Bottle Organ Breakdown

A keen-eyed commenter pointed us to a homemade bottle organ that plays like a piano. The complexity gets turned up with foot-powered bellows and custom keys, but the magic of [Mike] and [Simon Haisell]’s garage-built instrument is not lost in the slightest. We also have the video below the break and there is a bottle organ performance by [Coyote Merlot].

The working concepts are explained well in the video, and that starts with the bellows. In the first few seconds of the video, we see an organist swaying as he plays, and it would be accurate to say the music moves him. The wobbling is to pedal a couple of levers that squeeze a pair of air sacs and slide under wheels that look like a hardware store purchase. The spring-return mechanism is a repurposed bungee cord and you know we dig that kind of resourcefulness. Each bellow valve is made with traditional leather flaps of the type that predate bungee cords and camera phones. These air pumps inflate a big reservoir in the back that provides continuous pressure to a manifold where each of the thirty-six keys control a valve responsible for one bottle. The pair built every wooden part we mentioned with the explicit purpose of creating this organ.

A brass fipple, that’s a real word, blows across each glass bottle, although they show a wooden version of the nozzle too. The fipples mount on a tilting rack to direct the air precisely over the bottle mouths. Melted wax tunes the bottles, but our first thought coincided with their first idea of filling the vessels with water, but that stuff evaporates, so we’ll put that tuning treasure in our toolbox.

Thank you for the tip, [Hirudinea] who commented on the fipple article linked above.

8 thoughts on “Bottle Organ Breakdown

  1. Wow… a lot of work really went into this thing. It’s a very notable effort…

    …c’mon…

    …not[e] – a – ble…

    “Two drums and a cymbal fall off a cliff… ba-dum-TISH!”

    I’m here till Thursday, try the veal…

    (Also: dammit I wish I was at least slightly musical. Music is *awesome*.)

  2. On the video. If you are not talking into the mic you are not coming across, sometimes it’s very weak audio. Audacity will normalize audio in videos.

    On the fipple. The restriction at the end should be the smallest and the width open up inside, not the flat for some distance I see. Unction is not bad considering the lengths of hose between the valve and mouth. The hoses should be as short as possible.

    Look out for beer growlers and glass water jugs for an extension into the pedal range.

  3. I love it!
    What a fun project and all with relatively simple tools and parts. Nothing fancy and it does what it needs to and seems to do it very well. The sound it produces is very nice, cool project in many ways.

  4. Seems like an unusual way to make the keyboard. I’m used to keys that sit on top of the pivot, held in place laterally by pins sticking up through them. With this design it seems like leveling the keyboard would be difficult (and indeed, it doesn’t look particularly level).

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