Introduction: Block and Bar Vinyl Record Cleaner
If you're into vinyl records and you get yours at the same places I do, at flea markets, yard sales and Goodwill, you know how frustrating those "snap, crackle and pops" can be. Trying to get the decades-old dust and crud that causes those noises out of the grooves can easily turn into an all-day affair.
Here's a device you can easily make, that uses a remarkable polymer sold just about everywhere as "Removable Putty" that can deep clean your vinyl records and return them to their original state.
I get my putty at our local grocery store. I like the blue color, as it's easily seen in case any is left behind. This stuff is tenacious, sticks to anything but it has a stronger bond to itself, so if you stick it to something, it will stay there until you pull on it. It comes away, leaving what you stuck it to as it was...
Well, almost... If the object you stuck it to has anything not firmly attached to it, the putty will pull that away as well.
I decided to use that attribute to my advantage after realizing a $1000 record cleaning machine wasn't in my budget. The gadget I made worked far better than I ever expected and cost less than $10... That's over a 99% savings, and no liquids or dirty threads have to be dealt with.
I've checked and have found nothing like this, but if I've missed someone that needs to be credited, please let me know. If this is original, and enough people try it, I'm sure suggestions will be made and maybe someone will even come up with a better version. If you do, use the term "Block and Bar" in the title and we'll all be able to find it.
This method falls neatly between mattdp's excellent instructable on washing ( https://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/ ) and Knarx's full-featured cleaning machine ( https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-professional-record-cleaning-machine/ ).
Step 1: What You'll Need
For materials, you'll need:
1. One 1/2" wooden dowel. Optionally, you can use a 1/2" plexiglass rod like the one I'll be using.
2. A block of wood approximately 3/4" x 4" x 6". I used mahogany, but any wood will do.
3. A 4" x 6" thin sheet of plastic. The type of plastic isn't important, but make sure what you use isn't any harder than record vinyl. If you have a blank vinyl record, you can use that. An empty 1/2 gallon milk container may be another good source (use the inside for the working surface because it will be smoother).
4. Two strips of removable putty.
You'll also need the items to cut, form, sand and glue these parts together.
Step 2: Making the Block
1. Cut your wood to approximately 4" x 6".
2. Cut and glue the plastic to one side.
3. Radius (round) all exposed edges.
3. If you don't trust yourself, you can add foam strips to the short edges, but I've found the foam makes cleaning the record more difficult. if you're careful, you'll never touch the record with anything other than the putty anyway, making foam protection moot.
Step 3: Making the Bar
1. Cut your dowel to about 4" in length. If you want, you can use a 1/2" plexiglass rod or some other material that doesn't have surface grain. Using materials with a smooth surface won't clean your records any better, but it will allow for easier clean-up afterwards. In this instructable, I'll be using plexiglass.
If you want, you can use the rod as-is, without any more alterations, but you should, at the very least, radius (round) the cut edges slightly. The dowel will be in close contact with your records and you wouldn't want any sharp edges to ruin your day.
2. Shape the dowel. This step isn't really necessary, and it makes the rolling of the cleaning process a tiny bit more complicated, but it will let the dowel follow a curving path so you won't have to make as many passes in the cleaning process. You won't come close to making a 12" radius turn, but it will help. I turned mine on a mini-lathe, but if you have access to a drill press, that will work just as well. I drew mine down to 5/16". Any more wouldn't be practical.
I clean my records "with the grain", but you may want to clean yours "across the grain" (grain in this sense, referring to the record's grooves). If that's the case, shaping the bar isn't necessary. But if you do clean across the grain, be careful when you're near the record's edges. The putty's pull is strong, and you can possibly warp or break your record if you're not careful when you pull up.
Done... On to cleaning.
Step 4: Preparing the Bar
This is the fun part:
1. Knead the putty. This will soften and clean it. I use enough putty to make a ball "about" 1" in diameter.
2. Roll the putty out on your new block. Just like mom taught you:)
3. Wrap the putty around the bar and pinch the ends together.
4. Using the block, roll the bar on a smooth surface to smooth the putty out. Notice how clean the putty is in the photo...
Step 5: Cleaning the Record
1. Place your record on top of a towel. Place them both on a hard, flat surface.
2. Lay the bar across the tracks.
3. Using the plastic side of the block, push down hard on the bar and roll it back and forth along the grooves. When you lift the block up, the bar should come with it. Rotate the record and continue to roll the bar across it. Push down hard. Pushing forces the putty into the groove. The harder you push, the further into the groove the putty will go.
The photograph is the result of cleaning one side of an already "clean looking" record. I've seen no other method, other than smearing wood glue over the surface and spending hours pulling it back off, able to get this much dirt out of the grooves. The process took me less than 5 minutes, mainly because I rushed for the pictures. If you spend a fair amount of time cleaning, your putty will be much dirtier... Sorry... That didn't sound right, did it?.:)
Step 6: Clean-up and Storage
No space needed for a big machine. I keep my Block and Bar beneath my turntable. Cleaning the putty off the bar is easy. Just peel it away. If you use a wooden dowel, it will be a bit more labor, but it will be easy none the less. I kneed the putty again to clean it for the next time and store it in a plastic container. I also use a tiny bit of putty to hold the bar and container to the top of the block.
As I mentioned, in my experience, the sound quality improvement was amazing, and I'm using a temporary, low quality cartridge while waiting for my Audio Technica to show up... I'll update this after Christmas... Hopefully:)