A $40 Victrola




Introduction: A $40 Victrola

I titled this Instructable "A $40 Victrola" because that what it sold for when it was made in 1928.  I only paid $25 for it, but since I added another $25 to in in rebuilding supplies, I suppose I could say that its at least a $50 Victrola now!

This Victrola is a model 2-60, and in 1928 was considered a premium portable model.  It had three major problems: (1) the tone arm support was broken, and (2) once it was wound up you couldn't turn it off, and (3) over 80 years of wear and tear had taken a toll on the case.  The good news was that all the parts were there (although I had to hunt for the tone arm bearings), and the spring-driven motor only needed a bit of lubrication.

Over the next 9 steps (and over 30 photos) I'll show you how I repaired this machine and removed the 80 years of wear and tear from the beast.

Step 1: How a Victrola Works

An old phonograph like this uses no electricity.  A spring driven (wind-up) motor powers the turntable, and sound is picked up and amplified mechanically through a speaker horn.

The groves in the record are converted to sound by the reproducer (photo 1).  When the needle vibrates, a thin diaphragm in the reproducer generates the sound.  This sound travels through the hollow tone arm and into the sound box.

In this particular model, the soundbox is made of wood and is located beneath the turntable (photo 2).  The sound travels from the tone arm into the soundbox, which gradually enlarges into a wooden version of a speaker horn.  I've noted the path of the sound in photo 2.

With the general mechanics of how sound is made in one of these behind us, we'll jump in and start fixing this thing.

Step 2: Fixing the Tone Arm Support

The tone arm rides on 5 ball bearings (inside the lower housing - see photo 1) and a single pivot point above the tone arm (photo 2).

This tone arm support had cracked where a set screw held the pivot rod (photo 3).  In my research I found that this is a fairly common problem with this particular model.  It seems all it takes is slamming the lid shut one time with the tone arm sitting on a record and the tone arm support can crack or break off.  The tone arm is cast from some sort of pot metal (the manufacturer called it "white metal"), therefore it couldn't be welded or soldered, and to try to hammer it closed would more than likely shatter it in many pieces.

The good news was I found that a small shop in the northeast manufactured an entire replacement part.  The bad news was they wanted $115 for one.

Rather than spend the money for a new one, I decided to try to fix the one I had.  What I did was use a high-strength epoxy ( JB Weld) to fill in the gap and fill in the hole where the set screw had been.  After letting this epoxy cure for 15 hours, I drilled a new  hole 90 degrees away from the old one and threaded it for a set screw.  Now I was back in business!

I still had one small problem, however.  Two of the 5 ball bearings in the lower part of the support were missing.  I evenly spaced the remaining three bearings in the bearing indention's provided, and the arm pivoted as it was designed.  Later on as I worked underneath the turntable, however, I found the remaining two ball bearings, so I now had a full set!  After cleaning all the hardened grease from the bearing surfaces, I lubed everything with lithium grease. 

After reassembling, I tested the machine with an old 78 rpm record and now had good sound!

Step 3: Getting It to Turn Off

Getting the turntable to spin required simply winding up the motor.  I did find, however, that I couldn't turn it off!

This turned out to be an easy fix.  There is a small arm (noted in the photo) that functions as a brake against the inside rim of the turntable.  It had been bent down, so the brake was not engaging.  Using a screwdriver, I carefully bent it back into position so the brake would engage.  Now it could be turned on and off.

Step 4: Disassembling the Case

The next thing I tackled was the case.  I began by removing the 8 corner pieces from the outside of the case.  These were in pretty bad shape.  It looked like they had originally been plated with something, but were so corroded and tarnished I really couldn't tell.  They were in such bad condition that I originally assumed they were stamped steel that had been plated, but I found they were not magnetic.

The were so corroded that buffing them didn't do much good, so I got after them with sandpaper, and much to my surprise they were brass!  I sanded away the corrosion, then buffed them, and they came out surprisingly well (photo 2).  I also buffed the brass screws that held them on.

