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If you're an audiofile purist, don't read any further. What follows is not for the faint of heart and beyond anything you've seen before. If you decide to continue, please don't comment about how you think it will ruin records until after you try it. Then, if you still feel my method is flawed, I'd love to read your critique.

If you follow my instructions, you'll have to work hard to screw things up. It's really not that scary once you get into it.

I've spent an entire career designing, developing and patenting metal, engineered plastic and vinyl products. I know plastics, their strengths and weaknesses. I also know how to fix things. This is one of those fixes.

I'm also not responsible for any disasters that might befall you.  If you try this and somehow manage to screw it up, don't blame me. Use caution and common sense. It works for me and that's all I can attest to.

That being said... Let's begin:

Hopefully, most records you pick up at yard sales, Goodwill and flea markets can be brought back to new using standard cleaning methods. This is only for those discs that still have elevated levels of pops and clicks due to physical damage due to accident, neglect or abuse.

The record in the first photo is one such case. When I pulled it from the jacket, I could see immediately it had gone through a rough life. Under the microscope, the grooves were embedded with crud and the lands (the space between the grooves) showed signs of extreme wear with hundreds of vinyl "deflections" along the edges of the grooves.
 
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Step 1: How Records Get Damaged

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Dirty records can be cleaned, but damaged records will still sound terrible no matter how much you clean them.  The first image is a microscopic view of a scratch across Skeeter Davis' "End Of The World"... Appropos for 2012, don't you think?.  When a record player gets bumped or someone gets careless, the needle skips crosswise over the grooves, literally carving a path through the soft vinyl.  

The vinyl being cut away has to go somewhere.  Some of it ends up on the needle, some of it ends up as crud at the bottom of the groove and some of it is pushed out of the way, piled up like snow in front of a plow.  It's pushed above the surface of the lands and the side walls of the grooves.  This is what causes the "tick, tick, tick" you hear after a record has been scratched.  The needle is bumping into these deformations and serenades you with it's rhythmic beat a little over 33 times a minute.

The second microscopic image shows a smaller scratch as well, but it also shows many deformations on the edges and sides of the grooves.  Back when this album was popular, tone arms and needles were both heavy and large.  As they ran through the grooves, the needle would build up up heat, softening the plastic, making the vinyl more prone to damage.  A large needle can't fit all the way into the groove, so it rests in part, on the outside edges of the groove.  

The edge is the weakest part of the groove, so when a needle vibrates back and forth, it slams against the warm edge, wearing it away, pushing and deflecting vinyl into small mounds above the record surface.  The vinyl that's pushed up and out, leaves a pocket behind, and the edge eventually becomes lined with pits and piles of vinyl.  The edge begins to take on a new shape as the needle wears away at it, distorting the sound as well as adding pops, clicks and ticks.

Today, needles are smaller, lighter and go deeper into the groove where the vinyl of these old records is still virgin.  With a good cleaning, the sound will be rich and pure... Unless your record is still making popping sounds, has visible scratches and glitters like a field of diamonds under a microscope.

If this is the case, chances are, it could use a good sanding.

Step 2: How We're Going To Fix It

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Yes, I said "sanding".  But first, we have to get all that gunk out of the grooves.  I gave Ms. Davis a pressure wash.

                                     (  http://www.instructables.com/id/Power-Wash-Your-Vinyl-Records/  )

And then smudged the more stubborn stuff out with my favorite material:

                         (  http://www.instructables.com/id/My-Incredible-Vinyl-Record-Block-and-Bar-Cleaner/  )

The results were pretty good.  No more gunk in the grooves, but there were still speckles where the vinyl had been deformed.

I'll assume you've done the steps above or have cleared the gunk out by some other method.  Now here's what you'll need to go to the next step... Getting your album back to it's original state.

1. A clean, but bad, bad record with more clicks and pops than music.
2. 1500 grit wet & dry sand paper.
3. A sink, a towel and a flat, smooth space that can get wet.
4. Not absolutely necessary, but a 30x microscope to check your work.
5. Nerve... Absolutely necessary.

