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  QUESTION: Non-leaded solder for repair of leaded organ pipes, 21 Jun 2004, South Australia

I think that all organ builders make or use lead based pipes as there is 200 to 300 years of tradition involved here. I doubt if anyone has stopped making lead pipes strictly because of concern for the health of those processing (i.e. without external prompting) - however, tighter controls on exposure, requirements for more capital investment (fume control, more controlled heating etc) and greater penalties for breaches have probably made it uneconomic in a lot of cases. Most organ building firms are small - up to say 6 employees. We have 4 builders that I know of here in Adelaide, so Australia wide there might be 20 / 30 builders, with most doing repair / refurbishment work (perhaps check your yellow pages). Of those 4 in Adelaide, I know of only one that makes his own pipes. The others buy them from someone else. O/S there are probably many hundred (probably getting into thousands) firms, again with most being small businesses. There would be under 50 'big' builders. Sadly electronic organs are much cheaper, so the number of new organs being commissioned each year would be small.

Standard practice would be to use leaded solder. Soldering pipes is quite a skill (the material melts at close to the melting point of the solder. Too much heat = disaster). To change to a different solder would be to invite problems (bit like the radiator business). Fortunately, the material is soft enough that they can usually be bent back into shape without fracture, so usually there isn't much need to resolder. Most repair work on existing organs is replacing/ repairing parts of the air delivery system - wood, leather, felt, steel etc. Apart from tuning, the pipes are nearly maintenance free (unless physically damaged).

ANSWER: 21 Jun 2004

Gee Michael - you're a mine of useful information. It occurred to me to ask whether there's such a thing as a lead-free solar hot-water system? Or could there be? How much lead is in a standard solar hot water system ie what weight of lead are we talking about for say a four person family home? If I actually received a wage for the work that I do and if I could purchase a lead-free solar hot water system, I reckon I would!

By the way, you sound like the sort of person that could write us a very interesting factsheet on the history and use of lead organ pipes and the OH&S precautions required for making and handling them. Are you interested in doing that or do you know of such a factsheet already in existence from your course?

Elizabeth O'Brien

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