Archive for Custom Shop

Custom Shop: “Champagne Cowboy” Rhodes

Here is a glimpse of the latest Custom Shop Rhodes from The Chicago Electric Piano Company: Did we finally go over the top with this one?

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This one will certainly turn some heads! We dubbed this finish with the nickname “Champagne Cowboy” because of it’s champagne sparkle top and brown western tolex. On top of that we outfitted the piano with walnut cheek blocks.

This Fender Rhodes is from 1973, right in the heart of the early Fender Rhodes production period. We restored the piano with our “Rebirth” level of restoration services, virtually rebuilding the piano from scratch. Throughout the process we leveled the key bed and set the proper black key height, replaced all action felts and aging rubber components such as the grommets and hammer tips. Our goal was to keep the sound of the Rhodes as true to the sound of the 1973 production period by using only period-correct vintage parts and top quality reproduction parts that bring out the early Rhodes’ signature sound.

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Custom Shop: Custom Silver “Low A” Piano Bass

Here is the latest from our custom shop: The Custom Silver “Low A” Fender Rhodes Piano Bass.

CEPCO Custom Silver Rhodes Piano Bass

This key set was modified to play down to low A like the 88 key Rhodes key set rather than the low E from the 73 key set that usually punctuates the deepest end of the Piano Bass. The Piano Bass was refinished cosmetically with silver tolex and fully setup from top to bottom by hand. And with the low A this Piano Bass rumbles!

 

Custom 88 Key Piano Bass Low A Rhodes

88 Piano Bass Tone Bars Fender Rhodes

 

 

The installation of the deeper key set was intensive and required modifying parts from a vintage 88 key Rhodes. The key bed was cut down and routed to fit with the former key bed with a mortise and tenon joint just as the Rhodes key beds were originally manufactured. (See Below)

Mortise and Tenon Key Bed

And the list of modifications doesn’t end there… Once the key bed was installed in alignment with the hammers the strike line and escapement height of the harp was set. This is done by setting the alignment of the harp and harp supports and also shimming the height for final find tuning. The pickups also needed to be re-soldered for the piano bass ~5.7ohm impedance level. In the end, the entire Piano Bass was practically re-built by hand from top to bottom!

Custom Silver Rhodes Piano Bass

Custom Fender Rhodes Bass Piano

Piano Bass Closeup

Custom Rhodes Piano Bass

Low A Piano Bass Custom Fender Rhodes

 

 

Stunning, right? When this Rhodes came into our shop the original tolex was in complete tatters! Since the piano is going to be hitting the road we decided to install protective corner hardware that was originally absent from the Piano Bass case design. We also installed a “Fender Rhodes” script logo for just an extra flair.

Piano Bass Ripped Tolex Before

Rhodes Piano Bass Top Case Silver

 

 

Does anyone else get the impression that this Rhodes is trying to stay hip to the silver hair dues that are currently in vogue?

 

Rhodes Bass Case Top

Fender Rhodes Piano Bass Tolex

Fender Rhodes Piano Bass Logo

CEPCO Custom Silver Rhodes Piano Bass

Custom Shop: The Tweed Copper Top Rhodes

Chicago Electric Piano Company Custom Tweed Rhodes

Here’s the latest from our custom shop: The “Tweed Copper Top” Rhodes. This was a late 1971 Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano that we refinished in tweed with a few other cosmetic customizations. The replacement copper fiberglass lid was contracted through Vintage Vibe in New Jersey with similar construction to the Sparkletop Fender Rhodes of the 1960’s. Once again we finished off the restoration with a pair of satin cheek blocks using oak and giving it a deep honey stain.

The Piano itself is full restored with new rubber tone bar grommets and hammer tips developed by Retro Linear that restored the harp and hammers while maintaining the early 1970’s sound characteristics. The key bed was fully leveled and regulated and plays wonderfully.

This Rhodes has the classic “Return to Forever” sparkle in the treble and deep warm bass characteristic of pianos from the early 1970’s. Have a listen here:

This Rhodes is currently for sale and if you are interested please contact Max Brink at max@chicagoelectricpiano.com for ordering information.

