Mechanical and Pneumatic Actions


    St Mary, Finedon, Northants
Tracker action by G.M. Holdich 1872

    St Peter, Notting Hill, London
             J W Walker 1905
Tubular-pneumatic action 'Drum Exhausts'
       (Restored by Andrew Fearn)

Mechanical key action
Mechanical key action should be retained when it is present; its simplicity and reliability is often a factor in the survival of an historic organ, and the sensitivity of a good mechanical key action cannot be equalled. Some examples may seem heavy to those used to organs with other mechanisms. A good player will quickly become used to the touch of an organ and careful maintenance or restoration may make the touch lighter. The heaviness of the action of a Victorian organ when the manuals are coupled is often a consequence of poor adjustment of the coupling mechanism. During the course of restoration the key action and couplers should be repaired and adjusted to give the best operation possible consistent with the original design. Where an organ originally had mechanical action that has since been removed, the original action should ideally be restored, preferably in the style of the original maker.

Pneumatic key action (including both tubular and pneumatic lever actions)
Pneumatic lever actions (combined with mechanical coupling action) were only made for a short period. They are correspondingly rare so their preservation is important. Restoration of the mechanical and leather components is relatively straightforward.

Early Willis and Hill single-stage tubular actions (with large diameter tubing) are also now rare. They are however very robust and the leather components not difficult to repair.Again, their preservation is important.

Existing two or three-stage tubular (with pneumatic coupling action) key actions should be retained and restored if at all possible. However, not all organbuilders are experienced at their adjustment and repair and some tubular pneumatic actions are susceptible to unreliability in the coupling action caused by low humidity following excessive winter heating in the building. If the lead tubes at the heart of the mechanism are in good order restoration will usually be more economical than a new action of similar quality.


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