Step 3: Work, Work, Work

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We'll be using plenty of water.  Wet the sand paper, wet the record.  You can also add a bit of liquid soap to the sandpaper to act as a lubricant.  Place the record on a hard, flat surface and LIGHTLY sand each side using curving strokes parallel with the grooves.  

Hint:
I've found that placing the record on the counter with the edge of the disc overhanging slightly allows me to grasp the record and rotate it with one hand while holding the sand paper steady on the other side with the other.  This insures the sanding stays parallel with the grooves.

Keep your hand holding the paper open and flat, insuring plenty of surface area is in contact with the record.  Make frequent trips to the faucet to rinse and re-wet both the record and paper.  1500 is an extremely fine grit, so you may see extremely small scratches on the surface of the vinyl as it's being being sanded, if any. If you notice the smooth, runout surfaces of the record getting dull, you're probably pushing too hard.  Use very light pressure.   Don't worry too much about ruining the record if you used too much pressure.  No  sanding is taking place inside the grooves.  If areas start getting dull, just go over them very lightly and they'll begin to brighten up again.  Don't sand too long either.  4 to 6 times around is probably enough.  If it turns out you didn't sand enough, it's easy to do it again.

The record will be rejuvenated as the lands are smoothed down and the edge of the groove becomes crisp and sharp, just as it was the day it was pressed.  Technically, the grooves will be a minuscule bit shallower, but the upper reaches of the grooves had been ruined anyway and new needles snuggle deeper into them, making the upper portion redundant.

Oh, and don't forget to thoroughly wash your new record before trying to play it... All that vinyl dust you just created can't be good for your record or your needle.:)

I've sanded several of my "destroyed" records with an excellent success rate and can again play them on my "floating turntable" without worrying about ruining the needle. Deep, deep gouges that destroy the entire groove and grit inside the groove that's been melted into the vinyl are beyond this method, so if that's the case, you may have to live with a "pop" or two.  Everything else should sound spectacularly clear and noise-free, just as it should.  The only failure for me so far was a Partridge Family album that I found in a consignment shop. The vinyl was so bad (not even a cover or sleeve), I had to have it just to see if sanding would work for it... Well, grit was so imbedded into the vinyl, nothing in my arsenal was able to pull it out.  I managed to improve the sound by 50% or so after the first powerwashing (no, I wasn't about to see how bad it was right out of the store), but it's still unlistenable using my beater needle

Speaking of turntables, I have a remarkable turntable hack that can be added to all brands of turntables, doesn't modify or harm them in any way and virtually eliminates the chance that an accidental bump will carve a new, perpendicular groove across your records' pristine surfaces.  It works on the science of physics, is pretty cool and can be checked out here:

                             (  http://www.instructables.com/id/Zero-Movement-Turntable-Feet/   )

So...  Take a deep breath, grab that ruined record, a sheet of sandpaper and say "oooRah"...

You can thank me later.

Does anyone know how many grooves there are on each side of a 12" record?

1/30/12:  Instructable member Suzanne in Orting does:  One!  She was the first person to get the answer to me.  Congratulations Suzanne in Orting.  I'm sending you a patch.

The next one is a little bit more difficult...  Who knows the approximate length of a groove on a 12" 33 1/3 rpm record? (don't cheat by looking it up on the internet:)

Feb 11, 2012...Come-on.. No one knows?  Tell you what... Forget the "no internet" rule, forget the patch... I'll give the first person I see a correct answer from (within 500'... come-on a GUESS could win this), in the comments section (no emails... Not fair, cause I read those more often) a 3 month pro memb.... No.. Make that a 6 month pro membership.

Step 4: Update: New and Improved... Well, maybe... "Record Sander II"

I made this as an experiment on ways to make the sanding process easier.  Sanding with the grooves is preferable as it eliminates "washboarding" on top of the lands.

I built a quick sanding block out of a scrap piece of rubber, superglued to a piece of 1/4" x 3" board in which I drilled a hole and glued a 1/4" dowel into a.  I won't write a "how-to", but I'll post the pictures.  I'll also be adding most of the information about the process to them directly because it's easier for me.  If you'd like it and need more details, ask and I'll add it.

