How To Mend A Record That Skips And Jumps…With A Toothpick

mending a scratched record with a toothpick

It is possible to mend a scratched record – and I’ve done it!

Mending a broken record is the holy grail for many record collectors. 

It also gives you a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when you succeed.High Tide and Green Grass Rolling Stones

When I say “broken” I mean an old record in one piece that nevertheless skips or jumps, presumably because of dirt or a scratch, or both.

A couple of years ago, I found a copy of The Rolling Stones’ first “Hits” compilation “High Tide and Green Grass” in a bargain bin at a record fair. It was priced at a *steep* £1, but the cover was glossy (albeit creased), with a large six page “book” of photos and it was an unboxed green Decca label, dating it to when the record was first released. Even if the record was scratched, I reasoned, trying to justify the lavish expenditure to myself, it was still worth it for the cover.

The inside cover of The Rolling Stones' High Tide and Green Grass

The inside cover of The Rolling Stones’ High Tide and Green Grass

Sure enough, as I took it home and played the thing it took about thirty seconds into opening track “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing In The Shadows)?” for the record to skip (the rest of the record was fine). I sighed a resigned sigh, accepting the old adage that when something looks too good to be true, that’s usually because it is.

And that was that, until I heard about a method of mending scratched records using a toothpick. “Surely that wouldn’t work?” I mused sceptically, as I do most things, but given that I had nothing to lose except the pound I had spent on my jumping copy of “High Tide and Green Grass” I decided to give it a go.

Against all reasonable odds and expectations, it worked.

Rather than keep the method to myself and become a millionaire operating a clinic fixing broken records, I thought I would share the method here….I know, I know – I’m a fool to myself, but I’m generous like that. Here it is:

One toothpick: unused.

One toothpick: unused.

Step 1. Grab a wooden toothpick. I found one in a restaurant and pocketed it. NB. Don’t use it for its intended purpose first. That’s unpleasant.

Note hand on left slowing the record down. Out of shot: cat about to jump on the turntable.

Note hand on left slowing the record down. Out of shot: cat about to jump on the turntable.

Step 2. Locate the area on the record that jumps. This is trickier than it sounds because it is spinning quickly, and black vinyl is deceptively featureless, but I have a method that should help: As the record spins on the turntable, it will skip in the affected area. As it does so, look at the label in the centre to see which bit is pointing to the needle as the record jumps. It took me eight unsuccessful tries before I sussed this somewhat elementary method, which probably says more about me than anything else…

What are you doing you crazy fool? You'll kill us all!

What are you doing you crazy fool? You’ll kill us all!

Step 3. Take the record off the turntable and insert the end of the toothpick in the grooves where you reckon the skipping occurs. This feels odd, as we are always advised never to touch the surface of a record, especially with a pointy stick, but it’s okay.

Move the pick back and forth within the groove in the area where the record is affected. In my case there was an area of ingrained dirt that was blocking the needle, causing it to jump and skip. The toothpick dislodged a fairly long streak of dirt that resembled a scratch and all was well. The toothpick wood is soft enough to not unduly damage the record and sufficiently hard to remove the dirt.

NB Don’t try this on CDs. Or cassettes. Or rare paintings, furniture, other people’s faces, pets, cars etc.

A record playing, yesterday.

A record playing, yesterday.

Step 4. Play the record to see if you were successful. If not, try steps 1-3 again. As I said before: it worked for me. You can bend the vinyl slightly to open the grooves a little.

Microfibre cloth. Courtesy of Aldi.

Microfibre cloth. Courtesy of Aldi.

Step 5: Give the rest of the record a clean. When I buy an old record which is a bit grim, (cleanliness-wise I mean. I don’t mean “when I buy something by Morrissey”) I clean it with a micro-fibre cloth (you can buy two for £1 at Aldi) and a cleaning solution (I use “Into The Groove”, which you can find on eBay. A bottle last for ages).

'Cos you can dance. For inspiration...

