Monthly Archives: November 2012

Stellavox SM5 restoration progress

The motors from a Stellavox SM5 and a Fi-Cord 101S are identical. Except they run in opposite directions. Shown is the rear centrifugal startup flywheel. 

Here’s the record electronics, the db15 connector/cable is running to the transport for testing.

Here is the motor speed regulator board. That ’61 is year.

Here is the tape transport and the electronics. Ipod Nagra in the background. I work on about 6 projects at once.

The Stellavox SM5 project is moving ahead. Got the motor running. Imagine, the armature was rotating around the shaft, and apparently the fixation was lost between the two. That was a freakin’ mystery. Imagine hearing the motor spin, but the shaft did not turn. Twilight Zone!   No way to take the motor apart without destroying it. A few well aimed taps on the shaft with a hammer seems to have fixed it. I’ve removed and installed that motor on the transport about twenty times. Now to prime and paint the wooden enclosure, which has the integrity of a cigar box. Originally covered in Tolene (guitar amp vinyl covering), it looked like crap. The wood is too cheap to finish out, so I’ll prime and paint to some astonishingly lovely color (yet to be decided) and add rubber feet on the bottom. Fun!

1st coat of primer on the box. Notice the inspiration for this Blog name in the background.

Ah, the slow time of year…

You know, I haven’t worked in about two weeks. And I’m having the time of my life.

My daughter’s home from college, watching her become an adult is like, what… a butterfly emerging. My son’s been out of (home)school for Thanksgiving,  and we’ve re-roofed the doghouse, hit the skatepark, cleaned his room, and broke into the fireworks.  Sally’s made a stunning amount of Thanksgiving food that’s all gluten-free. I’ve been raking leaves, washing windows,  playing with the dogs, and projects. Ohhh, the projects.

There’s some home projects, it’s true. I have 20 reflectors on our flat roof that keep the 2nd floor cool in summer, that I stacked and tarped for the winter. We had a lot of tree work done, and Joey and I sliced it up into firewood. Good lesson for Joey on the circular saw. I replaced my 2001 GMC Safari Van with a newer model, and finally got around to selling the old one. Treadmill 30 minutes every day. Did it twice on Thanksgiving. (Still loosing the war, tho…)

Watching “The Walking Dead” on the treadmill. All caught up on “Homeland,” waiting for the new episodes to emerge. Waiting for the mid-season break of “Breaking Bad,” or is it just me? My illegal download site doesn’t show any episodes beyond #8.

Just took delivery on three “Greta” tube amplifiers from Fender, so I can see how they can be hacked/modified into Ipod docks or something… got ’em for half price on Black Monday. $99! No Tax! Free Shipping!

The Fender “Greta” table-top amplifier.

And finally, digging deep into a restoration, a Stellavox SM5 portable reel recorder. A stunning Swiss Watch of analog recording heaven…if only I can get the DC motor to hold steady speed. Take it apart, and it explodes…an overnight run test should bear out if I have the solution- seems like a victim of water damage.  This tiny recorder is a jewel, and the record electronics are working upon power-up. Just have to re-finish the cigar-box wooden case (what color?) , get that motor running, make a custom drive belt, and re-assemble. I’ll soon have 50-12000hz response in a 7″x4″ box with 3″ reels of recording tape. Machined gold-anodized aluminum parts, lots of tiny screws, massive flywheels and vintage germanium record electronics.  And a hot modulometer.

Stellavox SM5, full track mono with synchronous recorder with pilot, 1961

Also working on the Nagra Ipod Dock at the same time. Trying to incorporate some kind of record capability into this beast… Having trouble finding a record amplifier with bias oscillator to create a slap-back echo affair on the tape drive. While still a functioning custom Nagra-based Ipod dock. And then the Lightining connector had to come along. Shit. This thing’s been in the works for over a year.

The Nagra Ipod Dock on the bench. . It must record. Or will it?