Here are some closer looks at the instrument:

Custom Fender Rhodes Case Top by CEPCo

Fender Rhodes Tweed Top Case

Custom Fender Rhodes Front

Custom Fender Rhodes by Chicago Electric Piano Company

Fender Rhodes Knobs 1971 Tweed Sparkle

Rhodes Seventy Three Script Logo on Tweed Sparkle Top

Vintage Vibe Fiberglass Sparkle

 

Oak Wood Cheek Blocks with Knobs on Fender Rhodes

Honey Oak Cheek Blocks

Fender Rhodes 1971 Tone Bars

Fender Rhodes Tweed Sparkle Top

Chicago Electric Piano Company Custom Tweed Rhodes

Custom Shop: Tweed Rhodes Suitcase

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Many people were so blown away from our Tweed Two Tone Rhodes earlier this year that we were quickly contacted to tweed amplifiers and another two Rhodes in the custom finish. This one in particular has the shellac’d finish for the amber shine that we know and love from the classic Fender amps. This gives the tweed a classic aesthetic look and also prevents the tweed from getting stained or from fraying.

This is a 1975 Rhodes Suitcase from the late ’75 period with all plastic hammers. Although this period of production usually takes a little more work to regulate properly the Rhodes can sound and feel just as good as the earlier true Fender Rhodes period. The key to maintaining their classic tone is restoring them with the original cube shaped hammer tips that give them the signature Fender Rhodes attack.

When restoring a Rhodes cosmetically it’s always a tough decision whether or not to use the aging original hardware (corners, handles, logos, etc.) or whether or not to use shiny new hardware. The original hardware maintains the vintage vibes and mojo of the instrument while the new hardware completes the cosmetic overhaul for those that want a brand new finish. In this case the decision was a no brainer… The original Rhodes hardware’s patina and light rust looked way too good with the tweed and amber shellac.

 

Here’s a look at the Custom Tweed Rhodes:

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Custom Shop: The Navy Blue Rhodes Suitcase

Here’s a look at the latest Rhodes from our Custom Shop: The a Navy and Tan Suitcase from 1976.

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The 1972-1975 period is something that I consider the best era of Rhodes production but 1976 pianos have really grown on me over the course of the past year. Although it takes a little more labor to regulate their action properly the feel and tone of the early 1976 pianos is just as solid as ’74-75 pianos. This is especially true in early 1976 when the neoprene rubber hammer tips used were still the cubed tips that were used in the true Fender Rhodes period of production.

My mother raised me not to wear navy with black but sometimes rules are meant to be broken. And the blue strands in the tan grill cloth really ties the entire look together! Have a look:

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Kesha’s Custom Wurlitzer 200

Here’s a look at the latest from our custom shop: Kesha’s Custom Psychedelic Wurlitzer 200.

Kesha Custom Wurlitzer Faceplate

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This Wurlitzer was fully restored by our workshop rebuilding and regulating the key bed and action assembly so that it is playing better than the day that it left the Wurlitzer factory. The original 200 amplifier was removed and fitted with the Warneck Research EP200 amplifier with a third knob for speed controlled vibrato. As always we promise that it plays and sounds even better than it looks!

The psychedelic paint job was commissioned from friend of the workshop Brendan Luchik.

Photography for this post was provided by Lenny Gilmore.

Custom Shop: The Ivory Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

It doesn’t get much cooler than a Rhodes Piano bass!
Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

 

Here’s the latest custom built Rhodes in our inventory: The Ivory Fender Rhodes Piano Bass.

This Rhodes is a true one of a kind and was hand assembled by our workshop using the best vintage components. It is a 1969 Fender Rhodes Piano bass lid, body, pickups and harp with 1975 hammers and tines. We selected all of the parts in order to give this piano bass the best warm Rhodes bass tone possible.

This completely restored piano bass is for sale for $2,699 and we promise that it plays and sounds even better than it looks! Just give Max a call at (312)476-9528 for more information.

Rhodes Bass

Fender Rhodes Piano Key Bass

Sparkle Top Rhodes Piano Bass

Rhodes Piano Bass Tines

Rhodes Piano Key Bass

Fender Rhodes Piano Bass Case

 

Custom Shop: The Tweed Two-Tone Rhodes Suitcase

Here’s the latest from our custom shop: The Tweed Two-Tone Rhodes Suitcase.

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And another emergence of our signature wooden cheek blocks to top it off!

 

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Cheek Block Best

This Rhodes Suitcase 73 is from the “Golden Tine” era of late ’74 through early ’75 and we knew right away that the tone was going to be absolutely gorgeous even before the restoration process began. These “Golden Tine” pianos are some of our very favorite but are from a very short lived period of Rhodes production that spanned less than a full year. For those who are unfamiliar, changes in Rhodes tines happened almost every other year and noticeably alter the timbre of the Rhodes’ voice from year to year. These changes are analogous to the differences in tone from various gauges and metallurgical makeups of guitar strings or acoustic piano strings. Aside from a pretty straight forward restoration of the Rhodes piano itself we just needed to make sure that this Rhodes looked as good as it sounds!

