“Gramophone collecting. My Fast Forum”
For over 20 years I have searched out gramophones and phonographs for collectors, repaired them, and brought some back from the dead. It has always seemed a shame to consign to the rubbish tip, a machine that could still give pleasure with the right t.l.c.
There is a great deal of interest nowadays in these early mechanical music machines and a group of knowledgeable enthusiasts who could get together to give help and advice would be a most valuable support to collectors. I have been made aware of the antics of the “Forum” and have been dismayed that, in what should be an interesting exchange of views about collecting and appreciating vintage machines, there are a few members who, hiding behind pseudonyms, devote their time to harmful and unnecessary comments that are purely negative. These views are misguided, frequently hurtful and quite unacceptable especially when they become personal.
Clearly there are a few members of this forum who are genuine experts and make valuable contributions. It is a disappointment therefore that they are apparently happy to associate themselves with the destructive elements in this group.1. USING "FIBRE" NEEDLES.
"Fibre" needles are made from hardened wood and come from two main sources, Bamboo and Thorn wood.
In the case of Bamboo needles the bamboo wood is split into a triangular cross-section and a slice taken off the end which leaves a point that can be used to play a single side. The needle can then be sharpened by taking another slice off the end if the bamboo. This can be repeated many times until the "needle" is too short to use. The slicing can be done with a sharp craft knife or blade, or one can use the specially produced cutters produced by HMV, Columbia and others. To use these triangular section needles, the sound box must have the appropriately designed triangular hole for the needle, as found on the HMV No.4 and 5 sound-boxes for example.
The Thorn needles are round in section and can be re-sharpened using a piece of sandpaper or the specially produced sharpeners such as the "IM" models. These can be fitted into most sound-boxes including the earlier ones with a round hole.
In both cases the "Fibre" needles give a very soft tone and do not produce wear on the record. However they must be sharpened after each playing and well used 78s can wear them out quite quickly.
The pictures below show an HMV cutter for bamboo needles, an "IM" sharpener and a patent sharpener both for thorn needles.
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2. When you are not using your gramophone, always leave it wound up to some degree to keep some tension in the spring. If the machine is allowed to wind down completely (as some people recommend) the spinning turntable can act as a flywheel and the spring can unhook from the rivet on the edge of the spring barrel and may not re-engage when the motor is rewound.
3. Some 78s get dirty with age and can slow down the motor of your gramophone. This is often put down to weakness of the spring, but is often just drag caused by dirt. I find that cleaning the record surface with WD40 usually solves the problem like magic! I know some experts say that you can cause damage to some of the materials used to make certain 78s, but I have never found this to be so. Use very little WD40 and wipe off thoroughly before playing. You will see that the needle becomes clogged with the embedded grime which can easily be wiped off. Another bit of good advice is to "soft" needles which cause less drag and wear.
A few interesting sites are found at: