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Repair and Restoration Tips

Most questions relating to parts, repairs, and restoration are discussed on the links located in the "RESOURCES" section  There is a LOT of material there, and it will take some time to digest.  For the benefit of those readers who are just getting started, I'll discuss the most frequently asked questions here. 

Motors: if they clunk, stick, bang, rattle, stall, or don't spin when you wind them, it's time for a total rebuild. Depending on the extent of the problem, the repair may be simple or quite complex. The Victor phonograph motor has between 1 and 4 large mainsprings (depending on model), which are enclosed in steel drums. These springs were packed in grease when new; after 80 years, it is common for the old grease to harden like a rock and render the motor inoperable. Sometimes the springs will break due to age or overwinding (frequently caused by forcing the crank to turn when resistance is met), which usually requires a total spring replacement. If the crank doesn't wind easily, don't force it!

In most cases, when a motor is running ok, but not providing sufficient power (e.g. runs down before the record is done), a complete cleaning is needed. The original springs can be removed, cleaned, greased and replaced.  As a general rule, if the motor spins slowly, or thumps and bangs loudly while running, then the spring(s) likely need to be removed, cleaned and lubricated. The motor grease probably has hardened and seized the spring(s), or some gear damage is present. This situation will require complete disassembly, repair and cleaning of the spring drive. Removing and replacing mainsprings isn't an easy task. It can be dangerous if a partially-wound spring pops-out of the housing. In addition, re-packing the spring correctly in the barrel, and then realigning and adjusting the governor mechanism takes considerable skill and experience.

If the motor makes a loud "machine-gun" sound while running, the governor weights have likely come loose, and should be repaired immediately before further damage is done.  I don't recommend that you try these repairs yourself without some good coaching. Plus, cleaning out old hard grease (which permanently stains everything that comes in contact with it) is no picnic. I have permanently damaged many slacks and shirts as proof of this statement.

Click here for a copy of an original Victrola Owner's Manual, which describes some of the basic functions and maintenance procedures.   For detailed explanations on motor repair and rebuilding, I suggest that you find a copy of the Eric Reiss book, The "Compleat Talking Machine", which is covered in the LINKS and REFERENCES section of this site.

Sound: if the phonograph sounds distorted, buzzes or squawks when playing a good recording, it's probably time for a soundbox rebuild. The rubber gasket surrounding the mica diaphragm should be soft and compliant. If it is brittle and/or cracked, it should be replaced. This is a job for the experienced repair person, as it is easy to damage the mica. Proper repair entails replacing the gasket, re-waxing the soundbar-to-diaphragm connection, and then re-aligning the stylus bar.  It's really easy to make mistakes and ruin the diaphragm, so use great care if you try it yourself.

Cabinets: if the finish is frazzled, the veneer is bubbled, or Fluffy The Cat has been using your Victrola as a scratching post, it's time to refinish it. Before you tackle this task, please carefully read the "REFINISHING and RESTORATION" section to assure that you don't lessen the value of your phonograph. This page also covers the cleanup and refurbishment of phonographs with good original finishes.

If you need parts or needles, please contact one of the companies listed in the "PARTS SUPPLIERS" Section.  We don't sell parts. 

Many repairs are simple, but we can't possibly answer individual requests to write out specific instructions. Time simply doesn't permit such responses. 


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