Instructables
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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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.

MattH22 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

MattH22 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 goat2 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 goat2 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! :)

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 goat2 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.

frumpyandy2 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.

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)  frumpyandy2 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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skajam662 years ago
One

is the loneliest number that you ever saw

bfk (author) 3 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.
RyanF23 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.

There is only one groove on a 12" record.
bfk (author)  strongsong21 year 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 bfk6 months 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)  twocvbloke6 months ago

Matching Tie & Handkerchief

twocvbloke bfk6 months ago

Cool, thanks!! :D

mafields7 months 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)  mafields7 months 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.
psp11011 months 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.
snowgoat1 year ago
Interesting idea. I've got an old Grand Funk Railroad that I'll try it out on.

BTW, I think the length of a groove is about 2181 feet.
bfk (author)  snowgoat1 year ago
A 22 minute album is about 1,500-1,700 feet. Let me know how Grand Funk turns out.
Dolphace1 year ago
I have a VERY old home-recorded record that I am trying to get any recording off of to convert to digital. It has my grandfather and my mom when she was like 5 singing on it. The problem is that the black part is starting to flake off. I am trying to find something that I can secure the edges of the black part so that it will not flake off, long enough for me to get something recorded. Any suggestions? I can send a picture if needed. Help please.
bfk (author)  Dolphace1 year ago
Hi Dolphace. Sorry for the slow reply, but I've been out of pocket for a few weeks.

I don't know if I can be of any help, but first I'd like to ask a few questions. I'll make the assumption that these are home-made recordings, popular before wire and tape recorders became affordable? Of those, I know of those records, made from paper with a thin plastic coating and metal with a thin plastic coating. There may have been a hard, masonite-like material that could have been celluloid as well. Is your record any of these?

To help save time, I've pulled a couple of records that fit your description. The first,
I'll call "stage 1 deterioration" and the second, well... pretty bad.

Do either of these look like your records? (these are an aluminum disc covered with what looks like vinyl. Paper discs were usually lighter in color, with graphics printed on them and a clear coating over that)
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Rafter2421 year ago
Hey sir, great article. I can't wait to try out this procedure on my extreme condition albums. Seeing as you have decided to utilize the manual operation, would you be willing to sell the "auto sander" that you devised? I'm certainly interested.
bfk (author)  Rafter2421 year ago
Thank you Rafter. The albums I tried this out on all seemed to have the same, slight concave curve across their face, leaving the center portion untouched, I removed the rubber, intending on replacing it with a softer block, but never got around to it because I decided doing it by hand gives me more control.

I'm sorry I don't have that piece any more. You're comment has me thinking of looking for a better way to do the sanding however, so when I ( if I ) get through with my current time-eating project, I'll do the instructable and pm you for your address.
bkp, I have a Frank Zappa bootleg that I just bought. Mint condition and while handling it, I damaged one side towards the end of the disc. Really upset. I know bootleg vinyl may not be the best quality so will sanding work? 1500 or finer? Glue instead?
bfk (author)  bigpete077551 year ago
Hi Pete: Any answer I can give you about this is going to be subjective. If you damaged the vinyl by scratching it, then glue won't work. If the damage you're referring to was caused by dirt or grease from you're hands (being a Dental Floss Tycoon can be a dirty job), then glue will work well for that (I love Zappa).

Now, if the damage is a scratch, and you hear it over and over, then sanding may work, but I have 2 caveats for you:

1. If the scratch is deep, you won't get all of it out. Sanding is a compromise between hearing the clicks and pops and the sound quality. Sanding records as I describe in my Instructables will not hurt sound quality one bit, but once you begin to significantly reduce the depth of the groove, the bass will suffer and your music will begin to sound like MP3s on cheap speakers.

2. If your damage isn't scratch related, but you dulled the finish of your album, then sanding will only make it worse. A sanded album will never have the high gloss of a pristine record. What sanding does is sacrifice the surface sheen in order to remove the rough edges of the grooves. Messed up edges are the culprit for 90% of the clicks and pops that remain even after cleaning.

That being said, I've never ruined a record by sanding it's surface (other than those I used for destructive limit tests). I've also improved the sound quality of every record I've sanded, but when scratches go very deep, it becomes a choice between the quality of the sound and the elimination of the pop.

Oh, and one more suggestion: If the damage is only one scratch, I would lightly sand the area around it by hand. There's no need to sand the entire record for a single scratch.

Good luck. I hope my ideas can help you to enjoy your music.
Awesome idea and I look forward to reading your Blog!
bfk (author)  softenersreviews1 year ago
Thanks Softenersreviews... No blog on this, but I would be interested in hearing how it's working for people. For me, it's not about the look of the record (shiny or dull), but the sound. I'd still like to hear other ideas on how to improve the looks of a sanded album and a blog would certainly be a good place to do that.
jenssen1 year ago
Thank you for taken the time to answer my questions so extensively.

I order two pieces of 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit of sand paper and ordered a 40x magnifying-glass. I will start with 1500 for the first time and maybe finish with 2500 to keep a better shine on the record, but that is something I have to try. Normally when I buy vinyl, the first thing I will do is wash it and put it in new good jackets. I am really looking forward to test the sand procedure, I will first try it on old vinyl.

I will post an update once I have results.
bfk (author)  jenssen1 year ago
Thank you... I'm looking forward to it. Good luck.
jenssen1 year ago
Hello Bfk,

I was reading your recovering methods with a lot of interest because I have a record that has a pretty scratch on it, that I would like to try to repair. The scratch is vertical on the record (so I mean from the inside (label) to the outside) but cause a pop each time the needle is hitting the scratch (see image).

Since there are no postings here lately I was wondering if you have any new good/bad experiences lately? Maybe with 2000 or 3000 grit sandpaper? If I understand correctly, the nice polish shine of the record is gone at the place where you sand it? Is it possible to get it back somehow?

If I read correctly, this is the short summary for cleaning records:
1. Good cleaning of the record (washing)
2. Try it, if the sound is ok, do nothing more. If there are pops/cracks on places where also a scratch is located, try to sand them. After sanding, wash them again.
3. If sound is ok, do nothing more. If sound is not ok, and there are still cracks during listening, but not only on the places where there is a scratch, try to deep clean, for example with glue.

Thanks and keep up the good work!
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