Thursday, April 20, 2017

Splicing - Repairing - Fixing Broken VHS, Cassette, and Reel to Reel Tapes

I know that the video for this process is bad. I really would love to have fancy equipment or someone to at least hold the camera for me but most of the time, video taping is a last thought in the process of what I am doing anyway so I don't think to take a "before" and "after" video or even pictures for that matter. I usually am halfway through a project before even thinking that maybe I should blog about what I am working on.

As you know if you follow my blog, I am working on a huge family history project involving ten boxes and bins of cassette and reel-to-reel recordings that my mother made over 50 years or so.

I have done two "recording sessions" of about 8 hours each so far and have only gotten less than 30 of the tapes done. I am averaging about 2 per hour with constant attention as I am forwarding through the tapes until I find something I want to record and then it takes some planning to check the sound and line up the recording and hook it to the computer etc.

I then check the sound and then record at the proper level so it is best for playback by anyone who may want to listen to it in the future. I have several different folders of items so far. I have one for extended family on one side and one for the other side. I have one of my mothers singing, one for just songs she wrote and then one for my family.

My favorite so far is one of my mother being interviewed as a national beauty queen while crowning a state winner the year she reigned. I have a file of just that type of thing as I think it will be fun to make a slideshow with the pictures of her in the state and the interview and put a link to it in her book.  

During this process, I have purchased three used reel to reel players at second hand stores. I think God is looking out for me as I have purchase two of these in the past two weeks. I go to those type of stores all the time as I have such an interesting life, I find all sorts of useful items there. I found one of them today and spent several hours working on it but will post about that later.

While I was fiddling with it, I broke one of the reels as it got pinched under a moving part. I remember my mother splicing reel to reel tapes from my youngest ages. I also remember my brother splicing movies when he would make creations using the 8mm silent film projector we had when we were young.
It is no leap then to see me splicing VHS tapes and cassette tapes in my teen and adult life. I have never thrown out a tape or video due to it being broken. I just use a screw driver and undo the screws on the tape if the tape has gotten pulled inside the cassette. If the tape is out of the cassette and had gotten eaten by the machine and broke, I fix it outside the cassette. VHS is a little harder to do outside rather than in as it pulls tight on the reels so I find it easier to fix while out of the case.

If you find a VHS or cassette tape that doesn't have screws and is broken inside the case, fear not, you can purchase one that has screws at a second hand store or get one from a friend by asking on facebook. Use a dull knife carefully to pry open the cassette case on the broken tape. Carefully transfer the reels inside the cassette to the new case that has screws and throw the insides tape out of the unwanted "screwable" case. Fix the tape and screw the cassette or VHS case closed and label it appropriately. Sometimes I can just peel off the label if the glue has worn off and glue it to the new case. Tape and a marker works too.

Once you have the two sides of the tape or film you want to fix, cut them straight on the edge so that when you tape them, you have no overage. Make sure you have both shinny side up. I have taped the wrong ends together a few times not paying attention and you won't be able to use it if you tape it that way. If that happens, just cut new edges and tape it correctly. I usually lay them flat on the counter and match up the cut even edges as best I can and then take a small piece of clear tape and just lay it over the two edges and press. Sometimes, static cling will pull them up to the tape and they will be a little off center. If this happens, I will put one side on the tape and then carefully lift the other side until it is even with the first and press it together.

Trim off the clear tape on both sides as close to the film or tape edges as you can. If for some reason you overlapped the two raw edges that were cut to line up, don't worry, you can take a pair of scissors and just cut the overlap off as close to the clear tape as possible so that the little end doesn't get stuck in the machine.

Put the clear tape on the shiny side of the broken film or recording. The dull or flat side has the recording on it usually. It really shouldn't matter what side the "fix" is on if it is a good close cut on the edges. I always trim up the edges if they are a little off center on the taping, I cut the excess film off to make the thing sleek and flush so that there are no edges to get caught in, or on anything in the machine.

When you watch the VHS or listen to the cassette or reel to reel tape, there is usually a small pause as that section passes through the heads and that is all. If you have a sensitive cassette player, the tape may get stuck at the point of the tape. I usually stop the tape quickly if I hear that it is getting stuck and will fast forward over that part. If it is one you listen to regularly and it is getting stuck, it may be that the tape around the splice is wrinkled and gets stuck as if the machine ate it and it got bunched up before being pulled out, or it could be it isn't liking the tape.

If this continues to be an issue, I would record the tape over to another tape if it is something you must have on tape. Or, you can easily and for free, make a wav file by downloading some easy to use software from Audacity.

You will need to babysit the tape until you get to the broken spot and fast forward if the splice doesn't work but in all the years I have been doing this type of thing, I maybe had one or two that didn't like the player I was using.

Feel free to ask any questions if you have any. I hope this was informative even without a great video. Thanks for watching and have a BLESSED Day!

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