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Messages - Tom999

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As a fellow tinkerer, I can get behind this little endeavor. Totally not practical and probably not worth it but hey why not lol.  I just recently restored an '82 suitcase with plastic keys and while cleaning all the balance rail pieces I had the exact same thought...what if the posts were aluminum and screwed into the base so they could be replaced at some point.

I did wonder if the plastic on plastic motion is causing a bit of the clickity clack and if so...could the posts be a little thinner like the wood models and could we add some type of insert into the key to mate it to the post.  That way you'd have the material stability and precision of the plastic key but with the softer dampening and structure of the wood key.  However there's the front posts also that are plastic on plastic so they would probably need to be replaced also to totally minimize the clack.

For your design, it's not clear if you mean to have the base machined out of aluminum or somehow make it plastic again. If you're going to have that machined then I'd look into simplifying the base overall.  Seems like it would only need 2 holes to mount to the wood shell, and could probably lose the front/back bevel and the four corner fillets. Now I'm wondering if the base could be 3d printed with female brass inserts installed for the posts...or maybe capture nuts. Tricky part is the precision placement but a well-calibrated printer and maybe an alignment jig could help with installing the inserts.

Then you just have to worry about the posts. If there isn't something off the shelf, which seems like there would exist something already with like 5 to 10 mm of thread and smooth for the rest of the post. Or maybe a thinner, fully threaded post where you then fit some kind of sleeve over it so the key mates snugly.

Along similar lines of tinkering for tinkering's sake...I ended up modeling the dowel holder in the back and printing that in PETG. Also replaced the front rail felt with TPU pieces that match up with each front rail since the felt seemed like a nasty/dirty solution.  The keys aren't really supposed to come in contact with the felt in any case. Attached images of what I'm talking about.

For the key bounce - I built a new wood shell for the top and did not groove out a strip for the back felt. I just put the correct replacement felt right on the layer and that seems to have helped a bit with the action.  After all my tweaking I feel like I'm in a good place.  The plastic keys get a bit of a bad rap but as someone in a high-humidity location they actually are a good choice for me.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: MkII Plastic Balance Rail Punchings
« on: December 17, 2020, 01:04:53 PM »
I ended up using the same mk1 punchings from VV and just using a hole punch also.  My keybed wasn't too far off and after doing a bunch I said 'good enough' lol.  I wonder how many plastic key owners there are here. 

I have an '82 mark II with the plastic keys so it was plenty loud. I read that thread also and thought I'd give it a shot - I used "Dynamat Xtreme Bulk 3ea 32"x18" sheets" (12 sq ft).

Comes in three pieces, just peel and stick. I cut each piece sideways as 18" is just a little over the inside dimension surface (front to back). I overlaid each piece by 50%, so essentially I have a double layer in the lid. Single layer on the inside sides. On the bonus side it adds some sturdiness to the plastic top.

Does it work? To some extent. It's not 100% quiet now but I notice a difference. I didn't have enough left over for inside the rail but wonder if that would even make much difference.  The highest octave is still very clacky. I don't think it's possible to completely silence the action on these. I'm not entirely sure where it's generating the hard clack from, I assume the pedestal somehow, but from working on this piano and looking at other types of actions, these keybeds aren't exactly state-of-the-art.

As for moisture I don't think the dessicant pouches (if you can find room) would make much difference, there is too much space between the keys for humidity to enter.  If it was really a concern I could see maybe adding one of those plug-in dehumidifier rods like they use in safes.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 26, 2020, 05:45:02 PM »
Slow day so I spent some time replacing the vactrols in my preamp and thought of a mod that maybe people have done before but it was new to me. I really hate the screws+locking nuts on the rail, although useful just a pain to screw together as the rail is a bit awkward to hold while clasping the locking nut in pliers while trying to drive the screw from the other side all while trying not to scratch the front...

Anyway I pulled out some threaded rivets and thought I could install those instead.  I had to enlarge each hole but in the end they popped in there easily and I could even re-use the original screws.  Now I can remove the preamp without having to take the whole rail off.

A few close ups of what I'm referring to are attached.  Maybe this could help someone else.

Reporting back in case anyone is interested in knowing if different vactrols work with the vibrato, I did install a pair of VTL5C3s and that immediately solved the volume discrepancy between channels.  They actually sound very nice!  I don't really notice a difference and they definitely perform as expected. At full intensity I don't see any signal bleeding between channels. The speed goes from super slow like before to almost a ring mod/steady tone sound. 

I wonder if what you are describing is a chirping sound by not having the damper felts orientated the correct way. Have you checked if the felts are orientated with the grain horizontal? They should all be horizontal except the trebles.

