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Old April 9th, 2011, 01:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Vibratone/Leslie 16 Build

Picked one of these up a few weeks back:

It's a foam "cheese wheel" baffle, speaker and two-speed motor gutted from an organ. The speaker was a small, oval deal with a pretty crummy guitar tone. The guy I bought it from had wired the motor up with a rheostat and switch, which is really bad for inductor motors like these (burns them out). In the end, I stripped off the hardware and motor and used the baffle as a template for a new cab. I also picked up a 10" Fender speaker from the TDPRI classifieds to replace the oblong one that came with the baffle.

I did a bunch of online research and put together a set of plans for a Fender Vibratone/Leslie 16 cabinet. Ordered some black tolex, grille cloth, metal corners and a handle from Mojo Tone Amp Supply. Borrowed a friend's router and built the cab from 3/4" MDF, and this was the result:

I basically copied the original Fender Vibratone dimensions, except I enlarged the side ports to the Leslie 16 size. The Fender ones just looked too small.

For the internal baffle, this cab basically follows the Fender and Leslie for the wheel placement. I moved the motor to the 6 o'clock position, rather than the original 4 o'clock, because the mounting bracket for this motor didn't enable a vertical arrangement of the motor and wheel in the side-mount location. As it is, I had to unscrew the fast motor shell and rotate the halves by 90 degrees to get things lined up, but it worked out perfectly on assembly.

For the back, I left everything the same as the original:

You can also see that placing the motor in the 6 o'clock position also enables motor tension adjustment with the back panels on.

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Old April 9th, 2011, 01:23 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Control box

The real changes happened in the control box. The original Vibratone had a wiring harness that spliced between the amp output and the speaker on a combo amp, utilizing a crossover circuit to dump the mid-range frequencies to the Leslie cab and passing the rest to the amp's speaker. For this design, I wanted to be able to use a standard two-button footswitch to toggle the speaker enable and the motor speed. To do this, I utilized a pair of relays to toggle the motor power between the fast and slow motors and to switch the speaker signal between the Leslie cab and my amp.

The relays take 12V for the coil, so I put together a 12V DC supply for them, then used the footswitch to connect the coil ground to activate them. The speaker harness just adds a drop to the control box for the speaker signal from the tip. I scored a Marshall two-button switch cheap from the local shop, cable included. All it needed was a dpst switch dropped in for a momentary-contact and it was good to go.

A bag of parts from Mouser and a trip to Radio Shack later, and I crammed the whole business into a project box thusly:

Little red jewel light and all.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 01:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The only other departure was on the front grille baffle. The original Fender design (and perhaps the Leslie, I don't know) had 2 cut outs in the backer board - one sound port at the bottom, and one diagonal port to accommodate the cheese wheel bracket. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why they didn't just move the center baffle back by 1/2", so I did:

So, how does it sound? I'm thrilled. I'm driving it from my Blues Junior, and it just roars. There is a slight volume drop due to the indirect sound path and smaller air space around the front of the speaker, but nothing that can't be resolved with a little more volume at the guitar. At the chorale setting, it produces this shimmering effect that you almost have to A/B with the dry signal to notice. It's a subtle effect that just spreads the sound around the room. Put the Tele on the middle notch with a little delay, and it's heavenly. On the tremolo setting, it's everything you'd expect. With the neck pickup, tone rolled off a little and the volume up to really drive the speaker it's Charlie Hunter territory. With all that air in the cabinet, it wants to be LOUD, and it really fills the room.

Yep, I'm in love.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 02:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Does anyone use a sawing machine motor with the foot pedal for these? Seems like a simple way to get any speed you want.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 03:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Awesome build. I love my leslie 16

Nothing like some swirly goodness
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Old April 9th, 2011, 08:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Leslie 18 and friends..............

mmmmmmm more Leslie Luv:

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Old April 9th, 2011, 09:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Beautiful work!

I have a Leslie 16 I restored with brown tolex and built my own switch box based on the original design.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 07:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I've got an old Wurlitzer "Spectratone" leslie made to sit in a little old ladies living room and it sounds great, but wouldn't work so well with anything above a vibro champ...I use a sewing machine pedal to turn it on and off, one speed on mine!
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