Restoring a ‘56 5E3

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by nyitguy, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. nyitguy

    nyitguy TDPRI Member

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    About 30 years ago I was very lucky to come across a ‘56 Fender Deluxe amp in a pawnshop in Helena MT (or maybe it was Billings). They obviously didn’t know what it was, otherwise they surely wouldn’t have sold it to me for $25.

    I’ve been waiting for the right circumstances ever since to restore it, and that time has finally come. It needs a fair amount of cosmetic work (tweed, handle, grill, power switch) and a new Jensen to make it look and sound like itself again, and I should probably bring it to a knowledgeable tech to have the innards checked out (the components look pretty original). It does work, and sounds quite good in spite of the generic speaker someone slapped in it.

    I’m here to ask for some guidance about online or offline resources for authentic (or relatively so) replacements parts, and perhaps advice about approaches to such work. I’m thinking to document the process with video and/or photos, is that something folks here would be interested in seeing?

    I’d be very grateful for any and all advice or information folks are willing to impart.



    3967F868-94C2-4035-B4CA-130A9688F0BD.jpeg B276F79A-75E9-4A61-B9F3-F66866B206A5.jpeg 604D29E1-54D4-40C7-8569-80EFF86DE14E.jpeg 959E9B28-C901-44CF-B597-FB9D8CBDB2DF.jpeg F125C360-3579-4084-A7F8-7BAADD41913F.jpeg B7F950A1-AA69-4B58-BF6C-5256026C8CC9.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
  2. Jon Snell

    Jon Snell Tele-Afflicted

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    Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 08.46.22.png Date code is missing.
    This is how it looked on one I refurbished a few years ago;
    Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 08.49.35.png

    Not too much work involved with the electronics as it is a very simple amplifier.
    Replace the filter capacitors firstly and test/replace the coupling capacitors, especially the grid couplers on the 6V6s.
    Check the anode load resistors and fit a three core mains lead removing the death cap.
    You could clean and rechrome the chassis but that will lose its authenticity and value.
    A good cabinet maker will make the woodwork pristine.
     
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  3. AlbertaGriff

    AlbertaGriff Tele-Afflicted

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    Wow, very cool. Yes we would all be interested in watching the restoration!

    Personally, I would probably leave the cabinet as is. I would replace the handle with something truer to the original. I can't see the speaker, but it looks like an alnico? I might leave that too.

    And as noted above, I would take care to replace the electrolytics and the 2 prong power cord if that's still there, and to check the other components.
     
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  4. Timbresmith1

    Timbresmith1 Tele-Afflicted

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    Retweed and tint. Even if the chassis is tore up. Not a complicated control panel to remember so no big deal there. Vintage guitar mag probably has a re-covering company in the ads. PM me, if not.
     
  5. lowatter

    lowatter Tele-Holic

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    Edit:

    Nice score. I'd do as much research as possible before doing anything. It might be worth a small fortune as is and was owned by someone famous for all you know. It's only original once in it's found condition. Above my pay grade. Maybe check with Wally?

    However, if you were to go forward...
    I'd re-tweed it myself and lacquer it and then maybe relic(distress) it a bit. Replace the grillcloth with oxblood new handle and put a Jensen in after doing the caps, cord ect.

    https://www.angela.com/fenderusatweedclothfor50sampsandreissueslightcoating.aspx

    https://www.angela.com/genuinefenderoxbloodwithyellowstripegrillclothfor50stweedamps.aspx

    https://www.angela.com/amphandlebrownleather9withraisedcenterhumpandwhitestitchingandhardware.aspx


    https://www.stewmac.com/electronics/amps/speakers/jensen-p12q-40w-12-guitar-speaker/

    OR...you could leave it exactly like it is and sell it as a barn find easily for a grand(+) and buy this...
    https://www.stewmac.com/kits-and-projects/electronic-kits/amplifier-kits/59-tweed-15w-amp-kit/
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
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  6. no doz

    no doz Tele-Meister

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    such a cool find, would love to see restoration progress!

    i watch uncle doug's youtube channel quite a bit, find them to be the coolest / most informative amp restoration vids i've seen. you might find some ideas on his channel that are helpful:



    if i were keeping the amp for myself i would:
    • take lots of photos / do a lot of research
    • shore up the cabinet / baffle
    • retweed / lacquer the cab (might have it relic'd if i were leaving the chassis as is)
    • bleed the circuit of any residual charge
    • remove the two-prong cord + death cap
    • would check / swap out old filter + coupling electrolytics on the eyelet board (would house the new caps inside the old cardboard tubes if possible, for aesthetic authenticity
    • check the rest of the components for value / functionality and make any necessary swaps
     
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  7. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    It sounds like you’re comfortable working on amps and just need advice about parts and so on? Let’s make sure we're all aiming for the same target.

    If I was going for max 'collector' value, I’d have it professionally re-covered, and use the fewest replacement parts I could get away with. If I wanted to sell it as “fully professionally restored, sounds great, good for another 70 years,” I’d have the internal restoration done by a well-known restoration shop, too. There are several other options in those directions….

