Hammond organ repair, maintenance and restoration suggestions for models B3, C3 and similar models
This information becomes more important with each passing day as the experienced technicians, who once numbered in the thousands are retiring and passing on. To these men and women who cared for our cherished instruments we offer our heartfelt thanks. It is now up to those of us remaining to carry on a tradition of properly maintaining and preserving these fine Hammond organs with Leslie speakers for our enjoyment and for future generations. We can all do our part to help preserve a legacy established by Mr.Lawrence Hammond and Mr. Don Leslie.
In the older electronic components of Hammond organs and Leslie speakers, there is high voltage and therefore caution must be exercised. Consult with a qualified technician if you are not familiar or qualified yourself in working with electronics.
It is worth noting that the instruments we are discussing, the Hammond tone wheel models B3, C3, A-100, RT-3, D-152 are on average more than 50 years old now. Many are still working well due to proper maintenance and care but some need some extra TLC to bring them back to factory specifications. The first Hammond model A was introduced in 1935. The first Hammond B3 and C3 models were produced in 1955 and continued until 1974 a 20 year production cycle.
We will start by saying that 50 years old is not old age for a Hammond organ. Stradivarius violins are 300 plus years old and recognized as the best violins the world has ever known. It is my prediction that a Hammond B3 will one day be as well respected as the Stradivarius violin so lets begin now by properly caring for them and maintaining them for the future as well as our current enjoyment.
If you have an old Hammond organ with or without a Leslie speaker, and you have no interest in keeping it, let us know so that we can preserve it and keep it from being lost. If you own a Hammond or find a Hammond that you want to enjoy playing, then there are some things that you should know to keep it playing or to get it playing again.
There are reasons why things malfunction.
1. Human error…..nothing wrong with the equipment, it is just the user does not completely understand how to use it correctly. With the Hammond tone wheel organ, the starting procedure is the first knowledge that must be acquired. Then with a console Hammond one preset key must be engaged or depressed for the draw bars to work as the B and B flat reverse color keys are actually on/off switches for the corresponding drawbars.
2. Electrical and electronic……device is not getting power or proper power, or electronic malfunction of a loose connection, cold solder join, or worn out part like a vacuum tube, resistor, capacitor. Etc. Parts can and do wear out and need to be isolated and replaced. Fortunately, with vintage Hammond organs of the models we are discussing, the parts are available and should be available long term.
3. Mechanical…..anything with moving parts is a mechanical devise and requires lubrication. Hammond organ oil combined with knowledge of the system is the number one most important ingredient in the maintenance and restoration of any tone wheel Hammond organ.
A Hammond B3 organ has many internal moving parts that require lubrication. The Hammond factory supplied Hammond organ oil with each instrument sold and instructed the owners to add oil once a year. The factory suggested that a date of the year be selected that could easily be remembered like your birthday or the day after Thanksgiving to trigger your memory. If oil is not added for several years then the internal mechanism can freeze up or seize. This is NOT good as it is often difficult to get the parts moving again especially for the layman. Therefore add the Hammond oil annually and ONLY Hammond organ oil.
Basic repairs: Look for the simple and obvious first if a problem exists.
1. Is the organ plugged into an outlet that is working correctly? The organ may be plugged in but will a lamp work in the same outlet? Make sure you have power available and confirm that you have 117 volts. Low voltage can cause poor performance. A cause of low voltage would be old wiring or too many items plugged into the same circuit. NEVER plug the organ into a circuit that is used for stage lighting that is on a dimmer! Do not plug organ into the same circuit as other devises that draw large amounts of current. An example…..do not have your Hammond organ plugged into the same circuit as the church refrigerator so that every time the compressor for the refrigerator turns on, the organ is deprived of enough voltage. Does this sound like something that actually happened? Give the organ 117 volts is the message or it will not sound as it should.
