Monday, December 6, 2010

The Gramaphone Restoration Project

A good friend of mine has had an old Columbia Gramaphone sitting in storage in his garage for a while. Until recently, he hadn't met anyone who could actually take on the responsibility with confidence of trying to bring the deteriorated cabinet back to it's old glorious self. The sad part is that much of the wood is water damaged and rotted beyond repair. The good news is that the parts that matter most are still usable, both in wood and the mechanical parts.

He has put me in charge of seeing what I can do to salvage it, whether I can economically rebuild it, use what's still good and find another cabinet that is identical (which I have located on EBay already) or just take the parts that work and build a completely new cabinet of my own design. Of course, it depends on what the owner is willing to pay for it and what his expectations are from the completed project (does he want it to be as close to the original as possible or does he just want to be able to use it again, no matter what sort of cabinet it's in?). I sent him an email of my conclusions and he can decide what's best for him.

As you can see from the pictures, it's in pretty rough shape. I know that I can probably replicate the original parts, but there is so much to replace, it's value as an antique will be lost. On the other hand, if I can find a good cabinet that needs very little repair finish wise, maybe it needs new mechanical parts, something the old unit still has. Then it would be worth much more overall.

However, just taking this unit down to it's basic forms made me realize how simple a device this whole project really is. A wooden horn fed strictly by a hollow metal arm with a needle attached to a thin piece of plastic (the diaphragm). And that works independently of the turntable which is hand cranked and works like a clock. So simple and yet so functional. The door slats on the front could be opened or closed as little or as much as you wanted and this acted like a sort of volume control. Ingenious!

This final picture gives you an idea of what I have left to work with once I stripped it down to it's bare minimums.

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