Have a look for yourself and share what you think on our facebook page. Here’s a look at the Tweed Two-Tone Rhodes:

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Front

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Angle

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Closeup Angle

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Amp and Wood

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Top Down View

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Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Front W Case

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Back 2

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Logo

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Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Back Angle

Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Front Angle WO Case

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Rhodes Tweed Two Tone Closeup Angle 1

…There are more custom Rhodes currently in the works so stay tuned!

If you are interested in restoration services or custom refinishing your Rhodes piano please contact Max at (312)476-9528 or max@chicagoelectricpiano.com.

Custom Shop: The Orange Rhodes

Custom Rhodes Orange

Here’s the latest Rhodes to leave our Custom Shop: The Orange Mark II. This Rhodes was inspired by the orange 44 note Wurlitzer 106 and a few vintage guitars with an orange finish. The piano was completely restored by our workshop and as always we promise she sounds even better than she looks!

This beauty is now back at Wilco’s recording loft where we will hopefully hear from it soon!

–Until then, here’s a glimpse of the custom finish:

Wilco Orange Rhodes

Custom Rhodes Mark II

Orange Custom Rhodes Colors

Orange Wilco Rhodes

Rhodes Lid in Orange

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Rhodes Logo Orange Rhodes

Rhodes Logo and Back

Custom Rhodes Case

Custom Shop: The Wurlitzer 106P

Check out this little orange beauty from the Wilco Loft! This is the 44 note Wurlitzer 106P Student Piano. Have a look:

Wurlitzer 106 Orange Front Faceplate

 

The 106P’s were produced around the same time as the 200 era pianos and were sold to classrooms in a set of eight pianos mounted onto a single folding frame that allowed them to be stored without taking up too much floor space. All of the controls were mounted in the middle of the folding frame where a single “mother” amplifier that distributed the power and other controls for the individual pianos. On their own, the pianos cannot be simply removed from the set without expert modification to make them work properly.

Wurlitzer 106P Full Set

 

Once unfolded the pianos only sit a few feet off of the ground and must have been intended for elementary school use.

A side mounted panel the instructor can control various basic functions of the classroom set.

Wurlitzer 106 Instructor Controls

 

Under the orange hood of the 106 the action assembly is nearly identical to the 200 series pianos with a few minor differences due to the 44 note reed bar that is unique to the 106. And not just because it is the only Wurlitzer model without 64 notes. Each of the reeds are mounted to a single reed bar that spans the entire piano which is also much lighter than any other Wurlitzer reed bar. The 200 series, and the previous 140/145 series, pianos have two 32 note reed bars split down the middle which severely limits the resonance transferred from one sustaining reed to another located on the other on the other reed bar. Having all of the reeds mounted on the same reed bar allows for more harmonics to be transferred between sustained notes which is one of the most wonderful sonic aspects of this instrument.

Wurlitzer 106 Reed Bar Angle

 

The other difference is that without serious modification these pianos have no sustain pedal function, which if implemented would only enhance the harmonic characteristics of the reed bar! Because of this, we designed a custom shop sustain pedal that allows this 106 piano to be played with a 200 series sustain pedal to bring the instrument to its absolute fullest musical potential.

Wurlitzer 106P Full Orange

 

In addition to our custom sustain pedal design the piano needed a replacement amplifier to power its internal speaker which is normally powered by the power supply mounted in the original folding frame… So here is a sneak peek of our soon to be released custom Wurlitzer tube amplifier: 

Wurlitzer Custom Tube Amplifier

 

There are a few replacement amplifiers currently available for the Wurlitzer and ours is designed to be a breed of its own. Instead of simply trying to improve upon the original Wurlitzer design, which has already been attempted with various degrees of success, we set out to design an amplifier from scratch and emphasize the characteristics that are normally desired from classic vintage amplifiers. This meant designing an amp with tubes, grit, vintage vibrato, and just that certain color and charm. Our goal was to design an amplifier with the inspirational qualities that guitar players find when playing classic vintage amps like a ’50’s Fender Deluxe or early Princetons or bass guitarists plugging into a vintage SVT or Motown’s B-15N.

So began the quest for the cosmic Wurlitzer amp.

106 Wurlitzer Switches

106 Wurlitzer Amp Knobs Variable Vibrato

 

One of the other unique aspects of our amplifier was that it supplies the reed bar with nearly 300V instead of the typical 75-150V supplied by the other stock and other replacement Wurlitzer amplifiers available. The result is more responsiveness in the reed bar which also delivers higher fidelity.