Next I removed the stamped metal feet (photo 1).  As I continued to remove parts, I took many photos for reassembly and stored the parts in plastic bags.

Step 5: More Hardware Removal

Before removing the rest of the hardware, I removed the entire player (turntable, motor, tone arm assembly, etc.) as a unit and set it aside.  This was easy to remove, I simply removed six screws attaching it to the case and lifted it out (wind-up motors are heavy!)  This gave me easy access for removing the rest of the hardware.

Most of the hardware was attached with screws, so removal was relatively easy. 

The latch at the front of the case and the handle mounts were riveted on with dome rivets, so I filed the back side of the rivets off (photo 6) and drove the rivets out with a punch.

Every group of parts was bagged and tagged.  And, while the hardware was off, each piece was either buffed or repainted.

Step 6: Uncovering the Case

I removed all the hardware so I could recover the case, since the original covering was in really bad shape.

This player had a record storage pocket inside (that tilted out when you opened the lid), and on it was the Victrola logo, so I decided to leave it as it originally was (photo 1 & 2).

The rest of the cover was ripped off the wood case (photo 3), and it was really nasty!

Step 7: Covering the Lid

I used a lightly patterned vinyl which closely matched the appearance of the original to re-cover the case.

Beginning with the lid, I glued the vinyl fabric to the top and inside first (photo 1).

Photos 2 & 3 show the progression as I trimmed and wrapped each side.

Photo 4 is the finished lid, and photo 5 shows the lid after reinstalling the brass corner pieces.

Step 8: Covering the Base

Re-covering the wooden base was essentially the same process as the lid.  After re-covering the side where the hinges mounted, note that I had to trim the covering to allow for the recess where the hinges would mount.

After the base was re-covered, I attached the four corner brackets, then reinstalled the hinges, lid, latch, record holder, and the trim around the hole for the winding key.  In reattaching the hardware, I used the photos I had taken originally and used a sharp pointed probe (see last photo) to find the original holes.

Step 9: Installing the Turntable

Reinstalling the turntable was simply a matter of setting it in place and fastening it in with six screws. 

The only thing left to do is build a new handle for the case.  I have the old one (it is leather) which I'll use for a pattern, but that will be a project for some cold winter day.  When I get around to making it, maybe that will be a future Instructable on its own!

This old phonograph was probably well on its way to the landfill when I purchased it.  I really hate to see these old mechanical things simply fade away.  I guess restoring old vintage things like this is my way of saving a bit of history, and keeping things out of the landfill.

With the old Victrola working once again, I guess there's no need to charge up the iPod anymore......!

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    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    I recently bought one of these at an estate sale for $30. It needs a spring barrel but I'm having trouble locating one. Any suggestions?


    7 years ago on Step 2

    George (The Victrola Doctor) in Michigan does nice work. His email is victrola@triton.net . He's fixing a tonearm for me right now.

    Ron Magano also has a lot of parts and everything. He is very reasonable and will help you out with anything you need. I'd compare prices between the two. I've worked with Ron more, and he's helped me out a lot. His email is rpmangano@comcast.net


    7 years ago on Step 2

    It appears that I have the exact same Victrola that you do (VV 2-60), and I also have the same problem with the tonearm support falling apart. After using solvent to strip all of the enamel paint off of it, I can see that it was cast entirely of brittle pot metal and is cracking all over the place. Would you mind pointing me in the direction of the shop where you found a repro tonearm support? At this point, I think it's my best option in order to get my phonograph functioning again.



    8 years ago on Step 9

    Absolutely beautiful! I wonder where you found it for 25$ !


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations! Very good work.

    These old victrolas are awesome. They are difficult to get.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comment. I looked for one for a long time, but all the working ones I found were too expensive. This one had several problems, but the price was right and all its problems were repairable.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the nice comment. I had fun working on this old phonograph.