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Making Ruffatti Organ Pipes
It may surprise you to know that relatively few organ builders make their own pipes, buying them instead from supply houses. At Fratelli Ruffatti, however, we make all our own pipes in order to have full control over the tone quality of our instruments. Here is an overview of the pipe-making process in our factory, the same process fine builders have used for centuries.
Making metal sheets for pipes
Tin and lead, combined in a variety of ratios, are the basic ingredients of our metal pipes. More tin in the alloy provides a shinier appearance, a better structural resistance and a higher potential content of upper harmonics in the sound. This is why most of our display pipes are made with a monumental 95% tin content in the alloy. The metal is melted in a crucible, or melting pot. It will be ladled into another container before it is poured.
The metal is transferred to a special container at the end of the casting bench, and cooled to reach the right temperature and consistency to flow evenly. It is then poured into a trough at the end of the casting bench. A slit across the back of the trough will meter out the metal as the trough is slid along the length of the bench.
Sliding the trough along the length of the casting bench leaves behind a glistening layer of metal. The top of the casting bench is made of very thick marble and is covered with canvas. The marble provides uniform cooling conditions, thus allowing the formation of the ideal molecular structure of the metal. When it comes off the bench, the pipe metal will have a smooth and a rough (canvas) side.

The long metal box over the casting bench extracts the fumes produced by the hot metal and filters them out, releasing clean air into the atmosphere. The safety of the work environment and protection of the natural environment both stand high on our list of priorities.
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The sheets of metal are attached to the rotating drum of a planer and planed to the desired thickness. When this is finished, the metal can be cut into parts for pipes. Most of the cutting is done by hand. Resonators for larger pipes, however, are cut with a high-precision cutting machine. The work is faster and cleaner for such a big job, and extremely precise.
Ruffatti metal flue pipes
Making pipes rather than buying gives the organbuilder the ultimate control over the many variables that influence sound. All possibilities become open, and the specifying of all required ingredients down to the smallest detail is no longer an organbuilder’s dream. Thus, at Fratelli Ruffatti, the “tonal design” takes on a very special significance. By selectively designing and making our own pipes, we provide an answer for every acoustical situation; even the most uninteresting room acoustics can take up new life with the sound of a Ruffatti organ.
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Pipe metal is soft and quite malleable. Individual pieces are cut according to patterns and rolled around mandrels to establish their shape. A tapered mandrel is used to form the toe of a pipe. The metal is beaten until it conforms fully to the shape of the mandrel.
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The surface of the metal is protected with sizing made by Ruffatti with gum Arabic. The pipe maker now bevels a surface which will be soldered. The sizing is removed so the metal will accept a solder bead. The solder will only flow where there is no sizing. Soldering of a pipe is done exclusively by hand. It is a tricky process, because the solder and the pipe metal have nearly the same melting point!
Hand polishing and the high 95% tin content in the metal alloy make the appearance of Ruffatti display pipes unsurpassed. We also emboss our pipes in our factory, an elegant touch which is available on Fratelli Ruffatti façades.
Traditional cone tuning is performed on many of our instruments. We also provide specially-designed bevelled slide tuners where requested. These make pipe tuning easy and very stable. On our larger pipes, we insert felt inside the tuning scrolls to prevent annoying vibrations. Preliminary voicing is performed in our workshop, leaving ample tolerance to accommodate any changes in volume or tonal character as required during final on-site voicing.
Ruffatti wooden flue pipes
All wooden pipes are made from the best available, straight grain “Sipo”, the best and most stable among the several varieties of African mahogany. Not only is it beautiful to look at; it also has extraordinary resonance qualities that make the sound of our wooden pipes unique. But at Fratelli Ruffatti we go even further: the natural properties of the wood are enhanced by a special varnish, which is applied not only outside but also inside each pipe, before it is assembled.
We manufacture a wide variety of wooden stops, from the very large Pedal Contrebasse to the sweet Flauto d’Amore, a very unusual stop with chimneys at the top, to the rare Doppelflöte, featuring two opposite mouths.
From the largest to the smallest pipes, all have one feature in common: they are assembled with tongue-and-groove, a very elaborate technique, which provides the utmost stability under any environmental condition
Research and innovation play a role in the design of wooden pipes, especially the very large ones for the Pedal. We have developed a software that enables us to determine the perfect width/depth ratio for very large pipes, that makes the wind column most efficient. The results are an extremely fast and clean attach, together with a beautiful sound, rich in fundamental tone.
Ruffatti reed pipes
Making reed pipes has become extremely rare among organibuilders. It requires complicated machinery, skill, and a great deal of know-how. Since supply houses offer reed stops, it has become common to specify the required model and purchase it from a catalogue. This has created an interesting phenomena: reed stops that sound exactly the same on organs by a number of different makers.

Ruffatti is different. We make all of our reed stops as individual entities. For each stop, we design and build in all the good things that make each sound unique and correct for its application. In addition, we factor in tonal stability and beauty, and a perfect adaptation to the acoustical properties of the room.
At Fratelli Ruffatti, the metal for the reed blocks is poured, just as it was done centuries ago. After casting, each block is individually machined to fit its corresponding foot. This ensures the ultimate structural stability, a feature which greatly contributes to the stability of tuning.
Every conceivable model can be created or faithfully reproduced, as in the case of these uncommon French Horn shallots. Resonators of different and unusual forms and shapes are hand-made to create beautiful solo sounds, such as the English Horn.
Details are important. Tuning stability is enhanced by felting every single rackboard hole to reduce vibration.

The signature stop of Fratelli Ruffatti, the beautiful Trompette en Chamade, with brass resonators that look like real orchestral trumpets, is manufactured entirely in the Ruffatti workshop. Resonators are soldered with silver solder to ensure a perfect, undetectable bond.
Trompettes-en-chamade in the façades at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, and Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Fratelli Ruffatti also makes wooden reed pipes from African Sipo mahogany, a beautiful wood known for its strength and stability. Above left is our 16' mahogany Bombarde. Due to the incredible weight of the resonators and the lead blocks of our 32' mahogany Bombarde, we have designed a panel into the foot of each pipe, which can be opened to gain easy access to the reed assembly for voicing.
E-mail to: organs@ruffatti.com
© 1998, 2009 Famiglia Artigiana Fratelli Ruffatti. All rights reserved.