Wurlitzer Reed Bar Voltage

 

After experimenting over a year with various circuits implementing different tubes including working with 12AT7’s and 12AU7’s in the preamplifier before the finally fine tuning the 12AX7 to give just the right range of control over the grit and sparkle of the amplifier’s output. And boy does this amplifier have grit and sparkle! It brings the internal Wurlitzer speakers alive in ways that you have never heard! –Truly an inspiration!

The vibrato circuit also uses a 12AX7 and is modeled after the classic Fender Brown Face tremolo circuit. Unlike the original Wurlitzer amplifiers, this gives the tremolo both intensity and speed controls. We also added a tremolo foot-switch on/off switch which allows you to turn the effect on and off without the need to raise a hand or sweep down the intensity control.

…Stay tuned for sound samples and a special offer on our limited addition first run of our new amplifier…

 

In addition to the Custom Shop work we also restored the piano from the key bed up and voiced each individual note of the piano to bring this electric piano to better than new condition. And ‘amplified’ by the fact that our new tube amp does not have the muddy EQ found in most Wurlitzer amplifiers, which covers up the irregular noises and voicing irregularities, we also spent a considerable amount of our expertise getting the reed’s solder shape just right to avoid any unwanted ghost notes, hissing, or irregular wave forms.

Wurlitzer Reed Pyramid Shape Voicing 200, 106, 145

 

The importance of forming the proper shape to the solder tip of the Wurlitzer reed is an art form that cannot be overstated. The smallest irregularity, solder tab, or asymmetric imbalance can cause the reed to produce tones that are severely unpleasant. Even from the factory–particularly in the later years of 200A production, but also a commonly overlooked issue with throughout all production years–the quality control of the solder pyramid is not up to par with what is required of a Wurlitzer that is intended for live performance or studio use.

This Wurlitzer was refurbished with the proper craftsmanship and love to bring it to better-than-new condition. In addition to voicing each of the 44 individual reeds, every individual felt and spring was replaced with felts of the perfect thickness to ensure that the instrument can be regulated properly for a buttery-smooth feel and reliable dynamic play. You will have to play one for yourself to believe just how good our Wurlitzers sound and feel!

Wurlitzer Whip Fly Felts

Wurlitzer 106 Whip Fly Felts

 

The key bed was completely leveled while lowering the black keys and regulated for a uniform 13/32″ across every black and white key.

Wurlitzer Key Bed Shims

Wurlitzer Key Bed

Wurlitzer 106 Key Bed

Wurlitzer 106 Key Bed with Keys Only

Wurlitzer Lost Motion

Wurlitzer Keys and Reed Bar

Wurlitzer Leveled Key Bed 106

Wurlitzer White Key Dip 106

Wurlitzer Black Key Height

Wurlitzer 106 Key Dip

 

From this foundation, once we built up, leveled, and regulated the key bed from scratch we can begin to perform the same tasks on the action assembly. After carefully selecting the proper thickness felts and springs to refurbish the aging action components we then regulate it for lost motion and let-off to insure that the instrument plays with a reliable and expressive dynamic range.

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Wurlitzer let off regulation lost motion

 

This is as close as you can get to a brand new Wurlitzer in 2013. In fact we have taken the craft to a level on this piano where we can confidently say that this Wurlitzer is in better condition than the day that it was born right here in Dekalb, IL in November 1972.

Wurlitzer 106 Date Stamp 1972

Wurlitzer 106P Serial Plate

Wurlitzer 106 Front Orange

Wurlitzer 106 Full Angle View

 

This one already turned a lot of heads at the warehouse and it will hopefully catch more attention now that it is back home at Wilco’s Loft along with good company. Hopefully we will be hearing from this one again soon!

…One down, seven more to go!

Custom Shop: Wilco’s White Wurlitzer

Here’s a glimpse of Wilco’s new Wurlitzer 206A from our Custom Shop. Hopefully we will be hearing from this beauty soon!

WILCO White Wurli 206

Wilco Wurli - Side

Wilco Custom Wurli

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Decisions. Decisions…

It was a tough decision whether or not to re-cap the white keys to match the bright white tolex and lid. Luckily, the Wurlitzer’s keys were all equally faded and the two shades of white were enough to contrast one another. Have another look at the complete job:

WILCO White Wurli 206

Wilco White Wurli Back

And here she is. Home sweet home–and in good company! From the Wilco loft:

Wilco Loft

Custom Shop: White Top Rhodes

Custom White Rhodes

Custom White Rhodes

This Rhodes is the story of “if you’re going to do something, do it right”–the first time.  Read more