Friday, August 22, 2008

More Aggravation

Thursday, July 03, 2008

One step forward, two steps back. It is times like this I wonder why I put myself into the situations I do. Yesterday morning the double mainspring assembly arrived along with the needed fixings that will allow me to install it to my machine. I think the easiest comparison would be to think of the main platform that supports the motor assembly as to a basic automobile body that can take many forms. By switching out a mounting bracket and some gearing, a single spring motor can be improved to a double spring.

After I unwrapped the parcel I did a quick switch out to see if the springs were intact. It appeared the hooks on the arbor were disengaged from the spring. Opening the spring barrels I discovered the ends of the springs were all mangled. SHIT!! I had to say it.

The mainsprings had to be removed anyway, only now I’ll have to install new holes and reshape the inner spring coils. This loss of material will also shorten the running time a bit: This was aggravation I did not need. There was not much choice in the matter. Once removed from the spring barrel, the mainspring was uncoiled and clamped to a board. The end with the damaged section was heated with a torch to take the temper out of the steel that will allow the shears to cut the now “soft steel”. This end section was again annealed. Lay out blue was painted onto the end and the outline of the pear shaped hole was scribed. This was drilled and filed out. I can’t make any further progress until the graphite arrives and I can install and grease up the springs.

The new grill cloth has been glued into place and looks wonderful. One aspect of this job at least progressed without trauma!

A fast road trip looks to be in my future next week. The guys who have been salvaging the bricks from the Dixie Highway down in Florida are closing up shop. I contacted them and it looks like I’ll make one last brick run. I need a brick project after all this phonograph aggravation. I’ve missed my “brick road trips”. As much as I like travelling with Billy, he is not a Dairy Queen fan. When I’m on the road I need to have my “Blizzard Fix”. I know where all the Dairy Queens are on my route!

I’m not that far from Billy’s new home getting these bricks…but…. he and Linda will be in Ft Meyers for the next two weeks! It looks to be just a fast trip down and back.

It looks to be a lazy 4th of July tomorrow. If all goes as planned I’ll bicycle over to Debbie’s and the crew will spend the day lounging around her pool. It is so hard for me to think back and realize it will be 12 years ago this week I put in the purchase offer for my house. I know I’ve mentioned before how I’m judging things by decades now!! I want to keep it at that!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pot Metal Headaches

The dirty gearing and oil tubes. The pot metal yoke it the gray part on the right.

Friday, July 04, 2008

To Hell with high gas prices! I need bricks. The way things now look I’ll be on the road to Jacksonville, FL for a fast “brick run” next Wednesday. I want to get away from the fussy never-ending headache mechanical work I’ve been doing. It is crazy for me to bitch so. I mean this crap I’m working on was never meant to be still in use some 80 years after it was marketed. The fact this stuff is still serviceable is testament to how commonplace quality used to be in everyday lives years ago.

Until the flake graphite is delivered for the spring barrels I have to do other servicing to the motor. Thursday involved cleaning the old dried oil from the gearing. My ultrasonic cleaner does a good job on this nasty chore. Edison equipped this style motor with “oil tubes”. These were easily accessible where-by oil was fed into these tubes and it was delivered to important lubrication points. The end of these tubes had a felt type material that regulated the flow of oil. After 80 years this material is hard as a brick hardened from old oil. This material had to be drilled out of the tubes, a real pain in the butt job.

While cleaning the gears I realized the “yoke” holding the felt pads that regulate the motor speed was frozen. Again I have to say “SHIT!” Out of the entire motor assembly this one integral piece was cast of pot metal. It shows all the classic signs of “exploding”: cracks and fissures over the entire assembly. Any force to free this up will cause this cheap casting to crumble. The post this rotates on is riveted in place. Using a small escapement file I’m able to file the top of the rivet off. Then ever so carefully I tap on the center of this post with a punch to remove it from the housing. Just the tapping set up enough of a force to let loosen up each side of the yoke. One side flew onto the workbench, the other landed on the floor. SHIT!

