Author Topic: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes  (Read 871 times)

Offline bobbydozen

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Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« on: December 16, 2019, 08:24:15 AM »
Hi guys, it’s my first post here and whilst I’ve been avidly reading through as much of the content here as possible I’m struggling a little in dating my piano and generally finding out what the period correct parts are supposed to be. It’s my first Rhodes and I’m a complete n00b when it comes to restoring!

As you can see from the pictures (link below), it looks like it’s a Fender Rhodes, rather than just a Rhodes model and according to the bottom E key it’s from 1973. That being said, the gold foil sticker on the harp also claims that I have a suitcase 73 and not a stage! I guess at some point, someone must have swapped the case and name rail out for a Stage case? Am I right in thinking that the name rail should have the Fender Rhodes logo and no labels where the knobs are? The case seems to have no holes on the back for the Rhodes logo, however, which I think is period correct. Are there any other parts that I should be looking at in order to determine the date?

In terms of jobs that need doing, one pickup has no sound, there are a few bridal straps that are broken and I guess I urgently need to replace the tolex, grommets & screws, damper felts and hammer tips because they all look very shabby! Is there a recommended way to clean up the keys, as they’ve gone rather yellow from what I assume must be a great deal of tobacco smoke! There are also a couple of cigarette burns on the top/bottom keys and cheek blocks. Is there any way to fix this? Also, is there a way to fix up the Seventy Three logo? I can’t see any screws to remove it from the harp cover but most of the silver has worn off and I'd like to have it looking shiny again. It feels like an awful lot of work for a complete beginner, so is there a recommended place to begin? I've just been watching the Vintage Vibe videos and reading through threads on here and the consensus seems to be with the keybed. The piano also smells pretty mouldy (no obvious warping or signs of water damage though) but I'm presuming that once I clean it down and get rid of the old tolex most of this should go?

I'm based in Frankfurt, Germany so have been wondering about getting in touch with Tom Wauch for a tuning/re-voicing and so on, as I have absolutely no idea about doing this myself but I think with a bit of patience I could probably do the cleaning and things. Are there recommended cleaning products to use (that are available in Germany!) and a recommended parts supplier? I found the Electric Piano Service NL but they don't seem to carry the Vintage Vibe refurb kit.

I guess that’s it in terms of questions for now but I’ll try and check back in when I’ve had a chance to take it all apart and start cleaning things.

Here are the photos: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1D_uInIAsGotmBAbvEMKgIGD2NlGgAXQD

Offline sean

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2019, 09:58:21 PM »

Hey Bob,

Your piano top (and the action guts) is a suitcase piano - the large hole on the underside for the sustain rod is an obvious clue.  The bottom panel of this piano will be thinner than a stage piano, so don't try installing leg brackets into it.  (The suitcase top has a smaller front lip, and exposes more of the white key fronts.)

Your sustain rod will need this magical sustain-rod accessory:  https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=4991.msg24625#msg24625

Some previous owner stole the preamp and the original name rail.  (He is probably still recovering from the bad karma.) 

Most components look to be right for 1973:  the half-wood hammers, the square hammer tips, the tooth-root damper felts, the single number stamped marking on the tone bars, the slanted front edge of the key pedestals, wood harp supports, etc.  The key tops don't look right to me.  I think a 1973 piano should have the old Pratt-Read full-skirt white keys with slightly rounded tops.  I can't tell from your photos.  Are the sides of the white keys plastic, or bare wood?  I thought the full-skirt keys disappeared in 1974.

Don't replace the damper felts unless they are not doing their job!  If they damp just fine, leave them be.  You can replace the hammer tips if you decide that they are too hard, and you want softer tips.  I personally love the half-wood hammers and the square hammer tips, but there are other tips that could work for you.  Talk to Chris or Fred about what hammer tip kit would be right for this piano.  Yes, you should put new grommets on this piano, and you will be happy with the difference in sound.

