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1965 sparkletop

Started by Seanfir, January 02, 2023, 12:18:53 AM

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Good day, all!
I've been looking for some input on these early sparkle tops for a while, as I just lucked into a strikingly tight 1965 model, which is pretty much all original.  I'm having to replace one tine, and even the hammers and felts look really awesome!

I'm looking for any first hand knowledge from people who have restored personally and gotten a great result. I couldn't find any info on making the action tighter and more usable, so I experimented a bit and found a super method that I'm currently installing on the whole board. The bump method proved to be pointless no matter where I tried it on this one. Probably because on this early model there us felt on both the key base and the hammer mech... that made for crazy stiff action and a key stroke about 1/8" or less!
If you played this one unmodified it wouldn't even look like it was being played!

It seems to have 3 DUTCH made Celestions, with one replaced. I would love to find the missing one!
They all have whizzer cones, and are wonderfully bright and full range.

I've ordered new tolex and grill cloth, and will likely also replace the corners too.

This doesn't have the rhodes logo on the back of the Keyboard facing the crowd, but has it on the bottom part. I can find no evidence of their ever being one.

All original pickups, green magnet wire, and no writing inside that I've found besides an initial or something at the bottom of the keyboard inside.

The original three pots inside are dated all from November 1965.

137 6546
137 6546
137 6548

Here's a few pics of my progress.

Alan Lenhoff

Congratulation on the find.  Looks very nice!

Fred DiLeone, a talented tech who designed the Vintage Vibe Tine Piano, is very knowledgeable about these early Rhodes pianos, and may have parts you need. If you would like to contact him, send me a private message.

Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music"

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1965 UK Vox Continental;1967 Gibson G101 organ; 1954 Hammond B2; Leslie 21H; Leslie 31H; 1974 Rhodes Mark I Stage 73; 1972 Rhodes Sparkletop Piano Bass; 1978 Hohner Clavinet D6; 1968 Hohner Pianet N II; 1966 Wurlitzer 140B; 1980 Moog Minimoog Model D; 1983 Roland JX-3P; 1977 Fender Twin Reverb; 1983 Roland JX-3P synth; Vox AC30CC2X amp.
(See the collection: )


Quote from: Alan Lenhoff on January 03, 2023, 09:34:45 AMCongratulation on the find.  Looks very nice!

Fred DiLeone, a talented tech who designed the Vintage Vibe Tine Piano, is very knowledgeable about these early Rhodes pianos, and may have parts you need. If you would like to contact him, send me a private message.


Thanks it won't let me message you yet it keeps erroring out if you could pm me that I would appreciate it!

Yeah I had to actually date that 1 from the pot codes inside because there were no other markings that would tell me. The pot codes dated from November of 65. I'm thinking that because all 3 were from the same 2 week. That that would be pretty accurate as a way to date them. If they were all over the place as far as dates go I would think that they could have sat on the shelf for a while but considering this was like the 1st model year I think that they were probably using up the stock pretty quickly and this would probably be an actual 65.
I found precious little out there about doing any restoration on modification on these. And the action is unlike any other one that I've found in the sparkle top era or otherwise... They had felt on top of felt for the Key platform and for the contact point on the hammer mechanism... I removed the felt from the hammer mechanism because it was just pointless to have it that way as it made the action so stiff and so short. You had to like lean into it just to get a chord! But now the keys stroke all the way down and the action is really really nice and light. And that's just a modification that I had to figure out myself. I don't think there is anything really out there that's going to help me much with the 65... I am looking for some teardrop hammers but I'm wondering if there's any reason I shouldn't just get a new set of piano hammers from alley express? I don't see much difference in the way they're made and the only thing I can think of is that the alley ones are made of mahogany and probably a little bit more dense... But if that's the case I'll just whatever large pieces of mahogany Exist on them and glue them at that point. Worst case scenario is I pick up Maybe a few grams difference... And I'm thinking that the offender teardrops would have been a little bit thinner than the piano hammers... But $62 for a full set off of alley express I could experiment a little bit. And probably just use a belt sander to accomplish what I want... Or even A tiny table saw... Which I happen to have here already that I got from Harbor freight...

But yes I would definitely like to have his number. Or whatever contact. It seems like the tone and just overall sound of the keyboard is actually pretty different even from the sparkle tops. I guess maybe having the earliest version of the remake times is a good thing for sure. They are all there except for one of the bass... #16 which is a Torrington that I bought, but different for sure. I was able to voice and fudge it until it was close enough to not stick out. I think all of the speakers but one are replaced with 78 era Phillips full range twelves which are actually pretty darn good but I was thinking about replacing those with some 2 way coaxial twelves that are professional grade that I have here. They are actually a little bit maybe 2 muscular for the cab, as the ones in there sound about perfect... has anyone tried high quality coaxial? I'm thinking that the old amp would have some hiss, and that would be more obvious... abd likely nothing really in the actual signal above 6k, right?
Ok. Thanks for the info!


