Author Topic: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?  (Read 6910 times)

Offline goldphinga

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Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« on: December 16, 2014, 04:05:10 PM »
So...do harps really need all that wood and heavy steel framing?
Vintage vibe pianos remove most of the wood and frame, so the answer is surely no!
It clearly doesn't affect tone as listen to th vv pianos...

What are your thoughts?

A lot of weight is tied up in those harps.

Is it worth modifying harps in this case to save weight?

Thoughts?

Offline K-man

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2014, 04:17:09 PM »
We'll see what happens with this VV pianos after the years
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Offline bourniplus

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2014, 11:11:03 PM »
Even if they were over-engineered, I'm thinking "some" over-engineering can be good...
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Offline Student Rhodes

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2014, 12:18:19 AM »
Do you think the VV pianos sound as good as a Rhodes?

Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2014, 02:59:25 AM »
Do I think the vv pianos sound as 'good' as a Rhodes? Yeah definitely but not the SAME as a Rhodes. Which makes me think- what is different in there that has changed the tone from a Rhodes? As far as I know it's shorter tonebars in the bass end, different pickups that can swivel left/right a bit more, and of course the lack of wood and metal on the harp.

In every other part of the sound production the vv's are pretty much the same.

So maybe the cut down wood and lack of frame on the harp does change the tone somewhat. Not better or worse but different. Ps I don't think they'll be any issues with vv harps holding up as they put in extra supports too.

Over engineering can certainly be a good thing though for def- there's no doubt the Rhodes harps are gonna be stronger with the extra wood and metal which is great for on the road-




Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2014, 01:12:47 PM »
The wood in the older harps is pinblock wood from acoustic pianos. It doesn't alter the sound, but definitely adds weight. The multi laminations of cross grained wood adds strength and helps to keep the tine mounting screws secure.
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Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2014, 02:09:54 PM »
The wood in the older harps is pinblock wood from acoustic pianos. It doesn't alter the sound, but definitely adds weight. The multi laminations of cross grained wood adds strength and helps to keep the tine mounting screws secure.


So...if you cut away most of the tine mounting wood and pickup mounting wood and remove most of the harp framing, are you compromising the integrity of the instrument? If the VV pianos are anything to go by then thats a definitive no otherwise they wouldn't have done it- correct?

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2014, 07:04:07 PM »
Right. I do not think the pinblock wood is absolutely necessary. They probably were just buying it from a supplier and cutting it to fit.

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Offline Ben Bove

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2014, 01:44:18 PM »
It's hard to speculate but I might agree with Steveo.  The wood being purchased would've been in sheets, and the most cost-effective and fastest way to mass manufacture the instrument would be to make as few non-linear cuts as necessary - only the two necessary to present the tines on the same strikeline, and the pickups to match the tonebar rail curve.  Everything else is easiest cut at 90 degrees.  Cutting away some marginal wood weight wouldn't save any production money, and probably create more labor.  On top of that, it's structurally built like a tank so that there wouldn't be any failure in tine to pickup alignment, an easy to mount rectangular part, and for how heavy it is - it was already a much lighter and more portable instrument than an acoustic.  But surely, "they don't make them like they used to" with all the wood and metal.

Had CBS engineered the harp today, I imagine they would've designed the harp exactly as Vintage Vibe has - it's a very intelligent design being lighter in weight and structurally sound.  There have also been advancements in machining, industrial production etc. that would streamline the process better than traditional 70s tolerances.

The heaviest part on a Rhodes by far, is the harp assembly.  It may be equal in weight or weigh more than the entire case and action rail combined.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2014, 01:59:34 PM by bjammerz »
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Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2014, 08:05:44 AM »
Great info guys thanks! Ok, so with all this in mind i reckon its pretty safe to go ahead and chop my harp VV style, though i'll somehow need to add a couple of extra supports as they have coming up from the keybed to meet the underneath of the wood...unless instead i could get a new triangular harp frame made from aluminium instead which would ensure theres no flexing in the new reduced size harp.

Is there a reason nobody else has done this to their Rhodes? I would have thought everyone would be on this now seeing as its not complex to do, seemingly is safe to do and everyone wants a lighter rhodes right!?

Offline 8675309

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2014, 02:34:09 PM »
Great info guys thanks! Ok, so with all this in mind i reckon its pretty safe to go ahead and chop my harp VV style, though i'll somehow need to add a couple of extra supports as they have coming up from the keybed to meet the underneath of the wood...unless instead i could get a new triangular harp frame made from aluminium instead which would ensure theres no flexing in the new reduced size harp.

Is there a reason nobody else has done this to their Rhodes? I would have thought everyone would be on this now seeing as its not complex to do, seemingly is safe to do and everyone wants a lighter rhodes right!?


