We really enjoyed making the skeletal organist and organ. It was a great project to work on! Below you will find a description of how we made the organ and organist.
We started with an old pump organ we found at a second hand store. Then we gutted the entire thing leaving only the frame and keyboard
Gutting The Organ
This is what the inside looked like when we took off the back panel. The large black thing in the lower half of the organ is the bellow used to pump the air across the reeds. The second picture is of the bellow once removed. The last two pics are of the keyboard and reeds/bars. The keyboard needed to be isolated and all connections to the bellow and reeds removed. Most pump organs have a similiar type of construction. In 'gutting' just be sure to isolate the separate parts.
Making The Keys Move
Once the organ was gutted, the next step was to make a mechanism that would make several keys move as if they were playing. They keys rest on pins. We put small nuts on the pins in order the raise up the keys that weren't going to move. The 'player' keys remained low. See the pictures to the right. You can click on any picture to make it larger.
Next we made the mechanism that would turn and raise the lowered keys. We made the mechanism out of a piece of pvc pipe the length of the keyboard. Inside the pipe was a metal rod which was held into place with two round wood ends/plugs. Wood braces were also made to eventually fasten it to the board under the keyboard. First we tried powering the mechanism with an electric screwdriver moter but it turned the mechanism too fast. We ended up using a motor from an old matrix printer to power the mechanism. The axis on the mechanism didn't line up properly with the axis of the motor so we used an universal joint to correct it.
Here are some additional photos of the mechanism in progress.
We then lined up the pipe with the keys we wanted to move and marked where the rounded top screws needed to go. The screws would hit those keys which in turn would cause them to move up. We made two rows of screws and played around with the height until it was right. Then the mechanism was secured to the board under the keyboard which was then ready to be put back in the organ. Here are a couple more pictures and a video showing how the mechanism pushes the keys up.
The Finishing Touches
Once the keyboard and mechanism to move the keys were finished, it was time to start putting it all back together. We used brackets in the corners of the organ to make it easier to break down:
We wanted our organ to be a pipe organ with two rows of different size pipes and an alcove behind it. So before replacing the lid of the organ we cut holes for the smaller pipes. To keep the pipes in place, we made a holder for underneath.
On the backside of the organ we attached a pipe holder for the larger plastic pipes. The styrofoam alcove would slide onto these holders.
Then we slipped the keyboard back in place along with the mechanism and power supply and closed the organ back up. The pipes were from pvc pipe and spray painted bronze. We ended up painting the styrofoam alcoves much darker than shown in the pic and also added more shadows in the crevices. The pipes also shine more due to the camera flash.
Because we were going to have a skeleton playing the organ, we added a wiper motor under the keyboard which moved two thin wires attached to the skeleton's hands. We used bicycle spokes but you could also you piano wire or any other type of thin wire.
The End Result
Here are a couple of videos of the organ in action. The first one is just the organ by itself and the second one is with the skeletal organist playing it.