Congrats on finding such an early Sparkletop!

I don't have any personal experience with a model this old just want to add my 2 cents...

First, did you replace the tonebar when you replaced the #16 tine? The reason I ask is it looks like it was replaced with a later 1969-70 tonebar at some point which if not done by you would indicate that somebody was tinkering with this Rhodes at some point and that some of the things you saw like the felt might not have been factory. Same with some of the higher treble tonebars as well although the picture makes it hard to tell if they are original or not. Probably not a huge deal tone wise but if you are looking for 100% original they might be something to keep an eye out for. Also, it looks like someone might have redrilled the holes for the pickup screws and moved them closer to the pickups themselves. This isn't an issue for most of the pickups but you might prefer to move the bass ones back to their original position as it can be a PITA to adjust those screws when they are hidden under the bass tonebars.

Aside from that, I would also recommend checking out InsectoidControl's YouTube channel. They have some really informative mod videos for a 1964 Sparkletop they worked on years ago that would be applicable to your 1965. I think they also used to post here as well so hopefully they will chime in too.

Link to InsectoidControl's YouTube channel:

Please keep us updated on your progress and post some more pics/video if possible. It is always nice to see footage of such a rare model.
1969 KMC Home Rhodes Prototype
1977 Wurlitzer 270

The Real MC

The early sparkletop pianos had untapered tines which are less durable.  My 1967 sparkletop has tapered tines.

Those pickups with green coil wire are hiding a wonderful tone.  My piano was missing all the original electronics so I had to take the signal direct off the harp.  Those pickups can be noisy and the preamps intentionally filtered the piano signal to eliminate the noise, and the piano bell tone with it.  I started experimenting with my DI boxes and found that the piano tone improved and the noise was lowered as the input impedance of the DI box went higher.  So I bought a Countryman Type 10 DI box (10Mohm input impedance) and not only was the noise gone, but the piano tone was excellent.  I had a 1976 stage piano with different pickups (red coil wire) and when I tried that DI trick it did not sound as good.  The sparkletop piano pickups are really sensitive to loading.

Another trick I learned with the green coil wire pickups is saturation.  As the pickups are placed closer to the tines, the coils saturate from the hot level.  As I backed the pickup away, I found that saturation to be a pleasant "thump" compression effect on the attack transient when you play hard.  You'll hear this on early Fusion songs especially Herbie Hancock.  Again, no such trick with the 1976 stage piano.

But don't place the pickups too close to the bass tines, the pickup magnetism is strong enough to "pull" on the vibrating tine and change the pitch.  Not a pleasant effect.

Here's my webpage on my piano:

1967 Sparkletop Piano


Hi all !

My lucky star put an early sparkletop in my path recently and I'm preparing its restoration. As Seanfir says, it is very difficult to find resources on these early models, and we agreed to share this post for the community to benefit.

I think my piano came out of the workshop in mid 1966. The speakers are Jensen from Sept. and Dec. 1965 (1 was substituted by an Oxford from March 1969) and the potentiometers are CTS from May 1966.
He's gorgeous for his age! The harp is in very good condition, 100% Raymac tines, original tone bars as well as the pickups (except 3).

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You cannot view this attachment.

The action is entirely in wood, and is also in pretty good condition... except for the Teardrop hammer heads, which have already been reshaped once or twice and have some significative grooves on the upper 2/3 of the keyboard.
I will replace them in a second time, my priority for the moment is on the action which is very short and stiff, and thus not very pleasant to play.

Like Seanfir's piano, the pedestals AND hammer butts have felt, respectively white and red. The pedestals are fitted with the aluminum bump.
The white felt on the pedestals, looks quite old, the sticker being dry and easily removed with the fingernail.

On the shema 8-2 of the service manual, the bump is presented without felt, the felt being on the hammer butt.

After hours (seriously) of searching on the internet, I did not find any picture of these pedestals without felt like on the service manual, even less picture of the hammer butt... here are the ones on my piano.

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You cannot view this attachment. 

I wonder about this pedestal felt: is it original? What was the real original design?

I read your article Real MC (thanks for sharing the information!) and I see that the felt is on the pedestal, but I understand that the hammers are hybrid cycolac/wood. Is that correct?

I tested by removing this pedestal white felt, and as Seanfir says, it's night and day, much lighter action (almost too much) and dynamic. And this despite a much too important escapement. 
By the way, two shims are present under the harp supports, and I think that by removing them, we should be not far from the good escapement without pedestal felt. 

So any advice is welcome! Thank you guys!
'66 Sparkle top, '71 Suitcase MKI 73, ยด77 Suitcase MKI 88  & '81 Stage MKII 73