Clean the keys with OZDOC's method:  https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=8011.msg44681#msg44681
...or David's method https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=6937.msg34906#msg34906

See http://www.fenderrhodes.com, and specifically the repair manual for guidance:  http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch1.html
(Found under http://www.fenderrhodes.com/service/manual.html)

I would clean all the wood with sandpaper and ultraviolet light... sunlight would work in a pinch, but you won't get much until April.

Do you have a sustian rod?  If not, make one:  https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=9967.msg55493#msg55493

Looks like a nice piano, and it will only get better.

Sean
« Last Edit: December 16, 2019, 10:00:51 PM by sean »

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2019, 07:28:14 AM »
Hi Sean, thanks for coming back to me so quickly and with such a detailed response! OK, so first things first, I’m going to take the piano apart and start cleaning out the inside. Then comes the keys with some 2000 grit sandpaper and then plastic polish. I don’t have a polishing wheel though, so I guess it might take some time! I also saw a thread about using hydrogen peroxide cream for hair bleaching to make them white again. Would you specifically discourage this? I’m terrified of deeply scratching the keys or taking too much of the surface off when sanding/polishing. To answer your question though, I don’t think I have the Pratt-Reed keys, as they look like this:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aWljGodwdSy0OsOhMP6QDWUzUMBLHRKO

That key is definitely marked 1973 though!

A couple of the damper felts have more or less fallen apart, so I guess I’ll need to replace those ones. Is there a source for these, so called, “tooth-root” dampers in Europe? I could only find the normal square ones on the EPS NL site. https://www.ep-service.nl/fender-rhodes-damper-felt-kit If I don’t need to replace all of them though, I won’t. I just presumed it would be better and give a more consistent sound to replace everything in one go?

With regards to the hammer tips, there are some with pretty deep grooves worn into a lot of them (especially in the middle register), so I presumed that I ought to replace them and again, like the damper felts, I presumed it would be be better/more consistent to replace all of them in one go. Do I not need to replace them if they have grooves in them? I do like the square hammer tips though, so if I do replace them, I’ll replace them with the correct shape. Also the last octave or so of hammers have angled tips, rather than square ones. Should I look to replace them with the correct ones?

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hSTwpkkKYtGDke03PUzs1E1Lpf2MQ6HN

I do have a sustain rod and pedal, so I’ll have a look at getting that dowel sorted out. Over here in Europe with our metric dimensions, I suppose I’ll just need to get the closest thing to 7/8” (23mm?).

One concern I did have was that my piano case already has all of the leg mounts and brace knob holes - would that suggest that someone has transplanted the Suitcase guts into a Stage case (along with the name rail), or should I be checking for specific damage to the inside of the bottom?

Offline Jenzz

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2019, 01:31:40 PM »
Hi .-)

If you are located in Germany, feel free to give me a call, maybe i can help with parts etc...

05722-81471

regards, Jenzz

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2019, 04:47:58 AM »
Hi Jenzz,

Thanks for your post and time on the phone! I'm going to order the grommets & screws, bridal straps and damper felts on your recommendation from Marcel and will try and keep this thread updated with my progress...

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2019, 10:52:59 AM »
Today I started taking the piano apart and cleaning… The tolex is pretty busted and I’ve ordered some new stuff from Tube Town to replace it (thought about going blonde but stuck with the classic black in the end), so I’m not going to bother cleaning the old stuff. I do, however, need to sort out the wood a little bit where the tolex was ripped. It has been a bit exposed to the elements and is looking a bit chewed up. I’m going to do this, as recommended in a number of threads, by using some two-part car body filler ("Feinspachtel", here in Germany) and then sanding everything down so that it’s nice and smooth.

I’ve removed all of the (very rusty!) hardware and I’m testing out whether soaking one of the corners and its screws in vinegar will remove the rust or whether I’ll have to use something else. I’ve not had much luck in finding Evaporust in Germany, so does anyone have any suggestions of European alternatives?

