My version of an Ultrasonic Record Cleaner

bbftx

Member
2010-02-26 11:15 am
Austin, TX
I've had a VPI HW-17 record cleaner for some time, but have always wondered if there was a way that could deliver better cleaning results along with less contact with the vinyl . So, after reading threads here and elsewhere about using ultrasonic cleaners to get the dirt off of vinyl, I thought I'd rig up my own unit.

I started with an ultrasonic cleaner that uses 60 KHz transducers. It was a little harder to find and a little more expensive than the typical 40KHz Chinese-made units, but the higher frequencies theoretically do a better job at cleaning the very small grooves of a record and there is less risk of damaging the vinyl from the cavitation. Those two points are a big advantage of 60khz units over 40khz units.

To rotate the records, I wanted to minimize motion in the cleaning solution. My target was a 4 minute cleaning time for the vinyl surface. Given that about 1/3 of the record is submerged in the solution at any moment, the math told me to find a 5 revolution per HOUR synchronous motor. Synchron makes such motors in almost any rph or rpm you could want. The 5rph motor yields a 12 minute rotation time. My plan is 1 rotation = 1 cleaning cycle.

I fashioned a spindle out of 9/32 W1 drill rod. It was was easy to machine a 1/8" diameter hole in one end of the spindle on my lathe to fit over the motor shaft (1/8" diameter).
The motor and shaft are mounted in place using an electrical connector box and conduit. The arm is mounted to the ultrasonic unit using L-brackets and pipe straps. The setup allows the motor and spindle assembly to be rotated up to load records, and then rotated down into the bath.
My spacers are 4" diameter, 1/2" thick cork rounds. [Oct 2012 note: I have since found different spacers, which are much better: I've ordered these from the UK: 110mm by 105mm tapered cork stoppers - they cover the record label completely and very little of the lead out groove. They are just a touch over 1" thick, which is optimal spacing.
No.37 Natural Cork Stopper 110mm from Just Cork No. 37 Large]

[Dec 2012 Note: I added a sintered bronze bearing and a bearing housing to support the weight of the spindle, records and spacers, and eliminate the bending moment on the motor shaft.]

I'll report back after I clean and play some vinyl. My first batches will use distilled water and isopropyl alcohol at about 7 to 1 [Sep 2012 note: I've since gone to a much lower concentration of isopropyl, about 50 to 1] , with a few drops of Kodak PhotoFlo. This solution, combined with the very slow rotation, will allow the liquid to drain off the vinyl surface very easily.
The cleaner can still be used for any items you'd normally put in an ultrasonic unit. It does a great job on some fairly intricate gold jewelry I've cleaned.
Photos below. Questions and comments welcome.

[Feb 2013 Note: I have built a second, sturdier design using a metal frame and hinge assembly that fits over the top of the Ultrasonic cleaner. Here is a direct link to the description later in this thread:
Version 2 of BB's URC
And here's a direct link to the post with the parts list for Version 2:
BB's URC Version 2 Parts List ]

Feb 2015 Note: I've built a 3rd version, designed to be assembled with fewer tools and be more adaptable to different cleaners. Description and pics for Version 3 start here:
BB's URC Version 3
Parts list for Version 3 reposted here: BB's Version 3 Parts List

Happy building.
Cheers,
BB
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CT0wens

Member
2012-06-01 11:16 pm
A very clean design. Love the way you implemented the mobility of the arm and spindle. Curious to hear how you perceive multiple records versus fewer relative to cleaning effectiveness. Also whether you prefer a rinse on the VPI as a final step. Cheers.
 

bbftx

Member
2010-02-26 11:15 am
Austin, TX
A very clean design. Love the way you implemented the mobility of the arm and spindle. Curious to hear how you perceive multiple records versus fewer relative to cleaning effectiveness. Also whether you prefer a rinse on the VPI as a final step.

