Anatomy of a WurliTzer Theatre Pipe Organ
Refinishing included sanding all timber back to bare wood and brushing on as
many coats of shellac as it took to get the desired standard of finish. The number
of coats varied with the type of wood, the condition of the wood, the weather, etc
but was generally in the 5 to 8 range,depending on the wood in each piece. Some of the better
timber only needed 3 coats. Of course each coat was sanded back, or scrapped back with a blade, before
the next. Before the final coat I rubbed it back with Linseed Oil to seal the surface.
The oil also makes the shellac flow on much smoother for the final coat.
The standard original finish was one coat of shellac, sprayed on. This would have been
much faster than my method but requires the facilities to set up a spray booth and
would be much more practical for mass production rather than small quantities.
The extra time and effort involved in the multiple coats does produce a better
have a few marks that are not removed with the minimal sanding required to strip the
surface to bare wood. Those few imperfections that do not sand away are left to give
some aged look to the instrument. In a few cases where serious damage had occurred
through knocks or where “modifications” had been done to make things fit new wood
was inserted to restore the piece to original shape.
One problem with sanding the parts back to bare wood is that the original markings
on them are lost. These large letters stamped onto the parts in black ink show which
parts go together and make reassembly less of a jigsaw puzzle. To replace these
markings I used a set of number punches to replicate the function of the letters but
in a permanent way that is less obvious than the original letters. Not quite adhering
to the original methods but it does replicate the spirit of the original while being a
little more effective. The numbers used were chosen to replace the letters with their
equivalent number. e.g. A becomes 1, B becomes 2 etc. This ensures that the numbers
remain consistent when later pieces are remarked. Letter Punches would have been the better option.
At the same time I have also stamped the Opus Number (2027) into the wood in
various places so all parts of this instrument will be identifiable in the future if any of
them should ever become separated. It would have been much better if Wurlitzer had
done this when the instruments were built, but they didn’t.
This procedure for refinishing woodwork would be continued on all wood in the
instrument, including surfaces that were not finished originally. The only exceptions
being surfaces to which glue was to be applied and surfaces which screwed onto
other polished surfaces. Yes this does include surfaces that should never be seen
again, until the next full rebuild, like the inside of pneumatics. Someone should be
very surprised when they start recovering pneumatics and find that they have been
polished on the inside. I expect it will be far enough into the future that I will not
be around by then. There is actually some practical benefit to this extra effort. The
wood is sealed and protected which should help extend its life, and the smooth
surfaces will help the air flow a (very) little.
When the parts were completely dry they were wrapped in plastic, labeled and moved