I bet good money that if you hack up your Rhodes the result wont be a good one. Don't do it and don't get enchanted with pixy dust and magical beans.
Nobody likely drills holes and hogs out material because after some thought one realizes its not worth it.

Accept it! Rhodes are heavy and sound like like they do because of how they are built and what they're built of. It is what it is! A vintage heavy instrument with a great sound.
If you seek a light weight instrument why contemplate a rhodes anyway? Everything associated with the Rhodes is heavy and has lasted so long because its solid, robust and not built like S**T

Putting that aside what would be the real weight savings?
You spend hours/days "lightening" your piano. What would the savings in weight be 10-15lbs?  Call it 20lbs.
Would it be worth disassembling your piano, messing with every setting and then having to reset it to loose off 20lbs?
No imo.

If the harp material was trival Rhodes/CBS would have used cheaper grade plywood or low grade pine. Generally speaking in many instruments, especially stringed instruments mass = sustain/resonance and tone. Imagine a les paul with 100 holes drilled into it? Well gibson did that and many folks dislike those instruments over the non-swiss cheesed versions, even the ES-335 designed as a semi hollow still has a center block for sustain/mass.  Even the VV guys have boasted in the past here on this forum about how good wood is and having it makes for good sound. Strangely enough seeing the inside of the VV piano and after reading their praise of wood is good I was surprised to see the cookie cutter approach. I guess it works for the VV piano, but a VV piano isn't a rhodes-  So removing mass, weakening a strong frame on a big heavy object- uh-

Get a nice hand truck if you have to move that thing

Sorry to be so objective but "good god man drilling holes isn't the answer"


« Last Edit: December 19, 2014, 02:37:08 PM by 8675309 »

Offline Fred

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2014, 03:38:25 PM »
Just some thoughts...

In the past I have definitely made known my appreciation of wood as opposed to the aluminum extrusions of later Rhodes pianos. IMO the later actions add to a microphonic quality in the piano. That's where the whole "wood is better" debate begins. Now it becomes, "is LESS wood even better?".

My philosophy in building the original prototypes was, "what can be eliminated, and where", hence the Swiss cheese approach. A Rhodes is one sturdy instrument, for sure, but does it really have to "withstand a direct six foot drop" and the like? When carrying an instrument of such dimensions, the whole thing acts like a lever. Whatever the weight, being dispersed across 40" or so, it now has a mechanical advantage and can feel heavier than it actually is.   

As for the harp, it was just one more area to shed some pounds. The asymmetrical tuning fork is designed to be acoustically isolated from any other structure in the piano. Tines and tone bars do vibrate differently whether or not they're installed on a harp, spring configuration, etc., but the effect on tone is minimal when removing material from the harp. The main difference in tone between a VV and any given Rhodes piano is really in the setup, voicing, pre amp, and amplifier. All of the parts where designed with aftermarket Rhodes support in mind.

That said, I still gig with my '71 Stage. I got a fold up hand truck and leave the lid home. It has a comfy ride in the back seat, and I can move it around pretty easily. At 8675309, I think "The Voyage Home" is one of the best Star Trek movies released, definitely in my top three, though maybe that's for another forum! 
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Offline RhodesMK

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2014, 02:43:24 AM »
If one is aiming for cutting the weight, no matter how it affects the sound, maybe get a Nord or an iPad with Akai LPK-25?  I mean isn't this the the way Yamaha engineers were thinking when they invented the DX? For me the Rhodes vibe and the sound comes with the weighth, can't have one without the other, as history proves.

Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2014, 03:22:28 AM »
For me, a hand cart isn't an option as my Rhodes resides in the studio which is down narrow stairs two people can't fit down and I have to move it on my own when taking it out for a gig. And I'm not willing to use samples on the big gigs I do at least esp when everyone else in the band is using real drums, guitars, horns etc.  So I have to find a solution. I have a lighter case design already in the works and I don't believe a Rhodes has to be heavy. There's always a way.

Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2014, 08:23:33 AM »
How do you connect a keyboard to an iPad?

1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...

Offline tomsrob

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2014, 02:34:35 PM »
Has anyone tried bjammerz suggestion (in other threads) to separate the harp from the piano. I'd be interested to hear if anyone is doing this. My concern with this would be stripping the screw threads and just carrying it safely so not to damage any tines or pickups/ wires.

It may be a pain for every gig but in your situation it could help with the stairs. Personally, I would hack up the walls to make a wider stairway before hacking up my rhodes.


Offline Student Rhodes

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2014, 03:42:31 PM »
As someone pointed out, I just can't imagine there's that much weight that can be cut from a Rhodes.  How many holes can you expect to drill in a harp?  I don't know specifically how much a harp weighs, but I'm going to guess no more than 15 or 20 pounds.  Though I think it's highly unlikely, let's say you can drill away 20% of the wood on the harp. That's still only three to four pounds.  If you wanted to get insane, you could drill out areas under the keybed, and on the sides of the shell.