A few caveats:

1. Keep the wood away from the surface of the record like I've done in the photos, or you'll lose your label.

2. Use rubber cement to attach your sandpaper... So you can remove it.

3. This is why I prefer doing mine by hand.  Records often have a "cupped" surface.  Using a sanding block will cause the outside and inside lands to be sanded more than the center lands.  In my experiment, the center lands of my test record remained un-sanded even though I over-sanded the entire disc (one side) to see how much damage over sanding could do.  I set the record on a towel during the sanding process in an attempt to eliminate the cupping, but it wasn't too successful.  If you fined a way to overcome this, please tell me.

4. Since the record I was using was one I was going to trash anyway, I decided to sand the devil out of it DON'T DO THIS YOURSELF.  You can see the brown residue on the sandpaper.  The record turned brown as well...  I really worked on it, pushing as hard as I could...  After cleaning it, I didn't notice any loss of sound quality, but in theory, it most likely effected the volume and possibly the bass of the recording... Of course, my old ears couldn't notice a difference in the bass and the volume knob has plenty of rotation left.  If I get the chance, I'll do another (trash) record and check the frequency output after each "sanding".  btw, the reason I chose 1500 is because it is easy to get.  Wal Mart sells it as well as big box and hardware stores... I would prefer to use something finer, but it's too frustrating trying to find it.

5. The final microscopic image is a 35x plus 3x (camera zoom) of the surface after hard sanding with 1500 grit.  I should have thought of zooming the camera before.  The lands don't have that coarse look that they've after hand sanding.

6. The bottom line for me is, I'll be using my hand to sand records from now on, but if I can find a finer grit paper, I might use this as a way to polish it after I'm through.
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Miner2019 days ago

Had a similar problem with a mint looking "Now Dance 92 " it's a double LP set in 1 sleeve, LP 1 would jump it's way through the first track, tried all the usual cleaning of the vinyl and stylus and even increased tone arm down force to 17g but still the same skipping through track, I saw this thread but couldn't quite bring myself to sand it but it gave me an idea. I used a JML magic eraser just cut a usable length off then put the LP on a towel on a flat surface, I then used a small amount of pure soap liquid (like you wash waterproof coats in NOT the proofer) just hold the LP down firmly and then in a circular motion following the grooves use the magic eraser I did not move the LP just went around and around about 20 times just pressing down in like a swirling motion doing like a quarter at a time.

When I had completed about 20 complete turns took the LP washed it under the tap with enough water just to wash the suds off but also used the eraser in a swirling motion and kept turning LP at the same time until just water left on the LP then placed on a clean towel and dabbed it dry.

I then cleaned LP with a mix of 1 part Vodka and 2 parts distilled water then buffed dry with a microfiber cloth.

All is now well although LP looks a little cloudy Where I used the eraser it certainly plays ok now no skips, where there was a bad skip before there is still a clip you can hear but at least the song words are not now missing.

I might try the sanding method one day but not this time sorry happy listening

RobertM381 month ago

Only for garage sale or G+- stuff, I use a couple a drops of Dawn with water, 3000 grit and just go round and round, then a hot water rinse and then with a vacuum dry (tape a piece of microfiber to your sucker end with a slit in it). It leaves the record a little dull in the finish BUT it takes pops and most scratches out, even can take a 'skip' out if sanded a little harder.

Is this record saveable? Will sanding help?

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bfk (author)  tansy.bailey.92 months ago

I've never attempted to sand a 45rpm record nor had a mold issue to deal with (mold might be the bigger problem) so I'm not able to answer your question. Theoretically, for the scratched part, if the record is vinyl, there should be some improvement by lightly hand-sanding. If you have a similar record that's not as important to you, sanding that one will 1) show you what happens and 2) give you experience doing it.

This 45 was unplayable, what you can see isn't mould it's pitting {lord only knows what it's been through). I did cover it with glue which came off filthy and it actually played afterwards, I was very surprised, just waiting for the 2nd dose to dry then I will see if there is any further improvement, if there is I may skip the sanding. I do have another 45 that the B side looks completely worn down and plays with more noise than music, glue hasn't helped with that one so I may try sanding that one. Thanks for the advice.

