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 Post subject: Columbia Grafonola Tips I have Learned
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:12 pm 
Victor Jr
Joined: Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:52 am
Posts: 6

Most of these tips are in my thread, but I figured I'd post them here as well. Also, although I am working on a grafonola 3 spring motor, these same principles may apply to other machines like the victrola as well.

Tip #1 - Spring Barrels - Removal Of Main Springs.

Take the barrels off the shaft. In my case there were 3 of them. Now note which position each of the barrels is in. Ie. which is closest to the crank, which is in the middle, etc.

Remove the center shaft from the barrels if you can. Sometimes these shafts are really in place and do not come out easy. If that is the case, be careful during the next step.

Figure out how to take the cover off your mainspring barrels. All barrels are different. Some screw together, some have 4 screws to undo, and some, like mine, need to be pried apart. You will need a hammer and a series of different sized flat head screw drivers. To pry the barrels apart, start with your thinnest flathead screw driver, and tap it in to the barrel edge. Do this all the way around, and gently pry as you do so. As more space becomes available, use bigger screw drivers. You may need to really give your screw driver a good hit every not and then. These barrels are pretty touch, but do be careful, they could break.

Tip #2 - Position of mainsprings.

If you already have mainsprings in the barrel, the easiest thing to do it make note of the direction in which the springs are mounted inside the barrels. In my case, I did not have any mainsprings and had to figure this part out manually. It took a lot of time, and a lot of cursing. The direction of the springs my 3 spring/3 barrels grafonola motor are clockwise. All 3 springs are wound clockwise when looking into the barrel (from the outter edge to the center - clockwise).

Tip #3 - Removing the mainsprings

Find youself a barrel, a bucket, whatever. Something with thick walls which is more or less round.

Take the barrel in your left hand. Take a flat head screw driver in your right hand. Insert the screw driver into the middle of the spring, and position the spring barrel into the bucket. Pull the spring out with the screw driver. Be aware these things pop out quick. Hence the need for the bucket. It will keep the spring from flying everywhere and hitting you in the face. It will also keep it in a more or less round shape, easier to wind up again. If you don't want to use a bucket, aim away from face. WEAR SAFETY GOGGLE JUST IN CASE!

Tip #4 - Fear the mainsprings.

Although I don't think these things are quite as dangerous as some people claim. Ie. I don't think they will pop out and cut your head off. They do have sharp edges, and they could cut you. Be careful, especially when loading the spring back into the barrel when it is slippery with grease. You will want to wear thick work gloves so you don't get cut. Tip: keep grease in the palm of your glove so you can apply it as you are winding the spring, so any you wipe off accidentally while winding will be re applied.

Tip #5 - Cleaning mainsprings

To clean the mainsprings, and actually, every part of the grafonola motor, wipe off an excess old crusty grase, and then buy yourself some brake cleaner. I'm sure your all saying "brake cleaner, what?" Yes, this stuff works miracles. It eats through grease and oil like you wouldn't believe, and it leaves no residue behind. I think it is mineral spirits based, so make sure you wear eye wear, and clean up afterward.

To clean the main springs, run a damp cloth/rag along the spring, then spray with brake cleaner as well. Once all the oil/grease is off, you may want to wipe down with a damp rag just to be sure.

Tip #6 - Replacing the mainsprings.

There are many ways to replace a mainspring, most of which are overly complicated and inefficient. Here is the simplest way I have found yet. Take your barrel. Locate the "pin" which attaches to one end of the main spring. Stick the end of your mainspring on this pin (it doesn't have to be completely tight, just make sure it is in the hole of the mainspring) and continue to wind your spring into the barrel (in my case in a clockwise direction. Make sure you grease your spring either before you start, or while you are putting the spring in. Tip: after you get the second or third "layer" of the spring in the barrel, grab the spring, and pull it in a clockwise direction (in my case) this will pop the outter "layer" of the spring into the pin properly. The force of the inner 2 "layers" push up against the outter layer, forcing it against the barrel wall. Then just move the spring, and you will hear a click. That it the spring snapping into position. You don't have to use this method, you can also just try to get the spring into the pin properly before you start to wind the rest of it.
Keep winding until the entire spring is in the barrel, then slop on some more grease. The more the better, really pack the grease in there, you don't want any metal on metal rubbing.
I use white lithium grease in my springs. It seems to work quite well.

Tip #7 - Oil everything very well.

