bass wind chest so that it could be mounted low down at the back. This has now been made and tested - full chromatic scale F2 - E. The solenoids are small 24v ones, and the springs are made from the spring in a tape rule cut down to about 3 mm wide. They seem to work so far!!

The valves 18mm dia. dowel by 6 mm thick are threaded onto the armature whilst in the lathe to ensure squareness and then a piece of soft material (wetsuit cloth) is glued in place to act as a cushion on which the leather is glued.

The wiring of the solenoids was then completed and linked to the midi board via an IDC cable that I happened to have from a previous job.


Bass pipes mounted on wind chest (one pipe left to make to complete all 12)





Monday 17 Feb 03 was the first time the first rank of pipes were tried out. Most worked first time, some stayed, on others failed to sound, and the rest were out of tune, but the first piece played could be recognised. Now to put the faults right!



 At this stage I am experimenting with the electronics side of the project i.e. relays and power supply voltage in relation to solenoids


The Next Instalment

Since April a number of changes have been made.

The first major change was that I have acquired a genuine organ blower made by the British Organ Blowing Company of Birmingham. Tests between my homemade one & this one showed the same water pressure (5 1/2ins) but a lot less wind noise from the impeller - a great improvement.

I have increased the range of the organ to cover notes:

 Bottom F midi No 41 -E 52 Bass,  stopped flutes

F 53 - B 59 accompaniment (2 ranks stopped flute) it is hoped to switch one rank on or off to balance the loud & soft music!

middle C 60 - G91 melody stopped flutes

middle C 60 - G91 melody double bourdons

C 72 - G 91 melody open flutes

This gives a range of just over 4 octaves fully chromatic.

Positions on the wind chest have also changed to accommodate the extra pipes

The back row has the 2 sets accompaniment pipes 14 in all

the next row is the stopped flutes C60 - G79 --20 pipes

the third row is double Bourdons C60 - G79 --20 pipes

The second row is open flutes  C72-G91 --20 pipes

Front row is the top octave of stopped flutes & double bourdons both G# 80 -G91 --24 pipes

The Bass pipes are on their own sub wind chest, at present on the floor at the back --12 pipes

Another sub wind chest has been fitted to the front to accommodate the piccolos. The top of this wind chest has been made from clear Perspex so that the insides can be seen. These will be classed as counter melody along with the glockenspiel which is still under development.

These will be controlled from a separate control board and set to a different midi channel


I have also started to make a wind chest containing a set of reeds from a harmonium. if successful this will give a nice addition to the sound (I hope)!!

I have made a power supply giving me 27v stabilised and this appears to be ok although the regulator does get quiet warm in spite of a large heat sink. All the additional units (glock drums, piccolos, reed unit) will have to use another or several power supplies to spread the load.


At this stage I do not know how to transport the organ about. Do I put it in a trailer and tow it using my car, or do I mount it into a van of some sort, then I could tow my caravan as well. Do I use a camper van and tow a trailer? anybody out there got any sensible ideas. (Or a vehicle going free!!!)

March 2004

The last paragraph has been answered for me!
I have found a suitable trailer by surfing the internet. It was on "eBay" the buying & selling website.. It was previously owned by the RSPCA, who, I believe, used it to display animals, as I have had to remove some wire mesh cages etc. One side has wide opening doors, which I shall use as the front, and the other side has a lift up hatch, ideal for rear access.

The other main bonus is that it fits in my garage! At the moment it is too cold to do much in the garage, but I have ordered electrical parts so that I can fit lights & power inside it.

7 May 2004

A frame has been put into the trailer to hold the main wind chest & the sub wind chest for the large bass pipes has been fitted against the right hand wall


The following 2 weeks have seen a lot of progress. Firstly the wind chest was moved from the workroom into the trailer and it fitted!! Side panels were assembled into the trailer and the blower was tried in various positions until the main wind pipe would fit the chest without any tight bends, taking into account that the blower weight needed to be slightly forward of the wheels, for road stability.

The Power supplies were mounted in an enclosed box for safety (with plenty of ventilation), and fixed to the floor.

The control box, containing the electronic circuit boards, was mounted behind the back panel and connected up.
After a slight problem it worked.

So far 3 ranks of pipes have been fitted, Stopped flutes, double flutes (tuned Celeste - one pipe set sharp to give a beating effect) and Piccolos

The organ sounds good to me (I may be biased cos I made it)

Next jobs to do is the percussion including Glockenspiel and some decoration.

It's first outing will be to our local caravan club charity rally this weekend. Lets hope not too much falls apart when it goes on the road for the first time

update 20 May 2004

 First Outing

The first outing was a great success! I used 3 caravan hook-up cables to reach a mains supply & the organ worked after its first journey over a bumpy field. We played for about 3 hours & only developed 2 ciphers All the comments I heard were favourable (was asked if I could take it to a local school fete but shall be on holiday on their dates-shame!!)

The sound was not too loud and seemed to be fairly well balanced.

