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OSI keyboards

Building organ consoles for use with Hauptwerk, adding MIDI to existing consoles, obtaining parts, ...
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dbaskeyfield

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OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 1:53 pm

Hello,

New to posting here but a relatively close follower of the forum for a little while. I'm getting close to being able to afford to build a HW setup at last. A very important part of it for me is the manuals, which really need to be the organ kind with full length keys. I've looked around quite a lot at various ways of midifying an existing manual stack but am not convinced I'd be able to regulate the firing point with any precision. This may be a question mostly for organ builders, but does anyone have any experience using OSI keyboards? It would be a substantial outlay of course but I really don't want to get this part wrong. This may be a silly question but what kind of interface do new organ manuals use? Would a stack come already wired to a connector of some kind (I assume this would not normally be MIDI?) or is it a question of soldering wires to contacts? I assume OSI has had at least some dealings with the HW market, but does anyone know how normal it would be for them to supply a manual stack wired for MIDI? I assume they can do anything for a price, but I'm really wondering whether this would be something standard, or whether I'd be paying a premium on top of the keyboards themselves for an unusual job.

Many thanks!

David
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Romanos

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 2:03 pm

I would also like to know the answer to a few of these questions, however I can answer a few as well.

OSI keyboards are VERY well-made. I used to work in a pipe organ shop and we used them multiple times. There is a fair degree of latitude with features as it all depends on what you order from the catalogue. As such, the price can vary as well. That said, they aren't particularly cheap (although I believe UHT is typically more expensive). Ultimately, they are intended for actual pipe organ manufacturers. That should tell you a little bit about how they are built and their quality, but also that they are not plug-&-play solutions. I think most builders wire them themselves. I also doubt OSI has much—if any—experience directly dealing with the hauptwerk market as they do not sell directly to consumers. To obtain their components you'd need to find them second-hand (I just purchased two off of ebay) or go through a local instrument maker / organ builder. If you do the latter, I'm sure they can guide you and/or navigate the tricky bits about regulation/wiring/midification. Ultimately, I plan on purchasing a few midi encoders and wiring them up myself (I will be back to the forum in the coming days asking for advice...). I can promise you that they stand head-&-shoulders above most plastic or even wood core midi keyboards, however. The ones I just purchased have 18" fulcrums, full wood shanks. Even the nice "wood-core" fatars from midiworks don't even match half that.
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murph

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 3:38 pm

Hi David,
I never thought I'd see the day you would venture down the electrics route!
First: still in Rochester, or back in England?
Second: how far back do you want the pivot? (ideal world and sufficient.)

Tony (in Dublin.)
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dbaskeyfield

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 3:40 pm

Thanks for this! Certainly agree on the quality - it's the long fulcrum I'm after, prepared to budget it to allow for that over the short Fatar etc. type, which is just a completely different world. My organ builder friend also showed me the set of key finishes they offer - I can't/wouldn't stretch to bone and ebony, but their satin synthetic finish feels very satisfying. If it comes down to doing the wiring myself, that would be no problem - I'm happy soldering and could make MIDI interfacing work, would just want to make sure that sold as-is the firing point is set/adjustable on the keyboards themselves and there's something in place I can solder wires to, rather than being in essentially the same position as with salvaged manuals in having to try to fix switches in exactly the right place.

Slightly different but related thought: if I go this route I'd probably have them incorporate the piston rails at the same time - the builder advised his firm doesn't drill their own piston rails, just gets them along with the keyboards instead. I'd save some money getting Walker pistons (which would also be easy to wire; self-contained with pins rather than a metal shank) over Skinner style etc. I'd originally planned to make my own key cheeks but gather from Timothy Masters' book that that isn't worth the hassle as they're overly fiddly?

I do wonder whether they've supplied at least some MIDI-ready keyboards in the past - expect there have been organ builders putting together higher end HWs for clients who wanted it done for them?

Thanks again!

David
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Romanos

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 3:53 pm

Incorporating piston rails and keycheeks is probably a good idea, although it can be done. Drew is able to help people out (according to his website) with this. I'm going to contact him about it. The contacts are adjustable, although I believe they are calibrated at the factory. They are exposed gold pins (three per key, if memory serves). I think you can order more/less a "complete" keyboard, which is to say, with all the requisite wiring, ground rail, etc. or you can order just the physical keys themselves. I'd check with your builder friend to see how he orders from the catalogue. I think they can do as little or as much as you like.
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dbaskeyfield

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 3:57 pm

Hi, Tony!

Good to hear from you and find you on here! I'm still in Rochester. For how long I'm not sure, but certainly here for now. Honestly I don't really know enough to have a precise pivot point in mind - OSI's is 16" and the touch is certainly good enough. I don't know how long P&S's is [that's the ideal ideal world but just way out of my price range]. My church is using a HW as a temporary fix for a problem with the organ here [the clean WAVs are also vastly superior for voluntaries than recording live while so much of what we're doing is online...] - it was a bit of an emergency and had to arrive as quickly as possible, hence a turnkey from Arnold rather than building it myself. I've been perfectly happy with it for what we need it for. It has the standard Fatar keys though (since it was for limited use and on the church's dime, not mine, I would have felt bad about specifying real keyboards as an expensive indulgence on my part...) and I just couldn't live with them if I were building my own as the practice instrument I have to live with the rest of my life - I figure HW is pretty future-proof in terms of software being indefinitely upgradeable, so only intend to build one console.

