At last after leaving the UK eight months ago I will soon be able to play some vinyl records. Yes, those big black disks that some people gave up with in the 80s that can sound scratchy. For some of us though we never let go. CDs came and were very convenient but even they are falling by the wayside whilst vinyl is having a comeback – in fact it is expected that in 2016 vinyl will outsell CDs! – who would have believed? Anyway, I will try not to be a bore, but here is my lengthy tale which soon will come to a glorious end (with room for a sequel should I feel inclined).
It has been a difficult journey and at last the time has come; albeit not quite as ‘planned’. Let me take you back ten months (try not to yawn)…..
Knowing that I was moving to a country where my Creek amp and Rega turntable wouldn’t work I sold them after 27 years of ownership; it was sad times but had to be done, I did keep the speakers.
Once I had settled here, I started my hunt for replacements. I didn’t want to buy something that was plastic-y and modern; someone had recommended that I check out idler drive turntables which I did and for some reason I was hooked. They don’t really make these anymore so these are almost all vintage (which suits me) and what I saw on the internet certainly intrigued. People were taking these old units and remounting them in beautiful heavy solid wood (or even stone) with excellent electronics and they looked amazing.
The problem was cost. Audiophiles had spend a lot of time on these and they seemed out of my range. Looking around though it appeared as though I could buy units that had not had this treatment relatively reasonably. Eventually I decided that as an engineer I could buy a working but not messed with turntable and build something just as lovely. I focussed on a few vintage brands and hoped for finding something affordable.
All I needed was to buy a turntable, pickup/tone-arm and a solid piece of wood. I needed a new amplifier too but that seemed an easier decision and purchase and was resolved quickly.
After a lot of umm-ing and err-ing and eBay browsing I narrowed by choice down to two in my price range which if I did a good job would be amazing. One was on a ‘buy it now’, the other on auction. I was concerned that if I bidded on the second and lost, the other might also get sold and I’d end up with neither. Of course I ended up buying both. One was kind of complete but had a very old mono tone-arm that I couldn’t really use, the other was just the turntable. Both operated 🙂
After receiving them I decided I liked one more than the other. I knew that I had to sell one of them and it would be better if I sold it in fully playable condition.
Both would need to be mounted in a nice solid piece of wood, have a nice tone-arm added and obviously a service. I decided that as it has been a long time since I did any carpentry, I would make a first attempt by doing the not-so-nice one first. Then use it whilst I did an even better job on the other (having learned lessons), then sell it for enough to cover both (fingers crossed).
Meanwhile the amplifier and speakers were installed as a superior audio solution for the TV with a space waiting for my creation.
I now needed a piece of wood approx 18 inches square by at least 3 inches thick. This (it seemed) was not easily found at a reasonable price (by reasonable, I mean based on my penny-pinching budget which had already been ipacted by me rashly buying two turntables). I looked at many types of wood but all the thicker pieces seemed to be at a premium. Whilst I was away on business my girlfriend bought a butchers block and that seemed like a potential if not temporary solution.
Next to cut a hole. I had also sold all my UK tools and what I had bought since arriving here was not with this kind of job in mind. Budget was still of concern so I had to keep tool purchases to a minimum. I considered hole cutters but to handle that depth of wood was going to cost a fortune. I had purchased a battery drill with a range of attachments and decided the jigsaw was the best option after drilling holes for the corners using the biggest flat drill I had. Cutting butchers block that’s over 2 inches thick and heavily bonded was hard going with the little jigsaw but after several days of effort (spread over some weeks and battery charges) I managed it. As you may suspect the wood wasn’t as thick as the original plan and on mounting, the motor was protruding well over an inch underneath. This was not unexpected and I had ordered some legs to stand it on. Once the legs were fitted, and with some work still to do, I placed the turntable in situ to see what it looked like.
Hmmm this was not looking how I had envisioned. I asked for a second opinion from my girlfriend. She (unusually for her) gave a rather diplomatic response and I had to push her – “it looks shit, doesn’t it?” I said; and she agreed that given it was front and centre in the living room it was not something she wanted to look at every day. This was a setback.
I still had a fair amount of work to do (more drilling and mounting for the speed control and tonearm, cleaning and polishing and final set up) so this was the point I had to make a decision on whether to continue. This little project (one of many in-progress) had already taken some time and I was feeling somewhat deflated. I had to re-assess. Should I throw more money at this attempt which I had already decided wasn’t the end target?
Another business trip came so I had to pause.
During said trip I had some idle time and gravitated to eBay again. I realised that I could buy something working (not quite as boutique) for a lot less than I was imagining and after a lot of soul-searching I parted with probably a quarter of what I had already spent so far on a pretty little vintage deck that should (fingers crossed) work out of the box.
I will sell the work in progress project for as much as I can and keep the other one for a future project when I am a little better prepared. I have learned a few lessons so the time was not completely wasted and I have a much better idea of how the approach this when I finally get round to tackling this again. Time is not a big concern now.
The ‘new’ one arrives this week and I can’t wait to pull some black goodness out of its sleeve, set it spinning, place the needle down and listen to some beautiful sounds.