Help from Ian Calderbank - UK

For Help and Information about Gramophones



(Click on Topic to go to relevant Section)

Where can you Buy Gramophone NEEDLES?
When should I change the Gramophone NEEDLE?
Gramophone VOLUME too Loud / Soft - what can be done?
Wooden, Thorn & Fibre NEEDLES
What are TUNGSTYLE Gramophone NEEDLES?
Gramophone NEEDLE TINS - are they Collectable?
Fake or REPRODUCTION GRAMOPHONES - how to recognize a "Crapophone"
How to OPERATE a Gramophone
Correct Needle Holder (Soundbox) Position
Gramophone SERVICING
Gramophone BRAKE Problems
Turntable runs SLOW or stops when playing a record
How to check your Turntable is revolving at 78 RPM
Poor SOUND QUALITY from your records
CLEANING a Portable Gramophone Case
VOICE RECORDS - Private Recordings
CAN YOU PLAY VINYL RECORDS (45's, LP's, 33.3) on a Wind-up Gramophone?
CAN YOU PLAY ALL 78 RPM RECORDS with a "Steel Needle" on a Wind-up Gramophone?
Are 78's VALUABLE?
Nipper - the DOG in the HMV advert
FULLOTONE Gramophone Company & Catalogue 1931 - 1932
GRAMOPHONE DESCRIPTIONS of Gramophones Sold from my Collection - Please see my Homepage

Where can you Buy Gramophone Needles?

Not all Gramophone Needles are the same. Unfortunately poor quality Needles are being produced in the Far East & unwittingly sold by Antique shops throughout the World. If you inadvertently use these Needles apart from poor sound quality you risk permanent record damage . A friend of mine can supply top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the UK - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES

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When should I change the Gramophone Needle?

Change the Gramophone Needle AFTER PLAYING ONE RECORD SIDE.

Whenever two surfaces rub together infinitesimal wear to one or both surfaces occurs. Gramophone Needles are made out of a soft steel designed to be worn away during playing in preference to damaging the 78. With the surplus steel worn away & the needle re-profiled, minute permanent damage to the record starts to occur. After a couple of record sides with the same needle you will notice obvious sound quality deterioration. Replace the needle with a new one & the sound will be back to normal. Don't get paranoid about record wear; you won't notice it initially, but when you play a favorite record many times & don't change needle it will suddenly strike you that the record does not sound as good as when you first obtained it. Our forefathers could just pop out & buy another copy of the record, we can't.
You do get used to frequently changing Needles, but practically on less important records I sometimes play a maximum of two record sides with one needle.
A little known fact is that the material used to make early 78's was nearly 75% "Filler"; this "Filler" was composed of a mixture of powdered limestone & slate; hence the resilience of the 78 to the soft steel of needles.
Another point is "Are you 101% sure that the Needles you obtained with your Gramophone have not been used & just put back in the Tin?". If in any doubt, think about getting new needles.
Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES

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Gramophone Volume too Loud / Soft - what can be done?

The expression "Put a Sock in it" meaning "Be quiet" evolves from "open horn" trumpet Gramophones. If you had a trumpet Gramophone, the most effective way of reducing unwanted volume was to shove a sock down the trumpet. On an 'Electric' Record Player you have a convenient Volume control, excess or unwanted volume has always been a problem with the acoustic Gramophone. As Gramophones evolved the Soundbox (the part that holds the needle) became more efficient, the frequency response increased, but also the volume. As recording techniques improved, 78's got louder, a record recorded in the 1940's or 1950's plays much louder than a 1920's record.
To help cope with the problem, different types of Gramophone Needles were manufactured. The use of "SOFT TONE" Needles will reduce unwanted Volume from your Gramophone.
Occasionally the exact opposite might be required, for instance if you wish to play a Gramophone in a large room or a portable outside of the house. The use of "LOUD TONE" Needles will increase volume.
Both "Extra" Loud & Soft Tone Needles were available, but these are difficult to obtain & possibly not worth the effort.
Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES. Needle type is not the complete answer, but it will help.
Some models of Gramophone have doors in front of the horn, I'm not joking, but manufacturers recommended reducing volume by partially or almost completely closing these doors. A trick to reduce volume on a portable without doors is to shove a sponge or cloth into the mouth of the internal horn.
A fellow Collector was receiving to much volume from his Gramophone & family when he played his portable model. His way to silence both the Gramophone & family protestations was to invert an open box over the Gramophone when playing. The Collector used a 64 litre plastic storage box, perhaps also experiment with a cardboard box?

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Wooden, Thorn & Fibre Needles

"Wooden", "Thorn" or "Fibre" Needle are terms applied to non-metallic or non-steel Gramophone Needles.

There are two basic designs for the non-metallic needle which can be about 2.5cm long:-
Round - About twice the diameter of a steel needle made of a hardwood or a hard plastic type substance.
Triangular - Made of a hardwood for instance bamboo.

