Posts Tagged ‘Gramophone’

Getting the needle

June 13, 2016

I owe something to my father here. He had real foresight back in the 1960s and stocked me up with items I still use – old steel gramophone needles.

A shop in Bexhill – my dad’s original home town, had a stock of needles back in the 1960s. We bought thousands of them and I still use them to this day – 50 years on.

They were (and are) of the type known as Songster needles. And they came in neat little tins which suffered a bit from years of loft storage. But here is one of them.


We can see these were made of Sheffield steel and have the advice to ‘use once only. The tin has a little advert around the edge of the lid.image004 image006 image008

Electrical records – using a microphone rather than a horn to make the recording, came in in 1925 and rapidly became pretty well universal.

Further information is on the underside.


Inside, this tin still has plenty of the thin soft tone needles.image012From memory, back in the 1960s they cost half a crown for two hundred needles in a tin. You can still buy needles. However 200 needles might cost you more like £10 although you can shop around and get them cheaper. These days a tin in good order (which this one isn’t) is deemed collectible. When you buy needles today expect them in a poly bag

The project performs

December 12, 2015

Towards the end of November, the First World War Commemoration group in our village put on a concert. My wife was heavily involved as she sings in the choir and plays in the band but I had a part too. I’m seen as the village historian and was asked to do a talk about our village in 1915. I don’t just talk. I need my photos as my prompt so I always have a reasonably classy PowerPoint presentation. Let me say that by classy, I do not mean whizzy. You’ll get no pictures whizzing around the screen in my presentations. Text won’t appear one letter at a time as if by a teleprinter. There’ll be no unneeded noises to distract. I’ll use pictures, movies and sounds. I’ll overlay enlargements of an image on the whole image. I’ll add captions and arrows. My audience gets a mix of items and they seem to enjoy them. I’m asked to do quite a lot of talks.

But this time, as I had the slot immediately after the interval, I wanted some music – about a minute’s worth – to get the audience in the mood. No! Glen Miller or Joe Loss playing ‘In the Mood’; would not have done as this was a World War One event. I reckoned my ‘project’ gramophone’ could play a part and I did a search through my record collection for one I could get away with.

The gramophone dates from before 1907 so that could have been used in 1915. I think the record I chose actually dates from 1916 – but what’s a year between friends.

Anyway – here is the record.


And click here to hear the band of His Majesties Irish Guards playing one of many Wiltshire Regiment Marches. When played at the concert this gramophone probably got as much applause as anything from the 100 plus members of the audience.

Another gramophone

November 23, 2015

If I was asked if I needed another gramophone then the answer would undoubtedly have been, ‘no’.

But one was gifted to me and I reckon it is actually useful so I’m pleased to have it.

By my standards this is a modern gramophone – perhaps of the type more usually called a record player. It is electrically powered, rather than by a clockwork motor. It has a light weight tone arm and uses long life sapphire tipped styli (Is that the plural of stylus?).

But this ‘modern’ device is probably fifty years old – maybe a bit more. When I started gathering old gramophones, also more than fifty years ago, the old machines I collected were in the region of thirty or forty years old so this one is certainly a fairly vintage device. Here it is.


This is a Phillips Diamond model. The speaker forms a lid for when the machine is not in use. It has four speeds – 16, 33, 45 and 78. It also has an auto-changer which allows eight or maybe ten records to be stacked up on the spindle. These drop, one by one, onto the deck to be played. That works fine with 7 inch 45s. Because of the age of 78 rpm record I have, the auto-changer is not so suitable. Most of my records don’t have a lead in groove so the needle drops onto the outer rim and just stops there until gently pushed into the groove. Many of the records have no lead out and that is needed to start the mechanism that gets the next disc ready to play. But it was, of course, a clever system in its day.

This model is AG4025/W15. But I can’t find much about it.


The Gramophone Project

August 10, 2015

About a fortnight ago I wrote about an old gramophone up in my loft and described it as a project to get into order. It had missing pieces. Most serious were the horn and the sound box.

Well luck came my way in the shape of an Ebayer who needed to downsize and who was selling a project. It had the bits I needed to get a more or less complete gramophone.

It was a buyer collect item and I had quite a journey to collect it. But that was no problem for the bits weren’t that far from my cousin and we met up with her and had a good old natter. It was lovely.

The pieces I came home with were just the job. I’d probably prefer a different sound box for I feel the one I acquired is slightly modern and a bit tinny in sound. But it fits and plays. I need to find a way of fixing the horn a bit more securely in the elbow. In other words it isn’t quite the right horn but it looks the part.

