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Modernola restore project

Posted: Sat Aug 28, 2021 5:29 pm
by adamcfraz
Okay team,

So I have what looks to be a Modernola but has absolutely no identifying marks on it. I am a complete newbie when it come to any kind of antique restoration but I do want to do as much of this myself as I can.

So a few questions to get me going in the right direction.
1. Im definitely missing parts but I have no idea what anything is called so for starters I need help identifying what’s missing.
2. How do I clean the motor. It’s a Meisselbach no. 16. I took it out of the cabinet and wound it up and did work after a little kick start. Is it best to take it apart prior to cleaning? What should I use to clean it? What should I use to re-grease it?
3. How do I get the turntable off. I’ve seen tutorials that it should just slide off but this thing isn’t moving.
4. Are there any good books for just general antique restoration?
5. Is it better to try to repair the horn with the existing wood and reshape it by adding support to the outside of the horn or just replace the wood?
6. Is this even a Modernola? It looks identical to pictures I’ve found in the forum but doesn’t have the lamp. Like I said, nothing on the piece says Modernola the only mark I found is what looks like a serial number inside the door.

Pics below.

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Sat Aug 28, 2021 6:58 pm
by Curt A
It's a Modernola, you are missing the wooden lamp post on the top.

Welcome. First question, since you want to try doing this yourself: Are you mechanically minded?

As for cleaning the motor, a complete teardown is best, but since you have never disassembled one, start as simply as possible. For a quick clean remove the motor and soak it in a dishpan filled with kerosene, leave it in for a couple of days and use a toothbrush to clean the crud out of the gears. Don't try to take the springs out, since it can be a dangerous job, then see if the motor winds up and runs freely. If it does, that is a good start. Search the forum for tips on lubrication.

The reproducer probably has rock hard gaskets that need to be replaced.

What's wrong with the horn? Definitely don't replace the wood - keep it as original as possible.

Don't refinish the cabinet, since the original finish looks to be intact. Just clean it with GOOP or GOJO waterless hand cleaner (NO pumice) and then wipe it off, which should make it look good.

The lamp column is a turned piece of wood that can be easily replicated by someone with a lathe. I seem to remember someone posting a picture of one on a previous thread.

A Modernola is a nice, uncommon, machine so take your time and do it right. If you have more questions, just ask, someone will be able to give you help.

Also, take pictures BEFORE disassembling anything, so you know how it goes back together...

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Sat Aug 28, 2021 8:20 pm
by phonolamplighter
Welcome to the forum! What a great and worthy project machine. We have restored two Modernolas and are happy to help you personally with any details and pictures you may need.

To add a few little things to Curt's good advice:
Get a copy of Eric Reiss' book, "The Compleat Talking Machine" this is filled with lots of how-to and restoration advise applicable to most talking machines.
Definitely do as thorough a cleaning as possible first, then you can assess what can be repaired from what needs to be replaced.
That horn is salvageable, we had one in similar condition and were successful with filling the cracks to reduce 'airleak', we used cheese wax as a sealer at the seams.
Some parts you already need: lid support hinges(hold the lid open), governor springs, correct cabinet knobs(should be like the one for the lid), you may need some of the decorative on-lay accents for cabinet and legs, and a Modernola decal(available through Greg Cline, see links section of the forum), looks like the record storage drawers are missing too.
Although there were some Modernola without the lamp post, your machine has the wiring hole near the rear of the motorboard. We can get you an outline of the spindle if you wish. You can find good usable period lamp parts, it should have a two lamp cluster with a pull chain.
Keep working on that turntable, it should lift off. It may need some persuasion with a liquid wrench type product or de-ruster.

We look forward to your completed restoration!
All the best,

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Thu Sep 02, 2021 11:08 am
by adamcfraz
Thanks for the great tips everyone. I’ll keep yalll posted

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2021 6:26 am
by Marco Gilardetti
If my eyes don't fail, in the 13th picture from top, where the governor is clearly visible, it looks like one of the springs that hold the governor weights (which are those three metal cylinders screwed to flat springs) is broken. If so, you absolutely have to replace that part, otherwise the turntable will never spin at the appropriate speed.

The book by Reiss is indeed a sort of bible that explains most of things gramophone and phonograph related, but do NOT repeat NOT follow for any reason the suggestion to keep the gears dry with no grease, which is absolutely crazy.

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 8:30 pm
by adamcfraz
Good eyes Marco. Looks like it had broke and was repaired at some point. Better to replace? Or leave for “originality” if it works ok?

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 8:54 pm
by Curt A
"Originality" does not have any value when it comes to broken governor springs, "playability" does... Replace all three springs with new ones.

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Mon Sep 06, 2021 3:45 am
by Marco Gilardetti
Agree in full with Curt. It was an ingenious "emergency repair" done at some point in time, but you can take for granted that the governor is asymmetric and unbalanced, it will never work at its top performance that way. You can save the repaired spring in a plastic bag inside the cabinet "for history's sake".

In turn, the suggestion to replace all three springs at the same time is a good one, as one single new spring is not going to match well enough the remaining two old ones.

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2021 2:11 pm
by VanEpsFan1914
Thirding the notion. Mainsprings, governor springs, and gaskets are all consumable--they break, they wear, and machines you use should have new ones.

Re: Modernola restore project

Posted: Sun Sep 19, 2021 9:24 pm
by adamcfraz
Not sure what my expectations should be while cleaning this motor. Just started today. Here’s a before and after. My inclination is to scrub off every dark spot on the metal but starting to think it’s futile. Thoughts?

Also. As far as parts go is it as simple as eBay? Or are there specialized dealers? I haven’t done any digging yet.