On Repairing Needle Digs

Used to be, if one of my records had a needle dig, I just figured it was what it was.  If it skipped, there was nothing I could do but fiddle around with the tracking force and anti-skate settings, and if it repeated, what a shame.  Then, in a bold move motivated by an annoying skip in my copy of “It’s Tight Like That” by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, I decided to attempt to fill a dig and improve its playability.  I had heard of using grease pencils to fill digs, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I decided to try a crayon.

To test my idea, with my damaged copy of “Cheek to Cheek” by Fred Astaire in hand, I found myself a black crayon, and simply “drew” in the needle dig.  Much to my amazement, the dig, which previously rendered the record unplayable, passed with just a few small clicks!  Thrilled by the results, I successfully repaired that annoying skip in “It’s Tight Like That”, then a dig on “Fan It” by Frankie Half Pint Jaxon that skipped “till the” between “fan it, cool it” and “cows come home”.  Then, armed with my trusty crayon and newfound ability, I proceeded to repair repeating digs in a treasured Blind Lemon Jefferson record, and a particularly troublesome stripped groove on a Big Bill Broonzy record.

If the results aren’t quite satisfactory, or there’s excess crayon in surrounding grooves causing noise when it passes, a quick spin of the affected area with a fibre needle on the old Victrola takes off the excess wax and should do negligible harm to the record.  Alternatively, you can use a loose phonograph needle (fibre or steel) to carefully scrape the excess out of the grooves yourself.  The removed crayon shavings can then be dusted away.  If just trying to remove excess crayon after a successful repair, take care not to go too far in to the dig, as it could ruin the repair.

Though it sometimes takes a bit of effort to get it just right, sometimes you just have to pile on as much as you can and scrape off the excess, and sometimes the dig will still skip a little bit, but hopefully not repeat, I’ve found that this method can immensely improve the playability of a damaged record.  It is also quite aesthetically discreet, the black crayon blending in well with the surrounding shellac.  Indeed, this method is not entirely permanent, and must occasionally be reapplied, as the needle takes off a bit of the added wax with each passing, but it certainly helps make a record more playable, and especially aids in the transferring process.

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