The Gramophone part that holds the Needle is called the Soundbox, on the majority of Soundboxes you will find the needle holder is triangular not round, this is to accommodate the triangular type of needle. The Needles require re-pointing after one or two record sides. The Round type require a special Sharpening device & the Triangular a special cutter, depending on the original needle length it can be cut at least 8 times until it is too short to use.
The Cutters / Sharpeners are quite difficult to obtain.
The term "Thorn" derives from the Rose plant. If the thorns are left to dry out they can be used as a free alternative to steel Needles, soft thorns straight off the bush are unsuitable. Companies like IM & BCN produced round needles of a very hard plastic material, these were called Fibre needles. HMV produced wooden triangular needles which just to confuse terminology they also called Fibre Needles.

Whenever a 78 is played infinitesimal wear occurs to the record. Don't get paranoid for 78's were designed to be played with steel needles & have been played with them for generations; just change the steel needle after each record side, wear is designed to occur to the needle not the record. Wooden needles are used by Collectors on special records to further reduce any chance of wear.
It has been said that because wood is not as good a heat conductor as steel, the heat generated by friction in the record groove could cause record damage - Heat measurements by CLPGS member Pete Clinch indicate this insignificant; Temperatures Ambient 18.55C, Medium Steel Needle 19.35C, Bamboo Needle 20.25C.

Wooden/Fibre Needles are now being produced again, email if you wish me to put you in contact with a Supplier.

Unless you have an extremely rare 78, use precision made steel needles, but change the needle after each record side. Practically, on less important records I sometimes play a maximum of two record sides with one needle. Steel Needles are designed to absorb the wear, the soft steel is worn away rather than the record, by the end of play the Needle point profile has been changed, hence the requirement to replace the needle.
Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES.

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What are Tungstyle Gramophone Needles?

Tungstyle Gramophone Needles were developed to overcome the problem of having to replace the Needle after playing each record side. They were available circa second half of 1920's / 1930's.

tungstyle gramophone needle 1 tungstyle gramophone needle 2

"The capable of playing 150 records" is a complete exaggeration, today thankfully we have the Advertising Standards Agency to curtail exuberant adverts. With the weight of the Soundbox (the part that holds the needle) plus the Tonearm, the Tungstone Fibre filament is soon worn away with normal use. The thick Tungstone holder is then left to gouge out the record grooves. Unlike steel GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES nobody as far as I know produces Tungstyle Needles today.

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Gramophone Needle Tins - are they Collectable?

Needle Tins are certainly very collectable. Keep an eye out in Antique / Junk Shops, common tins cost about 8. If you find needles in a tin purchased from an Antique Shop it is inadvisable to use them; you can't tell even with a magnifying glass if the needle has been used & just put back in the tin. Gramophone needles should be used for one record side only. Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES

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Fake or Reproduction Gramophones - how to recognize a "Crapophone"

Collectors often refer to Reproduction Gramophones as "Crapophones".


If you see a horn Gramophone in good condition with a shiny brass trumpet; alarm bells should immediately start ringing. I have prepared a brief Guide on spotting a reproduction Gramophone; just e-mail me for free copy.

The majority of Horn models on the market today are Reproduction; many have the HMV "Dog & Trumpet" Trademark on the front.
Hardly a week goes by in which I don't have to disappoint somebody - After asking me to identify & date their Gramophone they are shocked at sometimes after spending hundreds of pounds to find it was made 8 months not 8 decades ago.
A Fake Horn Gramophone need not be new, they have been around at least since the 1970's, somebody can quite honestly say they have had a Gramophone in the family for 30 years - But it is still a worthless reproduction.

Another worrying point about buying a Crapophone is that some are so poorly designed they will destroy your records.
The problem is the "tracking" of the needle across the record, I won't go into a boring technical explanation; but to prevent undue record wear most Horn Gramophones are designed so that the arc of the needle if swung across the Gramophone passes over or quite near the centre of the turntable. If the Needle arc falls far short of the centre of the turntable as in the below picture; record damage will occur.
It was reported to me by a lady that surface material from the record was curling up around the needle during play.
With just a single play the owner of this load of Crapophone destroyed her records.

Gramophone Tracking

The pictures below are of a Reproduction HMV Gramophone

Reproduction HMV Gramophone

The Transfer on an HMV Horn Model
is virtually never framed

Reproduction Soundbox
(Part that holds Needle)

Reproduction Back Bracket +
Reproduction Horn Elbow

If you just want a decorative object for display & don't wish to play records, by all means buy a repro Gramophone, but because it has absolutely no real value, don't pay too much.

For a genuine Gramophone that will appreciate in value & rarity, seek advice from a Specialist Gramophone Dealer or a Collector. He or she can point out things that are wrong, for example a 1924 Soundbox on a 1918 Gramophone reduces its Collectability & value.

HMV Horn Gramophones here in the UK are very popular amongst Collectors & if it is perfectly genuine will hold its value for future generations.

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How to operate a Gramophone

The part that holds the Gramophone Needle is called the Soundbox. The needle is gripped in the Soundbox by a thumbscrew, typically the needle protrudes about 1cm from the Soundbox. Most Soundboxes fit on the Tonearm in a fixed position, but some are free to rotate on the Tonearm; the Needle should never be placed vertically above the record, the correct angle the needle should make when playing a record is approximately 60 degrees.