Unless you build a new shell out of carbon fiber or something, you're stuck with what you've got. Maybe you need to get a Mk V.  I believe you can stuff a Mk I or Mk II inside a Mk V shell if you prefer either. Pretty sure I've seen that before... (Or was it the other way around?)

You could leave your legs at home, and use a different stand, which would still have to be carried. 
I've heard there's repro pedals that are plastic or some composite material.  You could also take your chances and leave the lid behind, but you'd probably want to make some kind of padded cover to slip over the piano.

With all those changes, how much weight would we be talking about cutting?  To pull a number out my ass, I can't imagine it being more than maybe 20-30 lbs.  I guess every little bit helps, but that makes little difference in something with the dimensions as a Rhodes.  It's always gonna be a big, bulky thing.

It seems there's not much you can do to a Rhodes to cut weight, without making it no longer a Rhodes.



Offline pianotuner steveo

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2014, 06:48:51 PM »
Or at least making a new lighter weight case.

Good points.

I'm so glad I don't gig anymore. 35 years go, I regularly gigged in 2 bars on the second floor and only 2 people could get a grasp on my '73 in the narrow stairway.

Don't miss those days at all. I would not be able to do it now.

1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 200A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2000 Yamaha acoustic piano
2004 Hammond XK3
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
....and a few guitars...

Offline RhodesMK

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2014, 07:09:47 PM »
How do you connect a keyboard to an iPad?

You need a camera connection kit for connecting USB interfaces to iPad. Most new midi interfaces work just fine with any iOS device. Just buy the Neo-Soul Keys with excellent Rhodes samples, pick up any keyboard with midi and there you have it, feather light Rhodes rig :D

Offline tomsrob

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2014, 11:25:53 PM »
"You need a camera connection kit for connecting USB interfaces to iPad. Most new midi interfaces work just fine with any iOS device. Just buy the Neo-Soul Keys with excellent Rhodes samples, pick up any keyboard with midi and there you have it, feather light Rhodes rig"


Yes but it sounds and responds absolutely nothing like a Rhodes.

Offline RhodesMK

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2014, 06:48:35 AM »
True, it does not. That's why we need to carry our Rhodes, no matter what the weight is. Yet, iPad Rhodes is fun and in a busy mix Neo-Soul sounds decent.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2014, 06:50:32 AM by RhodesMK »

Offline Fred

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2014, 10:19:46 AM »
There is a LOT of excess weight in the Rhodes design that can be eliminated, but you'll end up doing a complete redesign. If that's not in the cards for you, I'd suggest harp removal for your personal set of stairs or when no one else is available to help. Between that and a hand truck/bandmates to load in and out of venues, it should be pretty manageable.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2014, 10:51:08 AM by Fred »
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Offline sean

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2014, 10:30:36 AM »

I built a sled for moving my pianos up and down the basement stairs.  I lay two twelve-foot two-by-fours on the steps, and brace them against the basement wall.  Then I put the Rhodes on an L-shaped sled with wheels.  I can drag the Rhodes up the stairs with a rope.  It is so inconvenient that I have only used it once.

Sean
« Last Edit: December 21, 2014, 10:33:53 AM by sean »

Offline sean

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2014, 10:33:29 AM »



With my iPad, I use the stuff from IK Multimedia, and it works out great.

I have the iRig Keys Pro with lighning connector as a keyboard, and the little iRig guitar input for guitar, bass, and microphone input.  The keyboard comes in four flavors:  full-size keys or mini-keys, and new lightning connector or old 30-pin connector.  (Actually, I think the lightning versions still ship with a 30-pin cable in the box, so you get both.)

The iRig keyboard is powered by your iPad, and works great if you have iOS 7 or 8.  If you have iOS v6.4, you will probably have fiddly power-on curiosities like I did.  The keyboard wouldn't power up until I switched into GarageBand and selected a keyboard sound.  It has worked flawlessly on iOS 7, and stays powered up anytime I plug it in.  It doesn't drain the iPad battery too much, especially if you only plug it in for a few takes.  It works fine with the iPhone too.

I have NeoSoul Keys, and IK SampleTank, but I use GarageBand most of the time.  I can use the NeoSoul Keys and SampleTank sounds inside of GB, but it is less convenient because you can't edit them as pianoroll midi within GB.  So I usually wind up using the Rhodes, Wurly, and Clavinet sounds that are standard with GB.  Some of the synths in GB are useful too, but like all true musicians, I am upset that CatPiano doesn't support inter-app audio.

I hate the Hammond organ sounds in GB only because they have really loud key click.  That is fine for single line melodies, but is too noisy for chord stabs, and can really ruin an ethereal backround.  The piano sounds not stellar, but oh well.

