1960s Open Reel tape recorders

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1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Fri May 19, 2017 8:01 pm

Two examples arrived of these devices arrived in my shipping from the UK about a month ago. I've just got around to looking at the first one. It's a Ferguson 3238 4-track 1/4" open-reel tape recorder. First thing I wanted to look at was the mechanics of which most seems OK with a bit of grease or oils add where needed. But the synchronous motor's rotor appear locked/seized. Using phosphor-bronze bearings as most of these motors did, what is the best lubricant to free them up? Anyone with a suggestion?

I think it hasn't been switched on in decades...

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Fri May 19, 2017 11:41 pm

I would use normal motor oil. The oil that is refreshed every 20 000 km. Your garage will have a few drops for you.

I had a Heathkit SB620 simple spectrum analyser bought second hand years ago, of which one control (potentiometer) was locked completely. I had the knob removed and oiled the bearing of the spindle, just from the outside, where the spindle goes into the bearing (housing). Then I left that for several months, oiled it again, and some months later there came some movement in the spindle. "more oil and more moving". Then it became moving completely again. And ever since.

However, the bearing was "Zamac", a zinc aluminium compound, and the spindle aluminium. I would have been more reluctant in hoping that this trick would work, than with a steel spindle and a bronze bearing.

Good luck!!
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Lawnboy » Sat May 20, 2017 9:43 am

Just last night I cleaned and oiled my 1960's era window fan to get ready for the summer season. It requires oil periodically, and I have always used standard car motor oil with it without problems. It has phosphor bronze/steel bearings. Here in the States we have "3-in-1 Household Oil" that is a bit lighter and also works well.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 12:35 pm

Thanks guys. I have some 3-in-1 oil too as well as some Singer sewing machine oil. I was a bit hesitant as a long time ago I read somewhere you should never use oil on phosphor-bronze bearings. At the time it did seem a little odd, but unless I do something this rotor is never going to move again...which would be a shame as the rest of the mechanics appear in good order. Even the rubber-based parts like belts and the pinch roller seem fine.

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby McGee2021 » Sat May 20, 2017 1:44 pm

Lawnboy wrote:Just last night I cleaned and oiled my 1960's era window fan to get ready for the summer season. It requires oil periodically, and I have always used standard car motor oil with it without problems. It has phosphor bronze/steel bearings. Here in the States we have "3-in-1 Household Oil" that is a bit lighter and also works well.


I have a 1925 factory fan from the old Chrysler factory in Indianapolis. It has the same bearings, but only much larger! i only oil the motor at the beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn. My family has done this for many years, doesn't make a single noise other than the wind blowing. I use three to four drops of used filtered motor oil, that is of course filtered before being put on the motor, not filtered before being put in the engine of the car. Every five years i use 15 drops of fresh motor oil, which i put in over a 5 day period, to clean out the dirt and grime built up from regular use. It is a complex, carefully planned process, but it keeps the fan running for over 18 hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty days a year, for ninety two years, and still sounds brand new. I use the same method for smaller motors, but of course "scaled down" for the motor being maintained.You could use a simpler process for the reel to reel motor, but use fresh motor oil if the motor is completely locked up, such as Steve's machine. Other than that, i suggest using the process that i described, but you can simplify it and scale it down to your needs. Afterwards, the motor should run without flaws.
John Logie Baird was obviously the man who sowed the seeds but did not reap the harvest.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 7:09 pm

I suspect that what oil present, if any, has solidified and hopefully introducing fresh oil will loosen things up. At the moment I'm in the process of dismantling the thing as the motor is impossible to work on in-situ. The PCB obstructs access to the motor and there's quite a lot of wiring to/from it - it is all valve/tube though.

The rather odd thing is the motor appears to fed from a tap on the primary winding of the power transformer. Perhaps it's a 220V device and the transformer drops the UK 240V to what it expects. I'll find out once (if) I free up the rotor and run it. It definitely is a 50Hz machine, I can't see why anyone would use a 110V 50Hz motor, or anyone actually producing one. Though I guess someone might have.

I'm mainly concerned about the mechanics at this stage. If that all turns out OK I need to access the heads an see how much wear they've incurred. I doubt there's any chance of getting replacements.

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Sat May 20, 2017 7:55 pm

Wear of the heads depends on the material used for the magnetic circuit. This was in the older times mu-metal, yes the same mu-metal to screen oscilloscope tubes, but later W/R heads were constructed with ferrite as magnetic material. As your recorder has a tube circuitry, it will be mu-metal.

The ferrite heads are not wearing, the mu-metal ones do. But then of course all depends on the number of running hours and the type of tape that has been used. Happily the older tapes have a smoother and softer layer of iron oxide (rust). They don't wear much. The newer chromium dioxide tapes are more agressive to the head surface.

For the bearings of your motor, I think that sewing machine oil is better, as it is thinner. Any way I would drop dry-cleaning naphta onto it. Is that the word? It's a very light fraction of gasoline, petrol. That will solve hardened old oil. May be that petroleum also works. I think that you are right to think that it is hardened oil and not oxidation that stalls the motor.

