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It Sucks! - A DIY Record Vacuum

By Gary D. Markowitz

Part 1

This DIY project is part one of a two part series. This installment will explain how to build a record vacuum wand that can be used as a hand held device. Part two, to be published in the future, will describe the construction of a complete record vacuum base with motor for bi-directional rotation similar to the VPI HW17 Record Vacuum.

What you'll need to get started:
1 5 foot length of 1" (outer diameter) hard white PVC tubing (way too much, but more than enough for several prototypes).
1 pressure fit end plug for 1" PVC tubing.
1 1 foot length of flexible 1" inner diameter (i.d.), 1.25 inch outer diameter
(OD) plastic tubing.
1 1 foot length of flexible 1.25" i.d., 1.5" o.d. plastic tubing.
1 small Shop-Vac brand wet/dry vacuum, hand held, one gallon capacity,
1.5 hp motor, available at home depot for 29.95.
1 1 foot square of cotton velvet.
40 or 60 grit sandpaper
400 grit sandpaper
A very sharp carpet knife or utility knife
Dremmel tool with cutoff wheel or handheld drill with 1/16" drill bit
1 small tube of silicon caulk

Cut about an 8" piece of the white PVC pipe. Sand and/or file the ends so that there are no sharp edges and the ends are flat. Be careful not to take too much off of the inner part of the tube, or the pressure fit end cap will not seat properly and create a good seal.
Place a small marking 1/4" in from one end of the tube. This will mark the start of the vacuum slot, and should coincide with the start of the record label. By doing this, the slot will cover the entire vinyl area including the leadout groove.
Measure the distance between the edge of the label and the edge of a record. The distance I used is 10 cm (4 15/16 inches). Mark a line along the length of the tube, starting at the point that you marked in the previous step that runs the length of your measurement. Very slightly longer is OK, but if you make it shorter, the edge of the record may not dry properly.
Next you must cut the slot. I used a Dremmel, which for those of you not familiar is a rotary tool. I used 2 thin cutoff wheels stacked to make about a 2.5 mm (3/32") slot the length of the marked line. You may also use a 1/16" drill bit and drill holes close together along the length of the line, and then use a utility blade or carpet knife to finish the slot.
Once you have the slot cut, round the outer edges of the slot slightly using a blade or sandpaper. Make sure there are no sharp exposed edges that may scratch your record.
You'll now need to cut a V shaped slot into the pressure fit end cap. This is so that part of the end cap does not block the slot you just cut.
By placing the slot so close to the end of the pipe, you will be able to use a record clamp to hold the record down to the platter. This will make manual vacuuming easier, and will be necessary if and when you build the complete vacuum that will be detailed in part two of this article.
Once you have the slot cut into the end cap and are sure that the cap won't block part of the slot, glue the end cap on using the silicon caulking. The caulking will ensure a good seal, and since it never completely hardens, you will still be able to remove the cap.
Let this dry for a couple of hours. Drying time may vary depending on the exact type of silicon caulking you buy, so check the directions. Peel or clean off any excess silicon and make sure at this point that the slot is free of any dried silicon.
Now, take the arm wand and some rough sandpaper, around 60 grit, and rough up the arm tube a little bit, being careful not to make the edges of the slot rough. The silicon caulk will adhere to the tube better when you glue down the velvet.
Take the sheet of velvet, and cut a piece approximately 7.5cm (~3") by 12cm (4.5"). This will cover the armtube. Spread a very thin layer of the caulk completely around the arm tube, but try to avoid getting any in the slot. Don't worry too much if you do, it will be easy to clean out later.
Starting opposite the slot, place the 4.5" length side against the arm tube, and keeping it taut in all directions, wrap it around the arm tube. This will leave a small gap opposite the slot that is not covered by the velvet, and will completely cover over the slot. The velvet should run to the very end of the tube that has the pressure plug inserted, but should not cover the edge of the pressure plug. Be very careful not to get any of the silicon caulking on the velvet near where the slot is cut into the tube.
Once you're sure the velvet is properly set against the tube and is wrapped tightly so there are no wrinkles, let it dry for the recommended setting time.
Once it's dry, take your carpet knife and cut the velvet so that the entire slot area is free of any silicon and fabric. Be careful not to rough up the slot further, as you don't want any edges that will catch on the record surface as you vacuum. You can, if you wish, re-sand the slot edges, but be careful not to abrade the edge of the velvet.
So, now you have the wand completed. Now take the 1" inner diameter flexible tubing and cut a one foot length, then do the same for the 1.25" inner diameter tubing.
Slide the arm wand into the 1" i.d. tubing. Then slide the 1" id tubing into the 1.25" id tubing. The hose from the vacuum should fit snugly into the end of the 1.25" i.d. tubing.
Usage instructions are simple. One note, however, I don't recommend you vacuum your records on your good turntable. Go out and find a cheap turntable at a yard sale or junk shop.
Scrub your record with your favorite cleaner and brushes. Once your record is scrubbed nicely, hold the wand with the slot facing the record, turn on the wet/dry vac, and slowly rotate the platter. If you want, you can rotate the platter in both directions, as this seems to clean the record better. It should take no more than two rotations in both directions to fully dry the record.
At this point it helps to use and anti-static record brush. My favorite is the Decca 2+2, but any will do. This helps reduce any static that might have built up as a result of vacuuming.
One final note: I always place newly vacuumed records in a new ricepaper sleeve. This helps not only keep them very clean and dust free, as old record sleeves are often less than clean, but also serves to remind me that the record has been vacuum cleaned already. Have fun with it, and happy, quieter, and cleaner listening.

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