I don't know why anyone would suggest baking that videotape you described. It didn't have any kind
of sticky-shed I've ever heard of, it was contaminated. In that case, your method was clever and,
apparently, effective. And to further your point, contaminated tapes are a whole different animal
and need to be approached one at a time and dealt with one at a time.
I think you're saying that sometimes people bake tapes that they shouldn't. I have heard some tales
of record-company folks saying a blanket "bake the tape" whether or not it was exhibiting
sticky-shed or was of the know sticky-shed types. So, to be clear, I personally advocate baking
(because it's always worked for me) ONLY for known sticky-shed tape types and/or tapes clearly
exhibiting sticky-shed. Contamination isn't sticky-shed, nor is stuck splices. Nor, apparently, is
the kind of stiction Richard has described which requires cold-temperature playing.
Regarding Rosonol, that was definitely a favorite solvent of the old-timers. My father used it to
fill his Zippo lighter and to clean all manner of metal surfaces (including tape machines). I've
seen photos of Rosonol in several recording studios and mastering rooms. My bet is, it was used to
clean wax pencil residue off tape machine headblocks and control surfaces (wax pencils were often
used to mark edit points). I don't think it was used to clean tape heads but who knows. Back then,
Ampex and others made xylene-based head cleaners. There was another really nasty solvent that my
father used to have in the workshop, Carbona. It was a stain remover for dry-clean fabrics, I think.
I remember that was serious head-lightening fumes stuff, but it could remove oily stains from
As others have said, anyone messing with any of these chemicals should take great care for their own
health and also for safety regarding flammability and fumes that may hurt co-workers. The olden days
were different times as far as what was consider acceptable with using solvents and other chemicals
in enclosed spaces. I will say that when we used freon in the 90's, no one liked to be doing it, and
we were as conservative as possible. But it was the only solvent we found that dealt with those old
gooey splices and didn't damage the tape.
Finally, I say again that when you are dealing with a tape that requires you to get into dangerous
solvents to make it playable, it's a very good use of time and effort to see if you can locate a
backup copy that doesn't require extreme efforts to play.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Lindner" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 8:01 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape Backcoating
In an earlier email to Martin I specifically recommended Triclor 111 which was commonly called
"Freon" as one of the solvents to try, and I also recommended others.
Yes I have seen all sorts of goop over the years. Some of it does indeed collect on the surface -
some acts sort of like rubber cement, others like tar - there was a long list of nasty ukey stuff,
some stuck bad, some smelled bad, and some was just real bad bad - kind of like an "everything"
bagel. I have also seen some of it respond nicely to some solvents and others be hardened by the
same solvents. This is one reason why I am so resistant to single solution treatment suggestions -
my personal experience doing it myself and supervising a whole bunch of people doing it over a very
long time is that there can be huge differences. You really need to just be very careful and try
different things and vary both solvents and techniques for the removal of the goop. And yes, I did
even experiment with Ronsonol Lighter Fluid and Goop Off. I am not recommending that anyone do any
of that - you have to really be super careful and have the right environment and protection and some
of it (like Ronsonol) is extremely flammable. So no kidding - like Joe recommended - lots of
ventilation and more and it is really nasty work.
But - it is actually pretty satisfying when you actually figure it out, and you spend the time and
clean it off and can make it playback - and maybe only once... but you DO feel a sense of
My favorite? A videotape in a security VCR in a McDonalds that recorded a stick up was ejected from
the machine by the bad guys, and thrown into a 50 gallon drum of used cooking oil on their way out
of the store. No one knew. It was winter in Pennsylvania. The tape sat in the drum for weeks and
settled to the bottom. For weeks they would empty the dirty hot oil in several times during the day,
then it would get cold at night in the extreme temperatures. When they emptied the barrel the tape
fell out. I eventually got the tape after a law enforcement agency (name starts with an F) screwed
around with it. It took a very long time. I found that surfactants could be mixed in such a way to
remove just the oil. I put the tape in an open vcr that i specially modified so that I had straws
taped to the drum where the tape came in contact with the heads. I then had an array of spray cans
of triclor solvent that was in an aerosol form (used for airplane engine maintenance) and rigged so
that I could spray any of the cans I chose to. I found the end of the rf and backed up about a
couple of minutes worth. I let it roll, the tape was bathed in triclor while playing back. It worked
once. That is all it needed to work. They ended up in jail.
Email: [log in to unmask]
Media Matters LLC.
450 West 31st Street 4th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10001
eFax (646) 349-4475
Mobile: (917) 945-2662
Media Matters LLC. is a technical consultancy specializing in archival audio and video material. We
provide advice and analysis, to media archives that apply the beneficial advances in technology to
On Feb 8, 2012, at 7:22 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
> Hi Jim:
> I should have stated that my comments were limited to audio tape (1.5 mil and 1 mil thickness).
> I've never messed with the thinner tapes and I don't know what the consequences of any of this are
> with non-linear-recorded tapes or information-dense formats.
