WATFORD VIOLINS

The next 'lockdown' project involved wanting to include two more string ranks in the Compton installation. These aren't Compton ranks but are, in fact, a pair of Wurlitzer strings originally from the Gaumont, Watford. The console of that instrument was destroyed by a fire in the orchestra pit in the 1950s and the pipework etc. remained in situ for some time before it was eventually removed to be used in other projects. This unison and celeste rank have 'been around' a bit, but are in good condition and, tonally, fall between other string tones currently represented in 'the big one' so would be a useful addition.

The problem was where to fit them, as there was only space for one more chest. We had a 85 note Compton string chest in store but, as luck would have it, when we got it out and looked at it, it turned out that it had originally been built to accommodate a double string unit, but the soundboard borings for the second pipes had been covered with hardwood plates, and the rackboard had been made to take just a single unison string rank.

Having carefully measured the pipes, it was determined that if we used all 85 notes, we could off-set the bottom octaves of the unison and celeste ranks by an octave, to give space to plant both on the same chest. The chest magnets for notes 1 to 12 are wired parallel to notes 13 to 24, each operating a single pipe. The remainder work as designed feeding two pipes each apart from the top octave, which is unison only.

Having decided on a plan of action, before the chest was taken apart for complete restoration, Steve and Ben cut and marked out timber for a new rackboard. This was drilled out on the pillar drill, before the pipes were 'racked in' to a firm fit with hand tools.

The chest itself travelled to Neath to be completely re-leathered and fitted with new pallets by David - all done to his usual exacting standards. As usual, it was put on test wind before being installed in its intended position, and the pipes planted.

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