Before commencing to play a record, with the turntable brake applied fully wind the Gramophone. Turn the winding handle clockwise, after a while resistance will increase & this is the time to stop winding, the gramophone is now fully wound-up. A common worry is that of over-winding; after feeling an increase in resistance if you continued winding you would feel solid resistance, at this point if you forced the handle round further then you would be in trouble, but it would take a conscious effort & a fair degree of force to over-wind the Gramophone. As with the generations before you; don't worry about over-winding.

Release the Gramophone brake, on most Gramophones you have a manual brake lever. Some Gramophones are started automatically by moving the Tonearm or Needle arm to the right, in addition to moving the Tonearm to the right you should also insure the manual brake if present is released. When the turntable has obtained full speed gentle place the needle onto the record. Upon being fully wound a Gramophone in good condition should play at least one complete record side without the requirement for more winding during play, if the record slows during play see the Section "Turntable runs slow or stops when playing a record" on this Web-Page. At the end of play if the Gramophone does not have an automatic brake; lift the Soundbox off the record & apply the manual brake, the turntable should revolve one revolution or more before stopping. Upon application of the brake if the turntable stops immediately this is bad, because it jolts the motor. In this case put your hand gently against the turntable so that it gradually slows & stops before applying the brake.

Replace the gramophone needle with a NEW precision made quality Needle - see the "When should I replace the Gramophone Needle" topic on this page. Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES

When the Gramophone is not in use for a while, let the motor run down completely & apply the brake. This takes the pressure off the main spring(s)- THEN, wind the handle a couple of turns to slightly tension the main spring, this will ensure that the slight chance of it becoming disconnected through vibration at one end does not occur. The Main Spring is packed in grease, by taking the tension off, the grease can get back within the coils & the springs life will become prolonged.

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Correct Needle Holder (Soundbox) Position

The part that holds the needle is called the Soundbox, this is connected to a pipe called the Tonearm.
Some designs of Soundbox / Tonearm connection allow the Soundbox to revolve thus you don't know the correct position to place the needle in relation to the record surface.

With the needle vertical to the record surface rotate the Soundbox clockwise until the angle of the needle is at an angle of approximately 60 degrees to the record surface. The 60 degree angle should be measured with the needle resting on top of a record not the turntable.
If the joint between the end of the Tonearm & Soundbox is loose, perhaps wrap a layer of thin tape around the end of the Tonearm so that the Soundbox is held rigid on the Tonearm; thus the needle is always retained at the correct angle.

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Gramophone Servicing

I take no responsibility for these instructions should anything go wrong. I do recommend reading the instructions from beginning to end rather than the "only look at the instructions if things go wrong" approach.

Gramophones vary slightly, but the principle of servicing is still the same. The Soundbox is the round part that holds the needle, to prevent the Soundbox from being accidentally damaged it is best removed. On most types of Soundbox, turn it anti-clockwise by about a quarter of an inch & gently pull it off the Tonearm. Others might just pull straight off after loosening a locking ring, there are still other rarer types.

Put the brake in the "Off" Position. Let the motor run down completely. Lift off turntable by holding the opposite edges of the rim & lifting. Sometimes freeing the turntable is difficult:- very slightly take some of the weight of the Gramophone on the turntable rim & "with your third hand" a sharp tap with a wooden or rubber mallet might be required on the centre spindle to free it. This is the method on the vast majority of turntables, but there are rare variations, for instance a screw type centre spindle secures some turntables. On some portables a "C-Clip" on the centre spindle holds the turntable in place, this should be removed by pushing it to one side, if you just lift it straight up & off you will risk breaking it.

Winding Handle Removal - Most winding handles are removed by turning them anticlockwise - a sharp tap with the edge of your hand (gentle Karate chop) might be required to free it. If you still have a problem; Place the gramophone on its left side after removing or securing everything inside the gramophone. Mask the area around the winding handle escutcheon; then carefully spray WD-40 into the escutcheon ensuring that you don't get spray on other parts of the gramophone. Leave overnight for WD-40 to soak-in. A very few winding handles mainly on some portables like the HMV 102, just pull straight out.

Undo the screws that secure motor deck, usually there are 4. Some Gramophones contain an automatic brake/start mechanism consisting of two metal pointers held together with a spring. This mechanism needs to be pushed to one side so that the motor deck can be lifted clear. You might have to disengage a small pin that fits between the two pointers by gently push the pointers down & gently lift the pin to disengage it. Lift the motor deck from Gramophone & place it motor upwards on cloth. If the Gramophone has the two metal pointers for the automatic brake/start mechanism ensure these do not jam between the motor board & cabinet as you lift the motor board out. Some Gramophones have a knob to facilitate lifting the motor board out.

You might find oil/grease instructions under the motor deck. Take the opportunity to look for any manufacturers label that might indicate model & production date, Decca Gramophones usually have this, HMV's with an internal wooden horn sometimes have the model number stamped into the wooden top of the horn. Use Grease (Car grease) on the Cogs & thin oil (Sewing machine or Bicycle oil) on bearings. Use Oil & Grease in moderation. You will see the "Governor" this is the part that regulates the motor speed, it consists of weights (usually 3), a spindle, round disc & a pad that rubs against the round disc. The spindle should be lightly oiled, but the leather or cloth pad that rubs against the governor circular disc should be saturated in oil. Some Gramophones have an Automatic brake mechanism on the top of the motor deck this usually works by friction, if you are unsure what to Oil, DON'T Oil this part.

