I bought a Hammond Organ for £97
Yes! Organs are out of fashion, and take up space so most go very cheaply on ebay (pickup only!!!) If you know what to look for you can get a real electromechanical tonewheel Hammond Organ (Hammond also made loads of cheap cheesy transistor organs). Mine is a T-202 built in 1972. The T series is the last of the true tonewheel Hammonds. Many would-be “proper” Hammond owners pass over them because they have transistor amplification (so no dirty valve distortion like on your old Hammond records) But: it is very easy to put effects in the signal chain (including, for instance a valve preamp) AND you are much less likely to get an electric shock while you are mucking about in the back because valve electronics run on much higher voltages. ALSO the T-200 T-400 and T-500 all have an inbuilt rotary speaker – not quite a full Leslie but much better than nothing – almost all other Hammonds need an external Leslie speaker if you want that classic sound. The old B and C series had longer keyboards and were prohibitively heavy (mine is 235 lbs!). If you want to know more there are good articles here from Sound on Sound and Wikipedia.
Here are some of mine! The little wheels are all spun by a single motor and are geared to different speeds. The bumps on the wheels create an AC signal in the red coils you can see next to each wheel, which gets amplified into a musical note. A T-202 Hammond Organ has 74 Tonewheels.
Cleaning and Oiling
Whilst hooving (dysoning actually) the dust I did knock a couple of connectors off (arrgh) but I managed to deduce where they should be – next time I’ll photograph everything first so I know where all the wires go.
Hammonds need oiling annually and the oil travels from little funnels to all the tonewheels down bits of cotton – you have to use special oil because some oils have elements that would clog up the capillary action of the cotton. (You can see the little white funnels for the “Hammond oil” in the “Hammond T-202 top/back view” picture below). Mine had a tube of “Hammond oil” fastened to the inside but you can buy it on-line easily enough.
Lots of the Drawbars didn’t work properly – each one is effectively a volume control for a different tone, and they were scratchy at best! All I had to do was spray “Servisol” (a switch cleaner) into the drawbars from the back (you pull all the bars fully out and put the tube attachment into the top of the back of the drawbar) Many thanks to David Swain at Swain Electronics for help and advise on this.
The inbuilt Leslie
My rotary speaker didn’t work at all but all it needed was a new speaker cone – I bought one from Swain Electronics for £18. Hammonds service manual refers to this as a Leslie, though I suspect Mr Leslie would disapprove. It does sound great – a 2 speed rotating baffle give a great splashy trem/vibrato sound but “real” Leslies also have a pair of rotating treble horns in addition to the speaker with rotating baffle – Hmmm rotating horns…. I am tempted to try making a set….
Modifying a T series
Many Hammond owners want the sounds made famous by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Jon Lord, Booker T, Steve Winwood etc. Hammond spent some considerable effort cleaning up the sound of their Organs over the years – Distortion free amps and key click filters being two notable “improvements” – but perversely most players prefer the old sound! There is a very good article on how to make a T more like the B, C, M or other older Hammonds used by these players here. I have already done some of these mods and will do more, but I am more interested in getting a great sound than copying a particular other Hammond, they all sound a bit different anyway! Tony Banks of Genesis had an L series and then a T – the same as mine but without the Leslie. He famously dumped the external Leslie and used chorus and phaser effects to do a similar musical job but with his own unique stamp. I have been using a Boss GT-8 guitar multi effects pedal and all kinds of effects work splendidly. In case you want to do it yourself, pin 8 of the amplifier board is where I broke into the audio chain. This board is found on the floor of the organ just to the right of the volume pedal as viewed from the back. You can download a T-100 / 200 service manual here and Captain Foldback has some schematics here. if you want any more info contact me – I am more than glad to help if I can!