Welcome to this guide, which covers everything you need to know about getting Grandma's Victrola playing again like it did when she bought it 80 years ago. In here, you'll find how to change needles, how to wind the mainspring, and other useful tips which will enable your gramophone to continue playing for the next generation!
Please note, that I have written this guide as a tool for those who own WORKING gramophones only. I cannot tell you how to fix your gramophone if it does not work properly.
Okay, let's get going here; without any further adu, here are the steps on how to operate your gramophone.
1. This is exceedingly obvious, but find a 78 rpm record you want to play. If you own an acoustically-reproduced gramophone, DO NOT PLAY ELECTRICALLY-RECORDED 78'S ON YOUR GRAMOPHONE. It can wear out the soundbox, and the soundbox will ride unevenly in the loud, musically-packed groove of an electrically-recorded 78. You can tell if you have an acoustically-recorded 78 if it doesn't have a lead-in groove, and it doesn't say on the label "For Home Use Only-Not for Radio Broadcast" or something similar.
If you own an electrically-reproduced gramophone, like an Orthophonic Victrola or Viva-Tonal Granfanola, you can play electrically-recorded 78's. These 78's don't have a lead groove, but they often say on the label "For Home Use Only-Not For Radio Broadcast" or something similar.
2. If your gramophone has a lid on it, open the lid gently until it latches.
3. Now it time to insert a fresh steel needle into the hole at the end of the reproducer. Take a fresh steel needle (do NOT use a sewing needle or something similar as a cheap substiture-it can gouge the record), and unscrew the thumbscrew by turning it to the left. Insert the flat end of the needle into the hole (do not let go of the needle yet), keeping a good hold on the needle. With your other hand, tighten the needle by turning the thumbscrew to the right. A WORD OF CAUTION: THE THUMBSCREW CAN BE ANYWHERE FROM 60-100+ YEARS OLD, SO BE CAUTIOUS NOT TO STRIP THE THREADS OF THE THUMBSCREW-WHEN YOU FEEL THE THUMBSCREW IS TIGHTLY PRESSED AGAINST THE NEEDLE, STOP TURNING THE THUMBSCREW!!
4. Now, with the needle installed, place the record on the turntable with spindle of the turntable going through the center hole of the record.
5. Now, it is time to wind the mainspring. Do this by turning the crank on the side of the machine to the right. ANOTHER WORD OF CAUTION: THE MAINSPRING CAN BE ANYWHERE FROM 60-100+ YEARS OLD, SO DO NOT FORCE THE MAINSPRING IN ANY WAY. WHEN YOU FEEL THE MAINSPRING OFFERS VERY STRONG RESISTANCE TO BEING WOUND UP ANY MORE, STOP TURNING THE CRANK! IF YOU DO NOT STOP, YOU WILL OVERWIND THE MAINSPRING AND BREAK IT.
6. Now, with the mainspring wound up, release the brake lever to start the turntable spinning.
7. Take the soundbox, and GENTLY lower it onto the smooth outer rim of the record. Gently give it a little push, and it will slide into the playing groove.
8. If your phongraph has a lid that can be lowered while the record is playing, lower and close it gently-it will reduce the record's surface noise and eliminate any stray high-pitched backround noise from the recording.
9. WHen the record is finished, open the lid (model permitting), and lift the soundbox from the record.
10. Apply the turntable brake if your model has a manual brake.
11. Swing the tonearm away from the turntable, and lift the record up from the turntable.
12. Set the record aside, and if you want to play the other side of the record or another different selection, repeat the above instructions.
1. Change the needle after every song or selection played. That's right, change it everytime you play one side of a record. This is vitally important, because a used needle will ruin another record that is played with it.
2. Set your turntable so that it is revolving at 78 rotations per minute, and don't change it unless for some other purpose (ie, the record label says that "this record should be played at 82 r.p.m.)
3. Lubricate your motor gears every 12 months. To do this, you may need to consult an expert in this field, because one guide cannot tell you how your machine should be lubricated-a portable gramophone motor will be different from an Orthophonic Victrola motor. In a nutshell, you remove the motor board and use white lithium grease and sewing machine oil to lubricate the gears.
4. Dust off your records before playing them-it removes dirt embedded in the playing groove, and it makes the record sound better when it is played. Glue a piece of light velvet to a block, and you have an excellent and cheap record cleaner.
5. If your gramophone is made primarly out of wood, apply lemon oil to the wood to keep it clean and shiny.
6. Do not tamper with a gramophone's mainsprings. I am absolutely seroius about this, and if you only get one thing out of reading this article, I hope it is this. Mainsprings can be more than 15 feet long, and they can be sharper than a butcher's knife. Do not tamper with them for any reason.
7. If you require further reading after this, simply Google "gramophone" and you will find good search results.
8. Play your gramophone at least once every other week. The motor will give better results when it is used, rather than when it is allowed to stand unused.
9. When finished with using your gramophone, let the mainspring wind down. This takes the energy from the compressed mainspring coils off, and the mainspring will be more powerful and have a longer life.
Enjoy your gramophone!