Lost Pipe-Making Technique Re-Discovered

“Munetaka Yokota is a meticulous craftsman and a brilliant organ builder who has done groundbreaking research on how old instruments were built,” says Annette Richards, university organist and project manager.Munetaka Yokota working on pipe

Yokota discovered a lost technique for pipe making that gives Cornell’s baroque organ a unique character. The sheets of lead are cast on special fine sand before being rolled up to make the pipes. Because metal cools faster this way, the pipes have a different crystal structure and sound than those made with modern techniques.

“The pipes are rather strictly built in the manner that organ builders in north Germany practiced in the late 17th and early 18th centuries,” says Yokota, including how they cast the metal sheets and cut, rolled, and soldered them together.

Munetaka Yokota working on pipeBut one modification had to be made to how the pipes fit into the organ case. Oak releases gases that corrode pipes, which is why modern organ builders use plywood. In the 17th century, oak logs were transported by water, a process that leached out the corrosive gases. But no one handles logs this way any more, so Yokota instead sealed the gases by charring the places where wood and pipe metal meet.