Understanding needle use- Steel Needles

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the use of needles for vintage gramophones. The common misconception is that 'needles wear records', whereas initially the opposite is true. For the most part, quality '78' records are made of 85% ground slate and 15% shellac. As a new steel needle (with the weight of 250 grammes or so of soundbox pushing down on it) runs several hundred feet to the centre of a record it has its sharp point worn off. As a result if used a second time it presents a blunt end to the bottom of the groove and a broader profile to its sides. Repeating the process will result in groove wall damage as the needle  increasingly occupies the space in which it once had room to move freely. At this point the needle will begin to damage the record.

In the 'old days' needle manufacturers often printed on their containers that needles should be used once only. This was a little dramatic, but they were trying to sell needles! These days two sides would be deemed acceptable use for all but the most valuable sides. 

I sell three grades of needle- Loud, Medium and Soft. Loud Tone needles were only ever made for outdoor or dance hall use and are not good for record care. Soft tone are really for those in flats who fear their neighbours' wrath! As a general rule I would simply recommend Medium Tone.


Packets of 100 newly made quality steel needles £2.75 +50p postage for one or £15 for five packs postage included. You may buy multiple packs in any combination of tones. These figures (2015) show the first rise in price for over five years. My excuse is everyone else's; the cost to me has risen, as has the cost of postage. For EU countries please add £2 to the price for five (only to cover the additional cost of sending).

If you are sending a cheque, my address is;

8 Pine Walk, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 4AS.

However, for these small purchases you may find it easier to use PayPal (see the Payment page if you don't know what this is).  I will know from your Registered User's address where to send them to.

The address for PayPal payment is

Understanding needle use- Fibre Needles

Back in the old days a devoted gramophile would only consider using such needles on his records. The reward was little or no wear to the disc but a quieter rendition and softer tone. Being wooden, fibres are prone to tip wear.

Many converts to the 78 hobby hear about fibre needles and wonder why they are not used universally if they do no damage to records. The answer is that records which have already been played with steel needles will likely have fine scratches on the floor of their grooves which will quickly wear the fibre needle's tip blunt, and thus useless. Used on worn, 'steeled' records the sound from a fibre will quickly degenerate to a muzzy incomprehensible noise. As a result 'fibres' are only really suitable for records which are either previously unplayed (unlikely, these days!) or have had very little prior wear. 


There is a very big hobby in itself in collecting needle tins alone. The world's finest collections number over ten thousand tins without duplication of graphics.

Tins in the UK fall into two categories. Ones sold by HMV, Columbia and Songster account for well over half of the whole output and generally sell in antiques shops and markets for between £2 and £5 apiece according to condition. Here below are samples of such tins;

Needle tins

Anything else will probably command a higher price to a knowledgeable buyer. Condition is very important and age is another factor. Tins made before WW1 and in the early 1920's are generally harder to find and if German in origin may have particularly appealing graphics, as this German Kosmos Extra tin below, which made a staggering £96 on eBay..! 


I tend to put my rarer tins on Ebay unless I am contacted by a new collector as most of my existing buyers already own all the commonly found makers' products. 

(c) Howard Hope 2017  -Website program by Karelia