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Restored sticky-shed-syndrome tape reveals a uniquely rare gem.

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  • Restored sticky-shed-syndrome tape reveals a uniquely rare gem.

    Over the passed couple of years I've come across several tapes suffering from sticky shed syndrome - SSS - a condition in which a tape (mainly affecting tapes from the 70s and 80s) draws moisture out of the air becoming gooey and unplayable, until very recently all these tapes ended up in the bin...
    Sadly by the time anyone realised SSS was a problem it had already ruined many precious masters from this period. Tape manufacturers changed their formulations to combat SSS, and a after a few more years someone worked out that by 'baking' a sticky tape it could be made playable once more.
    So, several hours' internet research pointed me towards Nesco's 'American Harvest' FD-60 dehydrator & jerky maker, the tape dehydrator of choice, I bought one. Now all I needed was a sticky tape that I felt the urge to 'rescue'.

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Name:	01 Baker.jpg
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ID:	28279 The Nesco American Harvest FD-60

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Name:	02 Baker open.jpg
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ID:	28280 This will take up to 4 tapes at once! The HD-60 has a very precisely controlled temperature, good airflow and no stray magnetic fields.

    Fast forward to mid-August when on eBay I found a tape which looked both genuine and extremely interesting: I'd not heard any Sylvia Griffin, but knew that George Harrison played slide guitar on one of her songs. Could this be the one? I had to find out! Time to test the jerky-maker!

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Name:	09 Box.jpg
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ID:	28281 The item of extreme interest. What could it contain?

    Tape restoration is a time consuming process, and you need to be very careful with that precious sticky tape. Here's my step-by-step process, but I'd love to hear from anyone else who has had success with tape baking:

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Name:	00 Pre-baking.jpg
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ID:	28282 ​​​​​​​Before baking, and very sticky. This was not playable at all.

    1.VERY carefully, by hand, I wound the tape onto a metal nab-hub reel, I did this on my Technics RS-1500 as it is easy to bypass the head-block entirely thus avoiding potential damage to the tape and covering the machine in goo.

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Name:	03 Baking.jpg
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ID:	28283 The sticky tape, carefully wound onto a 10.5" reel ready for baking.

    2. Bake at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, let it cool overnight (in a sealed plastic bag with a sachet of silica gel, for good luck), and then at VERY slow speed, spooled it back and forth once to settle the tape into a nice even pancake. The tape was still shedding a little at this stage so do be really careful and take it slowwwww...

    3. Back into the dehydrator for another 2 hours at 135F, turning the tape over every 30 minutes.

    4. After allowing to cool for two hours, I 'played' it at the slowest speed (3.75ips) with cotton pads wedged over the tape heads to remove any remaining loose stuff (I was encouraged and surprised at how little residue was deposited on the pads).

    5. Last step before playing was to replace the leader, separation tapes and tail as these had begun to disintegrate. And then, I put it on my Studer and got ready to listen...

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Name:	07 Fully restored.jpg
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ID:	28284 The tape, baked, new leaders, and ready to play!

    Well, there was not a Beatle to be seen (or heard) but the sound was stunning! A little bit more investigation revealed this to be a demo tape featuring Sylvia Griffin's vocal with Maurice Horhut accompanying on piano. There are three tracks on the tape, all extremely beautiful, and I've since tracked down a copy of Sylvia Griffin's single, the one with George Harrison, but that my friends, is another story for another day!

    Attached Files

  • #2
    Thanks Dave for sharing your journey. Know that the topic of SSS comes up quite often and this is the first time I've seen this approach. But certainly Bruce or Ki knows far more on the subject!
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor,

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    • #3
      It figures that the "new and improved" tape formulations of the 70's and 80's were actually worse than the originals of the 60's.
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      • #4
        Indeed, but then you could say that about an awful lot of things...


        • #5
          I bought my NECCO Food dehydrator many years ago after reading about it being used for SSS. I've had maybe a dozen tapes that I have baked in this way - just one pass with the dehydrator was enough (several hours as I remember) and you can't over heat in it.

          It has saved several valuable old tapes, mostly 7.5ips, but one or two Master Dub 15ips from the SS era.

          I bought it from Bed, Bath and Beyond, using their ubiquitous 20% off coupons - I think it was less than $70 including tax. It sits on top of my Air Tight disc flattener.

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          • #7
            Nice link, Bruce.
            I know you did lots of cooking when you did Wilson tape project few years back. I thought you used Rene's oven instead of a food dehydrator. Did you remove the metal reels and bake the tape in pancake state?



            • #8
              Originally posted by Ki Choi View Post
              Nice link, Bruce.
              I know you did lots of cooking when you did Wilson tape project few years back. I thought you used Rene's oven instead of a food dehydrator. Did you remove the metal reels and bake the tape in pancake state?

              LOL.... Rene won't allow me in the kitchen!!
              Yes, baked in pancake state after a clean library wind. Don't want those edges exposed!!