There was good to come out of this. I moved that shaft just enough to free up the frozen yoke. The broken pieces were large and easy to work with. Thank God for JB Weld. The pieces were epoxied back into place yesterday. This morning I cut out supports out of copper that were scabbed onto the back of this yoke with the miraculous JB Weld. Tomorrow I’ll add more supports to the front of the yoke just to be sure. That will hold for my lifetime!

Soon as I post this it is time to head over to Debbie’s. The entire crew is supposed to meet there and lounge around the pool. I need a day off from the aggravation I’ve been putting myself through. Being “Green” now I going over on the bicycle. It is getting to be a habit now of riding everywhere….

A Happy 4th to everyone!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Mushroom Effect

The Mushroom Effect
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

There is a term in house restoration called “the mushroom effect”. I think I’ve touched on this subject before. It is when a minor project evolves into a huge undertaking. That is what I’m in the middle of. UGH!!

This current phonograph restoration project was SUPPOSED to be just a cleaning up of the case and installing a new grill cloth. WRONG! The reproducer rebuild required a new diamond stylus. This was easy enough to order. But, to fit onto this late style head I needed to install a hook underneath the needle that attaches to a small tension spring. Again that is no impossible task.

Before electronics entered the sound reproduction scene, the sound waves recorded into the record groove were recreated mechanically. The Edison system utilized a “hill and dale” method where-by the record groove went “up and down” as opposed to the “lateral” method where the sound waves were recorded going "side to side" used by Victor and the other major record producers. A parallel comparison to this would be the battle between Beta and VHS video tape systems in the 1980’s. Technically Beta was the better system (as was "hill and dale), but because of poor marketing and business decisions by Sony it eventually lost out.

*I have to interject here… my good friend Donald was one of the first people I knew to have a tape system. He used to say..”Oh, I have a Betamax!” Talk about dated. Today, that sounds almost as obscure as me saying, “I have a Victrola!”

The needle in the groove transfers the information to a diaphragm which vibrates and is then amplified through a horn. That is the reason for the old records rotating at 78 rpm. That surface speed generated enough energy to the needle to properly recreate what had been recorded. In the Edison system for his disc players a woven silk link is used to connect the needle to the diaphragm.

After nearly 80 years these linkages are getting pretty worn and frazzled. (Hey that sounds like me!!) On this particular reproducer I’m working on, the link was almost broken through. A little bit of super glue is just what the doctor ordered. That repair worked fine until I happened to twist the damn thing installing the needle, where by it just snapped off.

Pretty much my Sunday was spent dismantling the diaphragm assembly and making up another linkage. It was pretty much one frustration after another. This aggravation is a reminder to me why I refuse to take work in from other people!

I worked out a system to where I first drilled out the fabric from the old linkage. From there I was able to open up the crimped housings and fish a new piece of woven material through. Through researching various message threads on a restoration site I learned the perfect replacement “string” can be obtained from “decorator tassels”. I have only one of those annoying things that came with a novelty music box I purchased a long time ago. Crazy as it sounds, it worked perfectly!

That was pretty much my Sunday.

Monday morning was spent at the bench making up the connector linkage for the diaphragm. A tiny threaded rod is screwed into an ivory button and then shellacked into place. I had one snap in half when I attempted to remove it. Nothing left to do but make up another one. It is not like you can go to a hardware store and buy any of this crap! Working under such tiny close tolerances is very draining. Figuring out the techniques with nothing to go by can be very frustrating. The next one I have to make will be much easier! Once it was done, I walked away from the bench. You have to know when to quit!

The double mainspring assembly should be here soon. It will be so nice to work with big things again! Everything is going to get torn apart, then cleaned and regreased/oiled. The best mainspring grease is 40% flake graphite and 60% Vaseline. I stopped at an auto parts store figuring if any place would even know what graphite was they would. They had never heard of flake graphite.

Once again I was saved by the internet. I have two pounds of #2 Flake graphite en route to me. I figure it is cheaper to pay the shipping over driving untold miles and getting aggravated. I get so tired of the pained looks I get trying to track down things nobody has ever heard of!