‘Cos you can dance. For inspiration…

Have you tried the toothpick method? Did it work? Know any other methods? Do let me know in the comment section.

Click here for the wood glue method of cleaning your vinyl



Categories: Music

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57 replies

  1. look at that lovely lovely original green decca label…the gered mankowitz photos are terrific.

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  2. I’m scared to try the toothpick method. But if I run into a record that skips, I may as well try. Thanks for the tutorial!

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  3. Cool idea — I’m terrified to try it. But, maybe …

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  4. Nice! I have a couple o’ records that I’ll try this out on! … I’ll let you know how I get on!

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  5. I don’t know what ppl are scared about – a fucked up record is a fucked up record so how can you possibly make it any worse? Just watched the ‘wood-glue’ demo and thought the same thing. Might as well try to improve it instead of being scared of damaging it further. I mean, if it doesn’t play…. at least you still have the cover to drool over.

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  6. Works for me too, just fixed two records – one by The Doors and one by The Faces!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fixed my long jumping Fall LP. Thanks

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  8. I just put a bit of weight (i.e. a finger) onto the arms and the needle pops out the dirt. Ok prob not the best thing for the needle but I’ve done this since the 70s and fixed loads of jumps.

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  9. Reblogged this on It's A Raggy Waltz and commented:
    This may have just saved my life

    Like

  10. Another hint. I had a copy of the “Beatle’s White Album” that had candle wax imbedded in the groove. I tried a lot of the ways suggested on the webb but nothing worked. Then I discovered “GooBeGone”. It dissolved the wax and a final clean in my disc cleaner and it was like new.

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  11. Wow this method works amazing. There is no reason to be afraid to put the toothpick to the record. The toothpick eliminates the skip and doesn’t damage the sound.

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  12. Someone on you tube tried very fine sandpaper (yes I know lol) but hey it worked it repaired the damage on the groove surface that was causing the needle to jump. The record looked a bit bad after it but it worked

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  13. Some people would say I shouldn’t have done this to a damaged copy of McCartneys Press to Play, but I love this LP so screw you brother or sister. Anyway miracle of miracles the tooth pick popped out a big piece of craps causing the record to skip. Legend man thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fixed some records with this method. I also use eraser for fixin loops: just rub the record in place of looping (in the rotational direction)

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  15. it didn’t work for me…my original Grease soundtrack. Do you have any other suggestions?

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  16. Do you think this would work on a 7″ 45 rpm record? I have an extremely rare blank label pressing of a Bob Marley record that has a scratch in it. What do you think? Thanks.

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  17. It works! Just fixed several skips on a great record show find. I’m doing my happy dance! Now the boyfriend wants me to try it on a couple of his albums, lol. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You just saved my copy of Richard Thompson’s ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ that skipped in the first 5 seconds of ‘Shoot Out The Lights’. I wanted to puke every time it jumped. Got it the first time with the tooth pick. Would never have thought of trying that. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. WORKED ! Saved a record I had resigned to skipping…. Thanks for taking the time to post!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I used this method to fix a skip in the Pete Townsend tune, “Heartache”. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Worked for me! My copy of Suggie Otis Freedom Flight is restored! Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Just tried it on a record that’s had a skip in it for over 30 years, it was the second record I ever bought. And it WORKED! Thanks so much for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Suggestion:
    For all you younguns’ use your cell phone and snap a pic when the skip occurs.
    For all us old farts, use your rotary dial phone and gently mark your record label with the soft end (just kinding on that one).
    Observation:
    Just the cynic in me, but if this takes off, watch for the record companys to boost the price of toothpicks…and if you are unfortunate enough to live in californicate, USA, our esteemed lawmakers will charge a fee for misuse of food related products OR ban them entirely…all I can say is I’ve seen it before.
    Stock up on toothpicks today before they are $20.00 each!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. This is great never tried it but I’m going to! I have however used the weighted needle method which works but I don’t recommend as it can cause irreparable damage to your stylus.

