James Hedberg

LP record grooves, up close and clean

November 23rd, 2013 by

Cleaning records with wood glue seems to work quite well. I’ve done a few and they come out just fine, as long as you’re careful with where you put the glue and give it enough time to dry completely. My inner microscopist was interested in what the surface looked like before and after. Here are some images of a record before and after the wood glue treatment.

Before the images, here a little animation of a needle moving through a groove. It’s easy to imagine how a little piece of dust or dirt sitting in there would be enough to cause a violent disruption to the tracking.

The first image below is a shot of the record surface from a few inches above. Clearly, there is some dust scattered all over the place.

dusty record

A very dusty surface of a LP

Using a handy little USB microscope, I zoomed into see the grooves, and inspect what little buggers might lie within.

Some dirty grooves

Some dirty grooves

The grooves were full of these little particulates. Little isn’t even the right adjective when compared with the length scales of the features of the grooves. A collision between one of these balls of dirt and the needle would be about as unpleasant as that between a bicyclist pedaling quickly into a parked truck.

What is that orange thing? It looks like a piece of amber or ear wax.

What is that orange thing? It looks like a piece of amber or ear wax.

Is that a hair?

Is that a hair?

And so, I proceeded with the cleaning. One coat of tightbond 2 and about 8 hours dry time was all that was needed. After a careful peeling of the dried glue, I noticed immediately that the surface was nearly pristine.

A macroscopic view of the surface post cleaning. No dust no more.

A macroscopic view of the surface post cleaning. No dust no more.

Our eyes can deceive of course, so I hooked up the microscope again. Into the grooves we go.

microscopic view of cleaned LP grooves

microscopic view of cleaned LP grooves

More of the happy grooves, free of debris.

More of the happy grooves, free of debris.

Indeed, the grooves were now completely free of debris. No mini-boulders lying in wait for the innocent needle to smash into, and disrupt our listening with loud pops or crackles. Of course, the glue technique doesn’t offer a remedy for the other nemesis to the vinyl record: the scratch.

A scratch on a LP surface.

A scratch on a LP surface.