Thanks CTO. I like simple, but rugged designs that minimize things getting in the way and don't require lots of setup and positioning every time I want to use a piece of equipment.
In the same way, I'm hoping to keep the process simple, and not require a rinse on the VPI. I'd try a non-contact, water-only rinse of some sort before cranking up the VPI. With the vinyl surface being horizontal on the VPI, a lot of debris gets left on the record. With the record vertical in the UC bath, I think there is less chance of that. But, we'll have to see.
With the things I've cleaned in the UC so far, I'm amazed at how much dirt and grit ends up on the bottom of the tank. These cleaners work well !
 
I started with an ultrasonic cleaner that uses 60 KHz transducers. It was a little harder to find and a little more expensive than the typical 40KHz Chinese-made units, but the higher frequencies theoretically do a better job at cleaning the very small grooves of a record and there is less risk of damaging the vinyl from the cavitation. Those two points are a big advantage of 60khz units over 40khz units.BB

:up:

I did the same calculation. Can you share your source for the 60kHz cleaner? I can't wait to hear about your results!
 

bbftx

Member
2010-02-26 11:15 am
Austin, TX
Hi Shaun,
The 60khz cleaner is a Sonix IV machine (6 quart version).
Warning: The fit and finish of the machine is terrible for a $500 item. I almost sent it back. (examples: control panel label wasn't put on flat and in the proper location. There were large, uneven lines of silicone sealant underneath the lip of the tank at the joint between the tank lip and the surrounding metal case.) But these problems don't affect function.
It works extremely well in it's functionality as a cleaner. So I kept it, and in the nature of DIY, fixed some of the problems myself--- e.g. it needed taller rubber feet so the drain valve is clear of the surface on which the unit sits.
The standing waves in the bath definitely are closer together and distributed better throughout the liquid than those in most 40khz units I've seen. And as I said, it did very well cleaning the jewelry I put in it. So, for me, it was worth the cost. But I want to make sure folks don't expect "Mercedes-level fit and finish" if they go down this path.

I looked into some 80khz units, like Zenith Ultrasonics makes, but these start at $1400 for a basic unit. Too expensive in my opinion. I get most of the benefits of higher frequencies at the $500 price point.
 

CT0wens

Member
2012-06-01 11:16 pm
With the things I've cleaned in the UC so far, I'm amazed at how much dirt and grit ends up on the bottom of the tank. These cleaners work well !

Yes indeed. In fact - it's not all physical grit that is being removed in my experience. I buy a lot of older used LPs from Europe/Japan - and find that after I drain my bath water lots of dark yellow nicotine stains are left behind in my filtration sponge in the same pattern as the drainage holes. Such things don't sink to the bottom of the bath visibly. Regardless, there's more music left behind on the vinyl :)
 

bbftx

Member
2010-02-26 11:15 am
Austin, TX
First batch of clean records

Well, I'm sold on the ultrasonic cleaner for vinyl. I started by cleaning a few fairly low-value LPs --- 60s and 70s pop recordings that were pretty noisy.

After a few minutes of degassing the bath (definitely necessary) I ran the LPs through one 12 minute rotation on my URC. My cleaning fluid for the first records was distilled water and a little isopropyl alcohol -- about 50 to 1. Also added a little Photoflo at 1 part in 200. In other words: 150 ounces water, 3 oz isopropyl, .75 oz photoflo.
The slow rotation allows all the cleaning fluid to run off and/or evaporate before the rotation allows drips to reach my spacers covering the record labels.

Because I added so little alcohol and photoflo, I didn't even feel the need to do a separate rinse. Will experiment with this, but my sense is another water rinse is not necessary. The records come out looking sparkly clean and the background noise is noticeably reduced. No, make that dramatically reduced --- better than the average record coming off of my VPI. I feel no need to run these through a rinse cycle on the VPI. I really think they'd come out worse. At a minimum, I don't think it would be worth the time.

I think 1" spacing between records is best in my unit. At the 1/2" spacing I started with, the excitation patterns were noticeably reduced in the cleaning solution between the records . My sense is that the cleaning action is not as good if the records are too close together.

