How to Repair a Victrola
Updated July 21, 2017
The Victrola phonograph, manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine company during the first two decades of the twentieth century, remains one of recorded music's most enduring symbols. Victor produced dozens of these phonographs from 1901 until the company stopped producing them in 1929. If you have a Victrola and need to repair it, or if you're considering buying one and refurbishing it, here's how to do it.
Determine the model number and read up on specifics of how to repair it. Some Victrolas housed phonographs in a cabinet, while others resembled a portable phonograph from the 1950s and 1960s, albeit in a wood box with a crank at the front. The most famous models contain the speartip horn you see in the RCA Records "His Masters Voice" logo. Consult a local phonograph expert in your city or town to learn more about your model.
Fine tune the soundbox. If your Victrola looks good, but records buzz or distorts even with a sharp needle on the tonearm, the soundbox needs repair. If the rubber piece circling the diaphragm has cracks or tears, find an experienced repairman as this tends to be a difficult operation. If you must replace the rubber gasket yourself, take care not to damage the diaphragm or the mica.
Lubricate the motor. Victrola phonographs contain between one and four main springs inside steel drums. Simply lubricating springs with grease or petrolatum jelly will work if you perform maintenance on your Victrola regularly. If it hasn't been cleaned or oiled for decades, you'll need to remove and clean the original springs and then put them back. In some cases, you'll need brand new springs.
Change the needle. Buy a steel needle and always make sure you use it only once. Using a worn needle will scratch your phonograph records and render them unlistenable. You'll find The Fiber or Tungsten needles used in the early 1900s via eBay and other websites occasionally. These needles last longer than modern steel needles.
Refurbish Victrola cabinets by cleaning or stripping them of dirt. Use an oily cleaning solvent to remove dirt and grease. Gently rub the surface with sandpaper after you remove all grease and dirt, then gloss out scratches with a restorative wood finish. Finish up with an appropriate wood wax.
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