I know this was just over 3 years ago but wanted to chime in with a thank you  since this solved the exact issue for me and encourage others to double-check their damper felts if they hear this issue. Upon key release I'd hear a high ringing noise that just wasn't happening with the sustain pedal held down. I figured it was the damper but could not understand how it was happening until I read this.

On 4 bass notes I had the damper felts on sideways by mistake.  It was particularly annoying since the release noise was being recorded - I don't mind the key noise (I have a '82 mark II...clickity clackity city) since that doesn't come through when I record.

I'll give them a shot. Worst case I order a couple of the VTL5C1s.  Thank you

Shoot I only have vtl5c3's on hand. I don't suppose they are suitable to replace the vtl5c1's? I read they have a bit of light history.

Hmm..that's an idea. I also have a handful of vtl5c3/2's but looking at the circuit I don't think I could substitute that for the 2 LDRs.   I'll just replace one at time and see if that does anything. But will double check voltage first.  Thank you!

Thanks for your reply. It worked before the recap but I didn't have it setup with wide enough monitors to really notice the behavior.

The LDRs...I have a bunch of originals that I bought in 2015 when they announced they were being discontinued.  If so I can just swap it out and see if that makes a difference. Do you happen to know if the right channel is LDR1(top) or LDR2(bottom)?

Hi Couldn't find this particular issue with search.  I'm almost done restoring this rhodes. The 5-pin vibrato technically works and I did the recap kit from avion.  I'm wondering if I'm experiencing normal vibrato behavior or if there is some work I could do to improve the response:

1) The intensity knob seems to affect overall volume. When it's at minimum, no change in volume. As I increase intensity the overall volume drops in proportion. 

2) The vibrato is noticeably louder on the left channel, I can see the levels in my mixer so it's not just my bad hearing  ;D. At max intensity I'd say it's at about twice the level.

Is that par for the course or is there something I could check for in the circuit?

Thank you

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 11, 2020, 04:55:19 AM »
Thanks they turned out better than I thought they would - usually I don't care for brown wood with solid black anything. There's a hint of red in it so it works with the tolex. In case anyone finds this from the future - Wood is mahogany, stain is Varathane brand, Kona color. Then lots of thin clear brushing lacquer on top. Rubbed out to satin finish.

Didn't even think of the strike line, but that makes sense as it reminds me of pinch harmonics on guitar and how they are emphasized depending on where you pick the string. Definitely will try that first. Those notes almost sound like a bass guitar from seinfeld lol. If that doesn't work - I don't think I have extra springs on hand, so I'll probably just order a bunch of those heavy ones from VV as they don't look too $$.

Thanks again for the advice.  8)

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 10, 2020, 10:04:18 AM »
Thank you Sean, very nice of you to say. Attached a close up of one of the wooden cheekblocks.

Yes, the speakers that cut out are the ones facing the outside wall.  The ones inside, facing the player are always on. I'm in a smaller room (16x13) so every little bit of volume control helps!

I would like to ask you if this is normal: the notes from Low E to lowest D#, the ones with the wonky shaped tone bars make a more pronounced 'clanging' noise when the tine is struck than all the keys with straight tone bars. I can filter it out somewhat and it is minimized by the plastic lid but never really goes away.  Curious about your thoughts on that, normal and part of the charm?  ;D

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: November 10, 2020, 07:15:03 AM »
Update - Wanted to show the (mostly) final result.  I really wanted to bring the piano back to its original glory, not that it wasn't in somewhat playable condition before but the hammer tips and the damper felts were really bad. Ended up doing the full refurb kit from VV.  In the course of rebuilding this piano I can see where the costs were cut in terms of material and joinery from the factory.

The biggest 'mod' I did was rebuild all the shells - I started to take the tolex off and large chunks of wood started coming off. Just crap quality all around for the wood.  And even with a heat gun, going slowly, using chemicals, tried a lot different ways....After about an hour of swearing I said, I could just rebuild this thing and do it right. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby also so it didn't take very long, especially since I didn't have to worry about the finish since I liked the tolex look. Ended up using baltic birch for the whole thing, mostly 18mm. The original had way too much particleboard, nasty stuff.

New hardware, 73 key refurb kit from VV like I mentioned earlier, recap set for the janus preamp from avion, etc. Very quality stuff from both suppliers.

