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total sl-prokeys hits since April, 2003

On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."


The ProKeys Secrets


I haven't added a serious ProKeys page for a long time.  Recently, I've been thinking - remembering the failures when we built something wrong, and also the success when we worked through the problem.

Someday, maybe I'll meet the right person to "carry the torch" - another Hammond perfectionist with a creative streak a mile wide.  If that happens, maybe I'll pass along the hundreds, or possibly thousands, of secrets that nobody has ever heard of.  Maybe I'll give away all the vintage Hammond parts we've collected through the years.

Years ago, we gave away some secrets as fast as I could write them.  Look around at today's world of Hammond fanatics: nearly everything Rebecca and I discovered, perfected, and made public, is now pretty much standard procedure - generator secrets, scanner secrets, Leslie amp secrets, manual foam secrets.  Speakers.  Stable power.  Leslie particle board solutions.  Relays.  Motor switching.  Wiring replacement details.  Cables, connectors, and tricks.  For years, we were like a pump - we did the work, spent the time, effort, and money to arrive at solid solutions, and then we gave it away to help Hammond lovers. 

That's just about over with now.  Sometimes, I get emails asking for help, but I don't waste much time with emails anymore.  If the letter appears to come from somebody who can think and reason, I give them my phone number.  If they want to listen and learn, I can talk and teach.  If they love the sound of their own voice, I hang up the phone.  I guess that's part of the aging process. 

In 1963, I began earning a living playing Hammond.  I spent over 4 straight years on the road, playing 3-7 nights a week, 48-50 weeks per year.  Then I spent another year with a name group, the Soul Survivors, playing larger concerts, but playing live shows less often.  Nobody was ever available when my Hammonds needed work - so I learned to do it myself.  1963 until the present is a lot of years of Hammonds.  I think you have to learn, even if you don't want to.

I'm glad I have a mind full of secrets.


The Best Secret I Ever Kept

I have a REAL secret.  It's almost one quarter of a century old!

Can you think about the parts in a Hammond manual that are - to the best of my knowledge - ABSOLUTELY unavailable?

No matter where you look, these parts just can't be bought.

I'll give you a clue: there are nine (9) in each manual.
Need another clue?  They're long, thin, and have palladium wire along the top edge.

If you haven't got it yet, I'm referring to BUSSBARS.

It's now April, 2013 - I'm going to let out a LARGE PART of a secret that we've been holding onto since 1990This secret might really knock you for a loop!

I'm NOT going to explain every single detail - but I am going to get you thinking. (Incidentally, Rebecca had more to do with this than me.) 

Bussbars wear, and the palladium wire breaks.  The link above clearly explains that palladium is NOT very strong. 

Anyone who has done a bussbar lube knows all about this - and knows there's no way to buy new bussbars.

OK .... what do you do if you really NEED a new set of bussbars? 

I don't have a clue where you might find them.  But I do have a secret ....

Shifting gears for a second: have you ever seen luxury cars with gold plated hood ornaments, door handles, mirrors, and insignias?  Sure you have!

The factory didn't send that Lexus out the door with the gold plated "Lexus" insignia on the trunk and the grille.

How did that gold GET there?  Somebody plated it!

Bussbars.  Damaged from 40+ years of use.  Broken palladium contact wire.  No replacements available.  You guessed it.  And here's how:

Remove the bussbars.  Get rid of all the palladium wire if you locate even ONE break in it.  A small file, and a lot of patience are needed. 

This could take an entire day.
That wire is so micro-fine (which is why it causes so many problems) you'll probably need magnifying lenses to even SEE it, but you'll sure FEEL the breaks if you wipe down the bussbars with alcohol and a paper towel. 


SERIOUS WARNING: A small piece may break off, causing a tiny metal splinter in your finger.  I know - because this has happened to me, several times.  If it happens to you, too, you'll know it.  And I assure you it will hurt - I mean REALLY hurt - and you will get an infection, until you get it out of your finger.


Peel it off, carefully file it off - just get rid of it.

Now scrub those bussbars with alcohol.  You could also use WD40, ScotchBrite, or toothpaste to scrub, but the last scrub should be with alcohol.  If they're not 100% spotlessly clean, start again.  Get your phone book out.  "Plating", or "Metal Plating". 

Make some calls - describe exactly what you have.

Some plating shops don't even do gold.  Call the next one. (note: you only want a few thousandths of an inch of gold - about .010 or .015 - no more is necessary) 

Many commercial shops only do TANK plating.  This means that all four (4) sides of the bussbar will be plated - so you've got to explain very carefully what you actually want done. (Too much plating, and the bussbars will be very difficult to fit back into the guides/supports inside the manuals.)


If it gets tough, call a Cadillac, BMW, or Lexus dealer.  Ask who does their custom gold plating work.  Now call HIM!  His equipment is completely portable - he can stop by and give you an estimate.  He can probably do your bussbars (all 18 of them) in 30 minutes.

Gold is a phenomenal conductor. You should know this - the most expensive XLR connectors (and others) have gold pins and sockets.  Gold won't corrode.

Something to think about: why don't manufacturers use palladium?  The answer: GOLD is a much better conductor. 

For 1/4" guitar type plugs - forget it.  The STANDARD hard nickel plugs and jacks are much more reliable and far less prone to wear.

Do it.  Get your bussbars gold plated, either by a commercial plating business, or by that guy who customizes BMWs with his portable plating machine.  Don't worry about the palladium wire - your Hammond will sound 100x better with gold plated bussbars than it did with the palladium wire.

And now, pay close attention.  Before you reinstall the bussbars, you must clean them again, AND get them "wet". "Wet" means use some Caig ProGold contact spray to improve conductivity.  I've done this many times, but the following paragraph is my preferred method.