It is not impossible that the motor is a 110 volt motor. Then it should run from a center tap of the transformer. In those days almost every tube radio had a selector for the mains voltage, as until WWII quite some villages had a voltage of 110 volt. In this way everything gets the correct voltage as long as you placed the selector in the right position. When I started in 1962 at Delft technical university, Delft has been switched to 220 volt rather recently. Delft had at that time a grid with 220 volt in between the phases (127 volt from phase to neutral). This was rather curious as both poles of the wall outlets were "hot". I think this was a trick to provide homes with 220 volt using the same old 110 volt specified burried street cabling.
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 8:37 pm

The two machines came with a box full of old tapes which are all have a Ferric Oxide coating, it is very smooth. Plus in a domestic situation, once the novelty of hearing your own voice had worn off many of these machines were shoved under the bed and forgotten.

I think these two have had a bit more use than that but not to a true tape enthusiast's extent....so I'm quietly hopeful. They also came with a few accessories, a splicing block, spools of leader tape of various colours, even the original microphones which usually get lost, misplaced or broken. Whoever had them did have a keen interest but from the details of what's recorded on the tapes, that interest faded in the 70s. Perhaps because of the then improving and convenient Compact Cassette and possibly stereo. These machines are four-track mono. What's recorded on the tapes is probably still there, but I have no intention of re-using them.

You can still get new blank open-reel tapes, but they're not cheap!

Different subject...when I first moved to Hong Kong in 1989 the mains voltage was supposedly 200V but most of the time it hovered around 170-180V. You could buy auto-transformers to boost that back up to 220V. and have a decent light output from light bulbs and your TV and radio would work!

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Sat May 20, 2017 8:40 pm

Steve, what is the English word for a 110 <--> 220 volt auto transformer? I have such a thing, bought say 20 years ago, (in Belgium of course) and I use it few times a year. It is an auto transformer with a few taps on its one and only winding, on 110V, 127V, 220V, 240V, which I can switch to the input as well as to the output. So I can use it to convert every common voltage to every other common voltage.

In Dutch this is called "een verhuistransformator", which would be litterally translated into "a move transformer", as its main purpose wass to help you if you moved from a village with 220V to a village with 110V grid voltage or vice versa. And still it is of use if one moves frome Europe to America. Then you can use your old equipment on the new grid. This is also usefull to the collegues of my wife, that are sent for 5 years or more, from the Netherlands to Curaçao. This (Dutch) Island has 127 volt 60 Hz. In Curaçao verhuistransformatoren are very common for the ex-pats.

One of my sons recently bought an American kitchen machine, his wife is a kitchen princess and thinks this is a better machine than the comparable machines sold by Philips, and he built a verhuistransformator below his kitchen sink. Now the machine runs at 115V 50Hz, but who cares about the frequency?
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 8:46 pm

Even stranger is places like the Philippines - 220V supply at 60Hz!

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Sat May 20, 2017 8:48 pm

But do you know the correct English word for such an auto transformer?
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 8:50 pm

Yes, that's what they're called in most catalogues and on web-sites (RS, Farnell etc)...

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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Sat May 20, 2017 9:03 pm

Auto transformers indeed are transformers with a single winding, see it as only a primary winding. But for this type of transformer, built in its own housing, with a power cord at one side and a socket outlet at the other side, so to be used to power a certain device (TV, radio or kitchen machine), there is, at least in Dutch, a special name. I can't imagine that England hasn't a name for it, however I can't find it in the dictionaries.

And even internet gives me no clue, exept from Google translate, which calls it a "Move Transformer". To me this sounds a little too simple, it's a word by word translation. Google translate is not good in Dutch translation. I can understand what it tries to say, but it isn't Dutch at all.

May be our English friends can help later on.....
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Steve Anderson » Sat May 20, 2017 9:41 pm

Here's one of 34 on the UK Farnell web-site...

http://uk.farnell.com/block/sat100/tran ... dp/1131562

Note the US outlet though. It could be used the other way round, but the windings wouldn't be optomised for this use, better to buy one in a 110/120V country which is designed to provide 220/240V. Airlink Transformers in the UK will make them for you to your specification (toroidal if you wish) at good prices. Same applies to conventional power transformers if you need something special. e.g. for a valve/tube device.

Their off-the-shelf auto-transformers are here...

https://airlinktransformers.com/categor ... converters

Not forgetting that many households in the US have a two-phase supply (not three) 180 degrees out of phase giving you 220V 60Hz with two 'lives', a neutral and an earth for things like water heaters, ovens and the like. Things that would be hard-wired into the house electrical system, not on a plug and socket.

Steve A.

P.S. Klaas, I am English, born in the middle of London, Hammersmith, someone has to be born there!...I've just moved around the planet a bit!
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Re: 1960s Open Reel tape recorders

Postby Klaas Robers » Sat May 20, 2017 10:43 pm

So: the name is "Voltage Converter". That sounds better than "Move transformer". Thanks.

I see that this companies make them dedicated from one voltage to a second voltage. So you need a second one to go in reverse.

In fact such an auto transformer is a transformer of 110 V to 110 V. So the size of the wire is one single size and optimal for both aplications, down converter as well as up converter. E.g. if you go from 230V at 1A to 115V at 2A, the current in both halves of the winding is 1A. You need a transformer core capable of 115W to feed an appliance of 230W. This is the gain that you get by giving up galavanic separation. This gain is optimal for a voltage ratio of 1:2, which more or less by accident, is the most suitable ratio.

When you calculate such a transformer as a voltage converter, then you should calculate as if you make a transformer of 115V to 115V. Then you get the optimal wire size.
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