Saturday, 8 March 2014

My New HMV 101 Gramophone

 it was in early december that i decided to look for a gramophone on ebay again. i wanted to have one for a couple of years by then, but most of my money went into records instead. and of course, with gramophones, you have to be lucky to get one for a decent price and in a decent condition.

to my surprise, during my first quick search i found a black HMV 101 on ebay starting at £110. i gave it a try, and to my even greater surprise i was the only bidder and won it for the starting price on 15th dec 2013.

 the little device arrived by mail a couple of days later and i couldnt have been happier – it was SO beautiful! such a classy design, and looking absolutely fabulous even after some 80 years. of course i had already bought some steel needles and wanted to listen to some of the 78s that i had been collecting all the time without being able to play them.


even the original key for the lock was included!

 as it turned out, the gramophone hadnt been serviced in a long time (meanwhile i know that it hadnt been serviced at all since it was built). back then, graphite grease had been used as a lubricant for the springs, which is a quite good lubricant – but can you imagine what that stuff turns into after 80 years? well, the result was that the main spring, due not being properly lubricated, was too weak to spin the platter under the heavy sound box, so the platter would stop once the sound box was lowered onto the record.


quality brand


and real vintage!


fortunately i knew someone who owns and fixes a lot of gramophones and so i took my new treasure there and two weeks later i picked it up, not only fully cleaned and re-greased, but also with all the metal and wood parts polished. the leathercloth case had also been given a treatment. i still have to fix the leather handle, but at least it is in such a good condition that it doesnt need to be replaced.

here are some pictures of the single parts being restored:


the main spring. its a huge and strong spring, i would never dare to handle such a thing myself. i think its better to have somebody do it who has a lot of experience, so no one gets hurt :-) you can see the dried remains of the graphite grease (well, in fact only graphite was left). the guy i took it to said he had never ever seen a spring and a motor that dry. he even had to let it soak in before he could clean it.



the motor being dismantled



here you can see the spring drum at the top in the background



these parts are for starting and stopping the platter (hand brake) and for adjusting its speed



and this is the crank and the sound box


no parts needed to be replaced, not even the sound box. according to the guy who did this marvelous job my gramophone is a late type of the HMV 101 and must have been assembled shortly before this type was replaced by the HMV 102. he assumes that it was built around 1928/29. WOW! thats even older than i thought it was, i had thought it wasnt built before 1930 because thats when this brake mechanism was introduced (so i read).

 well, now it was time to finally play some really old records! i have around forty 78s lying around i had never played them before. the oldest record i have is from 1928. here are two of my favourites, recorded with my mobile phone. (you might need a proxy to watch them, as theyre blocked in some countries. try proxtube for instance)

if you are a fan of the movie ‘the blues brothers’ like i am, you will be familiar with this song. its hard to believe that it was almost fifty years old when that movie was shot, which is now 34 years old itself. and here it is, the original 1931 recording of ‘minnie the moocher’:


this is also a song most people will know. elvis presley covered it a year later or so, and i think this version is a bit rawer and tougher than his. here is ‘hound dog’, by willie mae ‘big mama’ thornton:

recording it with a cellphone and the file conversion lowered the sound quality a bit, the gramophone has a much better sound in reality, and – you would not believe how loud it plays! there are three types of needles (loud, medium and soft) and i used soft tone needles in these videos. i tried a medium one once and i went to the next room because it was so incredibly loud!

the speed can be adjusted next to the platter


heres the sound box without a needle in it


and here it is placed onto the record


this is the handle i still have to fix


it is a lot of fun to watch this little thing playing. and although it is a simple technique and very easy to understand, it still amazes me that it produces such a great and powerful sound without electricity! definitely the coolest toy for grown ups :-)


Labels: | 4 Comments


  1. avatar The Chairman said:

    A wonderful, sublime text – thanks a lot for sharing your experience. (What a work, what a reward!) And I’ve never actually felt/heard “Hound Dog”‘s presence with this verve .. Best, TC

  2. avatar Sophie said:

    I bought a 101 with a number 4 soundbox exactly like yours 5 years with a tonne of 78s. Recently the turn table stopped turning and it was only in trying to source a repairer that I discovered that I have a much sought after sound (in the world of gramophone enthusiasts at least). For a machine manufactured between 1926 and 1929 and a portable machine at that, the sound is extraordinary. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. avatar Patricia Owen said:

    Hi thanks for the article. I really enjoyed it!
    Would you by any chance know where I could find a crank for the HMV 101?
    Tricia Owen

  4. Hi Patricia,
    I would try and check ebay on a regular basis or save a search there. No cranks for the 101 seem to be for sale there now, but many other parts for this model are, so perhaps some day a crank will turn up, too. Unfortunately I don’t know any dealers or specialists who sell gramophone parts.
    Thanks for stopping by my website and best regards,

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