The construction of organ clocks requires a variety of skills: clock-making, metalwork and carpentry, apart from the technical drawing and design of the clock, design of the organ barrel and positioning of the pins.
Experience has shown that the technic of music production by means of a barrel with pins set therein, devised at least two hundred years ago, remains unsurpassed. The transcription of music for the organ clock is also a very skilled and time consuming process. Clearly there are limitations as to what note can be played with the organ barrel, bearing in mind the limited rage of notes than can be made with the relatively small number of pipes that can be installed in a clock case
Matthias Naeschke is a skilled musician and has adapted tunes to suit his organ clocks. Thus his clocks are musically unique.
Regarding the actual construction of the clocks, the pre-manufactured barrels are stored in the workshop for at least one year and gradually turned down to the correct size over the year. This involves at least fife separate turning operations which are necessary at the wood may expand and contract for a long time.
The last time they are turned the amount of wood removed from the circumference is not more than 0.2 mm. This very slow process is essential so that the barrel does not warp or change diameter over the decades. If it did, then the musical tone would be ruined
For organ clock music nothing is more important than the adjustment of the key-frame to the music barrel
Only the oldest most seasoned woods are used by Matthias Naeschke for making barrels and keyboards. Pieces of old wine casks or one or two centuries-old stair treads, alongside normally cut old woods, are used for making the barrels and the organ chest.
All these woods have to be selected for a perfect fit and this entails the use of some rather unexpected tools, such as surgical scalpels, fine tweezers, 2mm wide chisels and so on. For the organ chest, keyboard and valves the woods must be cut along the grain.
The edges cannot be sanded or even filed. A precision fit is essential; for example, the valves must open and close without rattling.
At Matthias Naeschke’s workshop long-term experiments are carried out before any new wood-working technics are put into production.
Tests for humidity, temperature and air pressure, alone or in combination, are made on various wood types and ages. Various questions have to be asked. How is friction affected? Should the woods be waxed or even oiled? Which woods are the most suitable for any particular use? Should the wood be used along or across the grain? Can it be sawed or must it be split? All these test and considerations are essential if long-term function, for decades and even centuries, is to be feasible.
A different type of wood-working is required for the small organ pipes; for reasons of tone quality stopped pipes are used for organ clocks and these have to be made with extreme care, as in parts the thickness of the pipe walls is only 2,0 mm. Naturally there is high wastage as only about 5 – 10% of the original wood is left in the completed pipe. These pipes have leather-covered stoppers which are also used for tuning purposes.
Only for organ clocks with 2 stops, i.e. with 2 rows of pipes, one set of open pipes is built. They serve solely for altering or reinforcing the tone quality. To achieve perfect tonal quality the mouths of the pipes are continually modified … a time consuming process. In a set of organ clock pipes not a single pipe must differ in tonal quality. After all, everyone will notice a discordant pipe as they are played day after day.