From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


re bamboo needles:

these were introduced some time after 1907 by the "B. & H." Fibre 
Manufacturing Co. in Chicago. The Victor Talking Machine Company became 
interested, and it seems that early in 1911 they started making soundboxes 
with the appropriate triangular hole in which you could clamp both 
cylindrical and triangular needles. The needle had been patented by Frederick 
D. Hall on 12 November 1907 (Pat. No. US 870,723) and developed into a 
product with his associate Mr. Barry. 

On 1 November 1910 Alfred Clark of the Gramophone Co. let Will Gaisberg in 
London evaluate a pack of needles, and Will wrote on 4 November:
"...... certainly the results are not so loud and brilliant as the steel 
needle, and the voice does not stand out, but at the same time I should say 
that they have a tremendous talking point in the fact that you hear 
absolutely no scratch. And although the reproduction is very quiet, it is 
most natural and pleasing. 
"     I would say another great talking point will be the fact, that in a 
place like London where there are so many apartments, and landlords put 
objections in their leases, naming children, gramophones, and pianos as 
objections, this will be a great advantage. Certainly, the results are most 
natural and you hear absolutely no scratch."
(letter in EMI Music Archives)

On the other hand, William Sinkler Darby, another recording expert, thought:
"Very unsatisfactory. The reproduction is feeble and I have not been able to 
get one to play over a 12 inch record and get a clear reproduction to the 
finish. ..... "
(note quoted in Ruth Edge and Leonard Petts: "The Collectors Guide to 'His 
Master's Voice' Nipper Souvenirs", London 1997, p. 238). Maybe he turned it 
the wrong way round.

As to Tom Fine's query about how to procure bamboo needles: the patent does 
give some specifications, and I believe I have somewhere seen a description 
of how to make them by splitting cane cut into short cylinders. The 
sharpening is best made by means of a special sharpener that was sold, at 
least by the Gramophone Co. to be used while the bamboo piece was still in 
its soundbox (discussed in the book above pp. 198-201). That is what I do for 
demo purposes, but I do know people who do it with a knife, freehand.

Kind regards,



Richard Warren wrote:

> Hi Folks,
> There's not much doubt that for playing acoustical discs on acoustical-era
> machines bamboo or fiber needles seem to provide smoother and quieter
> results; but those results come with curses from those who later receive
> records so played. A chemist explained that the some of the relatively soft
> fiber material is burned into the groove walls by the friction &  pressure
> of the heavy arm and playback head and is either impossible or nearly
> impossible to remove. This residue would be difficult to see because it
> would have been burned black in playback and bonded to the groove walls.
> This cooked organic material can alter the sound of the disc, causing curses
> from any subsequent owner who hears the results when playing the discs by
> other methods (especially the most accurate ones). That's fine if one can't
> hear the alteration or one likes the altered sound and keeps one's discs
> only for use on vintage machines; but the assertion "played only with cactus
> or fiber or bamboo needles" is likely to cause horror and rejection in
> serious collectors and audio archivists, especially those who have had to
> try to deal with ruined records.
> Of course, also from the viewpoint of audio archivists and record dealers,
> "fibered" records form a category both easy to eliminate from serious
> consideration and sad to see if rarities are included.
> Richard
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 6:15 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Victrola Needles
> Hi John:
> Where does one get bamboo needles these days?
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "John Eberle" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 1:08 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Victrola Needles
> > It is my humble opinion based on over 40 years of collection acoustic 78s
> , 
> > that playing them with bamboo needles is the way to go . 
> > Bamboo needles  cause almost no wear and have a moderate volume 
> > and good musical tone . In  my collection are many Zonophone , Victor , 
> > Columbia ,Emerson and others that 
> > I have played many dozens of times over the years on a Victor Model ll ( 
> > which has a laminated Oak
> > Horn ) with fibre ( bamboo ) needles . They still  play clear , loud and
> > relatively noise free. The grooves appear rather  smooth and clean viewed
> at 
> > 100x under a microscope .
> > 
> > 
> > John  Eberle
> > 615-441-4660
> > 
> >