27 January, 2011

Talk Vinyl: Restoration of Garrad 301 Part II

Talk Vinyl: Restoration of Garrard 301 Part II

In Part I of this report, I showed you the sorrowful state of my second Garrard 301. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to my good old friend Robin the Scot for restoring it for me!!! And doing it while he had his hands full with his own Otari reel-to-reel restoration project! Robin sent me several emails regarding the progress and they make a wonderful Cinderella story! Enjoy!

More than a Bath - The Scut Work
"...Your Garrard is coming along very nicely. I took a break from the Otari project and spent the weekend stripping it down, cleaning it and re-lubing everything, and over the last couple of evenings I've tidied up and re-sanded the plinth table, and also made an acrylic arm board to suit a Rega arm (using an old R200 I have - the first arm for the Planar 2 and 3.)

Everything's now clean, and 55 years' worth of accumulated gunk and grime has all gone. The motor was caked with rust and tiny grit, but luckily no visible damage to the armature or shaft/bearing (i.e. it's fine.) Likewise with the main turntable spindle and bearing: it was all jammed up with gobs of hardened grease inside, and there were serious score marks and pitting on the shaft itself (bad karma!) But after cleaning and rinsing in white spirits, followed by careful rubbing with 0000-grade steel wool, all the scoring and pitting turned out to be just superficial accretions, and were easily removed -- so again, no damage!

Next, I stripped down, cleaned and re-lubed the idler wheel bearing, and thoroughly cleaned the rubber idler wheel itself. Fortunately, it's in excellent condition -- no significant wear or flat spots in evidence. As for the original gray paintwork on the deck: half of it was worn away, so the aluminium surface is showing through, but I quite like the aged, patina effect, so I wouldn't recommend having it resprayed.

I did a first test-run the other day, using thick motor oil in the main bearing and shaft, and it all worked very smoothly. Then last night I drained and repacked the main bearing and shaft with proper, heavy-duty GREASE -- the real McCoy, made from pure distilled black petroleum (no fancy modern additives such as Molybdenum) -- just what Garrard would have used in the mid-1950s. This stuff is really thick, but amazingly, the turntable fired up without a murmur and got up to full operating speed within 2 or 3 seconds. (A round of applause for that huge, shaded-pole synchronous motor, please!) I left it running for a few hours to warm up the grease, tightening the shaft lube adjuster every now and then to force more grease in, as it gradually softened up and circulated around the shaft sleeve and bearing. I'll top it up again tonight, then we're done..."

Fitting an Arm
"...I've also set the arm pivot hole / turntable spindle geometry exactly right -- 222 mm -- using a Dr Feickert protractor. So you can drop any 9" Rega-style arm in there and it should sing very nicely. Right now, I've got the plinth board sitting on four wooden legs, but that's just temporary. Next time you're in town, please bring over the wooden plinth frame I gave you, so we can finalize the support structure. I have various nifty design ideas on that to run by you

Setting the arm height correctly is always a problem with the Garrards, because the platter is set so high. The acrylic arm board I've made brings it up to roughly the right height, but to get the arm sitting parallel to the platter, as required, we'll really need to get a Rega VTA adjuster (I have one on my own Garrard.) I think they're about GBP 25 -- shall I go ahead and order one?..."

Minor Surgery
"...Speaking of which, I've ordered the items I mentioned to you in my previous email -- new speed change lever, felt brake pad, plus new motor circlips (the old ones fell apart when I removed them). And it turned out you also needed a new spark suppressor/start switch -- the original one had died long ago, and the previous owner had "fixed" this by adding a 600 volt capacitor across the power leads -- a horrid solution that produced a scary noise from my speakers when I first switched the Garrard on. The parts should be arriving in a few days time, and then I can finish the job. Hopefully, you'll be able to start using using the turntable by Chinese New Year!..."

Extra Musings
"...Once we've got everything working nicely using this basic plywood plinth board, let's start thinking about a more elaborate plinth that will realize the full potential of this wonderful machine. I'm a big fan of using heavy slate board : high mass, supported on either ball bearings or chunky cones (Stillpoints are perfect, but pricey! http://www.stillpoints.us/Stillponts/Risers.html), to disperse the low-level vibrations from the motor and the subterranean rumblings from the planet. Also, that would be the time to add a 12-inch arm -- or have holes for two arms, if you fancy it.

Despite this several-day Garrard hiatus, my Otari project is moving ahead nicely too. Just yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and order an Eros tube tape-head repro amp kit from The Tape Project people. (There was no way I was going to replace the 100-plus caps on the existing repro amp board, and anyway the internal electronics on all tape decks, including even the high-end ones like Studer and Ampex, are really not up to scratch.) PLUS, after reading this: http://townshendaudio.com/hi-fi-vibration-isolation/stella-stand/ , I decided to try cork supports (the big chunky ones from Ringmat I had lying around) to raise up the front of my big Yamaha speakers, instead of the metal cones I was using before. It really works: there was an immediate added clarity and coherence to the entire sound. And I didn't have to pay Townshend GBP 2000 to get this result..."

Singing Again
"...This afternoon, I set up an AT OC-9 cartridge on your Garrard and tried it out with an actual LP. For some reason the right channel wasn't working -- must be a wiring problem in the R-200 arm. So instead I switched to a mono LP (Julian Bream's classic Westminster anthology, "A Bach Program for the Guitar"), set the preamp to Mono, and sat back and listened. Divine sounding! Not a hint of any mechanical glitches!

Next I compared the same record playing on my own Garrard setup, to see if any obvious differences emerged between the basic wooden plinth and my slate one. Happily, mine sounded even better -- but one would expect it to do so, what with the kontrapunkt B and Stillpoint supports etc. Right now, yours simply has four wooden legs attached to the plywood board. Preliminary conclusion: once we're all done, your Garrard should sound every bit as good as mine, and possibly even better. When you come over, we can do an A-B shootout between the two setups. Winner pays for drinks afterwards!..."

Complete Rehabilitation!
"...I just fixed the R-200 wiring problem (loose wire inside the arm base!), then reconnected the deck to the amps -- and everything works beautifully in stereo now. I'm playing Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.3 right now on your Garrard. I did a pretty good cartridge setup -- the alignment geometry and stylus pressure are both correct -- but I can't set the anti-skate bias, as the bias adjuster is broken on my R-200 arm. Even without the full-nine-yards setup, however, I'm hearing great dynamics, excellent channel separation, and an overall lovely sound. I think you're going to like it. My only regret is that I didn't take any photos of the motor and platter spindle/bearing assemblies just after I first stripped them down. The sheer amount of gunk and dirt was fairly spectacular (DJ-I'd have loved to have seen it)! ..."

"...I went ahead and stained the plinth a dark Indian Rosewood colour -- I think it looks rather sleek and sexy, alongside the grey metal turntable!..."

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