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  25. I would be more inclined to clean ALL newly acquired records first. If it skips, clean it a second time before attempting any type of methods mentioning the use of dragging or poking anything into record grooves. If it is dirt, the liquid cleaning solution should soften any dirt and make it easier to let go of the record surface….. ( just my opinion of course ). We all want to preserve our records the best way possible.

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  26. The toothpick method has always worked beautifully for me. It has also been very effective in removing an actual scratch, or a surface scuff that was deep enough to affect the playback. What I did was take a toothpick, put it in a drill and sandpaper the point to a right angle. Then you can carefully “scratch out the scratch” by carefully running the toothpick back-and-forth over the affected area. It works great!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. What I do is to press the middle a little bit to correct the grooves and it worked!!

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  28. Just salvaged Procol Hamum Home LP…Whiskey Train is now incredible…cowbell is king!
    Thanks mate!
    Cheers

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  29. Thanks so much, you’ve saved my copy of Brenda Lee’s “All The Way”!!! Wah!!! I’m super happy. And also, cats rule! ^~^

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Bought a copy of Blind Faiths first album in the cheap bin. Cleaned it and other than one skip area, it played perfectly. Found the spot, could actually feel the toothpick get caught up. Finally after a couple passes it broke free. Perfect album now. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I know that ‘tremendous feeling of satisfaction when you succeed..’ I’ve used a fingernail to remove a ‘skip’ that a seller said was reason to sell me an early Elvis record for 50 cents. Turned out it was a fleck of dried ‘something’ (I think a booger.) Trying your toothpick method on yet another Elvis record. But it’s requiring sitting through an irritating ‘Beach Shack’ from LP ‘Spin Out’ about 13 times now, right near the end…”I know girls by the BLIP…I know girls by the BLIP…I know girls by the BLIP…I know girls by the BLIP…I know girls by the BLIP…”
    Not working for this one.. I can’t SEE anything significant that would cause it. Frustrating!

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  32. Dude! It worked! My copy of led zeppelin 1 had a skip and I was dreading having to pay for a new one for todays prices, but this completely fixed the skip! There is a little crackle in that spot now, but hey, you can hear the whole song uninterrupted now. Excellent advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Didn’t use a toothpick but I used a velvet pad that I bought back in the 70’s with some washing up liquid and hot water. Scrubbed the track that jumped and voila it plays with just a little “pop” rather than a jump” Really pleased as the dealer let me have the album for free cos of the jump!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I will try this for sure this evening (on an old, but otherwise-in-good-shape McDonald and Giles LP). I’m pretty sure the problem here is a shallow scratch across grooves, and it’s hard to see how this method could fix that. But I’m game to try! Thanks for the tip.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I’m glad the toothpick worked for you, but before using wood on vinyl, I would first try using a cotton-tipped swap soaked in alcohol and just rub it gently back and forth in the area of the skip. This is less intrusive to the wax, plus you needn’t have to be so accurate as to exactly where the skip is located. Then wash the area of the skip in dish detergent and warm water. I guarantee this works, and it keeps you from causing more damage with wood – especially if it’s being used to push the dirt or grime further into the vinyl…

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I had to leave a comment because I have a 3-album Lee Scratch Perry box set that isn’t that easy to snag called Build the Ark. I love it, but one song at the end of side 1 skipped. It drove me nuts and of course I started avoided playing the first album of the set, even though it’s great. Well anyways, i cleaned it a few times to no avail. I couldn’t notice a scratch or anything so it was frustrating and mysterious. After searching around on google i found this post. I was skeptical. But i tried to identify the area on the record that the skip was occurring at. Eventually I stopped the record and manually found the spot, running it over a few times to confirm. With a magnifying glass I spotted the tiniest speck, like a grain of sand. I didn’t have a toothpick, so broke a chopstick and took a toothpick-sized splinter. I worked it pretty gently, then a little harder. Suddenly i felt it give way. It was tiny but practically glued in there in the groove somehow. I wiped the record off and voila! the skip was gone!!!!! Game changer! Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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