2. Is the AC cable connected to the organ in good or excellent condition or is it obvious that it needs to be replaced? Is it brittle or pliable? If brittle, replace with a new one that can easily be found at your local hardware store, Home Depot or Lowes for under ten dollars. Eliminate this fire hazard immediately. However, before you start thinking that you have solved the entire matter, realize that similar wires are inside the organ that should be checked and replaced by a qualified technician. If you are qualified then check and replace. If you are not qualified, unplug the organ and do not leave the room when the organ is plugged in until you address this issue. 60 years ago rubber insulation was commonly used on zip cord wiring. Today we use a longer lasting vinyl covered wire. Over time the rubber insulation hardens and breaks exposing bare wire and thus an electrical safety hazard. An electrician or qualified technician can easily address this matter and it should be done to all of these older Hammonds just as it should be done to old lamps. This is not rocket science but of utmost importance.
3. If you have confirmed proper power to the organ and the organ has had Hammond oil added, you may need to wait a week or two before the organ will start. It takes some time for the oil to make its way to where it needs to be. If the organ will not turn over after waiting a week or two then you will need to seek expert help to prevent damage caused by lack of lubrication. Without experience you risk damaging the moving parts if you try to force movement.
4. Is the start switch springing back to off when you release it? If not, replace it. Does the start switch work sometimes and sometimes not? If that is the case, replaced it.
5. If the organ is not playing after you start in and it is warmed up, check all the connections and make certain that they are secure. The cable running from the organ to the Leslie is the weak link in this system and if these connections are not secure you can have hums or total lack of function.
6. If you are not a musician and trying to determine if the organ works, and you have been able to get it started and all the connections are secure, be sure you have some drawbars pulled out and a preset depressed. One of the reverse color keys must be engaged before you can expect any sound to come from the organ. Refer to the owner’s manual for more details on preset keys.
7. If the organ playing but one or more drawbars are not working when those around them are working, usually this can be fixed by resoldering the wire that has come loose from the back of this draw bar. Access from the back or remove the music rack holder for access.
8. Bass pedals playing constantly or not playing at all can often be easily corrected by gently bending the medal pedal pusher at the end of each bass pedal. Be careful as these metal pieces are sharp and gently adjust either up or down as needed. Try playing the bass pedal tone with your finger. You can actually play the bass notes with your fingers as the notes are played by depressing push switches and the bass pedals themselves do not conduct an audio signal but are only physically pushing a switch. If you can push the switch with your finger, and the notes play properly then a physical adjustment only is required or perhaps a new pedal pusher at the end of the pedal. Borrow a pedal pusher from the highest tone that is rarely used if needed by physically removing and moving the pedal pusher.
9. Leslie speed stuck on fast? If Leslie 122 try replacing the 12 AU7 tube on the left as this is the tube that controls the reply.
10. If the organ starts properly, all the connections are secure, you have drawbars pulled out and preset properly set and still no sound…..remove the back of the organ and look at the vacuum tubes inside the back of the organ. Vacuum tubes that have lost their vacuum will have a milky white look to the top. Replace any tube that appears to be milky white on the top as it has become defective. It does not have to be white on the top to be defective but the whiteness is an indicator.
11. There are 8 vacuum tubes on the preamp of a B3, C3, RT-3 and D-152. Each tube serves a function. If you have no sound at all, replace the first two tubes as these tubes do have the ability for complete shutdown of the equipment and are therefore quite vital to a working system. If the other tubes in the system fail, they will generally cause a specific problem on perhaps one keyboard or percussion but will not shut down the entire organ the way the first two tubes will.
12. Tubes in the Leslie will need to be checked for cracks or whiteness on the tops. Broken tubes or milky white tubes are easy to locate and replace. These are obvious things that an organ owner can check themselves. What becomes more complex are the other 100 or more small components under the chassis that can be replaced one at a time as they fail over the years or replaced in what we refer to as a shot gun approach which is to replace them all or most of them at one time. This may be the more practical approach in a total restoration. An even more practical approach may be to replace the entire preamp with an aftermarket NEW pre-amp which has been developed and well tested over the years as a very reliable option. Adding a new preamp the organ and a NEW power amp the a tube type Leslie will replace hundreds of small parts all at once with brand new equipment and is an excellent approach to a restoration project in our opinion. Keyboard Exchange International can provide these parts and even arrange for their installation at your location. Ask us about ON SITE restoration services. On Site restoration can be compared with trading in and replacing to see which is more practical for your situation.
