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Elmo Archaeology: An Orphaned Elmo ST-800 (Part Two: Let’s Dig In!)

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  • Elmo Archaeology: An Orphaned Elmo ST-800 (Part Two: Let’s Dig In!)

    I had that “Brand New” Elmo ST-800 at home. From the outside it really did look brand new, but then again you and I know that’s never the whole story with these. Of course, it really wasn’t new in a lot of ways. Yes, the guides had seen less than 50 feet of film that very first day at the Elmo factory and they were still perfect and the motor brushes were 100%, but everything this machine was made of was something well into human middle age! Those “new” motor brushes were likely sitting on a commutator with half a lifetime’s worth of oxidation, for example. When it last ran, I was a teenager. By the time I got it, I was raising one!

    It’s hard to put this one in a category, really. It wasn’t a “used” projector, since it had never been sold. Based on time, it sure wasn’t a “new” projector, either. Maybe the best description is “forgotten”. (There is plenty of “new” stuff in the Pyramids…)

    The things we build don’t care what we want them to be: that shiny new Rolls Royce standing in the showroom doesn’t want to be a premium luxury car, it “wants” to decompose back into the rust it existed as for millennia! Anything in my “new” projector that could degrade had over 40 years to do its work. All that “newness” might burn up in milliseconds if I was foolish enough to just plug it in, so it was time to dig in, see what was going on in there, maybe clear out some cobwebs!

    The differences between this machine and every used Elmo I’d ever had started to show up as soon as I applied a screwdriver to those two cover screws. As I turned them, they just felt…funny. I thought maybe the brackets had threaded inserts (not true) and they were spinning loose in the brackets (also not true). I was emotionally preparing myself to drill the screws out (not nice…loads of new looking paint to damage!), but I kept turning them and they came out naturally. It turns out that Elmo installed lock washers on the cover screws, and basically every owner ever since has tossed them!
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    Click image for larger version  Name:	Speaker Connector IMG_0705_1.JPG Views:	0 Size:	49.2 KB ID:	7807







    One of the classic problems that comes up on this forum is “I took the back off my machine, and now my speaker doesn’t work!”. The classic reply we often give is “Did you plug the speaker connection back in?”. Now, there is very little that we know here that a lot of people in the business didn’t know decades ago. I’m guessing they had a rash of machines fail the sound test, so they added a step of adding a cable tie around that connection just to make sure.


    Now, let’s take a look at the belts.
    The belt between the motor and the shutter looks fine:
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    Click image for larger version  Name:	Motorr IMG_0706 Belt_2.JPG Views:	0 Size:	40.7 KB ID:	7808



    -but where is my long belt?

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    Click image for larger version  Name:	Motor IMG_0703_3.JPG Views:	0 Size:	157.4 KB ID:	7809

    -Ohhhhhhhh! (No surprise here, I guess!)



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    -it was basically everywhere! -thick, tarry goo! (I bet the guy who wrote The Blob got the idea from fixing old movie projectors!)
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    Click image for larger version  Name:	Bracket IMG_0773 Goo_5.JPG Views:	0 Size:	145.9 KB ID:	7811

    I was cleaning belt goo at the dining room table and I got a smudge on the tablecloth! I thought I would artfully blend it into the pattern: a nice thick stem for the closest flower! I was generally pleased with my work, and glad I had art classes when I was in elementary school! (Given a little mustard and ketchup I could have started a whole new flower!)

    -yet my wife busted me within maybe 15 minutes: cost me a new tablecloth! (Some people just don’t appreciate art!)

    Suffice it to say, I ordered a new set of belts!
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    Now here’s something that surprised me a little. That one-way wheel/thingy that allows the rear reel to freewheel during rewind often develops cracks in the nylon. I’ve always thought it was from the stress of years of operation, but here we have it on a machine that’s operated maybe 5 minutes including none within our century! I guess the nylon outer part is just not up to the stress of having that brass hub press-fit inside it. Still, I've run on worse ones than this, so I'm leaving it alone.

    I manipulated the motor and the film transport, nothing was frozen up. The lubricants were as dry as the Sahara, so I lubed the gears including all of those up inside the reel arms.

    The inside of the machine was spotlessly clean: no cobwebs! (...just some Goo!)

    -yet, this was all just prelude: the point here is not to clean house, but take a machine that hadn’t ever really done what it was meant to do and finally let it have its day. The time for it to meet electric power again was finally at hand!

    (Will it even “remember”?!)

    -Stay Tuned!
    Last edited by Steve Klare; April 15, 2020, 12:44 PM.

  • #2
    Steve Klare What can I say... you know I love the Elmo ST800 as much as you do. I could look at pictures of that beauty of a projector for as many as you could post. I'm not sure how many other collectors are as enamored as much as we are with this machine..."but frankly dear I don't give a damn!" Like you I'm all for simplicity. I only wish it had a brighter bulb...it would then be prominently perched with my permanent setup projectors.

    I think your description of the steps you are taking with this newly acquired projector is a terrific syllabus to follow for any projector owner. Whether the machine has never been used or has had plenty of mileage over the years...these projectors are all old and need care and probably some restoration.

    You are a very good story teller and I love your writing... especially when it's about my favorite Elmo

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    • #3
      Thanks Janice,

      It's true: there are a lot of things these can't do. There is no crystal-sync for rerecording films. There is no dual track playback (It's what I would add), but then again: what they are good for, they are truly good! Maybe at that rate it is the utility outfielder of movie projectors: when you need a pitcher, then that's a job for somebody else on the team.

      My original has been operating in it's current form for at least 8 years and is going strong. It's amazing the parade of bought new modern appliances that have come and gone in that time

      The key to this kind of writing is you've got to add some foibles! You need to humanize it so people relate to it and enjoy reading it more. Without them, this might be pretty dry reading. It's what I like I about writing stuff like this. I can't get away with it at work: I once put a joke in a Test Procedure and my reviewers had a fit!

      (Not fair! My friend put a smiley-face on all the circuit boards he designed and nobody got upset about that!)
      Last edited by Steve Klare; April 15, 2020, 05:31 PM.

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      • #4
        Part three of Steve's Elmo Archaeology can be found here.

        If you've missed part one, please take a look.

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