The perils of using old Ferric Oxide recording tape or inferior quality tape loops.
This is a problem, not only with Watkins / w-e-m Copicats, but with any device that uses ferric oxide record / playback tape such as video recorders, camcorders, cassette players, reel to reel tape recorders, mini cassette answering and dictation machines and Mellotrons etc.
Old stock ferric oxide tape will deteriorate with age, the ferric oxide coating which is basically rusty iron, over time will absorb moisture and oxygen from the atmosphere causing the coating become soft and tacky. This muck gets into the gaps in the magnetic poles of the record/playback heads seriously affecting their performance. You can open an unused 30 years old reel of tape and it can be affected in this way even if sealed in a poly bag due to the air already in the bag when packed. Latter day tape has a clear plastic coating to protect the oxide surface and is not affected in the same way. You wouldn’t want to eat a 30 year old packet of corn flakes would you now? Or maybe you would!
To clean the sticky iron oxide from your tape heads etc. you may need something more vigorous than a cotton bud and some IPA. I would use a fine wet and dry type paper 600 to 1000 grit, or even a piece of scotch bright and an old tooth brush. Wet whatever you chose to use with the IPA fluid and give the heads a vigorous cleaning. Whilst you are at it, do the rollers and the drive spindle as well.
Polish the head faces with a metal polish, wadding, Brasso, Silvo are all ok.
Clean off the excess polish with a lint free cloth and some more IPA* and fit a new w-e-m tape loop. (Both Watkins and myself have them in stock.)
Check the tape tension and alignment and providing your Copicat is otherwise in good health it will sound as good as it was when new.
Click On Wotti to see a recent email request for help from Javier Vicente with his two short before and after videos of his problem with contaminated ferric oxide tape.
Thank you Javier for allowing the use of your videos and email content.
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* Servisol 170 IPA in 200ml & 400ml aerosols, are ideal for cleaning the heads and other electronic components can be easily found on the internet at varying prices.