The discussion of various wire piqued my curiosity, so I did a little
digging. I didn't find the exact reference I was looking for, but
found a couple of similar citations. I think most of this research
was done by Brush Magnetics and Marvin Camras at Armour Research,
with similar research done by the Geramns.
The best reference I found was from "The Recording and Reproduction
of Sound" (Oliver Read-Author; Howard Sams-Publisher; ©1952). In the
section on wire recording, there is a reference to the use of medium
carbon steel wire, which was produced from medium carbon steel rod. I
think this was probably what some of the early Pierce wire stock was.
There is also reference from a Fidelitone source which outlines
differences between /"Regular Stainless Steel Wire"/ and /"Stainless
Steel Recording Wire"/. It essentially outlines the fact that the
Stainless Steel Recording Wire undergoes some specific QC and other
treatments during manufacture. There was quite a bit of research that
went into this at the time, and I haven't had a chance to look up all
the references. I do recall that there tended to be a high rejection
rate of the stainless steel rod used to produce the wire, and that it
had to fall within specific limits on the B & H curve.
In the excellent book titled "Elements of Sound Recording" by John
Frayne and Halley Wolfe (John Wiley & Sons, ©1949), there are
references in a response chart from Brush Development to /"Carbon
Steel Wire", "420 Stainless Steel Wire", "Brush Wire Type BK-913",/
and /"Coated Paper Tape"/. (If you're curious, the paper tape beats
As I recall, the reference that I had previously seen wire stock
referred to as "Type 1" and "Type 2" wire. Wish I could find the damn
I think the part of oxidation problem is as a result of the pot metal
that was used for making the wire spools, which in the case of
Webster-Chicago, I believe are anodized aluminum, although I have
frankly never researched it. I have seen problems in the past with
various anodizing, where either the metal was contaminated, or the
anodizing was not done quite properly, resulting a sort of white
powder substance. I'm not a chemist, so I will leave it to someone
else to speculate on exactly what the nature of this might be.
Your comments on print-through are interesting. It certainly would
seem that wire would be prone to this-strange that it doesn't appear
more often (on the other hand, the 40 db S/N ratio might have
something to do with this!)
One of these days, in my spare time (yeah, right), I'm going to go
down to the IIT archives and take a look at the Armour papers
relating to the research on wire recording, although David Morton has
already covered much of this in his dissertation on Webster-Chicago.
(BTW-the Webster-Chicago plant still stands at 5610 W. Bloomingdale
in Chicago. I took some exterior photos a few years ago, and hope to
make a tour of it sometime).
Scott D. Smith
Chicago Audio Works, Inc.
Angie Dickinson Mickle wrote:
Scott D. Smith wrote:
I always thought all the wire made by W-C was stainless as well,
but apparently there were at least couple of different grades
(which I've seen reference to in some literature from the 1940s.
Would have to dig for the source).
I would be very interested in your reference to this when you get a
I have seen some wire which has exhibited a crystalline type of
oxidation (usually easily cleaned).
I've seen this also. To me oxidation is rust, but this is
definitely some environmental reaction. It does not seem to effect
the recording or the integrity of the wire in the least. And I find
it more often on the metal spool itself than the actual wire.
I've never really experienced any issues with print-through on wires.
I hadn't either until very recently. A very loud volume passage on
a wire definitely could be heard seconds later. It could be argued
that that low level garbling that is frequently heard on wire could
be print-through. On the other hand, it could be incomplete erasure
of previous recordings. I could never tell. Weighing tails out
storage to future playback equipment compatibility, I'd continue
storing heads out with a proper, even wind. Because, here's my
question. After being stored heads out for 50 or 60 years, how much
worse can any print-through get?
Angie Dickinson Mickle