Organ Projects

January 30, 2018

Trinity Lutheran Seminary, 

Columbus, Ohio

Bigelow & Co., Inc., Organ Builders, American Fork, Utah

Bigelow & Co., with significant assistance from Oyster Pipe Works, Ltd. (Louisville, Ohio), has completed an extensive rebuild of the 1983 Steiner-Reck organ at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Issues addressed include the following:

1. Metal pipes were collapsing.

2. Tracker action, though innovative, had proven to be unserviceable.

3. Stop action (slider solenoids) had become unreliable.

4. Manual keyboards were badly worn.

5. Swell pedal was very difficult to operate, and swell effect was poor.

6. Tuning access was difficult.

7. Sound was top-heavy and deficient in fundamental.

Two factors contributed to the collapsing and sagging of metal pipes: soft metal and insufficient racking. All pipe repairs were sub-contracted to Oyster Pipeworks, who removed the nearly 2,000 pipes to their shop in nearby Louisville, Ohio. All pipes were washed and straightened, and miters were repaired and reinforced. Three awkwardly mitered pipes were cut short and fitted with Haskell tubes. Pipes as short as 1 had their toes reshaped, while heavy-duty cast toes were soldered onto over 300 of the largest pipes, including some in the 4 range. Racking was improved by reinforcing existing rack boards, adding upper supports to many pipes, and adding bracing to existing upper supports. 

The mechanical key action was completely redesigned, incorporating carbon fiber trackers, conventional roller boards, and top-quality wooden tracker squares. A notable feature of the original action was the use of ultra-fine aircraft cable for trackers, which was not a bad idea in itself, but interfacing it with other components turned out to be problematic. Further, the layout of the original action involved multiple angles and layers, which made servicing the action, and other parts of the organ behind it, difficult if not impossible.

All 30 slider solenoids were replaced with new ones, which are less prone to sluggishness from exposure to dust. Power controls, which had previously been mounted to each solenoid, making some of them quite inaccessible, were centralized. Dust covers, which also offer protection from falling objects, were added.

The original natural keys were plated with padouk. They must have been visually stunning when new, but they did not withstand the test of time: middle C of the Hauptwerk manual was nearly worn through! New custom keyboards with ebony naturals and bone-plated ebony sharps were supplied by Heuss. Thumb pistons, also by Heuss, are black with white engraving—a marked improvement over the original ones, which were blank, identified only by illegible, adjacent labels.

Excessive friction in the swell shade action had been caused by a rack and pinion that had transferred the motion of the swell pedal to a cable connected to the swell shades. Because a simpler mechanical connection was not possible, an electric swell motor (Peterson) was connected to the cable. The new swell pedal operates smoothly and easily. Swell shades were carefully trimmed and felted to improve closure.

Tuning access in the Hauptwerk had been severely hampered by an elevated toeboard for the Scharfzimbel, which had stood between the back of the chest and all the other pipes except the reeds. Tonal revisions (see below) permitted the middle section of that toeboard to be removed, much to the relief of the local technicians. Tuning access in the Pedal division was improved simply by cutting a small door in the side of the case.

Tonal changes included:

1. Replacing the Scharfzimbel with a 2 Super Octave, to make a complete principal chorus in the Hauptwerk

2. Replacing the quarter-length 16 Englischhorn in the Schwellwerk with a new half-length 16 Dulzian

3. Replacing the half-length resonators in the low octave of the Pedal 16 Posaune with full-length resonators

4. Raising the wind pressure in the Schwellwerk

5. Raising cut-ups and opening toes of foundation ranks in all divisions

6. In the Schwellwerk, revoicing the original 4 Viola as a Principal and the original 2 Italian Principal as a Waldflöte. (Even before revoicing, both of these stops, in the majority of their compass, sounded more like their new names than their old ones.)


The original dual memory combination action was replaced with a new 128-level system that included a piston sequencer and “stick drive” (USB port for backup and portable memory).

Video cameras and monitors were added, and keydesk lighting was improved.

Service lighting inside the case was improved.

The blower was enclosed to reduce noise.

Wiring was neatened and confined to raceways where practical.

Case surfaces were cleaned, and damaged wood was repaired, especially in the keydesk area.

Stop jamb was refinished and laser-engraved, replacing original dry transfer lettering.

Pipe shades were repaired.

Stoppers of all 82 wooden pipes were refurbished.

The motor-driven tremulant was replaced with a new, simpler solenoid-driven system.

Special thanks are due Fred Oyster of Oyster Pipe Works, Ltd., and his team. In addition to the items mentioned above, Fred regulated all the existing reed ranks, mitered the new reed rank, assisted with on-site reed voicing, and that still is not an exhaustive list. Lastly, we are grateful for the friendly support of Peebles-Herzog, Inc., local caretakers of this organ. Their willingness to loan us tools and equipment—often for lengthy periods of time—was extremely helpful and much appreciated. The job turned out to be much more involved than originally planned, and everyone at Bigelow is grateful for the extra patience and support of Prof. May Schwarz and everyone at Trinity. James Bobb, professor of organ and church music at St. Olaf College, played the first recital on the rebuilt instrument on June 6, 2017, to an enthusiastic audience.

­—David Chamberlin

Vice-president/Tonal director

Bigelow & Co., Inc.



16 Quintadena (electro-mechanical action, 1–12)

8 Principal (1–8 fr Pedal 16)

8 Rohrflöte

4 Octave

4 Spitzflöte

223 Nasat

2 Super Octave (new)

2 Flachflöte

135 Terz 

IV-VI Mixtur

8 Trompete

8 Krummhorn

Schwellwerk to Hauptwerk

SCHWELLWERK (enclosed)

8 Holzgedackt (1–8 fr Gemshorn)

8 Gemshorn (1–8 capped metal, cone-shaped caps)

8 Gemshorn Celeste (TC)

4 Principal (formerly “Viola”)

4 Traversflöte (formerly “Flöte”)

2 Waldflöte (formerly “Ital. Principal”)

III Aliquot (223, 135, 117)

113 Quint

III–IV Scharff

16 Dulzian (new)

8 Oboe



16 Principal (electro-mechanical action)

16 Subbass (wood, electro-mechanical action)

8 Octave

8 Bordun (metal)

4 Choralbass

IV Mixtur

16 Posaune (1–12 new full-length copper resonators)

8 Trompete

4 Rohrschalmei (formerly “Schalmei”)

Hauptwerk to Pedal

Schwellwerk to Pedal



58/32 notes—AGO pedalboard.

Manual keys: ebony naturals, bone-plated ebony sharps.

Self-regulating mechanical key action, except as noted.

Slider chests with electric stop action.

128-level combination action with piston sequencer and USB port for backup and portable memory.

Electrically operated swell shades.

2 manuals, 45 ranks.

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