Oil is critical. You may think things are moving and working properly without oil, but let me tell you oil makes a world of difference. Really goop it on all the gears, being careful to avoid things like felt pads. Rotate all the gears to make sure everything gets a nice coat of oil. I used engine oil - 5w-30. This is great oil, but it may not be the best for brass gears. If you have brass gears, find some sort of other brass safe oil (certain gear oil for manual transmissions will work fine and states it will not hurt brass gears). At first, everything may feel as it did before. Give it a few hours, let the oil work its way into every nook and cranny, and you will notice a huge difference (see my other thread for more info).

Tip #8 - Sanding the tone arm so it will actually move left or right.

Pot metal is the worst crap metal to ever make anything from. That being said, it swells and make its so the tone arm will not move left or right. To remedy this, you need to get this join apart and sand both the tone arm, and the tone arm base so everything moves freely. Again, POT metal is garbage, and brittle. If you are too rough, it will break, actually it will crumble, so use minimal force.
My particular grafonola has an automatic shut off feature so when the tone arm reaches the end of the record, a series of gears kick in and stop everything. This means there is a spring and some other bits inside the base of my tone arm which make this more difficult than it needs to be. If you do not have the automatic shut off feature, there will be a screw near the base of the tone arm. Simply unscrew this, and work the tone arm apart from the base. BE CAREFUL. Some penetrating oil would be a good idea to help free up the tone arm.

In my case with the auto shut off feature:

First unmount the tone arm and base from the case. There is one screw on the elbow of the tone arm. Take that screw out. Now flip the base over. You will notice a ring with 3 little holes in it. Take a set of needle nose plies, align it into those hole, and twist until the ring unscrews. Under this, you will find a spring, lift out the spring. Underneath this you will find part of the auto shut off feature (its a little flap of metal), take this out, and under that you will find what looks like a spacer. Take that out too. Now all you are left with is the tone arm, and the tone arm base. Now gently work the base and tone arm apart by twisting carefully back and forth. When you do get it apart, sand the tone arm, and the tone arm base. Put it all back together, and there you go!


This is as far as I have gotten with my machine. I still have lots of work to do, so as I do it, I will continue to post my tips in this thread. I am not a professional, this is the first time I have ever attempted to do anything like this to a record player. I was looking for a summer project, and stumbled upon this. My methods may not be the recommended methods, but they worked for me so far. If there are any corrections which should be made to any of these tips, feel free to post them in this thread, especially by some of you guys who either do this professionally, or have done this before.

As I mentioned earlier, my project is a complete rebuild. It was in horrible shape when I bought it. I am not trying to keep it in its original form, thus I do not care if I have original "numbers matching parts." I want it to play music, and nothing more. The way I see it is a saved it from being thrown in the garbage, so anything I do to it is better than the life it would have had. That being said, if you are like me and just want it to work, don't worry about breaking parts, missing parts, etc. They can all be purchased either new or used. It may cost you a bit, but if you love music, and antiques, the feeling you get when you are finished will be priceless. If you do want to keep/fix existing parts I recommend sending it to someone who knows how to fix these things properly. There is a good chance you will break something if you attempt this yourself, it may not be anything serious, but if you break your governor for example, you no longer have an authentic original grafonola.

- Bobbish

 Post subject: Re: Columbia Grafonola Tips I have Learned
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:55 pm 
Victor III
User avatar
So many phonographs, so little money
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:12 pm
Posts: 939
Location: The Garden State
Good summary Bobbish.

There is wealth of information stored in the board, but mining it can be difficult. Summaries such as yours are very useful.

I like the brake cleaner idea, I will store that one for my next motor rebuild.

Why do we need signatures when we are on a first avatar basis?

 Post subject: Re: Columbia Grafonola Tips I have Learned
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:02 pm 
Victor Jr
Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:10 pm
Posts: 11
Make sure you get solvent based brake cleaner. There is some 'green' stuff out there that won't cut anything. Stuff I ran into wouldn't even melt styrofoam. Carburator cleaner should work good too.


 Post subject: Re: Columbia Grafonola Tips I have Learned
PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:36 am 
Victor V
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:21 pm
Posts: 2511
Just be aware that the releasing the spring in a bucket method can damage the spring.
It doesn't matter of course if the spring is already broken, but a good spring can get small knicks on the edge as it flies from the barrel, and this can lead to spring breakage once it's in use again.
The outer end that attaches to the barrel can sometimes also crease badly, or snap, across the pear shaped hole, as the energy is released from the spring.
You're actually far better off to remove the spring by hand by reversing the procedure used to install a spring into a barrel.
BUT.... I would recommend using the bucket or potato sack method until you've had the chance to install a couple springs, so you can get used to the forces involved, hand placement etc.
It's actually a lot easier to remove them, than it is to install them, because the spring does most of the work for you. You just have to take control of the spring, & remain in control until it's out- which is usually only about 20-30 seconds.

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