As a tough test toward the end of my first fluid batch, I decided to clean a real nasty LP. The cover looks like it got damp at some point, and the record has a lot of visible residue -- some combo of dirt, glue residue and/or mildew. This stuff wouldn't come off with a discwasher type brush and fluid, and I certainly didn't want to muck up the brushes on my VPI 17. So into the ultrasonic cleaner it went. Before and after photos attached to this post. First photo, on the left, is Before. 2nd photo on the right is the same section After. The record looks great and sounds great. Lots of junk at the bottom of my tank.
 
Where did you source your cork spacers? I've got the rest of my parts for my UC build coming. I'm still trying to work out spacers.
Kevin T

Kevin,
My spacers were described as 4" cork rounds, 3mm thick. ordered from Consumer Crafts. It's easy to glue as many as you want together to create whatever spacer thickness you need. I used a drill press to drill the center hole.
But there is a problem with these. They aren't 4" in diameter. They're about 1/8" shy, and therefore don't completely cover the record label!
This isn't a problem for me, as my rotation speed is slow (12 min per revolution), that the liquid drains off before it can drip over the label.
But, you might want to search somewhere for a 4.5" cork round to be safe. I don't know if there is such a beast.
 

kgturner

Member
2012-08-22 9:00 pm
Thanks. I'll check some of the local craft stores to see what I can come up with. My rotation motor is a 1 RPM so I may need to ensure full label coverage just in case. I still have a few parts to get before I'm done, but so far things look promising to finish by next weekend.

Kevin T
 

LFM

Member
2004-10-10 8:34 pm
Sault
record cleaner

I too have been looking for some spacers that would also protect the label but be rigid enough to be clamped with sufficient force to make sure the record rotates. I have seen where someone cut their own spacers out of a plastic cutting board that you can find just about anywhere. You would just use a hole saw to make them. I think I will use drink coasters which are 4.25 inches square and are made of thin hardboard with a cork coating. They are available at Walmart and other places and are really cheap. I'll probably make a little circle jig for my router to make them round. A small area of the label will be exposed at 4 spots since they are just a tiny bit small. I don't think there will be any problem with slow rotation and I really want the lead out groove to be spic and span. I'll submerge the record very close to the label.
 
If you're going to the trouble of cutting the spacers, it might be cheaper to buy cork sheet or wood, rather than finished products like cutting boards or coasters.

Another option would be to buy cork stoppers.
I've ordered these from the UK: 110mm by 105mm tapered cork stoppers - they should cover the record label completely and very little of the lead out groove. They are just a touch over 1" thick, which is my optimal spacing.
No.37 Natural Cork Stopper 110mm from Just Cork No. 37 Large

A US option is 4.5" x 4.25" tapered cork stoppers. They will cover slightly more of the lead out groove at the big end. They are 1-1/4 inch thick.
Size 56 Jar Cork Stoppers, Standard | WidgetCo®

The UK ones end up about the same delivered cost for me. The stoppers are cheaper, offset by higher shipping. But the sizing looks perfect to me.
Note the US and UK seem to have different systems of numbering stoppers.
 
I too have been looking for some spacers that would also protect the label but be rigid enough to be clamped with sufficient force to make sure the record rotates.

LFM - Aside from my spacer suggestions in the last message, I'll pass on the fact that I've found very little clamping force is required to make the records spin. The agglomerated cork I'm using so far is non-slip (we'll see about the UK natural cork I ordered). In the photos of my unit, you'll see white nylon spacers that I'm using. These had a 1/4 ID when bought at the hardware store.
I reamed the one nearest my motor just slightly so that it was a press fit over my 9/32" drill rod spindle. The one on the other end was reamed to a resistance fit over the 9/32 drill rod. It can be slid on after the records are in place, and pushed up against my outside label protector. It can easily be set snug enough to slightly compress the cork assure record rotation --- no other type of firm clamping is required.
 

kgturner

Member
2012-08-22 9:00 pm
I found some 4" round weatherproof Carlon outlet covers at Home Depot. They were $2.54 each. I just drilled a 1/4" hole in the center and super glued the supplied foam ring to the back. I get full label coverage with these covers. I bought 8 of them so that I can load 4 LPs on the spindle for cleaning.

Kevin T