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TheCheeta

Refinishing a Hammie

8 posts in this topic

Two Decembers ago I bought a C2 for $152... a total steal for a working C. It has been gigged extensively, though, and the case shows it. The whole thing shows it, really. But I enjoy a good challenge. I intend to make this beast look as factory fresh as I can without going too overboard. (I don't mind going overboard... it is too overboard that concerns me ;) )

So... the case. It is the walnut finish, and has definitely taken a beating. Parts of the laminate are missing from the front (where it would strike door jambs), the laminate next to the manuals has had various asundry liquids spilled upon it, there are various dings and dents all over. Also, I am missing trim pieces from the front bottom and the entire back.

So where do I start, right? Right now I am weighing two choices... to refinish in its natural color, fixing the veneer, missing pieces, etc., or just making it as smooth as I can get it and giving it a satin black finish. Piano black wouldn't be bad, either, but that would take a LOT of work to make sure that the surface was perfectly smooth.

If I refinish, I will need to strip the wood of its current finish. I came across the Minwax refinisher product that does this. Any recommendations in that department?

Has anyone done a rehab similar to this? What were your methods. I am pretty handy with wood and have most of the tools necessary to accomplish a job like this, save for a big table saw.

Any thoughts on this would be most appreciated.

{Edited because I am at work and posted without proof-reading... shame on me...}

Edited by TheCheeta

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I'll post more about this later, but I have refinished two organs (with the help of my dad who is a piano tech) and a Leslie (by myself). I have not used the Minwax product, but I've also stripped a lot of door and window casings in my 100 year old house. I was using that nasty, general purpose stripper that comes in big, metal cans and smells terrible. That's what my dad always used.

Recently, I've switched over to the citrus-based strippers and they work just as good and don't smell even half as bad. They are bio-degradable and much easier to work with as well. If the Minwax is citrus based, I'd go for it. If not, look for something at Home Depot or your local hardware.

Stripping is relatively easy... I don't know what your experience is. You do not have to take all the guts out of the organ to do it, but it helps to at least free the manuals. Have you done that? If not, I can guide you through it. It's fairly simple to get them movable. Then you just tape off what you don't want to get stripper on (lots of masking tape and thick newspaper).

You can buy veneer at professional woodworking shops and it's fairly simple to attach. Get it flexable (steam works well) and glue it and clamp it. The hardest part is matching the rest of the organ. Any little dings and scratches can be sanded out or if they are deep filled with stainable putty.

Somewhere in my archives I have some before and after photos of my C2 that my dad and I refinished. It was fun!

How is the organ electronically? How familair are you with electronics?

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If the Minwax is citrus based, I'd go for it. If not, look for something at Home Depot or your local hardware.

Sounds good. The organ is in my 2nd floor apartment, so it would be good not to stink up the whole place during a refinishing project. It is in its own room with plenty of ventilation, so that helps even more. I'll keep my eyes open for the stuff you mention.

Somewhere in my archives I have some before and after photos of my C2 that my dad and I refinished. It was fun!

Sweet... would love to see them!

How is the organ electronically? How familair are you with electronics?

Well... before I started degutting, not too bad. Some notes were missing a connection with one or more contacts, and one drawbar lead was detached. The vibrato had some motorboating. Once it was lubed up properly, it did not make any strange noises. The amp seems fine, as well.

All of the wiring is... well... disgusting. There hadn't been a back panel on the organ for quite some time, apparently, and this organ was in a very dirty old space dowtown. Some of the wiring has also degraded... not sure if that was because the rear of the organ was exposed to frequent sunlight or just plain age and neglect. So... being the enthusiastic (some might call it crazy) person I am, I think I will be replacing much of the wiring.

I am very comfortable with electrics/electronics. I was in that line of work when I was in the Navy, and I have always had a tinkerer's heart, so it really doesn't scare me too much.

The organ is basically completely disassembled... all of the electrics have been removed, save for the Leslie switch and the lines running up from the foot pedals. One of the manuals has been stripped of it's keys and most of its paneling. If I remove any more parts, I'll be entering into dangerous territory with all of the super fine wires, and I am just not going to go there. I would like to get all the contacts and busbars clean, so if I can do that without playing with the fine wiring too much, then great. Also, I need to figure out what to do about all of the metal corrosion. There is much surface corrosion throughout the organ, but naturally most of it is on the manuals.

I'm thinking I'm not going to play with the TWG too much. Way too many things for me to screw up there, I think. Normally I have no fear when it comes to disassembly projects, but man... SOO many moving parts to mismatch! I see pictures of refurbished TWG's, and they look fresh from the factory, which would be awful nice. So... not sure what I'll do there.

I know that there are a few electrical changes I need to make, such as adding the Goff percussion and reverb kits, recapping the TWG and amp, and adding a fuse to the amp to protect the transformer.

So... there you go. I will hopefully be getting a site up some time documenting my progress. I just finished taking all of the keys off the levers from the upper manual... the word of the day is definitely "corroded."

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If the lam is shot, look at replacing it. That is, after you have it sounding good.

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I've just removed all the keys from the "actuating levers" or whatever you might call them.

  1. How do you clean the keys? The white ones look like they may actually have some discoloration... any fix for this?
  2. Has anyone refinished the metal inside their organ? How? I have quite a bit of oxidation on all of the metal... these levers are covered in it. I've seen pictures of Hammonds whose metal has been refinished to like-new condition. Any guesses how they got that there?
  3. The felt blocks on all the levers are almost brittle they are so hard. Does anyone make replacements or is there a source for felt that thick?

I know... lots of questions, but there will be more. Plenty more. I intend to finish up this C right. Thanks in advance for any help you toss my way!

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I would talk to a piano supply company like Shaft Piano Supply about felts. They have every felt known to man and you can order them in bulk and cut them to length and width yourself (the correct depth has to be ordered from the git-go).

Be sure to replace the upstop and downstop felts, the long felt strips that run all the way under the keys on the bed (downstop) and the ones that run along the black key plates (one of which has the "Hammond" screened on it - upstop felts). I did this to my '58 B3 recently and it made a HUGE difference in the action.

I'm not sure about refinishing the metal. Some kind of anti-rust cleaner might help. Maybe those folks are painting them with metallic paint? Not sure. As long as you stop the rust, that's the important thing.

I clean my keys with a regular household cleaner like 409 and some paper towel. It won't take stains out of them, but it'll get 'em nice and clean! Keep in mind that Hammond keys are supposed to be off-white / bordering on almond.

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...felts...

I definitely intended on replacing every piece of felt in the whole thing. It has definitely seen enough liquid intrusion to warrant that. Anybody know where I can pick up a fresh piece for the top of the TWG?

And thanks for the advice about cleaning the keys. I just wanted to be sure I could use a chemical on them and that a typical household cleaner wasn't going to eat or discolor them.

I'll keep you guys posted on the progress. Hoping to have the case completed by winter. I nede to get a digital camera...

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