Reassembly is the reverse of the above. A useful tip is that prior to replacing the turntable - Wind up the gramophone a few turns & then with brake in the off position put the turntable on with it going, the turntable will then settle down & reseat itself properly. If the turntable was fitted with a "C-Clip", slide it from one side into place; do not force it over the top of the spindle. On most Gramophones when the Soundbox is replaced on the tone-arm & turned clockwise a quarter inch the needle will be correctly positioned for playing records. The correct playing angle between the needle & the record is about 60 degrees.

WARNING:- You will see the main spring(s) of the motor contained in a round drum. DO NOT attempt to grease the springs by opening this drum, a main spring can be up to 14 feet long with razor sharp edges, if it suddenly expanded it could seriously damage your health. Replacement Springs to fix most Gramophones are available in the UK & can be easily fitted by somebody who knows what they are doing. There is no need to send the complete Gramophone for repair, just send the motor board, or if you are feeling adventurous, you could ask the repairer how to remove the spring drum & just send this to keep the postage cost down. Just email me for details of efficient competent Gramophone Engineers who give an International as well as a UK service.

These are just basic instructions, if you have any queries, just email.

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Gramophone Brake problems

A correctly adjusted brake should NOT stop the turntable "immediately", this sudden jerk would eventually cause damage to the motor; upon applying the brake the turntable should continue to revolve a couple or so turns & come to a gentle stop.

The principle of braking on most Gramophones is that a rubber or other material pad rubs against the 'inside' rim of the turntable thus causing it to slow & stop. On older or simpler models the pad rubbed against the outside turntable rim.
If the brake is on the inside of the rim the turntable must first be removed - see how to remove the turntable in the "Gramophone Servicing " section on this Web-page.

If you get a squealing sound when brake applied this is usually caused by a build up of dirt & rubber on the turntable rim, this must ALL be scraped off ensuring no vestiges still remain.

The Brake not working is commonly caused by the rubber or material of the brake pad having been worn away. Depending upon model Gramophones can have manual or automatic brakes or both. Sometimes the position of the brake on the motor deck is adjustable, loosen the screws & position the brake so that the pad will be closer to the turntable rim. The clips holding the brake pad to the brake are sometimes quite fragile, even if you have a suitable replacement material it might be inadvisable to risk braking a holding clip. You could send the brake to a Gramophone Engineer for repair (Just email me for details of efficient competent Gramophone Engineers). Another suggestion is to carefully cut a small piece of cloth & (super)glue it onto the end of the old brake pad (build up the thickness gradually). If possible, remove the brake from the Gramophone first & trim off any excess cloth before reinstallation.
Automatic brakes are not a precise science. Even with the automatic brake in perfect working order, playing the same record is not a guarantee of the record stopping each time, some records do not stop at all.
With automatic brakes it is sometimes the mechanism not the brake pad at fault. The majority of automatic brake mechanisms utilize the "Run-out Groove" on a record, this is the wavy groove found near the centre of a record, earlier records did not have this. When the Gramophone needle gets into the "Run-out Groove", the Tonearm is moved suddenly & this trips the automatic stop mechanism. The only way of adjusting the automatic brake is trial & error, the systems vary, sometimes you will see screws holding a bar with a serrated edge, adjustment of this bar increases or decreases the sensitivity of the mechanism. If you see a screw holding a fibre washer & a couple of metal washers together, don't oil this part it works on friction.
Basically if you want to play with the automatic brake. Look at it carefully, try & work how it is supposed to work. Before making any adjustment; note the original position, make one adjustment at a time & test it.

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Turntable runs slow or stops when playing a record

Upon being fully wound a Gramophone in good condition should play at least one complete record side without the requirement for additional winding during play.

78's are not all the same. During the decades of record production the composition of the material used for 78's changed along with constriction of the record groove. You will find some records play without problem, but others will run slow or even cause the turntable to stop revolving.

The problem is the motor mainspring (there could be more than one) is not powerful enough to overcome the friction between the needle & the record groove. This problem is commonly associated with HMV Gramophones.

The usual cause is the grease the mainspring is packed in has become glutinous over the decades; the spring coils stick together, hence the springs cannot function properly. Unlike most manufacturers, HMV surrounded their mainsprings in a grease that is particularly susceptible to this problem.
It can of course, but less lightly be that the spring has weakened, requiring replacement.