When Keyboard Exchange international restores a tone wheel Hammond organ, we address safety issues first. That is generally replacing the aged wiring that carries AC electrical current, grounding and fusing.
Here is a list of what a proper restoration should include and the order of importance.
1. Safety first!
2. Audio quality
3. Feel of the instrument referring to key felts and pedal felts
4. Cosmetics…..how the organ looks and appears.
One of the most common questions we are asked is why is my Hammond with Leslie lacking highs or lacking lows? If you play loudly and have no highs there is a good chance that you have blown the upper tweeter speaker in your Leslie from playing too loud. A speaker can only take so much push and over time will become weaker until it blows and needs to be replaced. If suddenly you are playing and you have plenty of high end but all your bass disappears, and you have been playing bass pedals and really swinging…..well, there is a good chance that you have blown your bass speaker in your Leslie.
If you have the normal amount of bass that you always had but wish you had more, consider adding an output to the organ that will allow you to connect to a separate bass guitar amp or sub-woofer system. This has become one of the most popular options we add to the organs we sell and restore. It has become standard equipment on all our restorations, and is offered as a budget friendly option on all the instruments we sell.
There are hundreds of things that can be done to service and repair and Hammond organ. Restoration implies that most of what can be done, is done but all at the same time to make the organ sound and look as good as we can make it look and so that it is reliable long term.
It is possible to restore a Hammond organ and Leslie speaker by replacing major components that are available on the open market but choosing the right combination of parts will greatly affect the outcome of the restoration. New parts for these older organs are available regardless of what may be advertised elsewhere. The reason that we predict that parts will be available long term is that so many people love these instruments there is incentive for others to create a parts supply. You just need to know where to look to find the parts but generally they will be available either new reproductions or restored and salvaged used parts.
New vacuum tubes are being offered in many new products. New musical equipment now uses older tube technology mainly because it is generally agreed that tubes produce the warm and richest sound. Often a 50 year old tube will sound as good as a new tube if it has been well cared for. The Hammond system did not overwork the tubes so they tend to last a very long time. New tubes are manufactured in Russia and other places and new old stock tubes do become available on the open market from time to time. Finding tubes should not be a concern for those truly wanting the classic Hammond sound. There are also solid state versions of both the Hammond preamp and the Leslie power amp. Purists will protest, but pragmatists will appreciate the availability of these well-made alternatives. We offer both at Keyboard Exchange International depending on the preferences of our customers.
Some common problems…..
1. Draw bar not working at all…..check the back of the drawbar to see if the wire needs to be re-soldered. If the one foot draw bar does not work on the upper manual with percussion on…..turn off the percussion. It is normal that percussion will override the one foot draw bar on the upper manual. The two functions share a contact strip called a bus rod
2. Notes do not play clearly. Individual notes seem to not play and there is no pattern on both keyboards that is the same. Dirty contacts can be cleaned up by playing the offending notes harder than normal playing. Try hitting the offending keys 20 times each to see if the note will begin to play correctly. Oxidation can be removed in this manner as suggested by a Hammond organ technical manual. If this does not work then the next step is referred to as bus rod shifting. Youtube videos are available on this subject and on the Keyboard Exchange InternationalÂ web site www.keyboardexchange.com. If this does not work contact a qualified Technician to have them do a bus rod lubrication. This is a process where the bos rods or contact strips are completely removed from each keyboard, cleaned and lubricated or replaced with new bus rods. This should only be done by a qualified person or with proper instruction.
3. Organ making a lot of noise when running…..ADD OIL!
We will continue to add helpful maintenance suggestions as time permits. If you have additional suggestions, please submit them to us for the general good of everyone interested. Include your name if you want to be credited for your contribution.
The above article, “Hammond organ repair, maintenance and restoration suggestions for models B3, C3 and similar models” was written by Jim Huss. The article was excerpted from www.keyboardexchange.com web site. August 2017.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”