updated September 2, 2014

Poor Man's Leslie

The Leslie was an important part of the rock sound in the '60s. Bands like Steppenwolf used a heavy Leslie sound on the organ for songs such as 'Born to be Wild' and Cream used a Leslie for a unique guitar sound on the song 'Badge'.

This year one of the Hoffman forum members began building a Leslie unit based on the Leslie 16 which later became the Fender Vibratone. I became interested in his project and soon began watching eBay for parts. I soon realized you could get a small complete Leslie system that came from an organ that had been parted out. These were similar to the Leslie 16/18 units but were scaled down versions that used a single 8" speaker and smaller drive motors. These smaller units were not as popular on eBay so the price was right for me. So, I picked one up and began tinkering with it.

Once on the bench I was able to get some joy from the unit simply by connecting the speaker to an amp and applying 120VAC to one of the drive motors. I changed speeds using gator clip leads. I discovered that these little units sound pretty good as is but I really wanted a larger speaker. And a cabinet. And a footswitch to control the thing. So, it became a project.

This is the original unit, complete with dual speed drive motors and full range 8" Rola speaker.


I first built a very rugged footswitch to control the motors. One switch applies power to the motors and the other switch selects either the fast or slow motor. The indicator is continuously illuminated when in fast mode and will blink when in slow mode.

Here's the schematic for the entire unit. I opted for simplicity and used no relays to control the motors. This required a heavy duty footswitch controller. It's all point to point construction inside a very rugged cast iron electrical switch box. I don't have the caps across the switch contacts in my unit but I would install them if I was actually playing a venue.


I replaced the particle board with a larger 1/2" plywood sound board. I used the old board as a template for drilling holes. Then I modified the board to use a 12" speaker.


I mounted a Weber 12" California speaker to the sound board.


And here's the motorized drum side of the sound board.


One more picture of the completed sound board ready to be mounted inside the cab.


A little woodworking, painting, casters, etc., and the box is ready with the sound board installed.


All buttoned up.


 Overall dimensions are 18.5" wide x 21" high x 16" deep. This project is done.


My poor man's Leslie is ready to jam!


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