by Bas Ingrouille
As an addenda to the article which I
'How Phonograph Needles are
and which appeared recently in our
newsletter, I submit the following further information.
Besides the steel needles described
in the previous article,
3/4 inches long
made in three diameters to play loud,
medium and soft volumes, there were many
more varieties of needles produced.
instance, the standard steel needle was
made gold and copper plated, which
was supposed to increase the
but this writer could find no appreciable difference in the plated
with the plain steel variety.
made in longer lengths in three
diameters so the needle could be set in a
longer or shorter position in the needle
holder, giving more volume.
This did work
Steel needles were also
made with a tiny washer welded to the needle shaft, the closer the point the softer
the volume, the further
from the point
the louder the volume
and in between gave
These also worked as advertised.
Steel needles also came with a stubby
point and with long points.
were made with a wavy shape, advertised as
being easier on the record because they had
a spring effect.
Still others came with an
L shape which also purported to impart less
pressure on the record and therefore less
wear and longer record life.
were made with a spade type of point and
others with the shaft flattened out at varying distances
from the point to increase
or decrease the volume.
These also had the
Some needles were made with
the standard size shaft at the top and
reduced shaft at the point end.
This difference in size varied in length to increase or decrease the volume.
type was the cushioned point type in which the point, inserted in the bottom
end of the needle, was cushioned in rubber for a better tone.
needles came with three coloured shafts, red for loud, green for medium and
yellow for soft tone and volume.
Some needles were made to give longer life and more plays per needle.
These were advertised as Pfanstiehl needles.
Some were semi permanent, giving up to 40 plays per needle;
still others were called permanent needles
with the 'Pfanstiehl'
hardened in a furnace to
5000 degrees and then
under a microscope.
These were more expensive, initially selling for $1.00 each.
A unique device was invented to play
hundreds of records.
It consisted of a very
small bobbin wound with very fine hardened
The bobbin was clipped to the
back of the needle holder and the fine wire
a fine hole drilled
in the back of the needle holder where it
was held in place by the set screw.
wire could be adjusted at varying lengths
to give louder or softer volume.
end of the wire wore, it was cut off and
down to give a new surface for the
This device worked fine except that
the wire, not being pointed,
was hard on
them badly and
ultimately the device was not very successful.
1914-18 war, needles were
and manufacturers had
to stop manufacturing them.
turned to sewing machine needles, breaking
them off so the point could be used to play
needles were not as
hard as the steel needles and so didn't last
to using thorns,
some hard wooden needles were turned out
with one end sharpened.
Victor put out
bamboo needles that
could be cut off on an
angle to give a new
You will see
that Victor's Exhibition reproducer has
3 cornered hole in the
needle holder to hold
made to play Pathe
records, with a sapphire
inserted in the end.
Similar needles were made
to play diamond discs.
These had a cut
inserted in the end.
play Pathe or
discs with these needles
one had to have a reproducer that
could be turned so it faced vertical to the groove in the record.
2 heads that could be turned
and allow playing of all types of
Brunswick was such a
If no needle is available
to play Pathes on a 78 player,
if the reproducer head turns on
the point from a fine
ballpoint pen with
needle inserted in the back of the
shaft to hold in the needle holder
and work well without any wear on the record. This is not
suitable for playing diamond discs however.