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Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop


I just picked up an old Deagan model 30; the budget vibes that they made in the late-1930s/early-'40s. It has 2-1/2 octaves, cardboard resonator tubes and a single-speed motor. It needs a bit of work, but I'm not too intimidated by it. However, I could use some advice! Here's what I know needs to be done:

1. Unstring the bars and polish them; they're pretty tarnished. I have a motorized buffing wheel with a variety of mops and rouges, but I could use advice about what specifically might work best.

2. Maybe replace the post insulators while the bars are off. Silicone surgical tubing?

3. Replace the felt dampening strip, which has gotten flattened from compression. Any suggestions for the ideal material?

4. Disassemble the fan shafts, clean out all the accumulated crusty gunk and relubricate. Possibly polish the fans themselves. What is the ideal lubricant for the bearing blocks that hold the shafts? Some kind of silicone or lithium grease? Graphite?

5. Restring the bars. They're held on now with some kind of braided synthetic cord. What would be the best material to use, without getting too exotic?

6. Two resonator tubes are missing. I suspect that I can find the appropriate 1-3/4" OD cardboard tubing somewhere, but I'll need help in determining the correct lengths.

7. Adjust all of the resonators tubes; a number of them are loose or crooked. Again, I'll need guidance for determining the optimal positions.

8. Replace the old (original?) Signal Electric gearmotor. (I tried rebuilding it but there's an alignment problem with the halves of the motor shell that suggests that I'd do better with a newer one. I picked up an old motor controller unit that will regulate the speed of the motor, but I'm still not settled on the actual motor. I'm considering a Bodine KCI-series parallel-shaft AC gearmotor, or perhaps the equivalent Oriental Motor version. Thoughts?

9. Replace the belt.

10. Replace the locking casters; the rubber treads have turned brittle and are crumbling. Soft rubber treads? -polyurethane?

Bonus project: make a custom bag for carrying it between my truck and clubs without endangering the resonators, etc. Apparently these came with a bag (or perhaps it was an accessory). I'd love to buy or borrow one to use as a pattern. Fortunately, my wife's a whiz with the sewing machine.

I'd greatly appreciate any advice on this project!


Randy_Sutin Tue, 01/08/2013 - 06:30

He's a really nice guy and the world's expert on any Deagan vibraphone.

His web site has all his contact information:

If you need parts, he is the best resource I know. He can also tell you about techniques of refurbing parts, etc.

One thing to know... physically polishing your bars will change their tuning. It may be slight, but it will change it. Please be careful.

Good luck!

Vince H Tue, 07/14/2015 - 23:25

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

FWIW, I restored a wonderful old Ludwig and Leedy and polished the bars carefully with rouge and a wheel. I brought them to a gorgeous silver glow, and did not affect the pitch at all. I did stop to check them occasionally, but I think this is a bit of a myth. Don't polish the underside, and be more cautious when polishing the center of the bar, the ends, and the points midway between the center and the ends. But the bars were gray when I started and shiny when I was finished.

BarryK Tue, 01/08/2013 - 06:41

1. Polishing bars:…
Note that if you use a mechanical wheel, you may cause the bars to go out of tune.

2. Post Insulators:
Here is a refurb kit:…

3. See 2.

4. I use sewing machine oil.

5. See 2.

6. There is a lot of info on this site. Search "resonators". Here is one link:

7. See 6.

8. Oriental Motor Info:
I used this motor/controller on my Deagan 580. I used a gearbox to reduce the speed, but that adds a little bit of noise. You can also reduce the speed by using a smaller pulley wheel. Note that there are two types of motor shafts; one that has a straight axel, which you would get if you wanted a small pulley wheel, or pinion shaft that is meant for attaching a gearbox, which is shorter and won't be able to use a pulley.

Here is a turn-key solution:…

9. See 2.

10. Can't help there.

If you have eye-bolts, you can replace them to allow easy removal of bars.

Good luck,

BarryK Wed, 11/13/2013 - 21:45

In reply to by BarryK

I'd like to change the recommendation for the above post insulators. They had a bit of friction to them and when I moved the pedal, they rubbed against some of the bars and you could hear them. Use silicone tubing instead. Century Mallet sells them.


Vince H Tue, 07/14/2015 - 23:41

RE 3. I suggest that for dampening, you use a bicycle innertube. Cut to length. Glue plug in one end, fill about 60% full with RV anitfreeze, then squeeze out air, and glue a plug in the other end. Use "MAgic Goop" for glue, and cut a plug from a cheap nylon/plastic cutting board. Cover this with felt. It will eliminate frame noise and give you the best possible tone.

Re 2. Good source for silicone tubing is Mcmaster Carr.
Re4: lubricant for bearing blocks. Try graphite on this. I haven't seen this model in some years, but if it has wood bearing blocks, graphite should lubricate without causing swelling.

Re: 5 Use thin diameter nylon venetian blind cord (you can find it online). DOUBLE it, then give it a mild twist (about 1 twist per 3/4 inch)one. You can do this by putting one end in an adjustable speed drill.The benefit of this is that the twist stops the "string buzz" inside the nodal hole, and the nylon is extremely durable--more durable than anything sold by the people who make vibes. I have used this on 6 vibes and it is superior.

Motor is Oriental motor US 206-1 (see my post referenced by BarryK)

See my post below on polishing. It is messy but you won't detune the bars if you are patient. It took me 2 partial days to do 37 bars using rouges and buffing wheel slowly. Check tuning as you buff. Not hard, just takes time.

Blake Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:38

what size silicon tubing do you purchase (from McMaster or anywhere else)?

IndianaGlen Wed, 05/17/2017 - 16:37

This thread is a very old post for a Deagan? I'm pretty sure you need grommets through screw eyes on that vibe (that's what's on my model 35)

I'm embarrassed to say I am fairly certain regarding the tubing I used but I don't know with 100% certainty. I ordered a bunch years ago and have been using it ever since. I have a 6" hunk in front of me so I know the measurements are right and it's translucent white.

I'd recommend you get a small amount and test. I cut it with a single edge razor blade. Also cut several trial pieces. If they are too short they wont cover enough of the post, or they will slip down, too long and they will push the string out of the post.
I'm pretty sure it's the durometer 50A, but I can't remember for sure, probably doesn't matter. I wet the posts with a damp rag and slide them on.
ID OD Wall
1/4" 5/8" 3/16" 5236K221

IndianaGlen Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:35

In reply to by Piper

I'll assume you're talking about Armor-All in your post above. And yeah I'm going into the geek weeds. In my opinion it's not the right thing to use. Water dries so after the insulator is in position it wont move. Armor-All is a water borne silicone so it seems to me that it wont dry and will make it so the insulators will come off or move too easily.

Also many people who do finishing/painting wont allow Armor-All in their shop. I think it's evil. Anything that it touches will hose up any kind of finish to be applied and it's very difficult to remove silicone. It causes a myriad finishing problems. It also attracts dust, and finally if the surface isn't totally clean it seems to magically dull it and create a layer of gunk that will come off onto your fingers/bars etc. The directions say that surface has to be clean before application. It works good on car dashboards, but I've seen some ugliness from it too.

By the way, I had a thick layer if it on the dash back seat of an old Mercury back in the day. After I dropped off my girlfriend home from a date, her mother said, "is that a new style of nylons, they have a shine to them". :D

I prefer water. Rubbing alcohol works too, but it can mess with the finish if too much gets spilled on the vibe. (Back seat one's mileage may vary)