Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Sonora phonograph; it's a far cry from sounding clear as a bell.

It's a Sonora antique phonograph, currently still in the soon-to-be-repaired process, I hope. What very little information I could find on this particular machine, other than the company's existence and who manufactured them, was a man named John Herzog. The Sonora phonograph company was founded in 1913 and closed in 1930. Sonora was a Swiss-American company that jumped on the phonograph bandwagon when these mechanical phonographs were still in their infancy. Slogans such as "Clear as a bell" was one such trademark on their phonographs and 78 records. On the phonograph lid is stenciled with a water slide decal: "Panama-Pacific International Exposition 1915". However, this is extremely vague information to go on. I did research on the information found on the tag affixed to the phonograph located under the turntable and ran into a dead end since there were literally tons of different Sonora phonograph models in production. The most common to see are the "baby grand" style with bulging sides and intricate wood grille. Those particular phonographs are more desirable in my opinion, but nothing like the one I turned up by happenstance. So, for a trade and $27; this Sonora found a new home in the garage for the present time.

The critical issues:
The double mainsprings. These are imperative to get repaired by a professional, of which, I'm not and don't claim to be, either. Until these are repaired, this phonograph won't spin any 78's.
The reproducer or "sound box", the mica diaphragm will need to be replaced and a new gasket o-ring installed to achieve maximum sound quality.

The important little items: The cabinet screws. I'm not complaining that I potentially got myself into a project that will take months perhaps to complete, but for the life of this little phonograph; what became of those tiny screws and main board bolts? This might take a trip to my nearest hardware store to find replacement screws.

Oh, and the lid will require a hinge, screws and bracket arm to hold the lid in place when its raised. I'll get on that as soon as humanly possible.

So was the trade worth it? The main components are present, so yeah. The rest, I believe, will be easy to put back together.
What are those marks on the turntable felt? They appear to be mud dauber residue. In fact, the machine was covered on the inside with similar residue in the speaker as well. Well, given this little phonograph's extremely vague provenance, and the state of this cabinet, it required a good thorough cleaning with a gentle solution of bleach, mild dish soap and water. The turntable felt wasn't cleaned. The main components of this phonograph are nickle-plated and polished up good considering the age of the phonograph. The "After pictures" will be posted as soon as this project is complete.

Update: Well, it's bad. The teeth are cupped in. The fibre gears are damaged, the mainsprings were jammed and one of them does appear to be broke. Will I decide to keep this particular phonograph? I will have to hear how it plays, and if it plays "clear as a bell" as the advertisement proclaims, then yes, I might consider keeping it even though its a low end model. After all that gets done, then the hard part comes in: how to recreate a wood grill like it once originally had. That's another project saved for another day. Oct. 7, 2013- No two Sonora phonographs are alike I'm finding out and its frustrating. I have found no other low end model like mine (pictured above)anywhere on the Internet. I have seen some that 'appear' to be a close runner up. And what I erroneously thought were two screw holes for a metal plate where the lid support goes might be inaccurate. So what, if anything, do those screw holes represent? Likely nothing more than decoration that serves no actual purpose. After this fiasco with Sonora, no more foreign antiques. Trying to find the correct part for them is like cramming an engine from a 76' Datsun into a 58' Ford Edsel, for example. This is still a work in progress, by the way. Oct. 24, 2013- The Sonora motor and parts had quite a journey! They traveled to the wrong address, and then re-routed to my current location. It's still a work in progress. Nov. 1, 2013- I fought, fussed, and gave it my all. But... The Sonora does not meet (or even exceed) my strict standards of quality. It doesn't even hold up to its slogan, 'Clear as a bell', either. Well, now if it wasn't for the flimsy design to play French Pathe 78's, it might have played a normal thin 78 Victor. Alas, I had to support the tone arm and the reproducer just to hear a whisper-quiet playback... uh-- nope. That just won't do. The reproducer will need to be professionally rebuilt, which can run into a sum of money. The reproducer had no way to support its own weight and down it struck the thin shellac record's surface and wobbled... and then skittered across the very beautiful "Hand in Hand Again" by Albert Campbell. Am I out what I sunk into it? Not entirely, but I won't blame anybody that doesn't want a cobbled together-- err, I mean, a fine Frankenstein sitting in their parlor just for looks. It does play, but it has to be one of the strangest phonographs I had ever tackled. I did give it my best effort, but the rest I will leave for some other time.

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