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Repair of Victor Exhibition Reproducers

I believe that I have rebuilt/repaired more Victor Exhibition reproducers than any other make. Most likely the reason for this is that there were so many of these made. Robert Baumbach's "Look for the Dog" (ISBN 0-9606466-0-4) shows that there were over 600,000 VV-IVs and almost 700,00 VV-VIs manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Co. And these are only two of the many models which had these reproducers installed.

If the sound quality of your Exhibition reproducer is poor and you are changing your needles frequently, the most likely cause is:

  1. the rubber gaskets have deteriorated. These gaskets must be soft and pliable. Frequently, I have encountered gaskets that have become so brittle that they break when bent.
  2. damaged diaphragm Inspect the diaphragm at the centre. If damaged,it should be replaced.
  3. broken dog bone There are two spring clips in the shape of a dog bone which holds the needle holder securely to the bottom of the nickel plated cap. If one of these is broken, the needle holder will not be firmly attached.
  4. incorrect alignment of diaphragm The needle bar should just touch the diaphragm. It must not push in or pull out.
  5. deteriorated flange The rubber flange must be firmly attached to the back of the reproducer. Over the years, these have a tendency to dry out. I have sometimes added small washers over the two screws that hold the flange to the back of the reproducer. However, if the flange is buckled or split it really should be replaced as it will not provide a tight seal.

All of these parts are readily available from antique phonograph dealers, some of which I have listed below.

  • Dennis and Patti Valente
    Antique Phonograph Supply
    P.O. Box 123, Route 23
    Davenport Center, New York 13751

  • Ron Sitko
    26 Tekakwitha Ct.
    Clifton Park, New York 12065

  • Wyatt's Musical Americana
    Talking Machine Co.
    P.O. Box 601
    Lakeport, California 95453

Remove the three screws on the back of the reproducer. The back should lift off. Remove the outer rubber gasket. Using a jeweler's screwdriver, scrape off excess bees' wax and remove the small machine screw at the centre of the mica diaphragm. Be careful that you don't lose it, as it is very small. Placing this screw in a small container is a good idea.

Inspect the diaphragm for damage. If damaged, replace with a diaphragm of identical size. Remove the inner gasket. If the inside of the cap has residue, clean using steel wool.

If the gaskets are still soft and pliable, then they don't need to be replaced. Install new gaskets if the old ones are cracked, dry or brittle.

Replacement gaskets (1/8" diameter, preferably hollow) are available from antique suppliers by the foot. Cut to length. An X-acto knife with #11 blade works well. Make the join in the bottom of the cap, with the front gasket about 1/4" from the join of the back gasket. The ends of the gaskets must meet without buckling or a gap. Do not align the joins so that they are in exactly the same position.

If your dog bone is broken, remove the needle holder. Using a slotted screwdriver, remove the small screw close to the needle bar shaft. Install new dog bone.

Reassemble the reproducer but don't attach the stylus bar screw to the mica diaphragm. When adding the back of the reproducer,it is best to insert all three screws and tighten a few turns at a time. Alternate opposite screws until back is firmly attached to nickel plated cap.

Note the position of the tip of the needle bar in relationship to the diaphragm. If the needle bar pulls out or pushes in on the diaphragm, then you will need to loosen the two lock nuts and adjusting screws at the bottom of the nickel cap. By adjusting these screws you can move the needle bar closer or further away from the diaphragm. When the needle holder just touches the centre of the diaphragm, then re-tighten the locking nuts.

Remove back of reproducer once again. Reinstall small machine screw joining mica diaphragm to the needle holder. If you look carefully, you should notice a small paper washer added by the factory so that the diaphragm is not damaged when this screw is tightened. The diaphragm should be centered inside the cap and should not touch any of the sides. If the needle bar is bent, straighten. Use a soldering iron to melt a small amount of bees' wax to both sides of needle holder at the centre of the diaphragm. This seals the area where it is joined. Bees' wax is readily available from hobby/craft stores. Reassemble back as described above.

Information on the repair and overhaul of this and other reproducers (including Edison) are described in The Complete Talking Machine, by Eric Reiss, ISBN # 1-886606-12-9.

Last year, I sent a copy of the article which I wrote on Reproduction Outside Horn Gramophones (reference CAPS newsletter November/December 1997) to Mr. Reiss. I asked if he would consider adding a section on these phonographs so that new collectors would not be misled by them. I was very pleased to receive a copy (Third Edition) of his book along with a very nice thank you note. The four pages that he has added have numerous photographs that accurately depict these fake machines. I highly recommend this book.