This morning I’ll apply a coat of oil finish to the phonograph case to see if I can breathe some shine into that alligatored finish. It all cleaned up pretty nice, but it was a junky/cheap cabinet to begin with, so I’m not expecting miracles!

Then I have to be in Greensboro for a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. My good friend Buck lost his son Edward last week. Edward was only 36, but let’s just say he had problems that cut his life short. Buck had told friends he had written him off years ago and been expecting his death for some time. That is so sad, but people have to take responsibility of their lives.

Enough of this sad and depressing stuff… time to feed the birds, fix my last cup of coffee, and then work on that cabinet…..

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Restoration Project

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We are getting into the full heat of summer here in Alabama. The days are clear and hot. There has not a drop of rain for the past few weeks. It appears we will have a continuation of the drought that has plagued this area for the past few years.

Tuesday I started to dismantle the Edison “Schubert” phonograph to start on the cabinet restoration. It is such a cheaply made piece of furniture when compared to the machines Edison produced just some 15 years earlier. The finish is “brown mahogany”. Typical of the finish and color of the 1927 era, this translates to a muddy brown that pretty much obscures any wood grain showing through. The grain of the wood is boring, so there is not really much of a loss. About the only interesting aspect of the finish is the two tone effect on the doors. Still with all these faults I’m against stripping off the original finish. The interior finish is in good condition with decals and markings that should never be removed. A refinish job would result in a smooth finish and shine, but the wood would still be ugly. I will keep the original crackled varnish finish: once it is cleaned and rubbed out it should have a bit of gloss.

Perhaps the best gauge as to the grimy condition of this machine is the paper label that attaches to the record slots. A cursory cleaning with an art gum eraser removed most of the grime. The paper is pretty fragile so the cleaned portion is about as far is I’m willing to go.

Looking at the inside of the cabinet: The felt on the turntable cleaned up to where it looks pretty presentable. Again you are always ahead to keep things original. The paper record guide goes on the left side where it holds down dividers that separate the stored records.

View of the machine with the left door “rubbed out”.

Saved Again By the Internet!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Before I close out the last day of the road trip to Chicago, I need to catch up on the current happenings. Anybody who knows me is not surprised when I become all obsessed in a restoration project. The latest has been the preliminary work on the Edison Schubert phonograph. I’ve been able to track down a needle which should be on it’s way.

The cabinet needs a good rubbing out. The exterior varnish is highly alligatored, but I’m hoping to be able to bring it back. The past few days have been trying to track down a suitable cloth for the front grill. The cloth original to the machine was ripped out long ago. There were some remnants of that fabric still glued to the sides. It was a patterned purple lightweight cloth. I made a preliminary visit to some fabric stores. Naturally I was treated like I was from outer space! I could not find anything even close.

Then I made my first forays to fabric sites on the internet. I looked at thousands of patterns with no luck. This morning I was running errands and I made the mistake of going to Michael’s craft store. They do not carry fabric, but I was totally grossed out regardless. Upon entering the store the color scheme for all the fake flowers was orange, brown, and yellow. Yup… they have the Fall collections up already! My God we just had the longest day of the year and they are three months ahead already. In a way this shows my ignorance in shopping in that I still register shock at this kind of thing.

I am on a mission to find a suitable cloth to fit behind the wooden grill. It has to be right, maybe not a perfect match, but close as possible. I have seen too many fine restorations marred by the wrong grill cloth.

If anything I’ve learned how to narrow down my searches. After a couple hundred views I realized I had to use the word “Jacquard” in my search as that would bring up material with patterns woven in. Using Google as an initial search engine I somehow got onto a site where I discovered the perfect material.

The color is an almost identical match to the remaining bits I have of the original. The pattern is not a perfect match, but it is in the same genre.

I ordered two yards in case someone needs some, I can save them the aggravation I went through. Also, it was only $4.00 a yard!

What a great way to round out the evening! Time to pull up Amos and Andy on the internet and relax with a cold glass of my box wine!