> With what Martin is describing, I can't see why baking does what he is describing it doing. Do you
> or anyone else have some facts as to the mechanism that would cause the globs to remain sticky
> "tar-balls"? All I can think is, they are globs of concentrated goo that can't be baked back to
> non-gooey-ness at a temperature and time that won't damage the playable tape. If it were me with
> those tapes, I would invest a lot of time into seeking backups, even off-air recordings if they
> are radio or TV soundtracks. I think you stand a better chance of getting usable audio that way.
> Martin, have you tried freon on those gobs? That's nasty stuff but it worked really well on
> splices that had gone gooey on 1950's brown-oxide tapes that were otherwise fine. The method was,
> use freon to dissolve the splice-goo on the outside of the tape pack, slowly wind to the splice,
> then very conservatively dab freon on whatever small globs of splice-goo were on the tape. If the
> mylar back of the splice had dried out and thus broke the splice, very conservative application of
> freon was used to dissolve all the white dried out glue and sticky goo. Then a new splice was
> applied (cleaning and re-splicing taking place in a splicing block). This worked on 1/4", 1/2"
> tapes (both 1.5 mil thick) and 35mm mag-film. I'm wondering if you can rig up something similar to
> attack those globs. I think your problem might be that by the time you expose a glob, it's damaged
> the playback surface (oxide)?
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Jim Lindner" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 6:19 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape Backcoating
> Tom there are many instances where baking before cleaning is not advised, and Martin nicely
> described just one of them. I would extend that and say that there are many situations where
> baking is not advised at all, and if so only after other processes have been tried beforehand and
> have failed and all other avenues exhausted.
> On this list, posters are used to discussion of primarily 1/4" audio tape. There are, however,
> many different types of tape including ones that have completely different binder system from 1/4"
> audio. Some stocks have base films that are just fractions of the thickness of 1/4" audio and have
> recording densities orders of magnitude higher then audio tape. Magnetic Media is used in many
> different application areas and have totally different formulations, thicknesses, and
> characteristics such as abrasivity (for example) are totally different. Different tapes are
> designed for differing head to tape contact and head tip penetration, and all of these factors are
> critical in the development of appropriate product for the recording format, and they are far from
> the same. Consider the differences between MP and EM tape for example - there is almost nothing
> the same about them other then them being called tape and them having recordings on them. In
> almost all situations baking EM tape would be ill advised.
> Some even have the word Video or Data or Instrumentation before the word Tape. These tapes have
> different formulations and respond differently to baking, and even more to the point, SSS is not
> just one thing and has become a general description to a wide variety of maladies that vary a
> great deal in terms of the amount of tenacity of the adhesive as well as the location of it and
> the thickness and composition of it. While a tape may be "sticky", the problem may not be SSS and
> so the appropriate treatment of it may vary considerably.
> Not all tapes have linear tracks - and tapes that have helical recordings have some rather
> different issues then those with linear tracks. Deformation in base film of linear recorded
> tracks - particularly if they are wide half or full track audio recordings likely would not be an
> issue. Deformations of basefilm for videotape that have helical recordings and therefore have
> tracks across the tapes (and in particular azimuth recordings on high density recording media),
> can lead to mistracking issues and reduced rf output. This can lead to the loss of servo lock and
> catastrophic failure to play back. This is because non-linear basefilm deformation can cause the
> tracks to skew. Playing back skewed tracks in some formats is extremely difficult - particularly
> when the skew is not consistent from one section of the tape to the next - and the result can be
> extremely serious. Some machines can compensate and other not, and this varies for format type as
> well as particular machine models and even to the specific machine being used for playback and its
> specific calibration at that time. Interchange becomes a huge issue because the deformation of the
> tracks creates a non-standard recording = sometimes - and it may only last a millisecond or two.
> Certain tapes have been exposed to damage during their life that would be compounded by baking.
> Tapes that have, for example, particulate contamination or have other types of contamination
> caused by floods or exposure to caustic environments should not just be stuck in the oven because
> they are sticky. I have personally dealt with tapes that have become septically contaminated - and
> are sticky, but there clearly may be other mechanisms in play that can cause the stickiness.
> Physically cleaning tape prophylactically when performed correctly can and has often pre-empted
> the need for baking in virtually thousands of tapes that I personally was involved with over a
> decade. However, there is a certain amount of skill and expertise required.
> Taking 2 Asprin and calling the Dr. in the morning may be fine for the common cold but not likely
> helpful for Appendicitis or Cancer.
> Jim Lindner
> Email: [log in to unmask]
> Media Matters LLC.
> 450 West 31st Street 4th Floor
> New York, N.Y. 10001
> eFax (646) 349-4475
> Mobile: (917) 945-2662
> Media Matters LLC. is a technical consultancy specializing in archival audio and video material.
> We provide advice and analysis, to media archives that apply the beneficial advances in technology
> to collection management.
