Friday, February 19, 2016


Rhodes Mark 1 Stage-Piano knobs and tines

The same customer as the Wurlitzer also brought me a Rhodes Mk 1 Stage piano with a few dead keys and poor tone. I was able to replace a tine with a spare that came with the original purchase and adjust the escapement enough to prevent the others from sticking (two hammers were missing the tines and binding). There also seemed to be a problem with the pick-up wiring and there was a dead range in the second octave. I checked against the original manual specs and opened one link between two coils (which two I can't recall). There was a group of 12 pickups when there should have been 2 sets of 6.
Rhodes Pick-Ups
A general tone and volume balancing was then done as well as some light tuning. Back in action!

Rhodes under the hood

Back for more and saving the worst for last, the same fine customer brought me a Rhodes Suitcase Piano (keyboard only, no amp) that was suffering from a condition described as "rattly bones". This was due to the decay of all the hammer cam felts (it was an April 1975 model with felt on the cams rather than pedestals). It was unplayable - the action was loose and inconsistent and the keys in the middle octaves bounced and clacked. I removed all the old felt and cleaned the cams and then installed new Steinway piano felt on the pedestals.

I did not do the "miracle mod" suggested by the Rhodes manual as the geometry of the hammers/cams was not ideal and I was afraid it would interfere with the stop-lock position (i.e. the action would be even more bouncy). New lubed felts fixed the main problems, and escapement adjustments via harp shims (replacing the stacks of quarters I found) tightened it right up. This Rhodes was set up to be light and fast and it came out nice. As an organ player more than a piano player I prefer this type of action and the customer agreed, but this is a matter of taste. I believe that many Rhodes owners want to adjust the "key-dip" (how far a key will go down when struck) hoping to tighten the feel, but what they really want is less "lost-motion" which can be achieved by increasing the escapement. The Rhodes is an astonishing display of geometry and any adjustment must be accounted for by adjusting something else but a balance can be struck.

I also replaced all the damper felts which were original and much worn. These repairs necessitated removing basically everything from the case and then reinstalling, which was a lovely opportunity to get fully acquainted with the details of this particular instrument. The felt replacement and escapement adjustments were naturally followed by fine tweaks of tone and volume and tuning. This project was only steps away from a full restoration and was very satisfying. The customer response was "Nice work dood!" which I take as five stars.

*more pics to follow if I remembered to take any while working