One-of-a-kind desk hides a pipe organ and fluidic computer

Housefish has a writeup on Kagen Schaefer's pipe-organ desk, which hides in its drawers a pipe organ that doubles as a fluidic computer, and which has stolen my heart:
At first glance, it’s a relatively ordinary desk, albeit very finely made out of exceptional wood, and with an unusual number of small drawers. Open a drawer though, and there’s a surprise- each drawer operates a wooden pipe organ tube on the back. Opening different drawers plays different notes and lets you play songs. If I stopped right there, a wooden pipe organ desk would already rank among the most novel and impressive pieces of wooden furniture either of us has seen.

But there’s another secret. Inside the desk is a fluidic computer, operated entirely by the air pressure pulses created by opening and closing the drawers. This has been programmed so that playing a predetermined sequence of notes opens a secret compartment somewhere on the desk. It’s also reprogrammable, so you can set it to open when you play the theme to Star Wars, or whatever you want. And in case it wasn’t clear, this is made entirely of wood; there are no electronics of any kind. It is literally something that could have been built using technology available 500 years ago.

Kagen Schaefer Pipe Organ Desk | Housefish (via Crib Candy)


  1. You had me at the beauty of that desk as just a desk. A pipe organ too?! But wait–there’s COMPUTER?!?


  2. There aren’t really any details given on the fluidic computer, but the fluidic switch was invented in 1959, so it’s a bit of a stretch to say this could have been constructed 500 years ago.

    1. I suppose that’s a fair point, although I’m not sure exactly what goes on inside this one, or whether it has any historic antecedents. I was more referring to the fact that it’s made entirely from wood with hand tools. If you could make a working glider entirely out of wood, then it’s fair to say it *could* have been made 500 years ago, if anyone at the time had sufficient understanding of aerodynamics.

    2. It’s the simple fact that it *could* have been, doesn’t necessarily mean it would’ve been. If the person who’d created the fluidic switch lived five hundred years ago, they would’ve had it so much sooner.

  3. While utterly gorgeous, I’m most delighted and amused by the UI decision to have it shout out your password as you type it in :)

    Because of this, by Bondian tradition, the compartment should require the five-note melody from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

  4. I work with Kagen, I’m his assistant at the woodshop. The sound quality has been much improved; the pipes weren’t quite finished when they taped that interview. They are finished now though and there’s going to be a show for the desk at Plus Gallery in Denver this weekend.

    P.S. I’ve been a long-time reader of BB and it feels pretty awesome to see something you’ve worked on appear on here. I nearly spat out my coffee this morning. 

Comments are closed.