My Edison Amberola 30
(This part added 25 July 2008) A quick overview of the history of the Amberola 30 and it's more expensive cousins, the 50 and 75. The party line is that Edison got it in to his head that in spite of the fact that the cylinder was already dead and buried, it was time to come out with a new line of cylinder players against the flow of history. Personally I question the main premise of this line of reasoning based upon the fact that the Amberola 30 sold like hotcakes. It must have, since ebay is almost never with out at least one for bid. When ever I go into an antique store and they have a cylinder player, it is almost always an Edison Standard or an Amberola 30. Why are there so many left, especially since they were made of very cheap materials that did not stand the test of time well? The only answer is that Edison must have had something right in his thinking since they were being made and sold for over a decade and are by far the least rare of all the cylinder players. He may not have made as much money from them as the Diamond Disk machines, but profit is still profit, and if no one wanted cylinders why was he still making money off of both the cylinders and machines? I realize that many will disagree with me on this. Anyway, sermon over, it was made from 1915 until the later 1920's. The 50 model had a larger case and a two spring motor. The 75 was a small floor model with drawers to store records. They all had the same diamond C reproducer and sounded just alike making the Amberola 30 the best value. Compared to the good selling 30, fewer 50 models and even fewer 75 models were sold. A good 75 is actually somewhat hard to find. All three of them were direct drive machines with no belt to slip. That's really all there is to tell about them.
Now about mine
(This part originally written 12 December 2006) In late November 2006 I won an Amberola 30 on ebay. I wanted one to be able to play four minute cylinders with something close to the quality that my Edison Diamond Disk machine has. Unfortunately my Edison Standard with the model C reproducer cannot do this, and even if upgraded could never sound like anything more than a tinny telephone from long ago. My new Amberola 30, unlike the Standard, is a vast leap in sound quality.
I won it at a very cheap price ($138) since it is indeed a restoration project. It is a mess and came with neither front grill or crank, but fortunately I have a pitifully rotten suite case portable phonograph with a crank that amazingly fits like a glove. Strangely, the debris of a broken wax cylinder record was in the Amberola. I hope no one tried to play that on it. Perhaps that is why it was shattered.
I realize that it is the most cardinal of unforgivable sins in this hobby to apply sandpaper to an antique phonograph, but when one is this bad it is either do so or simply part it out which means yet another death in the slowly dwindling population of these wondeful machines.
Here it is, in the beginning when I first received it December 9:
Update 16 December 2006
Here it is as of today. The finished is stripped and the old veneer removed from the sides. I found to my surprise that I am the second person to do this to it, but I do not think the previous person went to the level of detail of which I am going. I found part of the original veneer under one of the side veneers that I removed and evidence of other poorly matched stain. I have ordered the exact denatured alcohol based orange flake shellac and pigment from APSCO that the Edison factory used. Next I will be installing the new veneer, sanding the few small areas I had to wood putty, and then staining. I have decided not to "japan" the bedplate, because it is still good enough to pass with a little more clean up.
Update 21 December 2006:
Yesterday I managed to endure the pain of gluing and fitting the oak veneer which was amazingly difficult. I stained it today. It is not perfect, but better than I expected since I had never done this before. The picture doesn't do it justice, but if you scroll up to the top, it is a far cry better than it was.
Update 15 January 2007 Here it is, completed:
I am quite pleased with it.
As an additional treat, here is a link to three of my favorite cylinders played on my Amberola. All three are Lakeside brand cylinders which were actually recorded by Everlasting records, but marketed through Montgomery Ward. These were recorded with a Sure SM58 microphone. The first two are quite funny, but the last one is interestingly compelling in a way I can not define. I do not know who the artist are for the last one. The dates and data are supplied by the Cylinder Preservation Project.
Keep Away From The Fellow Who Owns An Automobile. Ada Jones 1909. Written by Irving Berlin.
When I Get You Alone Tonight Ada Jones and Walter Van Brunt circa 1912
Every Little Movement Artists unknown. It was the major hit from the operetta Madame Sherry which debuted in 1910 and was revived into the '50s. It is taken from a Lakeside cylinder so it would have to date somewhere between 1910 and 1913.
For more cylinder music, see the Cylinder Records section of the Edison side of this page.