Console Rebuilding

Relocation of Organs

In our ever changing worship environment churches for reasons of growth choose to build new buildings. Sometimes these churches elect to move their organ with them to the new location.

Sometimes churches close, merge or move and they do not bring their pipe organ to the new location. In other cases a new organ installation, building renovations or even a private residential estate relocation results in fine pipe organs becoming available for sale, donation or even for free. This decision could become an opportune time for you or your church to acquire a quality vintage instrument at a significantly reduced price when compared to an entirely new pipe organ.
When an organ becomes available for relocation, it must first be evaluated. Our qualified professionals will do a comprehensive assessment of the instrument, making sure that the pipes, chests and mechanical systems are functioning correctly and appropriate for the intended space. Once the evaluation is complete, a proposal is provided for the relocation of the instrument and any suggested modifications to suit the organ for its new home.

For the move itself, the organ is systematically disassembled. The pipes are then carefully packed using proper packing materials in appropriate containers, using time-honored methods to ensure safe and damage-free transport. We relocate consoles, platforms, blowers, chests, pedal pipes, swell shades and ultimately anything related to the organ. We move organs nationwide, it does not matter if you live in California and want an organ that becomes available in Florida, we can move it for you. Depending on the scope of the project, the organ is either delivered directly to the new location or to our shop for storage and improvements. In either case, the organ is thoroughly cleaned, reinstalled and brought to life once again.

Please contact us if you know of a pipe organ that needs to be relocated, if you are interested in buying a relocated organ or if you are looking to incorporate vintage pipe work into a new instrument. In any case, with the proper planning and professional techniques employed by R.M. Ballantyne Pipe Organs the resulting pipe organ will be a noteworthy improvement over an undistinguished electronic substitute.


Most often, pipe organ releathering is necessary as perishables deteriorate over a time period of approximately fifty to sixty years. Leather becomes porous, and other perishable materials found within the organ become worn with use. It is through the maintenance and repair of these items that a pipe organ's service life can be virtually extended indefinitely. We strive to use the finest materials available in the organ industry

LEATHER: we use only the finest and most durable skins, based upon current research, our own experience, and that of colleague firms. Leathers are chosen with regard to application, pressure and desired tensile strength. Chrome-tanned sheepskins skins are generally used. Other types of leather is available by special request (check for availability and price).

PAPER and DISCS: fiber discs are used for all pouch work.

ADHESIVES: water-soluble Hyde and Fish glues are used in all cases where a perishable part is attached to a permanent element. Non-soluble adhesives are used where firmness of adhesions desired and future renew ability is not at issue.

FINISHES: we finish all parts as befits their application and original construction.

METAL PARTS: springs and valves wires are replaced with the best quality available.

Tonal Finishing

Voicing is the process by which organ pipes are made to sound a musical note. Tonal finishing involves the final regulating of the sounds of the pipes after the organ is installed. The process requires two people: one to listen critically from the console for pipes that need to be adjusted and another working inside the organ to change the volume, speech or tonal characteristics of the pipes as needed. The latter person could be called the "finish voicer."

We employ the Services of D. Steuart Goodwin as voicer; noted for his work on both the Mormon Tabernacle Organ by Aeolian Skinner, and the new adjacent LDS Conference Center organ built by Schoenstein.

We also employ the services of Wendell Ballantyne who sits at the console of the organ.

New Organs

Every year, 100 to 125 new pipe organs are installed in the United States alone. The Organ is still the number one instrument of choice for most worship environments. It is important that each pipe organ be designed and voiced for its unique worship space that the organ is found in. R.M. Ballantyne Pipe Organs, custom designs every instrument, carefully considering the budgetary guidelines of each church. In most cases it is possible to specifically design the organ to allow for future expansion.

The process of a new Pipe Organ installation begins with a visit to the church and discussion with the organist and church representatives. In the course of discussion, we offer many different options, which may be selected, and develop a final proposal for the instrument. It is important to us, that the organ primarily fulfills the needs of proper worship in the setting that it is found.