MichaelC393 months ago

In answer to your question about how long an LP's groove is,

Well, that depends on the specific album, because an album with a three minute side will have a much shorter groove than one with a twenty minute side.

SebastiánP35 months ago

Hi, I have an vinyl record that is priceless to me and my family (like a family musical treasure) and it sounds really amazing but it has scratches( just 2)that can not see and I'm afraid that if I do this procedure (sanding) I'll make it them worst. Should I be scare of making this steps on my album? Or this procedure is 100% efective and there's no risk at all? Please be honest, we'd really like to restore this record.

Thank you!

The best way to find out if this method will harm your priceless vinyl record is to try using it on a record that isn't so important to you first. If it works to your satisfaction, you'll know what to expect when you use it on your family's vinyl disk and give you some experience and confidence when you work with the good record.
psp1101 year ago
Hi, I don't know if this has been answered before but I have a copy of good trouble by reo speedwagon that I bought off ebay for $3 with free shipping(yes I said free shipping. great deal if I do say so myself) and It skipped on the last track. So I tried the method where you put pressure on the needle cartridge and it wasn't fixing it so I ran it over the scratch a lot lot of times and it wasnt fixing it. so I played it without the pressure on the needle and found out that maybe I had ruined the grooves at the end of the track I was working on which by the way is the final track. Whenever I play the song at the point of skip the needle gets to a point and completely skipps over like 2 or 3 grooves and skips part of the track. After that the song plays fine but the sound goes in and out of perfect and quieter sounding. Next thing i did was try the sandpaper method. First I tried it out on a really crackly album and found out that it does in fact work. Next I try sanding the Reo speedwagon album that is messed up. after that I played it and got nothing. so I sand a little bit and play and repeat. Then eventually the sound started to sound better in some spots but the needle keeps skipping over the grooves.

Is there any way for me to fix this. Because I don't want to have to buy another copy of this album.

You can fix it by replacing the needle you ruined by smashing it into the record.

And then never use sandpaper on a record again.

frumpyandy3 years ago
i've heard from multiple places that water erodes records and you shouldn't get them wet. i was just wondering what you think of this and what sort of drying method you used after you were done sanding/rinsing your records.

#1 Water does not erode records.

#2 You need to specify what type of record. Vinyl or shellac.

With shellac or vinyl, you need distilled water,as most tap water has mineral deposits in it that can get into the record grooves. With shellac, you need to be careful not to soak them,or it will either swell up and warp, or remove the label.

Never immerse or soak them in water. Never put them in the dishwasher. Leave them air-dry overnight, flat on a table.

Please cite these multiple places. To answer your question in a general practical sense - no Water will only destroy certain labels on a record. And temperature plays a part in destroying vinyl. Too cold - shatter - too hot, warpage. Other than that - Water is your friend. Just don't PLAY a vinyl LP wet. While this is common practice with DJ's in Jamaica who have to constantly spray their records to keep cool when out in the hot sun spinning.. not a good idea for the collector. Washing your records and drying them effectively is fine and recommended. If your vinyl was trapped at the bottom of a water fall - over time , just like the rocks they will be broken down.

bfk (author)  frumpyandy3 years ago
If what you heard is true, then there are hundreds of thousands of vinyl sided homes, outdoor signs, toys and cars that are in deep trouble:)

There may be chemicals in tap water that may erode vinyl, but it wouldn't be enough to do enough damage to your records in your lifetime, your children's lifetime or your grandchildren's lifetime... Unless there's something seriously wrong with your water.

Minerals may be present that could possibly damage your records if they were allowed to stay there when they're being played. I always brush my records with a carbon fiber brush and a disc washer brush with fluid every time I play them. If some hard mineral were to be left in a groove, when the needle runs over it, the heat may be enough to partially melt the vinyl around the obstruction and embed it into the record. This is what happened to a Peter, Paul and Mary album I picked up. All of my methods to clean the grooves couldn't get a fair amount of the embedded stuff out of the grooves. I just wood-glued the surface and that seemed to get 99.9% of it out.

