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Thermoplastic Materials Extend Reed Life in Pipe Organs
WORCESTER, Mass.–TriStar Plastics Corp. solved an age-old problem with cathedral pipe organs by using a modified high-performance plastic, Ultraflon, to replace traditional wood wedges in the pipe's reed assembly. The result, TriStar wrote in its company newsletter, has been extended service lifetime of the reeds and less time spent on time-consuming tuning.
TriStar (www.tstar.com) was contacted by an organ builder who repeatedly discovered that the traditional wood wedges used inside its pipe organs were failing prematurely. These organs are among the most highly-complex musical instruments in the world, and require hundreds of hours of craftsmanship to produce.
"The entire unit is exposed to vibration as pressurized air moves through the pipe in order to vibrate at a certain pitch. We discovered that the wood wedges could not withstand extended periods of exposure to this environment," TriStar wrote.
The client is just one of a few remaining pipe organ builders, and it has an international clientele and installations in cathedrals, concert halls, and other premier venues. Until now, its reed pipe wedges were designed of solid wood construction. But the client discovered that over time, traditional wood wedges failed prematurely. Each time the reed wedges failed, concert performance schedules were jeopardized. This failure was completely unacceptable given the client's stringent quality standards, TriStar wrote.
Replacing the wood wedge with the plastic, UltraFlon, extended the reed life and reduced maintenance. It also reduced the time needed to tune the organ.
"The reed wedges now have the structural integrity to tolerate the force of the pressurized air flow," TriStar wrote. "By extending the lifetime of the wedge, our client has also reduced the frequency of complex voicing procedures required to tune the organ."
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