Author Topic: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase  (Read 367 times)

Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
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

Offline sean

  • Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 904
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2020, 11:04:28 AM »
Hey Tom,

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. 

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.)


You should definitely move the balance rail to the front position!  (There are two grooves in the bottom of the case, the factory installed the balance rail in the back slot, but moving the balance rail to the front slot will make your action much better.  It will still bounce and clickety-clack, but it will feel lighter and faster.)

Is that the Rhodes amplifier and base at the bottom left in your photo?  Do you need a power supply for the preamp?  See  https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=9706.msg53682#msg53682 and https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=9657.0

Sean

Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #2 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.

Quote
Is that the Rhodes amplifier and base at the bottom left in your photo?  Do you need a power supply for the preamp?  See  https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=9706.msg53682#msg53682 and https://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=9657.0
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.



Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #3 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!







 




Offline sean

  • Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 904
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2020, 09:51:31 AM »

Looks Great!

I would love to see brightly-lit close up photos of the mahogany cheekblocks. 

I think the name rail needs orange pinstripes to match the tolex.  ;-)

When you say "front" speakers, you mean facing the wall, right?  Flip the switches to turn off the front speakers so that the drywall and the window stop shaking, right?

You must be pleased with the outcome, it looks very nice.

Sean



Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #5 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


Offline sean

  • Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 904
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2020, 07:44:48 PM »

Yeaaahhh, the cheekblocks look great.  Excellent stain color.

On those lowest notes, the tines are very long, so their swing can sometimes collide with the tonebar!  But that should be rare, like you only do it once a night when you get carried away.

If you can hear that the heavy and long tonebar assembly is a little looser than you want... there is a very common solution:  stronger springs, or double up on the springs.

VV sells a super-duper beefy tonebar spring, and I think it comes with a harder grommet as well:
https://www.vintagevibe.com/collections/fender-rhodes-tines/products/fender-rhodes-custom-tine-stabilizers

If you have extra tonebar springs on hand, you can simply put two tonebar springs around a single screw, and get better stability on the long tonebars.  I mean that you take two springs, and intermesh their windings (squeeze them together side-by-side), and then push the escapement screw through it.  (I do NOT mean that you stack the springs end-to-end.)


If that is NOT the issue, and the long tines are making a clanging sound... check the strikeline.  I really doubt this is it - but if you haven't played around with the strikeline, it can be an illuminating experience.  Just move the left end of the harp a little bit back and a little bit forward, and see if there is a better contact point on those tines.  Chapter four of the service manual https://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch4.html#4-5 claims that the ideal striking spot for those long tines is 57.150mm from the end of the tine.   Yes, they expect you to measure to the 1/1000 of a millimeter.  ...or just 2 and 1/4 inches.

If your tines are cut a tiny bit short, then your tuning springs will be closer to the end of the tine, and the tine may swing differently than a longer tine with the spring tuned to the same pitch... so the "sweet spot" perfect strike location and perfect strike line may be somewhat imperfect. 

In any case, don't set the strikeline by measuring; set the strike line by listening! 

Sean
« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 07:50:53 PM by sean »

Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #7 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)

Offline Tom999

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Mark II Suitcase
    • View Profile
Re: Restoring '82 MkII Suitcase
« Reply #8 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.