Things to try:-
1. The first thing is to check is the Gramophone Needle. Needles should ideally be changed after playing just one side of a record, maximum two sides. If the Needle is not changed apart from causing possible record damage it becomes blunt resulting in increased friction. Use only NEW "Good Quality" Gramophone Needles from a reputable source; not shoddily manufactured Needles from the Far East that apart from poor sound quality, can cause record speed problems.
2. If the Gramophone has not been used for many years, it could be the grease in the motor has become congealed. Fully wind the Gramophone & let it run down, try this 10 times.
3. "Soft Tone" Gramophone Needles are thinner than other needles & hence reduce record groove friction, there use might help alleviate the problem, see the topic "Gramophone Volume too Loud / Soft - what can be done" on this webpage.
4. Has the Gramophone been oiled & greased in living memory? - Inadequate servicing leads to increased friction in the motor. Servicing is not a difficult job, look at the "Gramophone Servicing" topic on this webpage. During servicing pay particular attention to the speed governor friction pad, this should be saturated in Oil.
5. Gramophones have a speed regulator. Increase the speed of the turntable, this might just give the turntable a little more momentum to keep it going at full speed, you will not notice if a 78 is actually playing at 80 rpm.
6. If the previous suggestions do not work professional help by a Gramophone Engineer is probably required.
As mentioned before the main spring can weaken, but by far the most common problem is that the grease packed around the spring has become glutinous over the years. The main spring is contained in a round drum. DO NOT attempt to grease springs by opening the drum, main springs can be up to 14 feet long with razor sharp edges, if it suddenly expanded it could seriously damage your health. A "Spring-clean" is probably what is required, but this is no easy job, the repairer will have to remove the spring(s) from the drum, clean along their length to remove the old grease, then repack the spring in the drum with modern grease. If a new spring is required, do not worry, for here in the UK they are available to fit most Gramophones. A Portable Gramophone could be posted to a Gramophone Engineer for repair, but rather than send the complete Gramophone, just send the motor board - see topic "How to service a Gramophone" on this webpage. If you are feeling adventurous, you could ask the repairer how to remove the spring drum & just send this.
If you email, I can give you details of efficient competent Gramophone Engineers.

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Gramophone Needle slides across record surface

Ensure you are using a new needle (You should use a new needle for each record side to minimise record wear).

The part that holds the needle is called the Soundbox or Reproducer. Depending upon the manufacturer of your gramophone the Soundbox can be rotated. Place a record on the stationary turntable then gently place the needle on the record. Ensure that the angle of the needle is approximately sixty degrees to the record surface and also the bottom of the Soundbox is not in contact with the record surface. If this is not the case adjust accordingly.

The Soundbox should be free to move up and down and the Tonearm which is the pipe that connects to the Soundbox should be free to move from side to side so the needle can transverse the record when playing. If any of the joints appear to offer any resistance they should be lubricated. I recommend WD-40 or equivalent. Be careful to mask any areas you don't want the WD-40 spray to reach and leave overnight to soak in..

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How to check your Turntable is revolving at 78 RPM

Below is a picture of a "Strobe Disc" which when placed on top of a turntable can be used to adjust it to 78 rpm.

gramophone information strobe disc

Right click the above Picture & save it on your PC as a picture; print & then cut it out with scissors, you need not be careful cutting round the outside, but use a sharp knife to accurately cut the middle hole for it to fit centrally over the turntable spindle. You can also enlarge the picture on your computer before printing, providing you do it proportionally.
Position your Gramophone near an electric light bulb. It must be an old type filament light bulb, A TORCH OR A NEON OR ENERGY SAVING LIGHT SOURCE WILL NOT WORK. Place the "Strobe Disc" on the turntable & fully wind the Gramophone. In a dimly lit room if you stare at the disc you will see black bars slowly revolving; the object is to adjust the turntable speed until the bars appear stationary, when this happens your turntable is revolving at 78 rpm. If the bars are moving clockwise the speed is too fast; if anti-clockwise - you've guessed; too slow.
Please note this Disc is ONLY suitable for use in the UK & Countries where the electricity supply is 50 cycles/second, in America for instance it is 60 cycles/second.
Although the speed of 78 was generally adopted in 1925, it was not finally standardized in the UK until the mid 1950's. With some manufacturers making records slightly faster than 78 I tend to set up a Gramophone just a bit faster than 78 rpm.

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Poor Sound Quality from your records

You will not get CD quality sound from your 78's, but the sound obtained should be perfectly acceptable without distortion or sounding tinny. In the background you usually experience record surface noise.

Some explanations for poor quality sound:-
The main culprit is - Has the needle been changed in living memory? Ideally the Needle should be changed after playing each record side (see the topic on this webpage "When should I change my Gramophone Needle").
The Soundbox is the part that holds the needle. This contains a diaphragm made of mica (clear plastic appearance) or metal tinfoil usually protected by a metal cover. The diaphragm is usually held in place by rubber gaskets. Over the years the gaskets harden or the diaphragm can get damaged this can be the causes of raucous or a tinny sound especially with metal diaphragms. In many cases Soundboxes can be rebuilt with new parts, if you email I will put you in contact with a couple of competent Gramophone Engineers. Some Soundboxes especially on cheaper gramophones are of one piece construction & cannot be repaired others have a pot-metal back which goes brittle & disintegrates upon undoing screws. If the Soundbox cannot be serviced, consider a replacement, they start at about 20.
It can be said the greater the unobstructed distance from the diaphragm to the mouth of the horn; the better the sound quality. Some cheap portables have no internal horn & the sound comes from the Soundbox straight out of the back of the gramophone, do not expect glorious bass tones from these. Having said this, only a short distance from the diaphragm to the mouth of the horn is enough to drastically improve sound quality. After all, if you cup your hands around your mouth your voice is clearer at a greater distance.
If volume is a problem see the topic on this webpage "Gramophone Volume to Loud / Soft - what can be done?"
The use of soft needles tend to improve sound quality, but at the expense of volume.
Finally the obvious reason - 78's do wear out; in many cases caused by not changing gramophone needles regularly. Wear is sometimes evidenced by a slight grey appearance to the grooves.