Our new Pipe Organs incorporate the latest technology with the finest traditions in organ building. We would elect to use slider chests where pipes are not being borrowed. Where there is borrowing unit chests of the Electro-Pneumatic style would be employed. Pipe work is custom scaled and voiced by our Tonal Finishers for each projects specific, acoustic environment.

Upon completion of installation, members of the church can take pride in having a fine pipe organ that will enhance worship for many years to come.

Complete Restoration

When it comes time for a pipe organ to be rebuilt there are many questions about updating, additions and/or tonal modifications. While certain organs might require such upgrades, others deserve a faithful restoration. Many fine pipe organs were altered unsatisfactorily chasing trendy fads and many of those organs have since been dismantled or returned to their previous state.

With a faithful restoration the main goal is always preservation. Therefore no additions nor tonal modifications should be made. Another key differentiation between a rebuild and a restoration is that in a restoration, the original action, be it tracker, electro-pneumatic or bar and slider would be reconditioned and retained. It is acceptable and advisable, especially in the case of an older instrument, to add or fortify catwalks and other access points, modernize lighting and electrical for ease of maintenance. Anything that can be done to help facilitate the upkeep of the organ is looked at, addressed and completed so long as it does not interfere with the original, historic character of the instrument.

An authentically restored pipe organ is a true treasure as it allows us to hear the work of the great builders from years past just as they intended. It is a link to our past that will last and be enjoyed for many more generations to come.

Pipe Organ Rebuilding

A pipe organ can last many lifetimes. One only has to look to Europe to see fine instruments dating back to the 16th century that play as beautifully today as they did hundreds of years ago. The wise church will choose to properly maintain their current instrument, making it possible for rebuilding to take place.

Most often, pipe organ rebuilding is necessary as perishables deteriorate over a time period of approximately forty to fifty years. Leather becomes porous, felt becomes worn and relay systems show evidence of wear as contacts fatigue or break off. It is through the maintenance and repair of these items that a pipe organ's service life can be virtually extended indefinitely.

Organists are usually the first to realize that an organ is beginning to deteriorate. Sluggish action overall sometimes points to leather porosity. Frequent non-sounding notes or notes that do not stop playing (ciphers) also evidence the need to plan for a pipe organ rebuild.

As the church forms a committee to oversee the process of organ rebuilding it is important that committee members have some knowledge of the pipe organ in their church. A successful rebuild starts with a competent committee to sort through proposals, check references and finally choose a reputable firm for rebuilding the pipe organ.


At times it may be desirable to add ranks of pipes to an existing pipe organ. Of utmost importance, secondary only to proper selection of new stops, is whether or not the existing organ chamber will accommodate additional pipes without sacrificing the ability to service the instrument. In some cases, the original builder prepared for future additions by leaving extra space on the chest for specific ranks.

An ideal time to add new pipe work is during the process of rebuilding the pipe organ. It is easier and more cost effective to provide switching, stop tabs and associated wiring for new pipes at a time when the whole switching system is upgraded. Also, it is sometimes possible to offer additional, intelligent unification of existing pipe work to increase versatility and tonal variety for the Organist.

MIDI recently became a popular product offered in the organ building industry as it allows for the addition of electronically generated stops where there is absolutely no additional space for pipe work. However, additional space is necessary for speakers for the electronic stops. The most practical application for this type of installation is the very low pitched stops of 16' or lower. A MIDI addition also allows for record/playback capability, a great teaching tool and a method the organist may employ to step away from the console to hear their registration from another place in the sanctuary.

Tuning / Maintenance

We currently provide organ maintenance and tuning services to many churches in the Southern California area. We perform complete tunings in which each pipe is checked and adjusted. This time consuming process is well worth the extra effort when compared with "touch up" tunings. Where applicable, minor repairs are completed during the tuning visit. We also advise of any conditions that might require a church to start planning for future rebuilding or maintenance needs.

We recommend that most churches choose to service their instruments on a Bi-annual basis. Usually when the seasons change. This allows the organ to be adjusted so that is can preform in top shape throughout the year.

Storage of Organs