I wish GarageBand had horns (you are left with one brass sound in keyboard "classics" - Eighties Synth Brass).  It is also shameful that GB doesn't have a useful cowbell, tambourine, splash cymbal, woodblocks, or tunable rimclick.  I wish the Guitar and Bass note input neck could be extended or moved, so you could play parts higher up the neck (instead of playing them low, and then dragging them to a higher register on the piano roll).  It would also be great to disable the pitch-bend on input (sometimes it is too easy to trigger bends when you don't want bends), and it would be great to be able to mute individual strings or mute-after-strum.

The sampler inside of GarageBand works great, but I haven't tried using it to record and playback a cowbell.  (I should shut up and do it.)  It would seem that it should be simple for the developers to add stock samples to this interface, so they could easily add a cowbell, tamborine, etc.  If Apple would open up an interface to a file system within iOS and publish rules for adding samples to GB, then the world would provide additional sounds and instruments.  Apple Loops is close, but no cigar.

Everybody wishes that GarageBand for iOS had Volume Automation like it does on the Mac, and I wish that the mixdown didn't force each track to be limited so much (dammit who cares about overflow).  They do a good job forcing compression and limiting on the input stages for guitar and vocals, but sometimes I could do without the safety and protection.

Does anyone use a multi-track recorder on iOS other than GarageBand?  Can you share your experiences? 

Sean

P.S. - Nice thread hijack, huh?

P.P.S. - It looks like the cheap $39 iRig guitar input doesn't exist anymore.  All the vendors have decided that you need to spend $99 for this. 




Offline Ben Bove

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2014, 12:08:51 PM »

I built a sled for moving my pianos up and down the basement stairs.  I lay two twelve-foot two-by-fours on the steps, and brace them against the basement wall.  Then I put the Rhodes on an L-shaped sled with wheels.  I can drag the Rhodes up the stairs with a rope.  It is so inconvenient that I have only used it once.

Sean

This is of course, immediately what came to mind being late December.

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Offline Ben Bove

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #25 on: December 22, 2014, 12:40:37 PM »
Has anyone tried bjammerz suggestion (in other threads) to separate the harp from the piano. I'd be interested to hear if anyone is doing this. My concern with this would be stripping the screw threads and just carrying it safely so not to damage any tines or pickups/ wires.

I'd love to see someone do it as well, maybe some day I'll get around to it.  If you tighten the harp screws by hand, you probably never have to deal with stripping out the screws. 

You could also drill new holes in the harp support blocks (the unused holes), install posts with threaded ends into the block that stick out maybe an inch, slide the harp down on these stationary posts and use wing nuts to tighten the harp down.  That way, you don't have to continually unscrew and potentially strip the harp blocks, the harp goes back to the same strikeline spot every time by sliding onto the posts, and you can easily screw and unscrew the harp by hand with wing nuts (possibly needing to channel out a part of the harp frame for the wing nut to spin).  That way, you can preserve the original harp block screw holes should you ever need to go back to them.

I would get a basic keyboard soft case with strap handles to transport the harp.  Nothing can really happen to the underside of the harp, and the height of the 2 support brackets between the tonebar and pickup rails would help deter any bigger damage on the top.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 03:10:23 PM by bjammerz »
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Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2014, 07:35:30 AM »
I actually did the harp removal thing a few times using my Nord 73 stage soft case to carry the harp...It worked well, but i'd still rather have one unit to carry that was lighter and its inevitable at some point that the harp is going to get damaged and also its too easy without care to drop the harp onto the dampers completely knocking them out. I did that twice...So its not ideal..plus the phono socket takes a lot more abuse and if you have an earth wire running from the damper rail that causes issues too.

So, now with all this in mind- lets say you were going to mod your Rhodes to get the weight down, what would you do?

Lets have some specifics, maybe as a group we can come up with some great solutions to mod existing pianos reliably and effectively. Lets talk mods for both wooden framed and alu framed pianos...


Offline goldphinga

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Re: Were Rhodes harps over engineered?
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2015, 05:02:23 AM »
Update: just acquired a harp frame and pickup/tonebar wood rails from a scrapped 1976 73 stage. So I can go ahead and make a lighter harp vv style now without damaging my 1980 janus which is my gigging Rhodes.

I'm going to remove all 73 pickups and tonebar assemblies from the '80, chop down the rails and remove the middle parts of the harp frame then install the pickups and tonebar assemblies into the lighter frame. It's surprisingly heavy as it stands even without the parts installed. I reckon I can shave off 10lbs just off the harp. With the new case I'm having made that will knock some more off too.

Will report back- happy new year!
« Last Edit: May 03, 2015, 01:30:21 PM by goldphinga »