Intriguingly, it looks like someone has just stuck a Stage name plate on the original name rail, as there are extra holes that have been covered over.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1JvYW0_SEcG2kzgCdUIhzomC9taOgbORo

Does that mean that I should attempt to remove this name plate and go back to how it would have been? Or do I need a different part for the name rail? To be clear, I’m not trying to turn this piano back into a full Suitcase model but I’d like it to be mostly period correct from the outside, if possible!

I mentioned before that I had to replace some bridal straps and whilst this was always going to be a bit of a pain, someone has made it 100 times more so! Not content with just gluing the strap to the hammer, it looks like the straps have been glued to the damper arm too, which is making getting the broken parts off an absolute nightmare. Pliers, tweezers and a Stanley knife seem to be the appropriate tools for the job!

On the advice of Jenzz I ordered a new set of damper felts (he mentioned the tooth-root ones can sometimes cause odd resonances when operating the damper pedal, due to their shape and catching the tines) but having had a good look at them with the piano disassembled, they actually look to be in fairly good shape. I might leave them for now, as I’ve certainly got my work cut out elsewhere. I will, however, rotate the particularly grooved hammer tips 180˚ so that they’ll hit the tines with a fresh surface.

I’ve uploaded a picture of a tine and tonebar and just wanted to get some feedback on the corrosion. I guess I’ll need to try and polish both the tines and tonebars up a bit but I didn’t think they looked too bad. I’ve heard variously kerosene and petrol mentioned as effective solvents but that seems rather extreme! Is there anything else that’s likely work?

Lastly, I’m going to go back and read some threads about setting the key height/dip but just to check - the height is set relative to the front rail, right? What height is that? Then there needs to be 3/8” (9.5mm) of dip when the key is depressed, I believe...

Here’s a link to some pictures from today: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1m9roS0FA3_tqpMVyS4uSrVd0lbpVU9g6

Offline sean

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2019, 08:37:57 PM »


So glad that you got hooked up with Jens Lüpke.  That's perfect.

It was common practice for the Rhodes factory to slap the stage piano control plate over a name rail that has the extra holes for a Peterson preamp.
(The second photo at http://www.fenderrhodes.com/pianos/mark1a.html shows what it would look like with the suitcase control panel and knobs.)

Your upper-register triangular hammer tips are correct.  They are a strip of wood wrapped in shrinkable tubing.  They are extra hard, so that the super-short tines will ring.

See the technotes at http://www.fenderrhodes.com/service/technotes.html
See the Damper advice in the "Action Inspection" and "Damper Adjustments" links.

Kerosene isn't too hateful to work with in the summer time outside; but in the winter, I wouldn't do it.  Your rust problems don't look bad at all.  A small wire brush, some steel wool, and then wipe it down with a little oil.  That is all I have ever done to the tines.  If you really are upset about the rust, you could go to a local car repair supply shop, and see what rust removers they have on the shelf - there must be something good.

For the diameter of the dowel for the sustain rod, it only matters that it is small enough to fit through the hole in the bottom of the piano case.  Since you will be installing new tolex, you should probably buy a plastic trim ring or grommet to hold and protect the tolex around the hole.  So the wooden dowel has to fit inside that grommet, something like 18 or 19 mm probably.

On key height and key dip, there isn't much advice in chapter four: http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch4.html.
David has simple and clear advice https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=7282.msg37056#msg37056
You probably don't want to make huge overall adjustments to key height.  You don't want the keys sloping down in the front just to cover up that ugly space between the front lip of the piano and the bottom of the keys.  Don't look there.  Just don't look.  If you get the tops of the white keys to look nicely lined up, and the key dip to be reasonably consistent, you will be happy.

Sean

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2019, 11:05:25 AM »
Day two… I cleaned out all of the keys individually with a toothbrush and brushed the pedestal felt, so that it basically looks new. Some felts are more stained from the tines than others but overall, they’re looking pretty fresh again. I still need to whiten the key tops and although I’ve got some 2000 grit sandpaper, I’m worried that this will just scratch the hell out of them…

The vinegar experiment on the hardware didn’t work at all (or at least only minimally), so I’ve gone and gotten some “Rostumwandler” from the local Hornbach… I’m going to test this on a different corner this evening and see if that works a little more effectively. There’s an awful lot of hardware and screws that need sorting out, so I’m looking for a soak, if at all possible!

