Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fixing an Antique Hand Crank Phonograph Victrola - Pathe - Edison

As you know if you read my blog, my mother passed away and the pieces of furniture that I got from her estate were dropped off at my house in the past few weeks.

I have LOTS of furniture needing to be restored and I haven't had much time to do it with the arrival of Grand Princes number One. I have slowly been working on things and have three of the pieces finished and have the harder pieces to refinish. I am looking forward to getting everything done but I was able to do something today with a little help from God. 

I know people sometimes think you are crazy when you talk about prayer and getting answers to prayers but I KNOW that God is real and loves me as He loves each of us and HE cares that I get what I need and the things I ask for within reason. 
When moving the portable Victrola crank record player at my mothers to load it into the truck, it worked. We had listened to some records before picking it up. 
We picked it up and could hear something fall into the base of the unit. I could hear it in there and we tried to get it out but we were SO tired and so I figured we could just "fix" it later.
The problem came when I got it to my house. I washed and polished the unit but couldn't play anything because the screw that holds the head with the needle on it onto the arm was gone. I thought, "How hard can it be to replace that?" 
I spent an entire day going from hardware store and home improvement stores and ended up at the optometrists office hoping they would have a screw small enough to fit into the head and hold it onto the arm. 

I tried all the suggestions and nothing worked. I searched another day online looking for parts and they have similar screws for other phonograph players but I didn't want to spend the money if I wasn't sure it would fit. 

I had the little screw that holds the needle on but it is bent. It fits into the slot but only goes so far as it is bent so it works to hold the needle in but wouldn't hold the arm. I couldn't even have a machinist make a new one from that because of the bend. 

I prayed for help.... I don't want to keep something that doesn't work and don't want to spend a ton of money on parts that may not work so I was thinking of just putting the entire thing online. 

The big problem is that this machine is not American made and the parts aren't standard as they would be on an American made machine. I didn't see any screws for this machine anywhere online. 

I had a friend text me asking if I wanted some lettuce out of their garden. I said I would so I went to pick some up. She had an old Victrola machine as I walked in and I didn't know she had that. I asked about it and she said it was missing all the crank portions but showed me the top. It had a screw to hold the needle in and I asked if I could buy it to see if it fit mine. She told me I could have it. 

I took it home and it was too large. But, I had pulled some stuff out of the garage and found a bag of watches in the yard sale pile and they were on the counter where I was trying to put the new screw into the head. I looked at the watches and it finally clicked. When I was at the hardware stores I kept thinking that I knew of something that would work but I couldn't quite make the connection in my mind. 

When I saw the watches and the little pin / screw that adjusts the time, I realized that that part was what I couldn't remember. It was the perfect part I needed. I found a wind up watch that didn't work and pulled the back off and took out a little screw out of the back that held the little moving screw in and was able to pull it out.   

You can see in the video at the top that the hardware store tried to make me a screw that would work. The eye glass screw is way too small at the top and wouldn't hold the arm to the needle section. 

Imagine my thrill when the watch part worked perfectly to hold the needle onto the arm! I was able to play Victor, Cameo and Edison records on the player with no issues! They sounded great! I took a few videos showing the different records so you can hear the difference in sound if there is any. 

The top video is a "Cameo" record and is most like records you and I would recognize. It is a bit thicker and is glass not vinyl. It sounded great. 

The second video I will post is the "Victor" record. It is larger like a long play record and is about half the thickness of an Edison record and you can see how thick they are in the comparison picture here. 

I actually had to crank the machine while the longer record played. Each crank lasts 2-4 minutes but I am cautious about over cranking as I don't want to ruin the mechanism. Cranking during playing does work as I tried it and it was fine. 

The needles are about 100 for $10 online and would you believe me if I tell you that each needle is good for ONE play! They get dull very quickly and then damage the grooves on the records if used over and over. 

I think I need to tell my girls that I need a hundred for my birthday! They are always looking for something to get me, that is something NO ONE would EVER think of to purchase for a gift! ;-)

The Edison records are thick and heavy but they are super cool with his image engraved on them. You can tell that the Pathe was made about the time they came out as the specs are the exact size of the old thick Edison records. 

The others are thinner than the metal center and the Victor is bigger than the padded base but the Edison fits the exact height and width of the center of the Edison record and the base is the exact size of the Edison record! 
I took the screw back to my friend and told her "Thank YOU" for letting me take it as I don't think I would have thought of a watch part had I not had her screw.

The other cool thing was I was at the grocery store walking in and was giving gratitude for the air conditioning in my car and that I have money to buy food and what did I find on the ground just in front of me? Yep, a penny. I SO trust in God! His little reminder that He loves me!

It is VERY cool to hear them and it is amazing to me to see how far science has come in just over 100 years or so. I wonder where things will be in another 100 years.                     

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