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June 18th: Shabu Shabu and Pipes

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After a long night’s sleep, Tuesday we drove into Chicago to visit with Jeff Weiler, owner of JL Weiler, Inc. Jeff’s company specializes in the restoration and conservation of high pressure pipe organs. He wanted to show us his shop and the work he was doing on a Wurlitzer Organ from Sydney Australia and a second one that is being installed in downtown Chicago at St. John Cantius Church.


This series of binary relays represents the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ’s ‘computer’. It is complex and requires a great deal of wiring.


Of course, on this trip we’ve learned a thing or two about wiring! Here is the third harness weaver we’ve seen during our journey!


All the pipes and instruments have to be tuned. Here’s the contraption jeff uses to insure the completed organ sounds the way it should.


To properly rebuild the organs, Jeff has saved many documents. Here is just some of the Wurlitzer documents he has to reference. Here Tom and Jeff show me some of the blueprints they own.



Here Jeff and Robert are showing me their collection of vintage wood screws. Even on places where no one will ever see, they use vintage screws to adhere to the quality of the original organ. IF YOU HAVE OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS VINTAGE WOOD SCREWS, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. JEFF IS ALWAYS IN SEARCH OF THEM. They can have surface rust, because they polish the screws before installing them.


Here are Jeff and I in his shop’s showroom. The large brown book in my hand is the ‘bible’ on Wurlitzer Organs written and given to me by Jeff.

After a visit to the shop, Jeff took us out to lunch for some Shabu Shabu in Chinatown. It’s kind of a Japanese Fondue, where you dip your meats (land or sea) into a pot of boiling liquid to cook it. It was very good!


I’d certainly heard of sushi, but not of shabu shabu.


Underneath the broth in the lower center of the photo you can see the flame keeping it warm.

As a present, Jeff also got us some chop sticks that extend. I’d never seen a set of these. We were told they come from Tibet. (don’t know if this video will work or not, but you should see short chop sticks become long ones)

When lunch was finished, Jeff took us to beautiful St. John Cantius Church where his team was installing a large Wurlitzer Organ that was rescue from another church. The organ has been restored and they were fitting all the pieces together into the new space. It will be completed in October and should sound fabulous inside. The acoustics were wonderful.


The rector of this church was sent to close it down. Instead, he’s revitalized it. Most of the church has been restored.

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The view from the third floor where the highest portion of the organ will be installed.


This restorer put in several hundred hours just to restore this piece of the organ.

When we left Jeff in the afternoon, we’d planned to head north to visit the Volo Museum. However, the traffic was so bad leaving the city, that there was no chance we could get to the museum in time. We expect we’ll be returned to Chicago at some point in the future, so we’ll catch the museum at that time.

So headed to Madison, WI, where we ate some Pho and toured downtown. Here’s a shot Wisconsin’s capital building. It had been almost twenty years since I’d visited the city (I lived there from 1992-1994). I was very surprised at the large increase in restaurants. I was even more shocked when I saw the amount of development along Fish Hatchery Road (south of Madison). Lots of corn fields now sprouted homes.


The Wisconsin capital building is the center of Wisconsin’s government. It’s also the center of many public activities. I haven’t lived in a state where the capital was so tightly wound with public events.

Unable to find a decently priced motel, we headed to Dodgeville, WI, to spend the night. In the morning I planned to introduce Ann to the wonders of the House on the Rock.


One comment on “June 18th: Shabu Shabu and Pipes

  1. mom

    Been missing your updates. Beautiful church. Glad they did not close it down. They obviously needed a place to put a Wurlitzer and how grand it will sound in there.

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