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Old 20th June 2012, 11:23 AM   #1
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Default Home recorded disc saga

In cleaning out my step mother's house I found over a dozen of these discs that my father had recorded around 1950. I remember tht he had a disc recorder in the attic but by the time I was born he had moved on to a Bell reel-to-reel.

Most are of my Dad playing the piano or other amatuer musicians. Some are of my sisters and mother chatting and have great sentimental value.

Before tape recording this was popular for advanced hobbyists. The blank discs are thin aluminum with a smooth coating of laquer. His disc recorder had a very heavy arm with a feed screw underneath. It was probably fed with a 20 watt amp. A cold cutting stylus was used. Most of the discs are 78 but some have sections cut at 33. They all appear to be standard groove but I tried a modern microgroove needle and it was nearly as quiet, meaning the grove is well V shaped.

My first problem is that most of the discs have a serious layer of mold. It was white and waxy feeling, rather than powdery. I tried a number of houshold cleaners on it to see if anything would disolve it. Windex and dish washing soap had minimal effect. (Actually, soap worked but only with a lot of rubbing.) I tried laquer thinner and, as expected, it dissolved the surface. In the end, Windex Multi Surface did a pretty good job of dissolving the mold.

I have a VPI 16, so I coated the records with the Multi Surface, used the brush and then suctioned it off. Two goes with that and then a final rinse with the normal VPI fluid gave a pretty clean and shiney surface. Since they are cut to close to the center the VPI suction brush didn't get to the inside, but I just wiped that section off with a tissue.

I've just begun the process but was able to play a recording of my mother and Uncle Russell (both dead since the 70s), my Grandmother and my sisters as todlers.

Eventually I'll attach a wave file or two.

Regards,
David
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Last edited by speaker dave; 20th June 2012 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 20th June 2012, 11:31 AM   #2
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Nice find David! Good luck with the restoration, it must be quite emotional to listen to some of these!

Tony.
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Old 20th June 2012, 01:55 PM   #3
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It used this type of turntable/cutter, although my dad had built the electronics. I think a number of manufacturers used this TT

Picture stolen from this interesting website:

Phonozoic | Labelography of Home Recording Discs

David S
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Old 20th June 2012, 04:34 PM   #4
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Very cool, thanks for sharing. I have seen a few blogs here and there about diy disk cutters, and had quite forgotten that before tape this is the sort of thing hobbyists would have used. I've seen one or two of these old Bell machines at hamfests.
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Old 20th June 2012, 04:59 PM   #5
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When I was a kid, I purchased an already old "Recordio" machine. AM radio and a disc cutter. I still have a few of the recordings. They don't sound great but they are history.
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Old 20th June 2012, 05:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Berry View Post
They don't sound great but they are history.

That about sums it up.

I think there were even drug store booths for recording with these units in the 40s. Thats how our grandparents sent voice letters off to the soldiers in WWII.

David
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Old 20th June 2012, 06:20 PM   #7
oshifis is offline oshifis  Hungary
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X-ray films (gelatine side) were widely used over here for amateur recording of broadcast. I think it was in the 30's or 40's. I even had a book describing how to build a home disc cutter.
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Old 20th June 2012, 08:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oshifis View Post
X-ray films (gelatine side) were widely used over here for amateur recording of broadcast. I think it was in the 30's or 40's. I even had a book describing how to build a home disc cutter.
Would that be a normal "V" shaped groove (in other words played back with any record player)? I wonder if you only cut through the emulsion?

David
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Old 21st June 2012, 05:19 AM   #9
oshifis is offline oshifis  Hungary
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I think it was cutting lateral grooves, but I am not sure. It was playable with magnetic pickups, as normal 78 rpm discs. Only the emulsion layer was cut.
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Old 21st June 2012, 05:24 AM   #10
Zoodle is offline Zoodle  Australia
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Library of Congress has some info on cleaning and preservation.
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