The discussion of various wire piqued my curiosity, so I did a little
digging. I didn't find the exact reference I was looking for, but found
a couple of similar citations. I think most of this research was done by
Brush Magnetics and Marvin Camras at Armour Research, with similar
research done by the Geramns.
The best reference I found was from "The Recording and Reproduction of
Sound" (Oliver Read-Author; Howard Sams-Publisher; ©1952). In the
section on wire recording, there is a reference to the use of medium
carbon steel wire, which was produced from medium carbon steel rod. I
think this was probably what some of the early Pierce wire stock was.
There is also reference from a Fidelitone source which outlines
differences between /"Regular Stainless Steel Wire"/ and /"Stainless
Steel Recording Wire"/. It essentially outlines the fact that the
Stainless Steel Recording Wire undergoes some specific QC and other
treatments during manufacture. There was quite a bit of research that
went into this at the time, and I haven't had a chance to look up all
the references. I do recall that there tended to be a high rejection
rate of the stainless steel rod used to produce the wire, and that it
had to fall within specific limits on the B & H curve.
In the excellent book titled "Elements of Sound Recording" by John
Frayne and Halley Wolfe (John Wiley & Sons, ©1949), there are references
in a response chart from Brush Development to /"Carbon Steel Wire", "420
Stainless Steel Wire", "Brush Wire Type BK-913",/ and /"Coated Paper
Tape"/. (If you're curious, the paper tape beats them all!).
As I recall, the reference that I had previously seen wire stock
referred to as "Type 1" and "Type 2" wire. Wish I could find the damn
I think the part of oxidation problem is as a result of the pot metal
that was used for making the wire spools, which in the case of
Webster-Chicago, I believe are anodized aluminum, although I have
frankly never researched it. I have seen problems in the past with
various anodizing, where either the metal was contaminated, or the
anodizing was not done quite properly, resulting a sort of white powder
substance. I'm not a chemist, so I will leave it to someone else to
speculate on exactly what the nature of this might be.
Your comments on print-through are interesting. It certainly would seem
that wire would be prone to this-strange that it doesn't appear more
often (on the other hand, the 40 db S/N ratio might have something to do
One of these days, in my spare time (yeah, right), I'm going to go down
to the IIT archives and take a look at the Armour papers relating to the
research on wire recording, although David Morton has already covered
much of this in his dissertation on Webster-Chicago.
(BTW-the Webster-Chicago plant still stands at 5610 W. Bloomingdale in
Chicago. I took some exterior photos a few years ago, and hope to make a
tour of it sometime).
Scott D. Smith
Chicago Audio Works, Inc.
Angie Dickinson Mickle wrote:
> Scott D. Smith wrote:
>> I always thought all the wire made by W-C was stainless as well, but
>> apparently there were at least couple of different grades (which I've
>> seen reference to in some literature from the 1940s. Would have to
>> dig for the source).
> I would be very interested in your reference to this when you get a
>> I have seen some wire which has exhibited a crystalline type of
>> oxidation (usually easily cleaned).
> I've seen this also. To me oxidation is rust, but this is definitely
> some environmental reaction. It does not seem to effect the recording
> or the integrity of the wire in the least. And I find it more often
> on the metal spool itself than the actual wire.
>> I've never really experienced any issues with print-through on wires.
> I hadn't either until very recently. A very loud volume passage on a
> wire definitely could be heard seconds later. It could be argued that
> that low level garbling that is frequently heard on wire could be
> print-through. On the other hand, it could be incomplete erasure of
> previous recordings. I could never tell. Weighing tails out storage
> to future playback equipment compatibility, I'd continue storing heads
> out with a proper, even wind. Because, here's my question. After
> being stored heads out for 50 or 60 years, how much worse can any
> print-through get?
> Angie Dickinson Mickle
> Avocado Productions
> Broomfield, CO