A few changes from original -
  • Red elephant tolex from mojotone, along with marshall-style black grill cloth. Was originally going to go with a color on the top but after hitting it with an automobile interior cleaner it really shines, and looks great!
  • I made the grill cloth removable from both sides instead of just one. I could see changing speakers in the future and didn't want to redo the grill cloth on the one side.
  • Mahogany end cheeks(?) on either side of the keys.
  • You can see in the second picture a couple of switches I added - they cut out the front speakers. Got the idea from reading some posts on this forum.  Each one (DPDT, 125V, 20A, 6pins) switches between a front speaker and an 8ohm 50W resistor. I designed the switch housing in fusion360 and just 3d printed it PETG.
  • Also took Sean's advice on moving the action rail forward and it does make a difference. The clickity clackity keys are actually growing on me, this thing has a character of its own! It's not trying to be a real piano or even a decent digital piano action but feeling the hammers striking the tines is its own satisfying thing.

Left to do - Tolex the lid, re-level keys (especially lowest E) although they don't really bother me right now, final tuning and pickup calibration.  Not really in hurry to finish the lid as this isn't going anywhere for the time being.

Overall I'm grateful for the 'search' box at the top of this site as a lot of the issues I ran into were covered here years ago, so thank you for keeping those posts available!


The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: September 02, 2020, 11:22:49 AM »
1.  The plastic-key Rhodes has plastic pins in the balance rail and guide rail.  These plastic pins are much larger in diameter than the little metal pins in the other Rhodes pianos, so the standard round paper punchings and felt donuts do not fit the plastic-key Rhodes.

The felt at the guide rail serves no purpose.  The downward travel of the key will stop when the pedestal jams against the hammer cam in the "stop-lock" position. 

There are some folks who believe that it is helpful or good to have front rail felts impede or stop this travel, and they try to build up the guide rail felts until they hit the bottom of the key. 

Sean thank you for your reply. Your posts have been extremely informative in learning about how these pianos work! The guide rail (thanks for the correct terminology) felt sounds like it's not super important when playing, but maybe helps guard against accidental damage if the keys are slammed down too hard? I've found some 1/4" thick felt roll I'll just try that.
What do the paper punchings do? Are they just shims? It seems like this model, being aluminum, was manufactured to higher tolerances than previous models. Are they for key leveling?

2.  I personally love the look of the black name rail (I have a 1983 plastic-key Rhodes downstairs).  If you are energetic enough to change the tolex color AND paint the flat-top harp cover, then you should also be inspired enough to buy a new name rail.  This may would give you the look you want.   Hmmm... maybe I should run downstairs and make sure that the black rail's aluminum extrusion profile is similar to the other Mark II namerails.  (See next post.)

I do like the rail as is, and it's in amazing condition so probably will keep it stock. Maybe I just do the tolex first and then see how the lid goes. Black lid would probably look best.

Thanks for the tip on the balance rail.  It is indeed in the back position, so I'll see how it plays when I get it all together and then move it to see the difference.

Is that the Rhodes amplifier and base at the bottom left in your photo?  Do you need a power supply for the preamp?  See and
Yes it is in pretty good condition and the amp functions well, too.  I saw your PSU posts as I was doing my research into how this all works and appreciate all that info, thanks again.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« on: September 02, 2020, 04:43:30 AM »
Just joined the forum - I've enjoyed searching/reading through various posts here looking for info, so as way of introduction I thought I could add mine to the bunch.  Apologies for lengthy first post! Just recently acquired a MkII suitcase and have a question on felt but also looking for tolex/lid color advice.

1) It's in pretty good shape, considering its age. All the white pickups work, surprisingly.  Just going through the cleaning now, ordered an action refurb kit and a preamp rebuild kit. This Rhodes one uses the two strips of green felt for the front key rail instead of those felt washers,  and they are a bit grungy. I've read the keys don't really touch it 100% but it affects aftertouch feel?  I can't find front rail felt strips on VintageVibe's shop and wondering if I remove it if I can replace with the felt washers they say 'aren't compatible with plastic keys'? I'm wondering if they say that because there's already the strip felt there or if I remove the strips then it would be compatible.

2) Color - As you can see, it's the black name rail. I haven't seen many images of that style online, but I do have to replace the ripped tolex, especially on the speaker cab, and I can't find any examples of custom color with the black rail. I'm afraid if I pick something the rail will not match or stand out too much, if that makes sense. Originally I really liked the seafoam green tolex + cream lid pictures (I think from Chicago Electric Piano Co) but I don't think that color combo would work very well on this MkII.  Would anyone have any recommendations? Maybe tweed with some color on the lid? Maybe I should just embrace the black.

I attached a photo of what the piano looks like now. Like most 'seasoned' things, it's got some history. The owner said it was mostly used in their recording studio but lent out (or rented out, I can't remember) to some famous regulars.  I drove across the state to pick it up, they were nice enough to hold it for me - said they'd prefer it go to a nice home instead of some guys who said they'd just flip it. So I'm trying to do the restoration justice.   Thank you

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