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Cleaning a Portable Gramophone Case

John Sleep is a Gramophone Engineer, I have seen the results after he has cleaned the cases of Portable Gramophones - extremely impressive. If you want to contact him, just email me.
You could either give it to John & let the Professional do it, or:-

I am told this is what can be done.
I take no responsibility for these instructions should anything go wrong

To restore & clean a black Refine (imitation leather) portable gramophone case:-
Routine is as follows:
1. Clean all over with warm water & detergent (Not too wet) to remove grime.
2. Re-colour with shoe dye, let dry thoroughly.
3. Any minor gaps in the Rexene joints where the wood is showing through can be disguised with "Magic Marker Pen".
4. Apply shoe polish & polish with soft cloth.
5. For extra finish use a car interior vinyl cleaner.
This is OK as long as the case is black! If coloured, use the same principle, but you may find difficulties with colour matching the shoe dye, shoe polish & "Magic Marker Pen".

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Cleaning 78's

Special Record Cleaning Pad's were supplied by some manufacturers.

But for more vigorous cleaning please read the following:-
I take no responsibility for these instructions should anything go wrong

Please Note - These instructions ONLY apply to the normal 78 rpm record of which 99.99% were made of black shellac. It does not apply to the rare examples of 78's made from other materials like gelatine or paper laminates.

Whichever of the followings method you use, ensure the paper label in the centre of the record is protected. I would practice on a record that if something went wrong you would not be unduly upset. Clean any loose dust off record surface with a dry cloth or soft brush.

Many record Collectors advocate Soap & water. Soak a cloth in a mild washing-up solution & wipe it over record surface turning frequently to remove dirt. With the record surface slightly damp play the record with a NEW Needle, this will help clear the playing groove. After cleaning do not place the damp record side on top of the turntable, you will mark the felt or cloth.

WD-40 was available in the 1940's primarily as a lubricant, the original advertising stated that it could be used for cleaning 78's. The product is available from hardware or car accessory shops. PROTECT the label & lightly spray one side of the 78, let it soak in for a couple of minutes, wipe off any excess spray around the record edge, you don't want to mark your turntable. With a NEW Needle play the record on your Gramophone, the Needle will clear the gunge out of the record grooves. Wipe of the loose gunge & replay the record with another NEW Needle, wipe the record again. Ensure the WD-40 has been wiped off completely & dried before placing the clean side down onto the turntable, you don't want to mark the turntable cloth or felt. Spray-type furniture polish can be used instead of WD-40.

Personally I find that playing a dirty record with a NEW Needle clears most of the dirt. I have only resorted to WD-40 on a couple of really bad cases when gunge was actually stuck to the record surface.

Top quality precision made Needles as used by members of the Gramophone Fraternity here in the U K can be found on my Website - Click GRAMOPHONE NEEDLES

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Voice Records - Private Recordings

Voice Records seem to turn up with amazing regularity (1930's - 1940's). Introduced in the UK mid-1930's, rather like Vending Machines; Voice Recorders could be found in Hotels, Railway Stations etc for people to record their voice (Cost in mid-1930's 6d (or 2.5p in today's currency). The records produced were generally of soft aluminum. The wrapper for these records usually states, "play with a wooden needle". Take this warning seriously - Just one play with a conventional steel needle can irreparably damage the record. The reason steel needles can't be used is that the part holding the needle (Soundbox/Reproducer) on a wind-up Gramophone is rather heavy, coupled with a hard steel needle you can see how the soft aluminum record can be damaged.

Voice Record Voice Record

If you have a wind-up Gramophone it might be worth considering purchasing a few wooden needles (follow the links from my Homepage). Alternatively during the World Wars when steel was not available Gramophone Records were sometimes played with the sharp thorns from Rose Bushes, the Rose Thorn could be used as a wooden needle substitute.
Assuming you don't have a gramophone with a wooden needle, it is still possible to hear the record. - Electric Record Players generally have a lightweight stylus & can often be found with a flip-over stylus for 78's. If you have access to one of these, it might be possible to play & record from it. A problem to overcome might be, due to the small size of the record, some Record Players will cease playing before the end of the record. Only play your record on a Record Player the absolute minimum number of times to obtain a satisfactory recording onto other media; for instance onto a PC via a voice/video cam or microphone, the recording could then be burnt onto a CD.
It should also be noted these records were basically a cheap novelty item; avoid excessive playing even with a wooden needle.

I take no responsibility for any of the above information should anything go wrong

There are companies that will transfer Voice records to CD, one that has come highly recommended can be found on the LINKS PAGE of my Website.

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CAN YOU PLAY VINYL RECORDS (45's, LP's, 33.3) on a Wind-up Gramophone?

The Answer is "NO".

Wind-Up Gramophones usually have a speed control; the turntable speed might be reduced to about 70 rpm.
Even with modification to the motor speed Governor inside the Gramophone, a speed of 33 or 45 rpm required for vinyl records is not possible.

