One man's experiences, but should work anywhere with the same laws of nature and physics ...
I spent yesterday transferring several reels of 1957 Audiotape 1/2" (acetate backing), all of them
with numerous splices to clean and/or replace. This was done at John Chester's studio.
Per John's previous experiences, we used naptha as our cleaning solvent, applying with Q-tips. It's
worth noting at this point that John and I used precision tools intended for surface-mount circuit
board work, and everything was demagnetized before we started work. In my opinion, naptha ends up
being a viable replacement for freon. It completely removes splice-glue ooze and doesn't effect the
brown-iron oxide or the acetate backing on these tapes. It also doesn't cause the tape to be greasy,
more brittle or any other condition that makes splice replacement hard or impossible. Cleaned splice
sides line up just fine in a block and adhere just fine to modern splicing tape.
We first carefully unscrewed the reel flanges and cleaned any splice-glue ooze that was visible on
the edge of the tape pack, both sides. This ended up greatly improving the odds of a splice-layer
cleanly detaching without the splice coming apart.
Once a tape's edges were cleaned, the flanges were screwed back on and it was carefully hand-wound
onto a supply reel. Splices told of their location by a slight edge-stick from residual ooze two
layers back from the splice. usually, this ooze was quickly cleaned with a swipe along the tape
edge. The layer behind the splice is key because the oxide will rip off if it's not gently detached
from the splice. My experience was, a gentle naptha swipe on the tape edges and then very gentle
coaxing off of the layer worked every time. We had no audible oxide peel. I found at that point, it
helps to clean the back of the splice, sometimes just enough naptha got introduced through the edge
of the tape to loosen up where the center of the splice had oozed onto the adjoining acetate layer.
The splice itself was always tricky. Out of total 100+ splices encountered, we had to replace
approximately 40 of them because the spliced area couldn't be coaxed up from the adjoining acetate
without detaching the old splicing tape. When we could coax it up, it was just a matter of cleaning
the ooze in the middle of the splice and cleaning off the ooze on the adjoining acetate layer. We
opted not to replace splices that would come up cleanly because the tapes are so old and fragile
(and brittle). It's a calculated risk to remove old splicing tape and clean pointy angles of tape
that is brittle and prone to shedding oxide. So, we only took that risk when we had to. Of all the
repaired splices, none lost oxide at the splice point and, in fact, when we played the tapes we were
both impressed at what a blade-ace the original editor was (the late Harold Lawrence).
The repaired tapes played back A-OK on John's Ampex ATR-100 (which is finicky about things like
splice-height, splice alignment and tape layers stuck together). Playback and transfer is with
Plangent Process. More details on the results soon. Suffice to say, I was very impressed with
everything I heard and remain super-impressed with John Chester and Jamie Howarth's can-do attitude
and superb craftsmanship.
For what it's worth, we were able to clean all those splices and get all the transfer work for two
complete reissues done in about 10 hours (including short lunch and dinner breaks), which seemed
-- Tom Fine