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
been holding onto since 1990. This secret might really
knock you for a loop!
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
OK .... what do you do if you really NEED a new set of bussbars?
I happen to have plenty of them, but they're not for sale.
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!
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
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. A small piece may break off, causing a tiny
metal splinter in your finger. I know - this has happened to me,
several times. If it happens to you, too, you'll know it. And I
assure you it will hurt, 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. If they're not 100% spotlessly
clean, start again. Get your phone book out.
Search "Plating", or "Metal Plating".
Make some calls - describe
exactly what you have.
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)
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.
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 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
10x 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. "Wet" can also be
Hammond bussbar lube. Point being, don't reinsert dry bussbars
- be sure you get them "wet" - very "wet".
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 ends (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, insert, spray the next 6" or so, insert, and constantly
do this "spray/insert" until the bussbar is all the way in.
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
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. We have to examine the key contacts.
Why do they make contact with the bussbars?
(You're gonna love this!)
contact has - guess what - a tiny strip of palladium wire at the
contact point. Now we can really solve some problems.
several more secrets about plating, bussbars, and key contacts.
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 key contacts are
made of copper.)
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
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, the contacts on each drawbar are not. 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
Maybe we should
"paint" ALL of them with 24 karat gold?
messages aren't always accurate.
stock Hammond bussbars were round and gold-plated." My own 1973 B3 has
rectangular bussbars. Isn't a 1973 B3 considered "later"?
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.
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.
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
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.
tell me the more work you put in, the more Hammond (or Leslie)
you get out!