J.H. & C.S. Odell, Pipe Organ Builders

More than 150 years building distinctive and refined instruments for worship

Brothers John Henry and Caleb Sherwood Odell founded the organ building firm of J.H. & C.S. Odell on the bustling corner of West 42nd Street and 9th Avenue in New York City in 1859. Odell was immediately successful and built more than 500 pipe organs at that location before relocating to Westchester, New York in the 1930s.   Odell remained active in the Greater New York Metropolitan area well into the 1970s, but after the death of the principal of the firm, William H. Odell in 1979, decided to dissolve the firm after completing obligations to then-current clients.

In the pursuit of a long sought vision, the Odell company was re-established by Caleb Sherwood Odell's  great-great grandson Edward Odell, in 1999 -- this after garnering more than twenty years of organ building experience -- both on his own and with other well-established national firms. With more than three decades of full-time work in the trade, Edward is now a respected and credentialed professional as a Colleague member of the American Institute of Organbuilders.  The new Odell firm has been active in a modern shop in central Connecticut for more than 15 years.

Since re-establishing the firm, Odell has successfully built many exciting new pipe organs, executed meticulous historic restorations and performed vastly complicated repair projects. With our team of carefully recruited artisans, Odell performs all its own millwork, joinery, fabrication, voicing and finishing. Further, unlike many firms today, Odell casts its own pipe metal and makes its own organ pipes.

Timelessness, musicality and an unflinching commitment to quality are our foremost concerns as pipe organ builders. We possess a profound dedication to our work;  clients quickly learn  that when they partner with Odell, they work directly with people who -- given the opportunity  --  will design and construct their instrument from raw materials with passion and exactitude. Our ever-present goal is to develop nuanced solutions and create pipe organs that will serve their congregations with reliability and grace for generations to come.

Midsummer 2016 Update

Its been a quiet, sultry week in East Haddam as we've been making our way through major aspects of our project for St. Luke's Episcopal, in San Antonio. If you've been keeping up on our Facebook page,  I'm nearly done with the massive console frame and expect to nearing completion of it  this week. Brad Gawthrop is likewise nearly done with the 2 new reservoirs (one Pedal, one Swell) for the additions to the organ which will be run from a new tandem blower. Pallet re-dressing in the original chests is now done, and we're well in to processing pipe work. New metal for the Swell 8’  principal has been cast and is curing before we get into cutting out templates for bodies and feet. We have now gone through and thoroughly cleaned the 16' Open Wood while inspecting for checks and splits, and are making repairs with special restorer's epoxy after a couple of trials.

When the local weather turns sultry we try to shift our schedule to start at 7am and leave for the day before the heat and humidity peak. One disadvantage of the orientation of our building is the front it  faces due East with no natural shade, so even with all the big fans running, it can still get quite uncomfortable; that said, we find various ways to cope. I was mitering some 16’  reed pipes earlier this week, and even with an ice-filled neck collar, it was a tad rough. And naturally, we now find ourselves having deferred maintenance projects from various clients getting green-lighted at all the same time.

While we're keeping our collective heads down in the shop,  there are several projects in various levels of development that we will be announcing as we are able.  One is we have nearly completed removal work on the severely damaged 1940 Moller Pipe Organ at Christ Church in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York.   There’s a long story to the situation involving a lightning strike to the tower and other severe damage to the building, but to the credit of The Rev. Ron T. Lau and long friend of the company Donald Barnum,  patience and perseverance has finally brought us to the point that we can rescue as much of this rare Whitelegg Moller organ as we can and plan for its rebuilding and restoration in the coming year while they focus on the restoration of their building.

Lastly, we’re happy to announce two major additions to our team; one human, one robotic.  Student Organist Michael Alderman officially joined our staff as a full time employee back in April, and has hit the ground running and only picked up speed from there.   We think Michael is showing great promise; he is quickly taking up skills and displaying the critical ability to judge the quality of his own work.  We suspect, but cannot confirm, that he is a born organ builder, and look forward to seeing his growth with us.

The second addition is the long planned addition of a new CNC router to become part of our wind chest and part production process.  Brad and I have been researching the  options in the world of CNC wood machining for nearly 2 years in a tool marketplace where new offerings are springing up all the time (mostly targeted to production cabinet shops) while also looking at offerings in the secondary market as is my long habit when tool shopping.  After much deliberation, we  settled on a Shop Bot PRS Alpha as the right choice for us at this time.  Among the advantages the PRS Alpha Series offers is that the machine is suited for the duty cycle our small shop needs, the fact that its is one of the few machines one can “hand” code as opposed to just using G-Code and/or V-Carve industry standard software.  That and the fact the the PRS Alpha has superior sensing ability for the movement of the cutterhead while running a profile, this  as compared to the downmarket versions and competitive models from other manufacturers.  It’s scheduled for arrival this week.

We wish everyone a great summer, and keep watching our Facebook page, which is our de-facto place for  the most recent updates.