Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

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Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:54 pm

It's been a while cats and kittens.

A little backstory...I was looking for a piano bench on Craigslist when I came across a restored Fender Rhodes for a good price. By the time I inquired the guy had sold it but told me that he had a second project he would like to sell. The catch was it needed to be refurbished. I'm always up for a challenge. I walked away with a beat up, stinky, 1975 Mark I Rhodes for $350. I'm going to attempt to restore and refurb this old lady and get her back to her glory.

The good...all pickups work, no tines are broken, legs and braces are accounted for.

The bad...nasty and ripped tolex case, scuffed and mangled hardware, worn out damper felts, broken bridle straps, misaligned harp, unleveled keys, 1 broken leg, missing sustain rod, a general grime, oxidation and dirtiness.

Here are the pics...
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Last edited by d-rock on Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:58 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:06 pm

I was on vacation last week and was working around the house. After cleaning the case I realized it was no hope. It had over 40 years of mildew, water damage, large tears and missing pieces. I decided to rip it off.

Removing the tolex
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After sanding and de-gluing
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I had to fix some spots where wood had been gouged, damaged and pieces lost. You can see in the bottom left corner of the photo that I had to fabricate a couple sections of the case with new wood.
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Primed and painted black
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My goal is to eventually retolex the case but for now it's sealed pretty good and doesn't smell anymore.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by MatthewK » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:31 am

Ooh I'm excited to see this. I don't even play piano and I always fancied a Rhodes.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by Telliot » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:08 am

I have this exact model and would love it if you could document your steps more meticulously. Are you planning on tuning the guts or just sticking to refurbing the exterior? Mine has been in good working condition since I bought it 25 years ago, but it needs a proper tuneup and the Tolex and hardware could use some love.
The cool thing about fretless is you can hit a note...and then renegotiate.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:22 am

Telliot wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:08 am
I have this exact model and would love it if you could document your steps more meticulously. Are you planning on tuning the guts or just sticking to refurbing the exterior? Mine has been in good working condition since I bought it 25 years ago, but it needs a proper tuneup and the Tolex and hardware could use some love.
I was thinking I should take a few more pics as I was doing it, so I'm on it. The tolex was such a dusty mess that I didn't pull out my phone much.

My plan is not just for the exterior. I've got to do a good bit on the action and tuning. I need to do a proper cleaning and de-oxidizing of some aluminum parts, replace the damper and balance rail felts. I ordered new screws and grommets for the tines and tone bars and I'll need to realign and re-voice all the tines to the pickups.

Vintage Vibe in NJ is the place for parts and an amazing resource. I've been watching their Tech Tips vids on YouTube non stop for a week now trying to figure out how to do all this stuff and get a grasp on what I'm working on.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by OffYourFace » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:23 pm

Watch out for 'hammer cancer'. That when the original factory adhesive eats the plastic.
Also, I hope you have the cream hammers and not the brown ones. That's the main thing to look for. The brown ones are brittle and constantly break.
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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:18 pm

As I'm inspecting the insides I can see how one could easily go down a rabbit hole of things to replace. I have the cream plastic hammers. The serial number dates it the 49th week of 1975, the year it transitioned from a 'Fender Rhodes' to a 'Rhodes'

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:39 am

A little more progress.

One of the legs was missing the threading where it screws into the base. I took it to a guy that used to work at a local machine shop and had him fabricate the treading.
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I got all the rust off the chrome hardware by scrubbing it with Coke and Aluminum foil then polished with Brasso. The case was painted with oil based Rustoleum and it seems pretty durable. It will do until I decide to re-tolex in the future.
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Here's the piano removed from the case. Now I need to start cleaning.
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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by kosmonautmayhem » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:38 am

Great thread! Subscribed.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:38 pm

I've been working on the cleaning of this thing. Most of the paper pushings under the balance rail felts were deteriorated or possibly eaten by critters. I found them shredded in the bottom of the case. There were a good number of felts that were just missing, so the key was wood on wood. That would explain the dip of the middle keys in the previous pictures.
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I used an old toothbrush and a shop vac to get everything all cleaned up.
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I started getting the oxidation off the harp using scotchbrite pads, water and vinegar.
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Here's my workstation in the basement with it all taken apart.
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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by kosmonautmayhem » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:01 pm

Great progress! Thanks for documenting this. Super awesome to see the insides. I've never really looking inside a Rhodes before.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by antisymmetric » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:10 pm

kosmonautmayhem wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:38 am
Great thread! Subscribed.

Me too! 8)
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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by PJFClifford » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:55 pm

Wow - Please keep updating your progress. I bought a similar model in 2004 that needed some serious attention and it's been sitting in a closet in my studio since then. I took most of it apart and the project kind of stalled.

I'd really like to get it all back together again someday, but it turned out to be more of a project than I anticipated.

Cool stuff.

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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by mackerelmint » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:53 pm

This is awesome. Sort of spellbinding, even. Thanks for making a thread of this.
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Re: Ain't nuthin' like the real thing...Fender Rhodes Restoration

Post by d-rock » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:01 am

Thanks all for the interest. It's time consuming but rewarding.

The keys were really yellowed and cracked so I read over on the EP Forum that you can use steel wood and auto polishing compound. I took #0000 steel wool to each white key (43 total) then polished. It's VERY time consuming. Probably took me 5 hours over 6 nights (one octave per night when I had time this week). I could have spent double the time to get them perfectly white. Sorry for the poor lighting. I've been in the corner of the basement as to not get the steel wood debris and fibers all over the house.

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A lot of the keys are cracked but not damaged. The cracking is purely cosmetic with the exception of one. It looks like someone previously glued down the ivory but didn't make it flush leaving a gap. I had to take an xacto knife to it and scrape away the excess old repair glue.
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Here it is all glued and clamped up.
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