    But since you saved it all these years (tho that probably did increase the pure collector value) I’m guessing you want to get it up to safe, playable, and presentable, and keep it? Good for you. :)

    One thing that'd help a ton is well-lit pics of the inside, close-ups of board and PT and OT and pot codes, speaker, etc.
     
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  8. Telekarster

    Telekarster Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    25 bucks.... that was a good score even for those days! Congrats! My advice is do not turn that thing on again until you get it looked at. As I understand it, you run the risk of blowing things up due to other things that might fail e.g. chain reaction. If it were my amp, I think I'd have to retweed it for sure cause that brown paint would bug that snot out of me ;) Since the speaker isn't original anyway, though it does look like it's an alnico, I think I'd have to put a Jensen back in there. If you're patient you could probably find an original Jensen, cause they do come up for sale from time to time. As for the rest, FWIW, I just past on a 55 Fender Pro that was 100% all original because it was 100% all original LOL! I want to play it, not look at it, so in my mind just replace any and all things to make the amp safe and enjoyable to play. You don't have much in it so your ceiling is quite high for investment in getting her going, just be sure that your tech saves all the original parts that they pull out of it so you can keep them with the amp. Otherwise, go for the gold I say! Get that baby back to excellent condition ;) Welcome man! Keep us posted!
     
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  9. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    If you look just to the right of the model number there is a little stamp on the poster's picture. It is faded but I can just make it out. Some of the people stamped their labels in different places.
    Here is the label of the FIL's - you can see the "FL" below. On the OG's you can barely make out the "F" but I can't see if it is an "L" or a "J"

    IMG_1190.JPG
     
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  10. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Just right. Well spotted! I boosted the contrast. FE? That'd be May '56, and might fit well with the later serial no./date code in the pic from @Jon Snell . I'll attach my prettied-up Fender date code chart...

    upload_2021-10-8_9-32-40.png

    Fender 2 letter date codes table.png
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
  11. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    If it were mine and a keeper, I would make it reliable. Change the power switch to modern or vintage if I could source one. I wouldn't recover it. I would leave the chassis and knobs alone. I may or may not change the handle and the grill cloth. Speaker?

    If it is for sale... IDK if you could net more money by restoring it or not.

    I have restored vintage knobs on automobiles. The knobs look in good shape. A fine bronze wool might clean them up enough to look new. A spray of lacquer would be the next step if the wool was not sufficient to get them good enough. I prefer semi gloss when it needs a spray.

    No matter how you decide to restore it, it will make me cringe if you replace the paper label. OMMV.
     
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  12. nyitguy

    nyitguy TDPRI Member

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    I appreciate everyone's input. My intention is to make it look good, work good, keep it and play it. Considering the fact that it's already far from original, I'm not concerned with how recovering might affect the value, in fact my opinion is that tasteful aesthetic improvements would probably increase the value (as long as they're done right). If the electronics are safe I'd rather keep them intact, with the addition of a grounded cord. I'll find a tech to check it out, it's worth the investment for sure.

    The paper label will remain-- @King Fan, thanks for the investigative work on the date code. I could make out the F but that was it.

    I'll try to get some pictures of the innards this weekend.
     
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  13. nyitguy

    nyitguy TDPRI Member

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    By the way, I should probably clarify how I think of the word "restore" in this case. I mostly want to replace all the major parts that were changed or removed, so it looks the way it should, with the proper cover, grill, handle, switch, etc. The speaker is a lower priority (I'll have to buy a power sink to actually use it at home) but I'll remain on the lookout for 50s vintage Jensen.

    I've noticed that some Fender Deluxes from that period have a metal plate that says "Fender Deluxe" and others just say Fender. Was that dependent on what they had in stock when it was being assembled?
     
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  14. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    gut shot of the FIL, you might want to look at some cap replacements if you are going to play it.

    IMG_1185.JPG IMG_1193.JPG
     
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  15. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I like your idea to restore it so it pleases you, and then play it. Pleasing appearance is a fun thing to research; and research it will need. And then decisions. Pro or DIY? Relic or just 'old tweed color'? What old tweed color do you want? Etc....

    How an amp looks is super important to me. But only about 10% as important as how an amp sounds. :D

    As for safe and safely playable, almost everyone here will urge you to leave the old transformers alone, replace every single electrolytic cap, especially the filter caps, replace all paper caps (or re-stuff with new caps -- can look awesome), replace other suspect caps, replace drifted or cooked or cracked resistors, and replace the 2-prong cord with 3, omitting the death cap. Your amp won't be safe for you or itself if you don't do that, and it won't be sonically accurate to the way it sounded when new, either. Old tubes are fine -- if they work. And yeah, at a minimum you want it fully checked for function and safety by a reputable tech.

    The outside of the amp is an empty canvas for your taste and enjoyment. The insides, though, are what make it an amplifier.
     
  16. Jon Snell

    Jon Snell Tele-Afflicted

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    You are quite right, I missed that.
    Definately 1956.
    Nice find.
     
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