I’ve applied a bit of wax to the bodywork but haven’t yet bothered much with the bit I might call ‘tarting it up’. I am, though, totally chuffed to have a working gramophone.

If you looked at my YouTube video a fortnight ago I said I had got the machine working with borrowed parts. Those borrowed parts came from another slightly incomplete gramophone I recently acquired and donated to our local museum. That other gramophone had no elbow. The Ebay project had a broken elbow which I got repaired. So my Ebay purchase actually got two gramophones into working order.

Let’s take a look at my gramophone as is now.


There’s still work to be done but it is coming on.


A project?

July 27, 2015

Quite some time ago I commented that somewhere in my loft I had a bit of an old gramophone. Just recently, I have found it and pondered on making it a bit of a project.

Here it is.


Let’s start by listing what is missing.

There is no horn.

There is no sound box.

It needs some felt or baize on the turntable.

A length of beading is broken off and missing.

There is some kind of bush missing where the winding handle passes through the case.

It all looks very tired and in general need of some TLC.

If any experts out there want to tell me the elbow is missing as well – it isn’t. It just wasn’t in place on that photo.

Against that must be set the fact that it has a powerful motor which seems to be in good order. The speed control works and the primitive brake stops it.


It is an elegantly decorated gramophone.

This model of gramophone is known as a Junior Monarch.  It was made by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company as shown on its maker’s label.


This label dates it to pre-1907 so this gramophone is more than 100 years old.

I can buy the two major missing parts for about £70 and I would then have a machine in good working order.

I hope some wax and polish can improve the look of the wood. A little bit of light oil rubbed on the metal parts will improve their appearance. For me, the difficult part is that beading.


And, with borrowed parts you can see and hear this gramophone in action by clicking here.

The record chosen, to match age and make of gramophone is this one.


Now surely it is worth getting that gramophone up and running on a permanent basis.


A South London collection

February 13, 2015

More record sleeves

I was quite amused to find four record sleeves in a row, all printed up for music traders in South London and here they are.


Let’s start on the right.


C and L Weaver were in Norbury. That was a suburban station on the line I took into London back in my train spotting days. Our trains never stopped there so I couldn’t tell you a thing about the place.

The record is


The Darktown Strutters’ Ball played by Spike Hughes and his Dance Orchestra.

Next is


L A Richards of Wimbledon – one of my frequent venues as a train spotter.

The record is a Paul Wightman one called Ragamuffin Romeo.


Third up we have


Rhythm Ltd of Thornton Heath. Thornton Heath was another suburban station my trains used to race through.

The record is a jazz standard.


It’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ performed by Jack Hylton and his Orchestra.

Which brings us to the fourth sleeve –


Willy’s of Deptford.

Deptford entered my life when I was a student. We used to enjoy a Saturday morning jaunt down to Deptford Market, rarely buying anything although I still have one item I bought there to my knowledge.

Anyway this record is


We’re Uncomfortable played by Eddie Norris and his Ambassador’s Band. And this is the one I recorded. I played it on the gramophone I use most for actually playing records. It isn’t clockwork but it is quite elderly.


It’s a battery electric gramophone and so uses a lightweight pick up which causes much less damage to the surface of the record. Normally it is in the cupboard behind it and those doors serve as a great filter for removing the crackle of these old records. The gramophone was bought for my wife’s grandfather as he got a bit arthritic. I think we inherited it back in about 1969. It is still in regular use.

You can click here to hear the record play. The record is really a comment on the uselessness of men back in the 1930s.

A Columbia Gramophone

July 15, 2014

In my ‘about’ page I mentioned I had at least 4 working gramophones. This means those of the wind-up or clockwork variety rather than anything requiring electricity. From time to time I use them in my voluntary work. Many kids find them unbelievable and for those of much older years they bring back nostalgic memories of their younger days.

I had the good fortune to collect these gramophones at the time when they were being chucked out. I paid next to nothing for any of them. Back in the 1960s they were old fashioned and inconvenient. In the brave new world back then, wind up gramophones had to go.

So here is my Columbia.


It’s a bit careworn – but then so are most people who are 84 years old.

The lid opens, of course.


It’s quite hard to find a maker’s label – under the lid.


It is a bit hidden by the case which holds ten records which can be fastened in the lid.


It’s made to match.

I like the little chrome coated pot for needles.


A domed lid comes over to shut this.

