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