Incidentally I used the caravan clubs 12v dc - 240v ac inverter, rated at 600watts  for just a few minutes. It got my 1/4 hp motor up to speed after about 20 seconds of struggle! and played 2 tunes but it was on its limit, & was plainly going to flatten the battery very quickly. This shows that I need a 2Kw generator to be certain.

update 28 May 2004

Since May things have slowed down a little apart from taking the other organs out. (see events page)

Whilst we were at Lamport Hall we met a Gavioli organ owner who had too many lights on his organ. Not any more- they're now in mine.

Next a side drum was acquired and was followed by a bass drum & cymbal (EBay again). These were mounted on the left hand side and after some experimenting with solenoids, springs and stick heads they now work from the main control board. Also bought a tambourine at Lamport but not fitted it yet.

Meanwhile I had been on the lookout for a marching band type Glockenspiel or Bell Lyre as they are sometimes called. One eventually turned up on eBay at the right price. The original idea was to break it up and use just the bars, but when it arrived it seemed a shame not to keep it intact so it was decided to make a feature of it.

This created more problems on how to mount and automate it. The way finally used was to make it as a freestanding unit in its own right also set to a separate midi channel. This meant having to buy another control board to operate it. Being as it is tuned from middle C for 2 octaves, 24 notes, a 30 note board was ordered. John Wale, the man who supplies them lives not far from me so delivered it to me one evening and stopped for 2 hours. After hearing the organ was very impressed.


Glockenspiel Hammer Solenoids fitted to the "sharp notes"


Now cased in as a free standing unit. Just 4 wires connect it to the organ. In normal use it will stand in front of the wheel arch - if it is not too loud! Haven't tried it outside yet.

In the mean time a friend of mine has offered to have a go at painting some panels for me and tells me that he has some preliminary trials. So one of the jobs I must do soon is to make some loose panels that can be fitted when painted.

this update September 2004

Christmas 2004

       After much deliberation the organ has been given a name. There seems to be a custom to give it    the name of the owners wife in my case Tina (short for Christine) But we also had a close friend who died this year after a long battle with cancer. Her name was also Christine. We combined the two names to end up with


A pair of wood blocks have been made and fitted together with a tambourine. Side panels have been made and installed. these have mirror behind which reflects the lights.

One of our neighbour asked if we were going to play Christmas music outside the house. We thought it a good idea so we did. We got a small feature article and photo on page 3 in our local paper. We played for 1 hour each night for five days and raised 150 for our local hospice (See report on events page)


A small article and a photo was put in "Worlds Fair" in mid January. (thanks Raymonde)

February 2005

After the success of Christmas all the pipes were removed & some tweaking was done to the solenoids inside the main wind chest to cure the sticking pipes etc. While the pipes were out, mirrors were fitted to the sides & the painted back & curtains were installed. This make the centre section look a lot bigger.

Have now started to make another rank of 12 bass pipes which also means another sub wind chest

April 2005

Have installed 2nd rank of bass pipes after a tight squeeze, broadens the sound quite a bit. They can be programmed on or off for quieter passages.

The glockenspiel has been tidied up and painted by Lyn Summers (a friend of mine).

Outing to "rollcutter" weekend near Ramsgate in May 2005


So far this year, ChrisTina has had a good reception wherever she has been.

There has been a few small problems with sticking notes (ciphers), but most have now been cured.
Yet another rank of pipes is being made to complement the piccolos which will then be used to form the countermelody section.

I have asked a canal boat artist to paint the doors for me, so hopefully this will be done during the winter ready for next season.

Also during the winter I hope to reposition some of the bass pipes to bring them nearer the front to try and improve the bass sound even more.

December 2005

I have made a brand new wind chest with "proper" chest magnets which will replace the existing centre section of the organ. This will eliminate the problems of sticking notes (I hope!)
The magnets were bought on eBay again at a price I could afford.
As the organ has been quite busy up to Christmas, the major changes will take place between the new year and Easter

Major Rebuild

After Christmas 2005, the complete organ was dismantled.

The Bass drum, side drum and cymbal were first installed under the new wind chest, which is smaller than the original one, yet contains more pipes.!

 The bass wind chests were cut in half and repositioned either side of the main organ after being fitted with the new magnets.
The blower was repositioned and an air filter fitted on the inlet (2 grades of fish pond filter foam!). Most of the electrical connections were made using computer ribbon cables with multi way plugs and sockets, for easy removal. The latest version of j. omega process board was obtained, and this has made a great improvement.
 The piccolo pipes have been repositioned inside the back of the organ which has reduced the piercing sound and improved the overall sound balance of the organ. They are complemented with another rank of quiet flute pipes which can be played together or individually as a counter melody.
12 more open pipes have also been made and fitted in the main wind chest.
The organ now uses 2 power supplies of 12v and 14v instead of 27v.


A conductor has been added and can be programmed to move his stick (baton) using a spare output on the counter melody board.
The door panels have been painted by a canal boat artist.
At the rear of the trailer an awning rail has been fitted and a cut down caravan awning can be used for storage and weather protection.


The percussion section is being improved by making the bass drum work using bellows & solenoid. The bellows are constantly fed with air until the solenoid releases the air via a valve unit thus collapsing the spring loaded bellows to which the beater is attached.
The snare drum now has a new set of snare wires.

The cymbal has also been fitted with a bellows unit and a pair of temple blocks have been installed.

Improvements have been made to the glockenspiel

What next?

Go to the Lynda page to find out

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