The Compleat Talking Machine, Second Edition, By Eric Reiss


From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1997 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)

Cover of The Compleat Talking Machine, Second Edition This is obviously a very good book, as it caught the attention of two reviewers. We have combined their comments into one review. (Editor)

The second edition of The Compleat Talking Machine by Eric Reiss is a well designed, beautifully illustrated, 236-page book for collectors of old phonographs. For collectors of old radios, it is particularly valuable in its coverage of restoration techniques, which are applicable to, or at least suggestive of, radio restoration methods.

In a clear, almost breezy style, easy for even the beginner to understand, Reiss divides his topic into five chapters. The introductory chapter covers the state of the market, prices, trading, tools and skills -- an excellent way to ease into the more technical aspects of the subject. Chapters on mechanics, acoustics, cosmetics, and identification follow, with a price guide at the end. The identification chapter has been greatly expanded in this second edition to an 80-page comprehensive listing of model designations, illustrated by excellent photos.

Throughout the book Reiss covers restoration techniques thoroughly. While some of these techniques, like cabinet refinishing, are available elsewhere, and others (making and mounting styli) are peculiar to phonographs, the bulk of this material will be interesting to any collector. It is well thought out and clearly presented with unusually good illustrations. And it is enjoyable reading.

Some chemical names may baffle American hardware store clerks; for example, "naptha" might have been defined as "petroleum distillate paint thinner," and perhaps "French turpentine" means spirits of turpentine, which is no longer recommended as a paint thinner because of its toxicity. Trichloroethylene will be difficult to obtain also. And the thought of turntable spindle bearings made from broken phono needles and superglue is a bit mind-boggling. But again, the information provided is eminently useful.

Regarding the chapter on acoustics, a physicist with a concentration in this field might quibble with the implication (pp. 80-81) that any curved object is curved exponentially -- an incorrect conclusion. It might have been better to make clear that the best shape is exponential, but that not all continuously flared horns are exponential.

However, a few loose technical points such as this one do not detract from the usefulness of this book to the general reader. Regarding acoustics, the illustrations are very helpful in showing how sound is produced, and there is clear guidance as to how damages occur and how to repair them. The four appendices are particularly informative in their coverage of historical names, soldering, stroboscopes, and useful addresses. A glossary and a bibliography complete the wealth of information offered. Only an index is lacking, but the table of contents is very detailed. In all, this highly commendable publication belongs on every collector's shelf.

The Compleat Talking Machine, Second Edition is available in an 8 1/2" x 11" softcover format at $29.95 from A.R.C. and other A.R.C. advertisers. Please check with these suppliers for ordering information.

(Alan Douglas, P.O. Box 225, Pocasset, MA 02559; Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)

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Copyright © 1996 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.
Last revised: July 14, 1998. Pages designed by Wayward Fluffy Publications