Your other question about drying will fit in here: After washing, I blot my records with a micro fiber cloth then lean them up to dry. When dry, I run the micro fiber cloth over them again, which seems to help.

Now this is me, but after I get them as clean as possible, I spot check them out with the microscope, just to know what's going on.

btw, you'll only have to do this extraordinary power wash, block & bar, sanding, and/or wood glue work once for the records.you pick up. After they've been restored, they'll last forever with no additional "deep" cleaning. Disc washer should be all you'll need if they're well cared for.

Before I play my albums (every time), I simply run a carbon fiber brush around them and then disc wash them. A few seconds of work that may not be necessary, but it seems to fulfill a deep need for some indefinable satisfaction.:)

The other photos are before and after sanding of my wood glued PP&M. You can clearly see the nicks and bumps along the edge of the groove in the before photo. The record is impeccably clean, but all those potholes make for a lousy listen.

I sanded PP&M, power washed it once more and ran my block and bar cleaner over it. You can see the black vinyl sanding dust on the blue tack in the photo. There are still two or three random clicks, most likely from stuff the glue didn't get, but those can be checked with the hand held microscope and worked on individually. Otherwise, the record sounds great.

Thanks for your questions. I'm not an expert, but the techniques I've developed over the years work very, very well for me.
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leandropc6 months ago

Hi, I am new to this technique and I am beginning to try it with a 1500 fine grit. Can anyone update on the using of finer grits? Thanks!

To answer your question - we would need to know how the particular record was mastered before you can calculate. You can fit varying degrees of information on an LP depending on if you are playing at 33.3 or 45. Even that known, some companies have tried to squeeze more grooves on a record. Thinking of those K-Tel records with some over half an hour on each side.

bfk (author)  eye wander the goat10 months ago
Don't forget Monty Python's double grooved record. You never knew what you were going to hear when you played it. Each track would be half as long. I remember the album but not how long it played.

Ha I don't think I have that one - but I do have a few Python LP's - which I should really check! - The one record I know I have which has the double groove - is by De La soul - a hip hop group from the late 80s - they put out a limited ed. single called Me Myself and I - with what they term '

Oblapos Mode' for the doubled groove. It wasn't the best thing for when you wanted to cue something live - but you reminded me of this cool little vinyl gimmick ! It is a 12" single itself - not an album - and plays 6 minutes for the one track and 3 minutes for the other on a whole side. The other side is a single track.

There is also a rare LP by Rush called Rush 'N Roulette that had 6 grooves on either side of the record.

http://www.discogs.com/Rush-Rush-N-Roulette/release/3772080

danubiusdan8 months ago

Hi,

Firstly, I want to thank you for this great material. I was searching for something like this for more than a year. I'll give it a try as soon as I will be able to find the proper sand paper. I would like to ask you a few questions. What kind of paste should i use to make my records shine again after the sanding process ? One other thing is setting my anti-skating mechanism on my turntable. From my searches, I think i need a blank vinyl but i don't know where I can buy one. Can you help me in this matter. Thanks a lot.

You can get much finer sand paper a any auto paint supply store.

You can get much finer sand paper a any auto paint supply store.

MattH210 months ago

Question: How much mileage do you get out of single sheet of 1500 grit sandpaper.

BTW I've seen up to 4000 grit paper available for the "polishing" you mentioned. and a quick eBay search found a 6 sheet pack 1x1500,2000,2500,3000(Wet or Dry) and 2x4000(Light Wet or Dry)Grit for $5.50 delivered. (5.5"x9" sheets)

or 7 sheets 1x1000,1500,2000,2500,3000,5000grit(Wet or Dry), 4000grit(Light Wet or Dry ) for $7 delivered

MattH210 months ago

Rather than holding the sandpaper with your hand would it make more sense and be more effective to wrap it around something flexible which can conform to the any cupping that the record may have? Or it the visual dulling that reults from the sanding sufficient to show "low" areas that didn't get sanded much?

