The Talking Machine Forum — For All Antique Phonographs & Recordings

Making home-made cactus needles
Page 1 of 1

Author:  estott [ Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Making home-made cactus needles

Some years back I was given a quantity of prickly pear cactus needles, which I promptly forgot about. I've just made some efforts to turn them into phonograph needles with good results. First thing I discovered is that the natural points on these needles were useless for playing- they held up but produced little volume. The rest of the process is easy, if rather monotonous. I cut the needles to length and pointed them- I'm using a DuoTone pointer which is driven by the turntable as you've got to do quite a bit of grinding to put a point on the needle. Most of the needles proved to be quite thin and were hard to keep seated in the chuck, but I ended up with a good amount of usable needles. They play quite well- a bit quieter than the commercially made cactus needles but with excellent tone and wearing qualities, even on a disc with a hairline crack.

I'd like to make some more- can any of you collectors out west supply me with some cactus spines?

BTW- out of curiosity I tried Locust thorns which are available near me. Once they dry out they are quite hard and can be ground to a good point, but although they hold up to use the sound is too quiet- must be the composition of the wood.

Author:  Steve Stephens [ Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making home-made cactus needles

I did try some cactus spines from my cacti in my Victrola and found that some do work pretty well. You will want a spine that is thick and stiff. Saguaro cacti from Arizona might have such spines but there are other cacti that might work also. Most of the prickly pear (opuntia) spines are too thin to work well. There are no cacti where I live except in my back yard. I just hate to chop up a nice cactus for its spines though.

Does anyone know exactly what species was used in the olden days? I would think a spine would already be sharp enough to not need sharpening. If you are driving in Arizona and come across a Saguaro forest with spines missing from the lower part of the plant you will know there is a phonograph living close by.


Author:  estott [ Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Making home-made cactus needles

The guy who sent me the spines harvested them from prickly pear in his yard that was past its prime- and from what I've heard it grows fast enough homeowners have to cut the stuff back. You're right that the spines are thin but they do make a nice soft-tone needle and work better than the steel ones

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group