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.

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Forming Fipples And Accompanying Accoutrements

[Dr. Suess] created memorable books with minimal words and bright artwork. He inspired children and adults alike, and one of them, [Len], grew up to create wind instruments for the Bellowphone channel on YouTube. Behind the whimsy of his creations is significant engineering, and this time, we get to see the construction of a fipple. The video is also shown after the break. Even though fipple sounds like a word [Dr. Suess] would have coined, it is a legitimate musical term that means a whistle-like mouthpiece. In this case, it blows air across glass jars to create the sound for [Len]’s bottle organ. Check out the second video below for a performance from The Magic Flute.

[Len] uses clear rigid PVC for the fipples and a custom forming die to shape them while they are soft. The rest is precision hand-tool work with a razor saw, hand file, and wet-dry sandpaper. Once complete, the fipple looks like any musical instrument part produced by exacting construction techniques. Making a mouthpiece is one thing, but if it is not directed correctly it will not make any sound, so we also learn how to turn steel strapping into an organ bottle assembly. If you add some tubing and rubber squeeze balls, you can make your own instrument.

Part of the reason the Bellowphone channel exists is that [Len] found a lot of support in the pipe organ community that showed him the secret inner workings of their livelihood and now is his chance to share that enthusiasm with the maker community.

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