Turntable speed is not the main problem.
78's are manufactured from a hard composite material & deigned to be played with a steel needle held in place by a heavy Sound Head (Soundbox).
45's & 33's or LP's are produced from a soft vinyl material; this is easily scratched & hence would be destroyed if a steel needle were used.
Vinyl records are played with a diamond or sapphire stylus held in place by a lightweight arm so that virtually no pressure is put on the record surface.

The sound from a wind-up Gramophone is produced mechanically by the needle moving a diaphragm in the heavy Soundbox; the sound from a vinyl record cannot be amplified mechanically.
Record Players with their lightweight styli produce sound via electrical amplification.

If you wish to play both 78's & vinyl records:-
A solution might be to purchase an electric Record Player. Many Record Players incorporate styli that will play both types of record at the correct speeds.

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CAN YOU PLAY ALL 78 RPM RECORDS with a "Steel Needle" on a Wind-up Gramophone?

The short answer is generally "Yes" with the exception of records containing warnings that steel needles are unsuitable.
However, since Emile Berliner demonstrated the first disc record in 1888 the constituent materials of the 78 rpm record changed substantially. Nearly 75% of the material used to make early 78's was composed of a mixture of powdered limestone & slate hence friction wear when playing the record was orientated to the soft steel needle rather than the record. To improve frequency response, the composition of the 78 became softer, but still the concept of minimizing wear to the record at the expense of the steel needle was retained.
By the 1930's electric Record Decks / Players gradually replaced Wind-up Gramophones, these Record Decks still used a steel needle, but the pick-up arm was far lighter than the Gramophone Needle Holder (Soundbox / Reproducer); it was now possible to play more than one record side without changing the needle. With Wind-up Gramophones gradually becoming obsolete; by the 1940's the material used for 78's gradually became softer, this improved the sound quality obtainable from electric rather than acoustic amplification. By the end of the 1940's with the introduction of the new format viny LP's (UK 1950) the material used for 78's became quite soft.
I take no responsibility for this advice, but in general I am happy to play 78's produced until the end of the 1940's on a Wind-up gramophone with a steel needle. For records later than this, I look at the record, some look thin & of obvious soft material, these I will play very occasionally on a Gramophone, instead I play them on an electric Record Player with lightweight stylus.
If you are going to play 1950's / 1960's records on a wind-up gramophone I would recommend you use "Soft Tone" Needles. They are not made of softer material, it is because they are thinner and therefore give less resistance in the record groove also the volume will be reduced hence calling them "Soft Tone" Needles.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough if using steel needles - USE A NEW NEEDLE FOR EACH RECORD SIDE.

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Transcribing 78's onto CD

The best way is to have it professionally transcribed onto CD - one company that has come highly recommended can be found on the LINKS PAGE of my Website.
Quite often with the junk given away with the week-end papers are magazines containing items you thought you would never want or need. Apart from the Brevel Toasters & multi-use electric plugs are often advertised players that play all types of records, tapes & CD's. These can often transcribe records to CD or to a PC via a USB port.
Electric Record Players (1950's / 1980's) generally have a lightweight stylus & can often be found with a flip-over stylus for 78's. If you have access to one of these, it might be possible to play & record into a microphone connected to a PC. If you want to buy one, look at Dansette; not the best make, back in the 1960's I thought they were rubbish compared to HMV etc., but now they seem the most Collectable & might appreciate in value.

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Are 78's Valuable?

This information is largely relevant to the UK mainland only.
With anything there are exceptions, but unfortunately 78's are not usually valuable, literally millions were produced & collections regularly turn up at general household auctions. When people die, relatives sometimes find literally 100's of 78's in the loft. They sell for about 30 per 100 at auction providing the lot contains a few interesting tittle's. A typical collection of 78's would probably consist of mainly 1940's records, Bing Crosby, Gracie Fields, Layton & Johnson, Dance Bands etc. etc. In general Classical records even in albums are worth virtually nothing, a person interested in Classical music would prefer a CD not a scratchy old 78.
There are exceptions some Single sided recordings of early Opera singers (before about 1915) are "sought after", Caruso on the HMV label is worth virtually nothing, but you have hit the jackpot if you have him on the Zonophone label. In general Record Collectors seek single sided (old) records , Jazz & Rock & Roll (Elvis Presley on the Sun not the RCA label is valuable). Just because it is a 78 does not mean it is an Antique, at the end of the day you have to ask yourself would you like to listen to this record?.
Contact a local record dealers via yellow pages & give them a few titles & get their opinion. If you have a large quantity i.e.. several hundred, let me know & I will try & put you in contact with somebody in your area. That leads on to the other problem with 78's, their weight & size for storage. You might be able to sell them by placing a free advert in your local paper or "Gumtree" the free local advert website. My apologies for being so downbeat about what could have been a once cherished collection.
An alternative is to buy a genuine Gramophone & expand the record collection.

My hobby is Gramophones not 78's so I am not the best person to volunteer advice on records. If you have anything you suspect is valuable try the record websites on the Internet. Or email me for a list of a few UK Dealers in 78's.

