November 28, 2016 at 6:59 pm #7858
We have discussed the Italian Silvertone Orgamonica before, though mainly under the misleading heading, “Hohner Silvetone.” Here’s the link for that discussion: http://www.melodicaworld.com/forums/topic/hohner-silvertone-made-in-italy/
I know of two Silvertone Oramonicas, the 34 key model, which appears to be the closest Italian melodica to a Clavietta and is shown here: https://lucy421.smugmug.com/Other-1/Italian/Silvertone/i-PRXTvqf/A
I am currently in the process of trying to repair my Silvertone Orgamonica 32 and make it playable, and I may try to do the same with my 25 key model. I’ll be following up in a few days.November 30, 2016 at 11:27 pm #7878
repeatNovember 30, 2016 at 11:52 pm #7879
I have now been working on the Silvertone for the last few days, and it is now playable though not as air tight as I’d like. When I first acquired this instrument, I did not know what I have since learned, which is that most early Italian melodicas, with the exception of the Clavietta, have five hexagonal headed bolts on the bottom. You remove these bolts and then pop the keyboard and works of the melodica out the top. The reed chamber is sealed with a gasket against the inside of the back cover. For some reason I didn’t figure that out and ended up prying the box of the Silvertone apart.
Consequently, the first step in refurbishing was to glue the box back together again, which I did with a product called Liquid Nails. I did this in two stages, letting the glue dry overnight for two nights.
One thing to be noticed right away is that my craftsmanship is not very good, but I’m working on it! Here you see the original gasket material, which eventually crumbles on old Italian melodicas. This is why they are seldom playable.
Top and bottom views now, with the old gasket scraped off with a small pen knife and X-Acto knife, and then bottom view with new gasket. 1/8″ foam gasket tape — I’ll try to figure out where I purchased this tape. It is adhesive on one side, which has a covering that peels off. It adheres very well. It’s a bit hard to get to apply in perfectly straight lines. It is also stretchy.
Notice the irregularity in the placement of reeds on this instrument. This seems characteristic, and it is also characteristic of the key mechanisms and pads. When these were assembled, I’m sure the workman had to do some bending and twisting to get everything lined up and working. Key pads have to be spaced evenly enough so they don’t interfere with each other, which results in a note sticking or an adjacent note also playing. I had to do some of this with this Silvertone, and I’ve had to do it with my Chordiana and a couple of others I’ve been working on.
To be continued…December 1, 2016 at 10:49 pm #7889
It might be possible to replace the front, white key strip without removing keys, but all the keys have to be removed to replace the back, black key strip. These strips are apparently of the same material as the original gasket. In addition to the green material, there’s a cloth-like backing, which I peeled off with the gasket, but which I left in place here because the backing is wider in dimension on the back strip than its plastic foundation.
With some melodica springs, you have to be careful not to accidentally launch a spring into the stratosphere — not so with these. The instrument I’m using to remove and replace springs is a dental instrument, courtesy of my dentist’s assistant.
It’s important to keep your keys in order with these old Italian melodicas, as each key is different, either by design or from having been manipulated to fit. The dental instrument is also good for the first run at removing crumbling gasket material.
followed in this case by scraping with the X-Acto knife.
Now thinner gasket tape, again cut into strips. Here I’m using Saint-Gobain 100S Strip-N-Stick Silicone Gasket Tape, 30′ Length, 1/2″ Width, 1/16″ Thick. Because its adhesive is not very effective, I’m securing the strip with spots of Loctite super glue, probably not the best choice but what I had on hand.
The fact is that it is hard to get the Orgamonika back into its metal case and properly seated, and this interferes with getting a good seal for the reed chamber. This is an engineering failure. This is also not a comfortable melodica to hold in the hand. It is angular and awkward, and slippery. It comes in an ugly box. Well, this may be a cultural thing.
This Orgamonica is, however, now playing reasonably well, except that it still leaks a bit too much air, and I’ll probably be trying to address that issue by replacing some springs and possibly by replacing the pad on the air venting mechanism, though that may be a challenge. It also occurs to me that an alternative approach with the gasket might be to replace it by laying down wider strips of gasket tape on the bottom wall of the Orgamonica. Tightening the main bolts reduces leakage in this case, but I’d rather not push that too far. Hand tight is sufficient with the Pianino, Pionetta, etc.December 2, 2016 at 11:51 pm #7891December 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm #7929
Some great info here Alan. Thanks for posting all of this. Love the sound as well. You’re playing sounds quite good too 🙂December 6, 2016 at 4:43 pm #7931
I am finding that breathing is a problem on these old Italian melodicas, so that while doodling around is fine, playing a tune where it’s necessary to determine where to take a breath is more problematic. I suppose this is where your circular breathing would make a big difference.