I also started removing the tines and tonebars in preparation for new screws and grommets. The old grommets were utterly useless and some were even just falling apart as I removed them. Also, the screws were pretty rusty, which is weird considering that none of the wooden parts have any visible sign of damage. I guess the piano must have been stored it a humid environment… Whilst the tines and tonebars were off, I gave them a run over with some fairly fine 00 steel wool. I was worried that it was taking the plating off the tonebars but after checking a handful, they seem to be absolutely fine.

@Sean: With regards to the plastic ring that fits in the hole in the bottom, is it this part from EP-Service?

https://www.ep-service.nl/sustain-guide-cup

Then I need to some how fix the dowel into that, right? Sorry for all the questions and thanks for your detailed answers! I'm hoping that if I post up my progress with enough photos and videos, it might serve as a guide to someone else in my n00b shoes!

Offline sean

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2019, 03:19:27 PM »

I don't think I would use that Sustain Guide Cup on a suitcase Rhodes.  The wooden dowel inside the Suitcase piano will probably just push it loose.  See part number 33 in this diagram:  http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch2.html
Sadly this diagram does not show the difference between the Stage and the Suitcase sustain dowel.
Note that https://www.ep-service.nl/sustain-dowel asks you to choose which one you want.  (Vintage Vibe even sells an elongated one for situations where somebody has a Stage piano that they want to mate with a Suitcase Amp.)

I think if you shortened the dowel (#33), and put a little dimple in the bottom of it, then a standard sustain rod would work.  And then you could use the Dutch Sustain Guide Cup.

If you use my little dowel assembly on the top of your sustain rod, you need nothing to secure it to the rod.  Even if you drill the hole out to 7mm or 8mm so that it is totally loose, it will stay secure when in use (because the piano is pushing down on it, holding it in place).   [It looks like botof**ket isn't showing the photo of my dowel with the trim ring. I might have to find the part and take a new photo.]

Sean


(I love that the hosting software censored my foul language by inserting the pair of dingles.)
« Last Edit: December 20, 2019, 03:21:52 PM by sean »

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2020, 04:49:21 PM »
Hey Sean, thanks for the tip with the dowel. I guess I'm just going to follow your instructions and make my own dowel piece for the sustain rod! I've not been on here for a few weeks because of Christmas but I've finally gotten round to getting back to the piano and in the meantime, my replacement parts have arrived from Holland! I've spent today polishing up the rest of the tines and tonebars and replacing all the screws and grommets, so everything there is looking nice and shiny again. The pickup pole pieces have some corrosion but I'm scared to start messing about with that too much because they all seem to work except one and I don't want to dismantle too much there. I guess tomorrow I'm going to take a look at doing the first bridle straps and if that goes well, seeing if I can get the action sorted. Then at least I'll have the guts more or less working and will be able to tackle the tolex maybe on the weekend!

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-3yP-x55MiJ5WS11-KN5jFAFkV4nuWaV

Offline bobbydozen

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Re: Restoring a 1973(?) Stage/Suitcase FrankenRhodes
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2020, 02:48:23 PM »
Not too much to report on today... I was expecting the bridle straps to be very challenging but actually having followed the Vintage Vibe video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOFuklVZYaI), it's not too tricky. It just requires a little patience. I managed to get all of those replaced and evened out the keybed. It turns out that my key dip was actually pretty good to start with, so that didn't really take too long either.

I popped the harp back on the whole thing and lined up the height of all of the tine tips with the middle of the pickup pole pieces and the front screws of the tonebars have a 3/8ths gap, which I understand is pretty standard. I'm going to wait until the weekend before trying to tackle the tolex job and I still haven't found an adequate solution to my rust problem with the hardware...

Hopefully by the end of this or next weekend, I'll have a working piano again and it'll (just) need tuning and voicing...

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-8M7WJuRyk8teztvCkx-75gQXdAMRz4G