Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is?

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Dave Grason
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Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is?

Post by Dave Grason »

If you do not, don’t worry. Not very many people do know about these things. I know about them because I’ve owned four of these in the past. But for the uninitiated, here’s a quick description and some photos:

The Leslie is a combination amplifier and speaker system that is designed for musical instruments. The most common usage has always been with the Hammond Organ. I’ve never owned a Hammond organ but I used my Leslies with synthesizers that had the Hammond Organ sounds sampled on them. It was awesome and I lacked nothing for those classic sounds that made bands like Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others really rock back in the day. For anyone that is not familiar with the sound, here are some links to videos. The Leslies I used to own had a slow speed and a fast speed. (Some will come to a complete stop) At about 32 seconds into the first video, the guy switches from slow speed to fast and you can hear the difference in sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaW2DvJbkwo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHtekYmtnv0

On this second link, you can hear the classic song, “Green Onions” which IMHO, is THE classic Leslie/Hammond organ song of all time. At around 2:26 the guy switches to fast and you can see the rotors take off and the sound will change. REALLY COOL. Since the Leslies were originally built for home use, they had beautiful cabinets but the guys who played gigs in larger venues, like I did, always turned the cabinets around backwards so that the louvres didn’t impede the sound as much.

OK, So the entire reason that I mention all of this on a boat building forum is that I’ve been studying the louvres on the Leslie cabinets. Traditionally the overwhelming majority of Leslies from back in the day, were built from mahogany. Mine were. I think that these louvres would look fantastic for an engine cover for an inboard utility such as the Mist Miss. My question is how to replicate these without destroying a stack of expensive wood? My first thought was to use a router table with a quarter round bit and some stop blocks c-clamped to the fence.

What do you folks think?
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hoodman
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is?

Post by hoodman »

When I hear Leslie I think Jimmy Smith and the other great jazz organists. Playing the bass line and all the harmonies and soloing at the same time!

Is there a relief cut on the inside of those louvers? Looks like they would be a challenge to re-create. I agree, some kind of router bit but turned 90 degrees to the face? I don't know how you would do that.
Matt

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Dave Grason
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Dave Grason »

WOW! I had completely forgotten about Jimmy Smith. MAN, I LOVE his version of Stormy Monday Blues. That's some REAL bluesy Hammond Organ/Leslie music!

So Hoodman, you think that this would look good on a motor box?

I'm thinking that these louvres would need to be made back to back from two separate pieces of wood. To use them for a motor box/cover, they would have to be grain matched so that the joints between the slats wouldn't be obvious. Make two passes on the router table and then turn one piece over so that its louvre lines up with the first piece's louvre.

That's what I'm thinking anyway. I think, in the end, I'm going to have to just experiment with some cheapo wood and keep going until I get it right. THEN, I would venture out with some expensive mahogany.
Last edited by Dave Grason on Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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billy c
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by billy c »

Dave-
i have an overarm router that i use for shaping guitar necks and bridges, and you can tilt the head and plunge cut. that would work great for something like this. come on over and we'll build some hatches :D
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hoodman
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by hoodman »

I think those would make great looking vents for a motor box or to ventilate other closed compartments!
Matt

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Mr Hot Rod
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Mr Hot Rod »

You could do this louver cut on a radial saw. You would need stop blocks and start each pass with a plunge cut.
Saw setup would be like this :
  • Image
Click on this link to see more :
It's amazing that I still have all my fingers left with saw setups like this !

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billy c
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by billy c »

...yes Paul that looks like fun 8)
actually you could do the cut with a table saw too. i imagine their factory setup was done with a shaper/router as the tapered exit of the slot ends is concave
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Dave Grason
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Dave Grason »

Billy, I've been studying your photo of that machine. I can't really see how it is supposed to work. Does the foot pedal make the cutter go up and down?

Having you help me with this would certainly be a good excuse to take a trip to New Hampshire. :D Is is snowing up there right now?
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billy c
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by billy c »

Dave Grason wrote:Billy, I've been studying your photo of that machine. I can't really see how it is supposed to work. Does the foot pedal make the cutter go up and down?

Having you help me with this would certainly be a good excuse to take a trip to New Hampshire. :D Is is snowing up there right now?
hi Dave-
yes it is finally snowing and cooling down up here. an extended January thaw opened up the main part of the lake and ruined our snowmobile trail system across the lake and to the North. Have all the winter toys out but nowhere to play :( ...needless to say the new kayak is getting built and my Belle Isle will get a few more clear coats
The overarm router is a pretty versatile machine as the head of the unit can be mounted above as pictured, or mounted under the table and used as a shaper with the added advantage of plunge cutting and depth stops using the pedal. In the overarm setup, you are correct, the pedal operates the table height. The pivot points on the arm allows you to rotate the head from the vertical 90 degrees either direction via the lever on the arm. The crank mechanism on the back allows height adjustment as well as offsetting the head so it can be run off the pin that is set in the table, so you can do patterning such as tapers. On a guitar bridge template for example, the pin can index where the slot for the saddle is located as well as plunge and countersink tapered holes for the bridge pins and then rout the shape of the bridge.
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Hercdrvr »

Great Idea, it's like a big porch board bass. We play the guitar and kick that thing to keep time at next Gathering.

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Reado
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Reado »

I was delighted to see this post about Leslies! I have a 1958 Hammond B3 and 3 Leslies. I was lucky enough to have a steady gig where played my B3 with two Leslies and never had to move them.

I love the Leslie louvers. When I was looking to build my own Leslie, I talked to a cabinet maker who told me he could have a router bit machined for about $150. I never pursued the project. They would make great boat louvers.

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Dave Grason
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Dave Grason »

Reado wrote: They would make great boat louvers.
Had you ever thought of that before?

Two of my Leslies were daisy chained together with the 6-pin cable going from the wedge shaped preamp to the first Leslie. Then I had this junction box that allowed a second 6-pin cable to go to the other Leslie. The footswitch on the preamp operated both Leslies. There is no way that any recording of this set-up could ever do it justice. But when you could hear it live - all this air and motion swirling around a room - it was FANTASTIC! If you are playing with two at a time, you must have a similar set-up.
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Reado »

I never thought of using Leslie style louvers except in a Leslie.

When I was playing, I had one Leslie behind me and the other one was on the other side of the stage so I really didn't get the full effect of two Leslies swirling at the same time. I had the top rotor miked for some extra punch. I also played the pedals. Glorious!

When you look at the louver picture above, you have to remember that on the inside, there's a mirror image of the outside louver ...if that makes sense. In retrospect I think they might have used a dado-like blade on a flat table-saw like rig.

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Dave Grason
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by Dave Grason »

Reado wrote: When you look at the louver picture above, you have to remember that on the inside, there's a mirror image of the outside louver ...if that makes sense...
Yes, it does make sense. I think the mirrored louvre on the inside is actually turned upside down in relation to the outside louvre. When I had my 145s, I thought it looked like the entire side of the cabinet was actually a series of slats that were grain matched. I think that, if this were true, the louvres would be pretty straight forward to make. And of course, building a mass produced product is going to call for a lot of streamlining in the manufacturing process.
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Re: Anyone know what a Leslie speaker is? Please read this to the end

Post by billy c »

if it is slotting the backside too, you would most likely be using a cutter ground similar to this on your shaper. (A machinist would most likely start with a slotting cutter with a square face and grind the bottom edge to the radius desired)
Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 8.34.24 AM.png
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