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 Post subject: Sticky HMV 102 (portable) tonearm saved the machine!
PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 11:12 pm 
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Victor III
Edison, Columbia, Victor, Pathé...and oddball makes
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:06 pm
Posts: 958
It's funny how a failure in an old phonograph or other such item, if it occurs early enough, can end up preserving the item for folks like us to find and often easily rehabilitate and enjoy.

By this I mean something happens that makes the item inoperative, and rather than have it repaired professionally (or letting an amateur attempt to do so, and butcher it), the owner just puts it aside. And when it is stored safely for all those years, folks like us find it and can often fix that old problem easily and have something nice.

So - for example - the line cord on an old radio gets frayed and it never gets plugged in again, saving the power transformer from failure due to the deteriorated capacitors. The spring breaks on a phono, so it isn't given to the kiddies to abuse because it doesn't work. And then collectors find them years later, and know how to carefully bring them back into service.

It happened again yesterday. I picked up a very nice HMV 102, the earliest model (from 1931), with the very short-lived "universal" brake, but with its original inadequate HMV No. 16 soundbox replaced by the orthophonic-like HMV No. 5A. Spring is intact, and it's complete except for the record carrier and the platter circlip. It even has its little key for the lid latch lock.

But the elbow on the tonearm was so super stiff that the u-tube and reproducer could only barely be (carefully) rotated up out of the stored position in the horn opening to give access to the reproducer.

That kept the reproducer from getting lost or damaged, and the machine from being overused or abused. Nobody could use it and nobody tried to fix it. The guy I got it from found it at an auction 25 years ago and did nothing with it, including never even trying to insert and crank the crank, and who knows what was before that.

It took me a little while to get it fixed, and I'll share the details now in case it helps others.

The u-tube and tonearm are brass and the u-tube threads into the arm over a span of maybe twenty turns. There is no lubrication path for the threads, and the entire tonearm must be removed from the machine in order to get clearance to unscrew that u-tube those 20 turns. And whatever lubricant had been in there had turned to something way thicker than molasses and many times stiffer.

I removed the reproducer from the u-tube (twist and pull), the brake-engagement lever from the tonearm base (two machine screws), and the u-tube stop from the tonearm (two machine screws). I then removed the three machine screws from the tonearm base and pulled the tonearm/base out of its socket in the motorboard. Note that there is a felt gasket there.

Then after applying some hairdryer heat and some oil at the u-tube/tonearm threaded joint, plus a lot of elbow grease, I turned and turned the thing, slowly unscrewing the u-tube from the arm. Only at the point of the last 2-3 threads did it get any looser.

I then degunked the threads on both parts with oil and cotton balls and an old toothbrush, applied some light oil, polished all the brightwork (it's chrome plated - or maybe bright nickel), and reassembled.

The 5A isn't really even in need of a rebuild, and the reputably awful brake works like a champ.

Some people are fanatical about these HMV 102s (and 101s) and now that I have one of each I can see why (and am too). Easy to use and very portable and well designed, and they really do sound fantastic.


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 Post subject: Re: Sticky HMV 102 (portable) tonearm saved the machine!
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2018 4:04 am 
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Victor III
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F. Depero, "Grammofono", 1923.
Joined: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:19 am
Posts: 692
Location: Italy
Well, it's hard to assess wether the chicken or the egg comes first, that is wether the jammed tonearm prevented all owners to wear out the machine, or if the lack of use is what got the tonearm to stuck. In any case, I'm glad that you've found a well kept machine for your collection! :)

I fully second your sentiments about the sonic quality of the 102: this is a little great machine, very well engineered, with a terrific sound quality delivered by such a small cabinet!

It seems once again that the "early type" auto-brake mechanism is not as unreliable as many people pretends it to be, when in the hands of someone who knows what to adjust and what not, what to lubricate and what not, and so on.


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 Post subject: Re: Sticky HMV 102 (portable) tonearm saved the machine!
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2018 11:25 am 
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Victor III
Edison, Columbia, Victor, Pathé...and oddball makes
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:06 pm
Posts: 958
Yeah, you’re right, although there was definitely a 25 year pause because of the stickiness.

It’s odd that the guy from whom I got it never even tried to wind it up in 25 years, but I’m glad he didn’t. I had to talk him through the process of properly inserting and winding the crank by phone, before traveling to inspect the machine, to see whether the spring was broken.


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