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 Post subject: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:10 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 1:08 pm
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ELMO ST-800

Lamp: 100W (EFP)

Motor: DC, Speed Regulated

Sound: Monaural

Models: ST-800MO (Magnetic and Optical), ST-800M(Magnetic Only)

This is one of the lesser known Elmos, I’ve actually seen it called “rare” in Europe although I’m not sure if that’s really true. Sometimes things for sale become “rarer” than they really should be.

It’s common to hear this one called a cheaper version of the ST-1200, but based on my experiences with one of those I can tell you it’s more like a higher capacity version of the ST-600. It doesn’t have the AC motor and mechanical speed selection of the ST-1200, and it lacks a lot of the ST1200HD’s bells and whistles (…not to even mention the GS). The ST-1200 is the same size, but ponderously heavier. When I’m carrying both machines to or from the car, which one I choose first is a sign of how lazy I’m feeling that day. Carrying them both at the same time definitely causes a drift towards the 1200 ft side!

I encountered my ST-800 sitting on a shelf in a local camera shop back in 2003. After I got it home it became my biggest projector headache but in the end after I cured its problems my most reliable machine . Along the way, I’ve had it stripped down to the frame at least twice and with the possible exception of my car I know it the best of any machine(of any kind) I’ve ever dealt with. My better behaved ones I don’t know half as much!

This is the story of one machine (…or parts of two?) and what I’ve learned from it (them?) these past 8 years .

Cordless?!

One of the quirks of the ST-800 is the power cord: it’s unlike any I’ve ever seen on anything else. I treat mine with a lot of care: I don’t think I can replace it.

It is possible to remove the existing inlet and refit the ST-800 with one for a computer-style power cord. If you happen to get one retrofitted like this, verify that it’s hooked up right: your life may literally depend on it. I saw one of these with the chassis left ungrounded. (Let’s not wind up dying for movies!)

SILENCE!

When I first plugged it in, I had transport but no sound. This was my introduction to the classic Elmo oxidized contact syndrome. One day I was plugging in a set of head phones trying to figure where the sound stopped. When I plugged them in I had sound in the phones. When I pulled them out I had sound through the speaker too. It was the contacts on the jack.

This machine also used to suffer from a gradual loss of sound. Typically nothing seemed wrong until one day I realized I’d cranked the volume full blast but the sound was feeble. I checked: I wasn’t going deaf, but the problem turned out to be the recording key switch developing its own oxide. I work the key every few times I run and the problem has stayed away.

So gradually I nursed this thing to health and started to enjoy using it. Soon it became my main machine. As a result when I was doing experiments for an external sound system I used it as the standard and then uncovered another problem. One day I moved the machine back through the porch doors and projected through the porch, dining room and living room (…kind of a poor man’s projection booth). I figured there would be less projector noise and the sound tracks would be better. WRONG!

More Sound Than I Wanted

There was this popping in the tracks which the projector sound normally covered up, but was annoying through an external speaker set up with the audience when the projector wasn’t in the room. It was at the same rate as the shutter speed and it turned out to be because the pinch roller and flywheel weren’t completely smoothing out the film’s pulsing motion through the gate. I believe I know why this happened. The chute where the lower loop enters the sound heads was worn on one side where the film is flattened out. The side happens to be the same as the main stripe and this allows the stripe to pulsate up and down on the head while uselessly keeping the balance stripe nice and flat. (Stay tuned to see how this was accidentally fixed later.)

This guide wear is a problem for another reason. As this wear progresses, a flat edge develops that moves closer and closer to film center and eventually will cause film wear inside the frame. At the time I reshaped the guide so it only touched the edges again.

Rewind?…Almost!

The ST-800 typically will not rewind more than a 400 foot film unless the Elmo 800 foot reel is used on the rear spindle. It seems the larger hub diameter allows the film tension during rewind to be lower, and this allows the front clutch to operate without slipping.

You don’t need to get a true Elmo reel to fix this: the Gepe 800 footer is dimensionally identical and does the job.