"Wet" can also be Hammond bussbar lube - which I really like.  (Available on the internet from Goff Professional.)  Point being, don't reinsert dry bussbars - be sure you get them "wet" - very "wet".  If you use bussbar lube, you'll only use a tiny amount on each bar.  "Wet" the bars with a drop or two of lube on your fingers - specifically your thumb and index fingersWipe this lube down the bars, then wipe again.  Any excess will come right off on your fingers - and the bars will be "wet"!   


If you do bussbars like we did, the manuals are OUT, standing vertically on their right end, (the high C end), and you've removed the plywood end blocks (the preset keys end) of both manuals so you can easily get to the area where the bussbars are removed and re-inserted.  Extra work?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  DEFINITELY.  Why bother fighting through that small "doorway" on the manual?  Just unbolt the end blocks - it only takes a few minutes - and get INSIDE there, where you can really work. (and if you CAN'T get a bussbar back in, I know exactly how to solve that one, too!) 


Once the bussbars are back in, waste a half can of ProGold - and let it run down the bussbars.  If they weren't "wet" before, they sure will be now!  Also, if you do this "our way", you spray the bussbars progressively - in other words, spray about 6" of the bussbar, insert, spray the next 6", insert, and constantly do this "spray/insert" until the bussbar is all the way in. 


BUT - if you've used real (ie; Goff Professional) bussbar lube, don't mix the ProGold with the lube.  The bussbar lube is sufficient without spraying any ProGold, and I have no idea if the two different lubes will conflict with each other.  So - either choose one or the other.


I've had excellent results with both - but the choice is yours.     

Depending on you - your finances, ambition, and your willingness to "go to extreme lengths" - you could do what we did.  We bought our own gold plating kit.  Let me warn you right now - they are NOT cheap.  Here's the Dalmar link.  You're going to have to ask questions, learn, and make some mistakes along the way - but if you actually do this, you can gold plate almost ANYTHING.  (including plastic)  You only have to learn how.  We'll move to the next step ....


Let's assume we have gold plated the bussbars.  What contacts them?  If you know manuals inside and out, you know the nine (9) key contacts (sometimes called the switch stack) contact the bussbars if a key is pressed.  Examine the key contacts.  Why do they make contact with the bussbars?

(You're gonna love this!) 

Every key contact has - guess what - a tiny strip of palladium wire, spot-welded at the contact point.  Now we can really "go extreme" and possibly solve some problems. 


(I have several more secrets about plating, bussbars, and key contacts.  Maybe I'll write about them later, but I'd like for you to do a little research and learn more about gold plating yourself.  For now, just take note: the bussbars and key contacts are made of copper.  Don't be fooled by internet "assumptions" and "rumors".) 


We had a gold plating kit which used a PEN.  (Check the above link, read, study, and learn.)  A PEN is a lot like an electric Magic Marker - you kind of "draw" or "wipe" the PEN to do your plating.  Think of it as a very small paintbrush.  And think about this, too ....


Why not "paint" (gold plate) every key contact in the manuals?  Each one only takes a few seconds - and the contact is now 24 karat gold.


That's not even CLOSE to the end of what we can do.  Tear apart the percussion and vibrato switch boxes.  Same situation: palladium contact wire.  How about the drawbar assembly?  The drawbar busses are actually silver, I don't think the contacts on each drawbar are.  Don't forget the vibrato box - it has a six (6) position rotary switch with a billion CONTACT points inside it.  Do they have palladium contacts, too?  You can bet they do. 

Maybe we should "paint" ALL of them with 24 karat gold?  I hope I'm giving you things to THINK about.

Internet messages aren't always accurate. 

"The later stock Hammond bussbars were round and gold-plated."  My own 1973 B3 has rectangular bussbars.  Isn't a 1973 B3 considered "later"?

AND - I believe this with all my heart - there is NO WAY Hammond Organ Company would ever, under ANY circumstances, spend the money on gold.


I've only seen one organ - out of approximately 175-200 consoles (and another 75-80 M3s) - with round bussbars.  And, I also saw one - just one - with square bussbars.  All the rest were rectangular.  

I believe Hammond experimented with round bussbars, which is why so few organs have them.  I believe Hammond picked a loser.  I seriously doubt they were gold plated, either.  They were too filthy and tarnished to be gold.

(Later stock Hammonds used foam in the manuals, didn't they?  They picked a loser there, too.)


"Gold is soft."  Not in my experience it isn't.  It certainly isn't as hard as some other metals, and it's undeniably expensive. 

It's also a very good alternative to damaged bussbars. 

"Gold wears out easily."  I really don't think so. 

Example: my case worker has a 1998 BMW, with gold plated door handles, trim, etc.  The plating was done in 1998.  She has an unbelievable case load, so she's in and out of that driver's door probably 100 times every day!  The gold plating is not - repeat not - worn off in the least.  That was the very first place I looked when she showed me all the fancy gold details.  I was intentionally looking for wear or missing gold.  

Everybody has an opinion.  I have a thought/question.  Let's say our gold plating idea works perfectly for twenty-five (25) years.  What difference does it make if I might have to disassemble the organ and repeat the whole process? 

So far, we've had no problems at all for twenty-three (23) years.  I have no idea if there will ever be a problem - I can't read the future.


In my opinion, if any rebuild or maintenance work lasts twenty five (25) years, it's worth considering.  An example is our generator clean/lube on our 1973 B3.  I'm pretty sure we are now up to forty (40) years for all that work and effort, and the generator still starts and syncs in 2-3 seconds.  A lot of work?  Of course it is. 

My thoughts tell me the more work you put in, the more Hammond (or Leslie) you get out!    

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