Years ago, sometime in 08, i got really excited about the idea of a hand-cranked record player. I don't have a clear memory of the inspiration for this, maybe Emma Goldman- "A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having."
I searched the web for someone who'd made one (at the time I just thought i'd buy it) but didn't find much. Everything i found was for old gramophones, though there was one guy who built a record player using legos and a plastic cup for the speaker! My favorite, however, was this:
However cool, nothing that i found was quite what i was looking for. I wanted a record player that would play contemporary vinyl records (not old 78's). I envisioned one day building my own, but i knew that thought would have to wait a few years.
A few years went by.
The record player was a distant memory, but then I saw an old gramophone sitting at a local reuse shop. It was in sad shape, but it had the wind up mechanism and the crank intact. By this time I reasoned i could augment a gramophone to play at the speed i wanted. I bought it and began to tinker.
It didn't have the horn with it, someone probably pulled it off for lawn art. So i looked into alternatives, turns out all you need is a resonant vessel and a needle. A friend let me borrow her record player and a copy of the mamas and the poppas to experiment with. The first thing i tried was a piece of paper rolled into a cone with a sewing needle taped to it. Hearing it actually produce sound was one of those exciting moments that, even though you know its coming, still holds a sense of surprise and amazement- this piece of paper is producing sound?
Me and my buddy Jonathan wondered what else we could get sound out of. So we stuck a needle in a few things to see what would happen.
They all worked but the gigantic paper cone was the best. I imagined getting scientific, researching cone angles and shapes, cutting out lots of carefully measures test pieces, and seeing what produced the highest quality sound. Oh, and materials, which undoubtedly make an appreciable difference. But I set that level of fine tuning for a later date. First i needed to see if i could get the thing to operate. It was caked in decades of grease and dirt, it spun, but erratically and slowly.
I pulled the whole thing apart and start scraping off the dirt. In addition to cleaning, this was a good opportunity to figure out how everything worked.
He said to clean the metal, we'd first need to wipe it off with acetone, then we would submerge it in hydrochloric acid, some parts would then get boiled in transmission fluid, and once dried all would receive a spray lacquer finish to protect from rusting.
We experimented with some rusty nails and a bike chain. You submerge the metal in a bath of HCL, let it sit for 30-60 seconds, pull it out, scrape off the rust, and put it into a bath of baking soda and water (to neutralize it). I was surprised at how well it worked.
All of the pieces i pulled apart went through the HCL cleaning, they came out looking much better. The next stage was to boil the springs in transmission fluid. By springs i mean the flat metal coils housed inside of two canisters. Taking them apart to clean and oil wasn't an option, the springs were under so much pressure that to release them without proper equipment would have meant losing an eye. I'm not quite sure why transmission fluid over some other lubricant, but Neil seemed to know what he was doing.
I wasn't too worried about burning anything down, the shop is made of concrete, we were outside, on a metal table. But nonetheless, future boilings with highly flammable materials happened really far from everything.
After all of the cleaning, everything came out looking pretty nice. Some of the metal was even shiny. Though a few days lag time between cleaning and putting on a spray finish sent some of the metal back to spotty and dull.
To keep everything from getting rusty again I sprayed it with a clear coat of Rustoleum. Neil made a good point that i should cover all of the surfaces of the gear teeth, noting that the tolerances were tight enough that adding layers of varnish could make them no longer fit together. Also, it could gum up. I tried using candle wax and found it trickier to apply than i thought it would be. Melting it on didn't work. Eventually i discovered that rubbing it between my fingers, putting it onto the gears, and then scrape the excess off with an exacto knife. Not the greatest solution, but it worked.
I taped off everything else and sprayed it outside.
Everything looked pretty nice after getting sprayed down.
I scraped all of the remaining wax off of the gears, consulted my drawings, applied lots of lithium grease, and started putting everything back together.
I was really hoping that everything would run smoothly, but i suspected that something wouldn't. Alas, it couldn't spin, the whole thing was frozen. When i fiddled with it i was able to pinpoint the problem as one piece. Not sure the exact name of this particular component, but i know its part of a worm gear (worm gears are used to change axis of rotation). It was rubbing on something, refusing to spin. I suspected that it was bent.
Sure enough, it was. Its subtle, and so hard to tell from the photo, but if you look closely you can see that the end opposite my fingers is raised ever so slightly above the level of the table.
I knew that fixing this was beyond me; to get it right would require a level of precision i didn't have the tools or knowledge to accomplish.