Friday, 5 April 2013

SME Conversion Part 2 – The Production – Tonearm Conversion of Classic SME Tonearms

After the test bendings of the tonearm wand have been inspected closely and one tube got succesfully  installed to a SME 3009/II, I had to buy the final amount of steel tubes for my project. These got send to Switzerland in order to produce the edition of 12'' tonearm wands for my kit. It took two month and I got the finalized tubes.

I used the time of the wand production to find a company to produce the dedicated weights. With my research through the web I found a cnc milling company with a quite informative web portal located in a town called Velbert. This town is not far from here and was once in the heavy industrialized Germany one of the foremost places for steel production supplying companies like the searched milling purposes. I had a very nice contact with one of the head manager Mr. Kuhs at the telephone of a cnc milling company. A week later I drove my car into direction of Velbert to have a first appointment at a milling company which is since 120 years in business. My gps sended me to a industrial park with lots of very modern buildings like storage facilities etc., but I was unable to locate a company I imagined as a old steel production site. I expected a old brick building and almost handpainted Types at the roof. Nothing like that was around. Finally I parked my car in front of a very modern steel/glass facade building in order to ask where the searched milling company might be. In the electronically shifted doors there was a laserprinter sheet of paper taped with the name of the milling company. A young and very unconventionally looking guy in his mid twenties opened the door and presented me with handshake as owner of the company, served me at a little bar in the entrance area an espresso and asked me to wait for Mr. Kuhs. I did expect a lot but not what I already saw. Mr. Kuhs was very nice man around 45 years old, suited with frayed jeans, t-shirt and sneakers, as well very interested into vintage hifi. He made a complete guidance throughout the company facilities. I saw a huge hall were may be five people did work, but at least 20 10m long cnc milling machines were installed. It was not either greasy nor dirty in there. At the end of all machines every minute a small milled piece of metal fall down in a container. I did ask before three different sized companies for a offer of compromize. The by far best offer was 50% cheaper than the next. Mr. Kuhs explained me about typical homework of the last years for German companies to be still competetive in the globalized production chain.

I learned a lot at this day and we made a contract to produce all neccessary weights for my tonearm kit. First the heavy 220 g weight with typical end cap and the long rider weight was milled from brass, together with the cap for the end tube and the inner part to fix the end tube with the main tube from stainless steel. Before I left I asked Mr. Kuhs if he might know a galvanizing company to go for the matte chrome surface. He answered he knows of course lot of companies, but he will not be able to do one recommendation. "The most do bad jobs", he said "and the rest is unreliable. You never will get what you asked for and it will be completely out of time. If you can live with all problems you will get one company named!" For that day I left the site and noticed on my way out the Porsche Cayenne in the foremost parking position and next to it a Audi Q7. I thought, that I might know who will drive these cars.

So what should I do, I did not have any other chance? When all weights had been milled, I picked them up and brought them to the named galvanizing company, which was just 2 km away. I showed them the original weight from SME to get them an idea about the final finish. Even troughout all production years of SME, they must have changed some times the galvanizing supplier, because I have a lots of different galvanized weights from SME. Today it is going more difficult, because of strict EU-regulations about the amount of the nickel component in this process, the today results are always a bit less glossy than the original weights. They tried to do their best to adapt their results to the vintage parts. Have a look at the photo to see the big new 220 g weight and end cap in comparison to the the vintage small add-on-riderweight and the vintage endcap. As well good to be seen is the different diameter between the MK1 weights and the later weights.

Follow on, Volker