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Nipper - the Dog in the HMV advert

The Dog & Trumpet transfer (decal) originates from a painting by Francis Barraud who was born in London in 1856. Francis's brother Mark owned a Fox-Terrier called Nipper, when his brother died the Dog came to live with him. There are various versions as to how the painting came to be painted. This is the family memories of E M Barraud who's great uncle was Francis Barraud - Nipper would often sit in a pensive mood as if hoping his old Master would return from the dead & walk through the door. Circa 1898 Francis painted the Dog in its favorite position & added a Phonograph in the hope that the Phonograph Company would buy the picture from him. Another version of the story:- Francis could not help but notice how the Dog would listen attentively to a cylinder phonograph, it was possible Francis's brother had recorded his voice on a cylinder, this was popular at the time, the Dog could have been listening to his old owner. At any rate Francis painted a picture of the Dog listening to the Cylinder Phonograph, the title he gave to the picture was the immortal "His Master's Voice". The Cylinder Phonograph was almost certainly an Edison Bell, legend has it that the Edison Bell Company showed no interest in the Picture. Francis thought the Picture was rather dark & visited the newly formed Gramophone Company to ask for the loan of a shiny brass horn to copy into his Picture.

Barry Owen the Managing Director of the Gramophone Company (HMV) immediately recognized the significance of the Painting & asked Francis to brush out the Edison Bell Phonograph replacing it with one of their Disc Machines. Francis sold the Picture & Copyright to the Gramophone Company in 1900 for 100, Victor also registered the copyright in America & Canada. As the fortunes of Victor & The Gramophone Company increased Francis was commissioned to paint copies of the picture, at least 24, he even received a substantial pension from the Company until his death in 1924. Nipper was reputably buried at Kingston-upon-Thames England. There is a Public House in London with HMV memorabilia named after the picture, "The Dog & Trumpet" in Marlborough Street.

For Nipper Fans there is the excellent book "The Collectors Guide to 'His Master's Voice' Nipper Souvenirs" by Ruth Edge & Leonard Petts.

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Transporting a Gramophone

The moving parts of the Gramophone need to be protected during transportation.
I take no responsibility should something go wrong. The degree of EXTERIOR protection required will vary depending upon the method of transportation & is for you to decide.

This is Important for All Designs of Gramophone Wind up the gramophone a few turns & let the turntable revolve, when it stops, apply the brake. Turn the winding handle two revolutions clockwise, this will slightly tension the main spring(s). The reason for doing this is that the tension will help avoid the possibility of the end of spring connections becoming jolted free during transportation.

Portable Gramophones As the name suggests are designed to be carried and hence there will be clips to secure the Tonearm (Pipe) / Soundbox (Needle Holder) and secure the winding handle inside the Gramophone. However, if the Gramophone is to be posted I would suggest packing bubble wrap inside of the lid to further stabilise everything.
If your Gramophone has a key lock, NEVER EVER LOCK A GRAMOPHONE. After many decades a lock can fail resulting in damage trying to reopen.

For non-portable Gramophones
Remove the winding handle - see the Gramophone Servicing topic on this webpage. Wrap the handle in newspaper; the end could be greasy.

The Soundbox is the part that holds the needle & is delicate. Ideally the Soundbox should be removed, but if you find it awkward just protect it with bubble-wrap. To remove the Soundbox see the Gramophone Servicing topic on this webpage.

Wrap the Tonearm which is the pipe that connects to the Soundbox (Needle Holder) in bubble wrap. Depending upon the type of Tonearm you might be able to immobilize it by putting elastic bands around it.
Cover the turntable etc. with scrunched up newspaper to keep everything in place. If the brake becomes disengaged the turntable tension will still be applied to the spring(s)because the turntable cannot move.
If the Gramophone has a lid it should be secured closed enclosing the packaging that protects the turntable.
If your Gramophone has a key lock, NEVER EVER LOCK A GRAMOPHONE. After many decades a lock can fail resulting in damage trying to reopen.

A Floor standing Gramophone can be either transported upright or on its back. If transporting on its back place the Gramophone on thick blankets, secure the lid so that it can't open, but not with sticky tape that can mark the exterior. The lid could be jammed against something that is padded during transport or held closed with string provided the exterior is protected.

When you unpack the Gramophone if you find the Turntable has lifted slightly off the centre spindle see the Gramophone Servicing topic on this webpage as to how to relocate the turntable.

Ideally two people should carry a heavy floor standing Gramophone. If one person has to move the heavy Gramophone by moving it forward one corner at a time, hold the body of the Gramophone; do not grip the lid, you will twist it & damage the hinge.
If it has an exposed horn cloth be careful not to stick your fingers through it.

With trumpet horns, you don't want the horn squashed; cover over the horn elbow end, fill the horn with small scraps of polystyrene, cut a round piece of polystyrene a bit smaller than the mouth of the horn & push this in to keep the bits of polystyrene in place. This will make the horn solid, wrap it in a bin liner for exterior protection.
If you place the horn upright on the floor be careful not to stand on its rim.

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Fullotone Gramophone Company & Catalogue 1931 - 1932


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Gramophone descriptions of Gramophones Sold from my Collection


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