Vinyl Inspection Rig

This started off as an attempt to build a basic inspection rig with the intention of viewing and removing the sources of the odd annoying pop.
It ultimately led to a workable approach to repairing scratches.

The rig consists of a fairly basic microscope mounted on a wooden base which is finished with a felt covering to allow the vinyl to slide.
A simple LED lamp (sourced from Ikea) provides the necessary illumination.





Odd pops are typically due to embedded dirt that the cleaning regime has failed to remove.
I know roughly where the culprit is, referencing whereabouts the pop was into the track and where it lines up with the label.
Find the offending bit of lodged dirt under the scope and am generally able to remove with a careful prod with a suitable tool.

For this I returned to that rather versatile plant – The Cactus

A spliced cactus thorn into a wooden carrier is pretty much perfect for this task.



Fine grade wet 'n' dry paper (dry) was used to sharpen the tip to a fine point.
An advantage with a cactus thorn is if it accidently jumps sideways (quite easily done, especially when first starting out) it doesn't appear to damage the grooves.
When formed down to groove size it seems to be just stiff enough to move embedded particles, but soft enough not to cause damage when used carefully.


So what about scratches?

Through the scope you can see that the scratch rounds off the edge and pushes the (generally) still attached vinyl spur over and down into the groove



With a reasonably steady hand is is possible to chase the groove and reduce the burr, unfortunately the sharpened cactus thorn was just not stiff enough to prize out and remove the damaged vinyl.

After quite a bit of experimentation I found that another grafted tool worked well in effecting repairs on scratches.

In this case it's a standard metal pin;





And the best end form to “chase out” the groove and minimise risk of damage is this;



The base of the diamond form rides in the groove, not the point.
Drop it gently into the groove just before the scratch and carefully slide through the damaged area driving the spur of vinyl up and out.
If it gets stubborn (carefully) angle the tool downwards and use the point to prize up the damaged vinyl.

100x magnification works best - you view more of the scratch area and it’s still good enough to drop the tool into the grooves and be able to witness the manipulation of the damaged material.

And the end result?

Initially it was a little varied, but this was more to do with developing the technique.  Typically though, I’ve been able to remove a loud repetitive pop into what I’d best describe as low level background crackle.

Here's an example using a very tatty album (not my primary copy) which was plain beat up, lots of surface marks and one horrendous scratch - Ideal for practicing
This one's pretty much as bad as it gets;


Here's links to clips of the intro to track 2, right in the meat of the scratch.

Left click to open with your browser Or Right click to Download - Save Target As

Left click to open with your browser Or Right click to Download - Save Target As

Not a bad result, especially bearing in mind the severity of the scratch, the grooves were full of damaged plastic.

This is just one example, I've now gone on and had success at a few scratches.
Some are too bad to remove the "pop" completely, but in most cases I can get it back to no more than low level background crackle, audible only in the very quietest of passages. In some cases it has been possible to eliminate all audible content.

If anyone is considering an approach similar to this, I would strongly recommend that you first develop and perfect the "Groove Chasing" technique on an unloved disc.
I initially caused more damage than good when starting out, but am now happy to apply to any record.


UPDATE



I've now bought a digital microscope and this has improved the process - Watching a PC screen instead of squinting down the microscope eyepiece is a lot less tiring.



It's also allowed the ability to take a few more pics showing the tool cleaning the groove.










And after 5 mins the grooves were cleaned out - In the below picture there is still some loose debris of removed, damaged material which was subsequently brushed away.



There's a quick video of the "Groove Chasing" Process HERE



Created by Mail To: davey_w@hotmail.co.uk: April 2012 - Updated September 2013