Decca Rally Gramophone

 I bought this recently for a small sum because the seller descibed it has having "something wrong with the winding".

I don't know much about these early wind-up gramophones but I imagined I might be able to fix a broken spring.

When it arrived I put on one side after trying the winder and finding it didn't engage.

Later I opened the lid and then decided to remove the chassis and see why the winding handle didn't seem to want to find the motor winding spring. I happened to remove the brake and much to my surprise the turntable whizzed round at seemingly 78rpm! Maybe the thing had broken recently?

Under the chassis I found that the winder appeared to be at right angles to the winding mechanism. I puzzled over this for a moment before the penny dropped. The winding handle pushes downwards to nearly horizontal against a spring-mounted plate and then is pushed over the winder. As simple as that. Of course it avoids having the winder sticking out the side and it minimises the overall size of the equipment. Obviously the vendor hadn't seen one of these before either! In fact the winding mechanism is as good as new and operates really smoothly. As I'd removed the chassis... another bonus... there must have been about 20 or 30 needles loose inside the case and most felt sharp so were either new or not had much use.

There was a dent in the metal front panel and a piece of the mounting wood was adrift. These were easily dealt with by judicious use of a G-Cramp and a block of metal. Next I resoldered the metal horn back in place, where the dent had dislodged it. Then I cleaned and polished the veined black marble finish and ran a phosphor bronze brush over the odd patch of rust and tightened the screws holding it all together. I put the "free" collection of needles in the little container on the left of the turntable.

It now it looks rather nice. Next I'll clean up the outer case and fit a replacement leather handle, as the original has long since disappeared leaving a strip of springy metal in its place.

How did it sound?

I put an old 78 on the turntable and it played very loudly. Too loud for those in the room not wishing to hear it and apart from stuffing a sock into the horn aperture one can't alter the volume (hence the expression, "put a sock in it?"). The lid won't close because the record overhangs the case... so min- volume =max-volume. To play a record the brake is turned off and the arm moved to switch on the mechanism. I was surprised to discover it even has an auto-stop to protect the life of needles. There's even a clamping arrangement to hold a few records in the lid. Surprisingly I couldn't find a method of retaining the arm. This seems to have to rest (on it's needle) in a small well at the side. Can anyone enlighten me on this point (sorry about the pun)? Maybe the rule is that one removes the needle when a session has finished?

When was it made? I'd guess about 1930.

Inside the case, visible only once the chassis has been removed, is the manufacturer's progress label. Written on this is, in joined-up writing..."Baker, 26 Mansell Road, Pembroke" and printed... "Op7 Maker 29". Was this the name of the person that assembled the player or had the owner removed the chassis and written his name on the label, perhaps to identify it if it were stolen and subsequently recovered? We'll probably never know... unless Mr or Mrs Baker reads this!

The motor and mechanism were made by Garrard and the Decca has the serial number U70968.

 

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