And quite happy to be venturing down *this particular* electrics route! I'd never put my money into an Allen or Rodgers - HW is a completely different idea for me. Aside from all else, having a sampled existing organ by a proper builder (and most of what I play is on one of the Cavaillé-Coll sets) is a different world from a suspect "French Romantic" set conjured up by a standard electronics builder. The idea of a poorly imitated Cavaillé-Coll spec sharing the same stop knobs and pitch levels as a North German instrument is one of the most ludicrous things I've seen the conventional digital market come up with. In any case, I can get my mechanical action fix at church, just well overdue for a practice instrument at home and would rather have something with sounds and reverb than buying three stops for tens or hundreds of thousands... To that end, having something that feels and plays like a real instrument is a priority, hence why I I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet guaranteeing I get the keyboards spot on. It's going to get 4-6 hours' use a day so I'll just get by without a big TV instead...

Hope you're well!

David
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dbaskeyfield

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 4:02 pm

Thanks, Romanos! I'd probably be able to use the shop's drill press and table saw for piston rails but if it's cost effective it probably makes the most sense to have them do it so I'm sure. Thanks for the info on pins and rails - that's really helpful. Will certainly chat with my friend - I'd like to do as much myself as is reasonably necessary to keep costs down, but will try to get a sense from him as to the point where uncertainty of getting it really right outweighs the up-front cost.
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murph

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostThu Feb 25, 2021 6:32 pm

Hi David,
I'm not Dexter, or someone you know well from Dublin, but you'd recognise me from the audience. (Box pews under the crossing, between pillars, south transept. CC in south transept at back (the Hill on wheels was always in the way of the brustwerk)).
Have a hunt for an old Allen, at the right price. They have the keyboards you like. I'm due in warehouse tomorrow (3rd time in nearly a year...), so might have a chance to take one of my old Compton keyboards home to play with midifying. (using Yamaha 210's currently... they were cheap at the time). )
If I can get these to behave, I'll send on details. (There is a way to use more traditional contact methods with the voltages current processors expect.)

FWIW. Caen is fab, but you need something less forgiving for practice. Rotterdam transept is a good start......

Tony.

p,s. now back to cooking dinner......
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rauschzimbel3

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostSun Feb 28, 2021 3:46 pm

David -
I wonder if the fulcrum length is the most important parameter. My HW console has Fatar keyboards with wood coverings by Arnold (Custom Organ Works). As delivered the touch was terrible. The Fatars come with 150g springs. I bought 100g springs from Martin Digital, no longer in business, and that improved the touch tremendously. The 150g springs are way too stiff. Tendonitis time...
There is still the Fatar standard-equipment mushy touch. Though there is top resistance ("tracker touch"), the break point comes over too much travel, and the resistance at the bottom of the key is too much.
I think if the touch were lightened even more and the top resistance made more crisp, the relatively short fulcrum point of the Fatars would not be an issue. I may be wrong, but I don't think it's the most important element in the touch.
The current thread on Schwinder keyboards bears following: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=19512. I'm curious to see how the poster evaluates these. I've been interested in the Schwinders for a long time, but felt they were difficult to obtain. The description (http://www.fabiomancini.altervista.org/ ... raENG.html) looks good, and the touch curves make sense. I cannot find what the fulcrum length is.
Another possibility is P&S (http://www.pandsorgansupply.com/C175_Ma ... board.html), though obtaining them in the U.S. is also a question.
I've played organs with magnetic top resistance, particularly by Randall Dyer, and think they are good. Perhaps Randall would build you keyboards.
A friend on the east coast used a "low mileage" 60's Casavant console for a HW, and that is excellent. The Casavant keyboards are, to my taste, about the best of E-P keyboards. If you can find a a stack.
PM me and I'll share another contact with you.
Good luck!
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smfrank

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostMon Mar 01, 2021 4:08 pm

rauschzimbel3 wrote:My HW console has Fatar keyboards with wood coverings by Arnold (Custom Organ Works). As delivered the touch was terrible. The Fatars come with 150g springs. I bought 100g springs from Martin Digital, no longer in business, and that improved the touch tremendously. The 150g springs are way too stiff. Tendonitis time...!

Same exact situation here. Any idea where to get new springs?
Although I don’t know if I have the energy to replace 183 springs!
Steve
Steven Frank
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rauschzimbel3

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostMon Mar 01, 2021 11:40 pm

Martin Digital closed down, and I don't know another source for the springs. Too bad - the lighter springs make the Fatar keyboards at least bearable.
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NickNelson

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Re: OSI keyboards

PostTue Mar 02, 2021 3:21 am

rauschzimbel3 wrote:... and I don't know another source for the springs.


If I can't be bothered to wind my own, I go to places like this:

https://www.assocspring.co.uk/music-wire-compression-springs.html

There must be lots of similar establishments in the USA. You would need to know, or measure, the free length, diameter and rate (how much force is needed to change its length by a certain amount), but if you intend to buy them by the hundred I'm sure they would be happy to help you choose. 'Stock' springs are cheaper than 'specials' but most spring manufacturers will make them to order (for a price).

Nick

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