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08840 Viladecans Barcelona

+34 93 647 39 50
+34 93 647 39 51

User report

Durable, quiet polymer bearings replace fabric bearings in organ-building

Baumgartner Orgelbau uses precise, clearance-free iglidur plain bearings and igubal spherical bearings.

For several years, polymer plain bearings have seen increasing use in organ-building. The bearing bushes have proven themselves so well in wood that spherical bearings and clevis joints are now also being used – with great success. The cooperation between component suppliers and organ-builders has become a strategic partnership. For example, Baumgartner Orgelbau had a console equipped with over 3,000 bushings made of polymer material. You can find out about the advantages of the special bearings over traditional fabric bearings and about industry acceptance in this user report.


  • What was needed: iglidur J plain bearings, igubal spherical bearings
  • Requirements: 3,000 bushings and bearings were to be installed for a console. They were to be hard, precise, quiet, corrosion-resistant, durable, and zero-clearance.
  • Industry: instrument-making, organ-building
  • Success for the customer: The iglidur and igubal bearings in the organ feature resistance to chemicals, vibration dampening, low moisture absorption, and low wear values when paired with many shaft materials. They require no lubrication or maintenance, so they cost less in the long run than fabric bearings. 
Organ-building bearings The entire organ uses up to 3,000 polymer plain bearings.


An organ-builder usually wants three things: sufficient installation height, an appropriate floor area, and good acoustics. The concern today is not just traditional construction methods, but reconciling musical and functional concerns. Ultimately, it is the pleasure in hearing good music that captivates organists and audiences alike.
Each rotating and pivoting movement in the organ and each friction point places high demands on the product and requires a suitable bearing. Baumgartner Orgelbau, a workshop for historical musical instruments, knows this. The specialist refurbishes and reconstructs organs, manufactures parts for traditional organ-building, and supplies individually manufactured components and assemblies to the actual organ-builder. The expert team's references range from St. Ludwig in Darmstadt to the Collegiate Church in Stuttgart to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
In a new project, a console, up to 3,000 bushings and bearings were to be installed in the instrument. The demands on the bearing points are greater than one might think: with the exception of rain and direct UV radiation, all environmental influences that occur outdoors are in play here. And the material is wood. Unlike metal or plastic, it is a hydroscopic material. It absorbs moisture and releases it again. So the bearing environment moves, presenting great challenges. At the same time, the bearing is to be hard, precise, and zero-clearance. As little noise as possible is to be generated, so tight bearing clearance is necessary. All this must be achieved under constantly fluctuating environmental conditions – a church. Completely dismantling an instrument due to corrosion damage costs several tens of thousands of euros.


In polymer plain bearings, the organ-builder saw a replacement for the imprecise, work-intensive fabric bearings. These traditional bearings suffer greatly under the special installation conditions. While oak, hornbeam, and walnut are predominantly used in organ-building, and the material and bearings are constantly exposed to cold, moisture, and grime.
So plain bearings made of iglidur J were used instead. The material features vibration dampening, resistance to chemicals, low moisture absorption, and low wear when paired with many shaft materials. The bearing delivers low coefficients of friction in dry operation and very good behaviour with soft shafts. Its absolute freedom from noise in combination with the high precision made it a good choice in organ-building from the very beginning. The tracker angle corner bearings, for example, were given hard, precise support in this project, allowing clearance of just five to ten microns. The thick-walled bushings in the wood hold their own despite the constantly changing environmental conditions, so there are no more rattling noises.
Installing polymer plain bearings can also greatly reduce regular maintenance work.
The bottom line also benefits: A fabric bearing would have to be replaced three to four times. Although the material price of the polymer plain bearing is slightly higher than that of the fabric bearing, the cost of dismantling the fabric bearing is thirty to forty times the material price.
But the biggest benefit of the igubal series is that the organ-builder was able to take the next decisive step. The rod ends and clevis joints are some of the parts that are especially easy to use in stop action. Absolute freedom from lubrication is one thing that is important here. The polymer bearings are installed dry and, unlike fabric bearings, do not have to be soaked with Vaseline or impregnated with oily materials.

Polymer bushings increasingly popular in organ-building

For Baumgartner, an organ-builder, the initial focus was not just on technical questions such as noise generation, service life, and bushing performance given constant movement due to climate fluctuation. Acceptance by the traditional market of plastic components in the organ was also very important.
The new technology has now been well received by both organ-builders and musicians. If the organist doesn't like the instrument, the organ-builder has a problem. The end user is the one who must accept the instrument. Word of the advantages of plastic plain bearings is getting around the industry, and the demand for spherical bearings in particular is steadily increasing. Organists want to keep tracker action clearance as small as possible. The more direct the playing is, the more expressive. Direct contact with the valve means that it can be opened more slowly or quickly. A spongy keyboard impairs individual playing, and expression options decrease. Plastic bearings give Baumgartner access to new customers and instruments.
Organ-building bearings Polymer plain bearings are proving their worth more and more in organ-building. At the same time, acceptance of plastic components by the tradition-conscious market is also increasing.
Organ-building bearings Polymer plain bearings are used throughout the organ, greatly decreasing maintenance effort.
Organ-building bearings The development of igubal spherical bearings, rod ends, and spherical bearings has opened up even more possible uses in organ-building.

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