12 January 2011

Project "His Master's Voice Gramophone Model 102" (3/3)

restoring this gramophone took a good 3 months, although most of the time spent during that period is waiting for spare parts to arrive from overseas. i think it took around a full week of man-hours to scrub out most of the rust and fine tune the motor.

here's a picture (not well taken) of when i first got it:

the leatherette was falling apart at the corners, there was a huge mound of dust underneath the motorboard, and the motor didn't even work to begin with. i started off by spraying every metal part with WD-40 (my new best friend) to loosen the rust and scrubbed with a metal brush. the tonearm is originally chrome with a mirror finish, unfortunately corrosion has eaten away most of the chrome right down to the brass(?) piping. i did the best i could but it is far from how it is originally supposed to look like.

the motor was badly clogged with dust and congealed oil. i removed everything (gears, spring, etc) and again...cleaned with WD-40.



this gramophone was designed to play 78rpm records which are pretty rare nowadays. when i mean rare, i mean records with songs that i know and would like, there are hundreds and hundreds of obscure artists and songs on 78's records that i have found but dare not buy because i might not like them. i go around looking for records that are more 'popular'...but sadly those are set at a 'non-popular' price.

the old spring had issues maintaining a proper speed. it kept fluctuating between 76-79 rpm which is close enough if you think about it, but the variations in speed meant that the pitch of the song changes as well. it is kind of irritating to listen to a song that way, but thankfully the new spring solves that problem and maintains a steady 78rpm give or take a puny decimal place.

while searching online, i found an ingenious way of checking the turntable's speed with the use of a strobe disc. it is basically a circle of lines that are equally spaced apart and when the turntable is moving at 78rpm the lines would seem to be standing still. i fine tuned the motor speed selector until it registered 78rpm and left it at that.

the original soundbox that came with the gramophone turned out to be a cheap replica made in india. apparently it was extremely common with gramophones that were bought in south-east asia and were a standard issue. i looked online for an authentic soundbox and found a HMV 5b that was in need of repair and i had it shipped over. when it arrived, it was missing a rubber connector and had a hole in the diaphragm that affected the sound output.

i bought a rubber connector and a new diaphragm, but the 'new' diaphragm came with a hole as well and i got a refund for it. unfortunately that still left me with a leaky diaphragm and i couldn't find any new ones online (at least for now).

i ended up gluing some aluminium foil over the hole which seems to be a good fix. it won't sound 100% as good but it was much better than leaving the hole there for all the sound to leak out of.

i use modern needles bought from a guy in the US to play my records. although i do have some old needles left over from the original owner of the gramophone, i try not to use these as i trust the modern needles would do less wear and tear on the records, but i did manage to buy an original needle tin just for the sake of completing the collection!

needle tins are a collector's item as they come in thousands of designs and varieties. some claim that their needles are able to play hundreds of records before needing to be replaced, but modern science discovered that each needle is only good for one, at the most two, plays before a new needle is needed otherwise the worn out tip would gouge out the grooves of a record. this tin that i have states that each needle is good for 20 plays which is a lie! sure it'll play for 20 plays, but the record would sound like crap after awhile when the grooves are all gone. rare needle tins have sold for more than 100++ USD, this one that i have is a pretty common one but could still be worth something in the future so i'll be holding on to it for some time.

well the awesome thing now is that the gramophone works...it might not sound as good as it is supposed to sound but it is good enough for me. maybe one day i'd come across someone who is selling the diaphragm and i'll be able to hear the songs like how they're supposed to be, until then i'll be happy with what i have!

and in case you didn't know, this is a portable gramophone that folds up nicely into a suitcase to carry around.

and finally here's a video of it in operation, playing sundown boogie by bill haley and his comets.


  1. Greeting from Thailand
    I admired your work and enjoy reading your restoration very much. I have owned one that's why I brought myself here. my HMV 102 is in badly condition, the box has worn out and it will be a long journey to repair it.

    1. hello! nice to read your comment! it will be worth it to restore it to working condition because it requires very little maintenance after it is restored. i just oiled the motor gears and governor again 2 weeks ago because the speed was off and that was enough to get the gramophone to run correctly again.

      have you seen my disassembly guide? i posted it here:

      good luck with the restoration!

  2. Hi there, I found your blog when I was searching around gramophone's stuffs. Recently I've been interested too much in gramophone systems so I decided to build one for my self!!! Do you have any idea how can I produce a winding motor? I don't have any gramophone accessories in my place and unfortunately buying via internet is a very tough work in my country! So I wonder if there is any way to use old clock motors for this purpose! for example by changing the spiral spring or such things. What's your opinion?
    And my last word is a question that may any of your next project be making a vinyl record player!? I'm very psyched about this!

    1. Hello there! I can't say I know much about building a winding motor.. I would think you would need some really specialized tools and machinery to make just one prototype though. A clock motor main shaft runs really slowly (I would think) to a gramophone main shaft which is at 78rpms or more and probably has nowhere near the same amount of torque as well so some heavy modification would probably be required.

      I don't have any plans to make a record player from scratch because of all the variables that have to be taken into consideration just to make it sound decent but I'm pretty sure that if you have the passion and time you could put something together! I'm more interested in restoring you see :) of all my projects only the vinyl cleaner was built from scratch!

  3. I have a similar model but unfortunately the screw that holds the needle is broken . I bought a small screw which however is slightly bigger than the hole through which the older screw that fixed the needle at rught angkes . any suggestions

    1. I haven't had to replace the thumbscrew on mine but it did look very different from most screws I've seen.. the best bet is to get a good variety of screws from a hardware store and go try them all.. otherwise you can buy the thumbscrew on eBay.. I've seen them pop up every now and then for a few dollars.. expensive but then it is, after all, an original part and is hard to find :)

  4. Hi, I"m looking for complete winding motor or wheel replacement so any known place for spare parts?

  5. Hi. I have a HMV 97 model. I want to restore it. does it similar to HMV 102 ??
    Please help me....

  6. HI Its nice that you restore it. My model is very perfect and in good working condition, I am looking for Needles and Records please suggest me from where can i get. Does needles are same for all models.

  7. Good job on the restoration!
    I will caution you that playing High Fidelity (Hi-Fi) records on this machine may not only damage the records (steel needles combined with the weight of the tone arm will wear out the grooves quickly -- Hi-Fi records were designed to be played with sapphire or diamond-tipped needles using electronic cartridges under a lot less weight), but also the dynamics present in those high fidelity recordings could blow another hole in your thin metal diaphragm. And that would be a shame after all of the work you've put into restoring your machine. It would be better to only play recordings made before the end of WWII, which were recorded and pressed to meet the harsher conditions presented by the tonearms of the day. Just a word of advice!