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Bake 2

The Picture Above shows how easy it is to identify Acetate simply by holding it up to light. 
(Acetate is translucent and Polyester is opaque.)
Tapes that have been poorly stored like the photo "uneven wind" will require extra care. 


Over time, the glue that binds the oxide to the plastic will absorb moisture and "break down." The symptoms of "binder breakdown" are immediately obvious even when rewinding.  Tearing sounds and sluggish behavior are clues to quit before the oxide comes off.   Machines with stationary lifters (Ampex 440/1200, MCI and 3M) will, in many cases, stall well before reaching the halfway point. An older Studer, with its rotating guides, may not reveal any warning signs until the tape is played. 

Playing a bad tape is not recommended. Just trying to get through a three-minute pop song will require several cleanings. Once the precious sonic material collects on transport parts it is worthless, not to mention difficult to remove. Do you really want to risk damage to the master for the sake of getting a transfer? There is hope, so be patient.



Several years ago it was discovered that baking tape at low temperature reactivated the binder making tapes playable as new. While convection ovens and hair dryers have been called into service, the most elegant and affordable solution came from my brother-in-law Gary, a metallurgist in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

The device de jour is the Snackmasterâ Pro model FD-50 made by American Harvest (800-288-4545).  At $85, with shipping, it comes standard with four trays, each of which can comfortably handle a reel of half-inch tape. (Additional trays and jerky mixes can be ordered. Allow four weeks for delivery.) To accommodate one- and two-inch tapes, modify one tray by cutting out the plastic spokes along the perimeter with a wire cutter. This creates a "dummy tray" adding height to the tray below.  The picture on the left shows the dehydrator as intended, with standard and modified trays overhead. Do not process food and tapes together! 

The FD-50 features an adjustable thermostat and a built-in fan to circulate the air. I checked for dangerous magnetic fields and found none, though I do use the upper trays just to be safe (the fan is in the bottom of the unit). The heat is adjustable from 95° F to 145° F and is accurate within five degrees when checked with a photographic thermometer. 

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