> On Feb 8, 2012, at 4:48 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
>> Who would "advocate" fast-winding or playing a sticky tape before it is baked? That is idiotic
>> advice and should be ignored! The tape is _STUCK_ (ie "sticky") and it will _SHED_ (ie layers of
>> the tape will separate) if the tape pack is molested until it has been baked and cooled. I've
>> never, never had a problem with tapes de-layering after they've been baked the proper time at the
>> proper temperature. I have had tapes (Scotch 227, 3600' reels) that still deposit moderate
>> amounts of white goo on the guides after proper baking and cooling, but they played back fine
>> (there wasn't enough goo to jam up the tape travel).
>> I can't understand why there is still any "debate" about this -- a sticky-shed tape needs to be
>> baked before anything is done to the tape pack (playback, fast-winding, etc). The good news is,
>> plastic reels can withstand recommended baking temps and times, and if they end up a little
>> warped, just gently/slowly spool the baked tape onto a new reel and dump the warped one. If the
>> tape is on a hub, I recommend you place a flange under the hub, bake it and then handle it very
>> carefully because baking tends to result in a loose tape pack.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Nigel Champion" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 3:32 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape Backcoating
>> Perhaps the problem here is not that the tape was baked but that it was re-wound before baking!
>> I cringe when I see this advocated.
>> Pressure on inner windings in conjunction with sticky shed syndrome can create a core as solid as
>> a hockey puck, especially if storage conditions have been sub-optimal. In such situations,
>> pinning and delaminating is almost inevitable.
>> Good luck
>> Nigel Champion
>> Archive Manager & Audio Conservator
>> Archive Of Māori & Pacific Music
>> The University of Auckland
>> Private Bag 92109
>> Auckland 1142
>> Tel: 64-9-373-7599 ext 85008
>> Fax: 64-9-373-7441
>> Web: http://www.library.auckland.ac.nz/ampm/
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
>> Of Jim Lindner
>> Sent: Wednesday, 8 February 2012 6:41 p.m.
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape Backcoating
>> The backcoat binder system chemistry is in most cases similar if not identical to the oxide
>> binder system, so it sounds like you really do have a mess. Removing one without damaging the
>> other will be extremely difficult. It may be that using a pellon wipe to try to remove it not
>> chemically, but through successive wipes at high speed MIGHT remove enough of it to allow
>> playback, but I would have to see it to tell. It also might be that a low concentration of a
>> solvent will remove the "low hanging fruit" first - so again a pellon wipe with a dilution of
>> solvent and water might work - although you then have the rh issues to deal with, which might
>> also cause problems. These are the "fast and cheap" approaches that might work - but then again
>> you have tried fast and cheap already and have reaped the rewards.
>> In the past I have used modified film rewinds (with a NAB hub to accommodate tape) and placed the
>> supply reel on one side and the take up reel on the other side - oxide side up in your situation.
>> In between you have your work surface, and you now hand "polish" the tape using a solvent.
>> Unofficially I might suggest experimenting with the now banned 1:1:1 trichloroethane using this
>> modified film rewind approach. Although banned, it may still be available in small quantities
>> from chemistry supply facilities, and yes it is expensive. Fortunately you do not need much. Read
>> the MSDS very carefully, handle very carefully, adequate ventilation, follow all guidelines,
>> hands end eye protection, ventilator - all of it. This will be a slow hand process. As you get
>> experience you will be able to remove the goo and if you are careful in your application leave
>> the stuff under it. Too much solvent and too much pressure and you will wipe all of it. You
>> "polish" slowly foot by foot winding the completed and clean tape on the take up side. Based on
>> your description you will need to also clean the back coat side because it sounds as if you have
>> softened it enough so that it will reapply itself to the oxide if rewound on it directly based on
>> the pack pressure.
>> Yeah, well you really do have a mess and a science project. This is just one reason why I am not
>> a big baking fan. There are not too many cases where I see media that is dumpster bound. Next
>> time you might consider cleaning before baking.
>> Jim Lindner
>> Email: [log in to unmask]
>> Media Matters LLC.
>> 450 West 31st Street 4th Floor
>> New York, N.Y. 10001
>> eFax (646) 349-4475
>> Mobile: (917) 945-2662
>> Media Matters LLC. is a technical consultancy specializing in archival audio and video material.
>> We provide advice and analysis, to media archives that apply the beneficial advances in
>> technology to collection management.
>> On Feb 7, 2012, at 5:18 PM, Martin Fisher wrote:
>>> Hey Guys,
>>> What chemicals are good to strip backcoating off reel tapes.
>>> NO! NO! NO! I don't want to send them out for stripping. Way too expensive. I don't even
>>> want to strip the entire tape.
>>> What I need is to clean the backcoat off the oxide layer. The tape was given a "B" wind after
>>> developing sticky shed and, in places, some backcoating "hairs" got stuck between adjacent
>>> layers and adhered to the binder. This was exacerbated further by baking. The stuff just
>>> turned to goo and spread out on the surface of the binder like butter on bread in the oven.
>>> Alcohol works but also dissolves the binder an many instances. No way of knowing the tape stock
>>> since the boxes are generic, reels are haphazard but the backcoating is of the thick, matte
>>> gooeyer variety.
>>> Any help appreciated! :-)