Friday, November 20, 2015

Bake me a dozen reels please?

Toward the end of last winter, I came upon a cache of reel-to-reel tapes going back to the early 1980s. Among them is a complete recording of a KPF941 program from November 11, 1984.

A short segment of this program was replayed in a Pirates Cove program, hosted by Allan Weiner and aired on WBCQ on December 21, 2003. Alan's copy of the program was recorded via a telephone feed from the studio in Yonkers, NY. What I found was a more complete copy of that show recorded off air at the studio.

When I went to digitize the tape it tape squealed like a pig and wobbled like a weeble.

A couple of other tapes were exhibiting this behavior, too. So, I thought it time to give some maintenance attention to the Akai 4000DS Mk II tape deck that I have owned since about 1977. Lot's of rubber was replaced. I replaced belts, I replaced the pinch wheel roller, and I adjusted what could be adjusted. Yet the tapes still squealed and wobbled.

Further reading on the interwebs revealed that older tapes can absorb moisture and shed metal oxide as they age. This leads to friction as the tape passes over the heads. I then read about a service that would bake your tapes for about $100 each and return them to you. The baking was supposed to remove the moisture build up long enough for you to get a good enough play to digitize the contents. The price was for a single sided 30 minute tape.

So I decided to take up home baking. I found a suitable metal take up reel on eBay that used to go for $6 at Radio Shack but with rarity inflation factored in cost me about $40. The metal reel was important because a plastic reel would warp or melt under extended heat conditions. If this process worked for one tape I would be way ahead of the game. I wound the tape that I wanted to bake onto this reel, loosely wrapped it in aluminum foil and baked in the toaster oven for 90 minutes at 150 degrees F.

This may sound crazy but last night I baked. It worked so far on 2 tapes. I have salvaged some classics and you will soon hear the results!

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