You can hear this gramophone playing an appropriate record by clicking here. The record is Harmonica Harry played by the Jack Payne band.


Evolution of the gramophone

April 22, 2014

As domestic improvements continue, more strange little books continue to turn up. Now here is one that is entirely suited to me, but I have no idea where it came from or when. It’s not much more than a pamphlet and it has the title, ‘Evolution of the Gramophone’ and a subtitle of ‘From the Phonograph to the Electrogram’.


As we can see, this little publication came out to accompany an exhibition staged by the Army and Navy Stores on Victoria Street in London, by arrangement with His Master’s Voice.

I’m afraid I have no idea when this exhibition took place but I guess at the early 1950s.

Inside we have pictures and a brief description of each exhibit. This is a page of oldies!


Up in my loft I have the works but not the horn of an HMV Junior Monarch (I think). I really ought to see if I could make something of it

If we look to the back of the booklet we can see what was, presumably, modern at the time.


The way recorded sound has changed in my lifetime beggars my belief. In my own home we never had any kind of gramophone until I started collecting, but I know that the basic unit for sound was still the 78rpm record allowing about three minutes of music per side on a 10 inch diameter disc. Long playing records existed but it wasn’t until towards the end of the 1950s that the old 78s were really swept into oblivion.

I remember stereo arriving. An elderly friend was the first person I knew with a stereo player and if you sat in his room in a specific place you could hear sound coming from two places. It never seemed to matter to me.

Reel to reel tapes came and went because the much more convenient cassettes proved capable of giving adequate quality. The Walkman arrived on the scene as part of the Japanese invasion.

And then, in the 1980s, we moved from analogue to digital with the CD. The tape people tried to join in (remember digital audio tape (DAT)?

Now, it seems, the CD has had its day as music storage has become tied up with computing. MP3 players seemed to come and go as ever more wonderful devices hit the stores. And now you don’t even need to hit the stores to purchase music. You can just hit ‘download’ instead.

And of course, stereo isn’t enough now. We need surround sound. But when I say ‘we need’ I tend to mean ‘other people seem to need’. I still love my good old 78s and even if I play them on a 1950s electric gramophone, it is still just a mono device.

I guess I do live a bit in the dark ages when it comes to sound and music.


A forgotten gramophone

January 19, 2014

Both my wife and I have had some involvement with music and we have a cupboard filled with odd or even quite normal instruments. In a recent sort out we even came across a gramophone I had entirely forgotten. It is a Lumar Mechanical Toy Gramophone and I think it dates from the early 1960s. Not only had I forgotten the gramophone, I have no memory of where it came from. But it was there, in the cupboard.


As can be seen, we still have the box it came in. This tells us that the machine came from the stable of Louis Marx and Co in Swansea

Inside is a gramophone in two pieces. One part is the clockwork motor and turntable. The other is the needle carrier, diaphragm and sound arm.


The two parts are designed to slot together very easily.

A key fits down one of the holes in the turntable to allow the motor to be wound.


We have a collection of ten records produced for this machine.


They are a mix of Christmas carols and other popular music for children. Any of the records which carry a date say 1963 so they are over 50 years old. They play at 78 revolutions per minute but look much more like the 45s which were the modern thing back then.

You can click here to hear the machine playing a short extract of ‘Blow the man down’.

My hand appears to press the brake / speed control lever and then put the needle in the groove. After a quick speed adjustment, the music starts.

For those who want to know, the brake lever operates a pad on a James Watt style governor which aims to keep a constant revolving speed even though the motor is running down all the time.

Not the only happy nerd in the world

November 23, 2013

From time to time I get to visit my pal Nick up in Norfolk. I have known him since we were at junior school so he is a very old friend. He’s very different from me, but he has nerdy tendencies and one of these was in evidence when we paid a quick visit last year.


On the table, there was Nick’s wind up gramophone, complete with record. He also had a book of HMV records so he could date his record. There are obviously other records there in a case. I spot a Broadcast 12 in the sleeve – a cheap record which used narrower grooves so a 10 inch record could play as much as a normal 12 inch one, albeit at a slightly reduced volume. A toolkit is there as well so maybe Nick had needed to do some running repairs on his gramophone. I believe it is a Columbia portable.


The record is from the dance band era being a performance of ‘Loving you the way I do’, a fox trot, by Ambrose and his Orchestra. It dates from 1931.

Nick and his wife provide a real home from home for us. Like me, he seems such a happy nerd.