John Smith Busker Organ

The Rolls

Just what is a John Smith Busker Organ? Well, it is a small paper roll operated organ that can be built from plans designed by John Smith in England. The plans are really "carpenter's drawings" as John calls them, and unless you posses a fair amount of woodworking skills, they can be a challenge to build.

For the complete story you are referred to: The John Smith Organ!

What follows is information on the rolls used on this unusual instrument. How are these organs different from other buskers? Well for one thing, there are no regular valves to control the wind to the pipes. For simplicity sake, the rolls move in a pressurized box and the perforations in the paper act as "valves" allowing wind to pass through the holes in the tracker bar to the pipes themselves. By necessity, the holes must be large to allow as much wind as possible to get to the pipes.

When the organ was first designed, larger holes were specified for the three lowest bass pipes...the ones requiring the most wind to sound properly. The holes in the paper were to be larger also. These plans were later abandoned, however, the hole spacing on the tracker bar is still irregular. It is a scale that we are stuck with. The rolls have to be produced accordingly.

Here is a closeup of a John Smith Tracker bar and one with the roll in playing position. The bass notes are to the right in the photos. The tracker and roll operate in a pressurized box. Note hole in lower left corner of first photograph. This opening is tubed to the wind resevoir.

The "plans" call for fabricating spools to hold your paper rolls. You can also use "Raffin" type spool ends. These are fairly expensive, so I adapted the flanges from player piano rolls. The largest flanges can accommodate about 120 feet of paper. Here are photos of how the organ was modified to use player piano flanges. The "Raffin" flanges are larger and can hold more music.

You can modify or build your organ with these roll holders. The photo below illustrates the measurements for the holders I use on my organs. You may have to modify the dimensions to fit your organ. There is a spacer 1/8" thick glued on the back to bring the holder out from the inner wall of the pressure box. Note the angle on the front edge where it fits against the wall leading up to the tracker bar.

I sell ONLY perforated music rolls. I DO NOT SELL MASTERS OR MIDI files of ANY music.


These photos show the construction of my first John Smith organ following the plans as written. The close up photos are invaluable if you are to achieve success in building your organ.

If you stick to the task at hand I can assure you that all the hours of work and frustration will be worth it once you hear the first music which should be the TEST ROLL . The roll shipped with the plans is NOT a test roll. Order one from me for $15.00 post paid.



Copyright © 2009 Ed Gaida All rights reserved.