I've buffed out surface scratches with a dremel tool . Then you can use a larger tool such as car polisher wheel to make the surface shine again. In my experience, you don't need any chemicals. The sandpaper is a good idea - then just buff the surface if you don't like the texture left behind.

bfk (author)  eye wander the goat10 months ago
I like your Dremel and buffer concept. Personally, I'm not concerned about an album's aesthetics, but there's been a lot of talk, here and on other sites about the desirability of shininess if the record is going to be sold. I have mixed feelings about that.

What we're doing here is reconditioning the record. I hope people aren't trying to pass them off as new.

Thanks for your intelligent comments. I never considered buffing.

Thanks alot - it's all about sharing - right? But I have redacted the comments about tools I use for now as I have thought about your concern and it's an issue to me if people use these techniques to pass off used vinyl as new.

bfk (author)  eye wander the goat10 months ago

I'm not losing any sleep over it and neither should you. There'll always be people who choose to emulate the taker, not the giver. And able to rationalize their deceit while believing they're good people in the same way everyone believes they're a good driver. I suppose a person's ethics primarily depends on the ethics of his or her parents. So let the buyer beware. The world is what it is. I truly enjoy your comments and admire your thought process. Keep doing the creative work.

Help! I've got a record that won't play the first track. It was skipping very badly to the point it wasn't even worth listening to. It had what appeared to be only surface scratches, so I power washed it. That didn't work so I tried sanding the track with 1500 grit. I'm concerned that I used too much pressure because now it skips over entire sections of the first track, however, I used this method on another record and it worked fine. After sanding I tried playing the track and putting a little pressure on the needle to see if I was able to hear more of the track. I was! I'm willing to try whatever anyone can suggest to try to fix the record because at this point I've got nothing to lose and I don't care what the record looks like if it will play. If all else fails I'll go buy a more expensive copy at the record shop downtown! :)

skajam663 years ago
One

is the loneliest number that you ever saw

bfk (author) 11 months ago
RyanF2:
Wow! That sounds like an incredible machine you have there. Have you made an instructable of it yet? It'd be interesting to conpare results between your machine and hand sanding. I'd bet your invention would produce consistent results. Great comment and keep up the good work. Please add some pictures.
RyanF211 months ago

I used an old direct drive AKAI turntable and converted it into a record sander. First step was to remove the governor and get more torque out of the motor. allowing me to manually control the speed. Second was a small PIC controller and a stepper motor, that i currently control manually but plan on shifting every 3 rotations. The business end is basically taking the place of the cartridge. Its a very dense sponge cut to accommodate a sanding pad.Weight is the total weight of the tone arm the sponge and the sandpaper. The sandpaper I used was 800 fine, wet on contact and the platter was running at a fairly high speed 100-150rpm roughly. I used car soap and vinyl polish mixed together during the sanding process and after a through wash and dry I popped it onto my regular turntable and was astounded how it sounded compared to the condition I found the record in.

strongsong22 years ago
There is only one groove on a 12" record.
bfk (author)  strongsong22 years ago
True, but in one of my comments, someone brought up the fact that many years ago, Monty Python made an album with 2 grooves on a side. The idea was, whenever the record was played, the odds were 50/50 the listener would hear one track or the other. Pretty funny.
twocvbloke bfk1 year ago

Just out of curiosity, you wouldn't happen to know what Monty Python record that was would you? I wouldn't mind trying to find it just for that rather novel feature... :)

bfk (author)  twocvbloke1 year ago

Matching Tie & Handkerchief

twocvbloke bfk1 year ago

Cool, thanks!! :D

mafields1 year ago

I just did some math based on very loose estimates and came up with the groove length on one side of the album to be 4480 ft. Probably way off, haha.

bfk (author)  mafields1 year ago
This question is more than 2 years old and I'm glad people are still getting a bit of joy out of it... And you're correct about one thing... You are way off. The published length for a 22 minute album is between 1,500 and 1,700 feet. That averages about 72.75 feet per minute, so an album a bit longer than 30 minutes on each side could be in your wheelhouse if both sides are considered.

I'll consider your answer to be close enough and I haven't given anything away lately, so I'm sending you a 3 month pro membership just because you did the work and brought a little joy into my life. Thanks for the comment.
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