More force is required to sound the reeds, and especially to sound them well. The models I’m working on all have short keys, and the reeds are shorter and more stout than on most melodicas.December 7, 2016 at 9:50 pm #7976July 22, 2017 at 11:37 pm #9088
Hi Alan! I recently bought a Silvertone and just received it. There are 4 keys that don’t play – I suspect that it is the key mechanisms that need to be repaired or simply reset. I’m a little hesitant to take it apart after reading a bit of the posts. But I realize you recommend working on the hex bolts on the back and then the keys and reeds lift out from the front. Am I reading this correctly? All the other keys play quite nicely and I love the sound so far so don’t want to destroy anything in the process. I did dismantle my Hohner Piano 36 and reassemble without destroying it so think I’m up for the task. Any other words of advice before I tackle this challenge?July 22, 2017 at 11:42 pm #9089
To my surprise, I just picked the Silvertone up again and find all but 1 key now playing! This is exciting! The one key appears to be a key that the spring is not working for fingers crossed. It is the high E so maybe not worth trying to open and repair at this time.July 23, 2017 at 3:17 am #9092
I’d probably play it as is if it’s just the high E, Pam. Some manipulation of those keys may be possible by pushing the adjacent keys down and moving the problem key back and forth. Or if you open it up, the mechanism that opens the air holes may just need a little manipulation.
How do you like the sound you’re getting with it?July 23, 2017 at 4:25 pm #9094
I just opened up my Silvertone. You said you suspect that the issue is with the key mechanisms. Unlike many other Italian models, the Silvertone 34 has the key pads (that cover the holes) mounted on a plastic arm, so adjustment by bending the arms is not a viable option. Does the offending key depress and release smoothly like the other keys but just not sound, or is the key sticking. Are those keys evenly spaced? If the offending key is depressing and releasing freely but with no sound, it seems likely that its reed is not gapped properly (or, less likely, has failed). Is the spring tension weaker on the offending key(s).
You should be able to remove the end pieces and get a look at that high E key without having to remove the five bolts and lift the keyboard out. I wouldn’t be too nervous about lifting out the keyboard as long as you’re not forcing it. The worry would be about compromising the reed chamber gasket beyond the extent to which it’s already compromised by age. As I mentioned above, it’s hard to seat the keyboard properly to get a good seal, even with new gasket material. Mine is still not where I want it.
AlanJuly 23, 2017 at 9:59 pm #9095
Thanks so much for the swift response Alan! Yes, the offending key sticks. It is the high E. I do get sound with the key depressed but the key sticks and then the reed sounds when other keys are played. So I suspect the key mechanism is the issue. I’m tending to leave it or just open that end cover like you suggested. Brilliant idea there! Then shouldn’t have to deal with the whole gasket thing but could take a peak at the key. Super suggestion. As to the sound, I really like it! The keys are rather clacky but the sound is sweet and it appears to be really air tight. I like the sounds – guess I would describe it as a harmonica sound. I’m a real amateur so not sure of all the terms tossed around here. The unit is rather heavy compared to other melodicas I have but it is 34 keys and does have that wooden board inside. Your photos have been so helpful! Thanks for posting them. My lowest C key is quite springy but sounds fine and doesn’t stick so I am leaving well enough alone at that end!July 23, 2017 at 10:07 pm #9096July 24, 2017 at 1:58 pm #9101
I can see that there’s some unevenness in the spacing between keys. The white keys at the high end are tightly pressed together, and you can see some loose spacing in the rest of the keyboard, especially at the low C, which is elevated. With these old Italians this is pretty common. Lately with these old Italians, I do some work evening out the spacing of the whole keyboard. With any melodica, this problem at a particular place on the keyboard can be resolved without taking it apart. I used to insert a small knife blade between keys that are sticking or even just too close for comfort, and then push gently on one or both to open the tight gap, and more generally to close noticeably wide gaps. Eventually, it dawned on me that it’s easier to just depress the adjacent key and push the other key away with my finger. Pulsate a few times, and it won’t come all the way back. It’s pretty easy to to even out a whole keyboard in a few minutes. It may need to be revisited occasionally.
Look at the spacing on some of your other melodicas. If the keys are all working smoothly, uneven spacing doesn’t seem to affect performance, but it affects the visual aesthetics of the instrument. It can make a melodica look cheap and junky.
That low C could be fixed, I think, but it probably would require taking the Silvertone apart — though maybe you could figure out how to do it with just the end piece removed.
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