Kagen Sound is an artist and master woodworker based in Denver, Colorado. We recently caught up with Kagen to talk about one of the most fascinating desks we’ve ever seen.
Kagen’s ‘Pipe Organ Desk‘ is made entirely of wood (down to the last screw) and features an octave of functional wooden organ pipes that work by pushing in drawers and directing air to the organ pipes.
Oh and there’s a secret song, that if played correctly, opens up a very special compartment! The desk contains over 20 puzzles and hidden compartments filled with clues to solve the secret tune.
It’s a puzzle, desk and organ all in one. Let’s explore this beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
What inspired you to create the Pipe Organ Desk?
I had created a puzzle box that opens only when a specific tune is played on it. I liked the idea that a desk could also do this. In this case the music comes from air movement which happens naturally whenever you open or close a drawer.
How long did it take to create?
It took about five years on and off. The first year was spent designing and collecting the woods. Most of the time in between was spent prototyping and improving the complex mechanisms and also watching and getting to know the personalities of the different woods.
Is everything made of wood? Why was that an important element?
I like the idea that something is pure. When I was a boy I loved origami. It was amazing how many things could be made from just a square of paper. No cutting, or taping is allowed, just folds. I feel a great respect for things which are made from a single material.
What were the biggest challenges you faced creating the Pipe Organ Desk?
It turned out I was really engineering 2 materials to make the Pipe Organ Desk. Wood and air. This was not clear at first. I knew how to make air passages and switches from wood, and I assumed as air flowed through these mechanisms it would cooperate. Many prototypes later, it became clear that air has a personality of its own too. It doesn’t always flow directly through a passage, it has eddies, like a river.
Although the secret tune can be changed, what was the ‘original’ tune you chose and why?
The original tune was chosen by the patron of the desk. It is his secret to keep.
The desk features over 20 different puzzles. Can you describe any of them for our readers?
There are many hidden buttons, some drawers only open part way at first and later reveal secrets. Some puzzles transform patterns into new patterns, and others are long sequences shifting rectangles. There are other parts of the desk that do not work until a correct piece of wood is placed in the correct spot.
Is there any classic puzzle/instrument object that has totally wowed you?
The furniture made by David Roentgen in the late 1700’s is incredible. You can look up videos of his furniture to see for yourself. Over 200 years ago he took mechanical furniture to another level.
The pneumatic memory board and organ pipe octave. The memory board can be reprogrammed to read a different song. It is powered entirely by air flow from the drawers, and it is made entirely from solid wood.
The final version of the pneumatic memory board.
Wooden air connectors inside the desk.
Adjusting these pegs on the back of the memory board changes the tune it reads. The dark pegs represent the notes of the song.
The mouth of an organ pipe. This can be adjusted to play any note within an octave. All organ pipes can be tuned to perfect pitch.
An individual logic switch from the memory board. In the background are extra switches showing the nodes where air enters the switch. When air enters one side it either closes or opens the path for a second source of air to flow in and out through the central holes.
Part of the pendulum lock.
All large drawers have puzzles inside. You will need to solve these puzzles to open other drawers or find secret compartments.
One of the most challenging drawer puzzles.
A secret button opens the center of the desk revealing a checker pattern. If you find a way to rearrange it into a key pattern the center drawers unlocks.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists and craftsmen?
Embrace your mistakes! Creating a work of art always starts inside of you and it will seem perfect and safe. If you bring it to life through your craft you will make mistakes and your expression will develop what will seem like flaws. The flaws are really the best part. They teach the best lessons about growing.