This Light Must Not Go Out

I once had an adventure where when I stopped transport the lamp stayed on until I yanked the plug. There are snap switches activated by a cam on the control knob shaft. The one controlling the lamp was stuck “on”. The thing is to replace them you need to extract this complicated pile of insulators, switches, solder in the replacement switch and then reassemble and reinstall this thing that really only wants to align itself so the mounting holes are blocked. I tried a couple of times to pile up all the layers and then put the long screws through them. All that this procedure did is make me want a beer and a nap! The key was to pile the layers on the screws, turn it over as an assembly and then tighten it in place. This worked the first try.

Deafening Silence

The second to last problem was a few years back the machine went dead silent, and no amount of working switches or jacks would revive it. I decided to get a good replacement ST-800 and make this one the parts machine. The replacement turned out to be a machine which lost that famous power cord when it was new and had occupied a shelf for a few decades. It had very few hours on it. Unfortunately the seller packaged it badly…and UPS did the rest. It arrived with the frame bent right under the control knob and was unusable. I had a change of plans: I kept this ”new “ machine based on the value of the parts and I sat down to a very ambitious Saturday of transplant surgery. I took all the guides from one end to the other, plus the entire sound system and transplanted them onto the good frame. All the leftovers from both machines then went in storage. (There’s always tomorrow…)

There is a tiny circuit board under the framing knob that has wires from the sound head soldered to its surface. After I removed the old sound assembly I found one of them had popped off (either during disassembly or earlier.). It’s possible this was the reason I lost sound. I haven’t tossed the parts away: maybe someday I’ll find out for sure.

The interesting part is the 24FPS popping in the tracks I described above went away after this swap, which leads me to think it was the wear of the chute that caused this. As a result of this problem being solved I actually did the external sound system and have been very satisfied with the sound through it. I try to keep this surface lubed to prevent the same wear all over again. As far as I can tell, this chute was unique to the ST-800, so having one in mint condition is like finding gold.

Elmo on the Radio

The last problem was this intermittent, noisy buzz that was poking through the sound tracks. It changed pitch with projection speeds so I guessed it was worn motor brushes. When the problem was bad it actually produced interference which showed up on an AM radio three rooms away, whether or not the projector sound was on. I had a good spare so I swapped out the motor. This wasn’t too bad. I shot pictures showing how the motor was connected and I tagged the wires before I unsoldered them. Once the mounting screws were out the motor needed a firm pull to dislodge the rubber mounts from the chassis and after that putting the new one in was pretty easy. Once I was done I had to adjust the speed potentiometers on the power board to bring the machine back to a true 18 and 24FPS. Until I did this all the actors in the films sounded like they’d had just a touch of helium.

Today

As I’ve gone through all this the machine has become a steady runner and a very satisfying performer. (Fortunately it didn’t all happen at the same time…) Very typically it sits next to the ST-1200HD I bought later on and they complement each other nicely. The ST-800 is steadier in speed due to the regulated motor, but the ST-1200 has the option of brighter lamp and dual track sound when I need it. When I’m facing away from the machines my biggest clue which one is active is the ST-1200 is slightly quieter. Who knows: maybe all of that extra weight allows for additional sound deadening.

Getting one of these in mint condition would be a great investment; they are rugged projectors which should be reliable for years due to their simplicity, design and quality.
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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:11 am 
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That was definitely a good read Steve, [set5_b/set5_b/cheers2.gif]

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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:13 pm 
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Thanks!

As I was writing it, I thought "Wow!, this machine has put me through a LOT!"

-I guess I must really like it!


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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:31 pm 
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Very enlightening review, Steve. Thanks! I have an ST-800MO and love this machine. So far, so good with any major problems, but I rarely use it.

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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 3:11 pm 
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Nice review Steve.
How would you guys compare the ST800 with the GS800?

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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 4:31 pm 
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ST-800 and GS-800 are same in the fundamentals: Lens, Motor, Lamp, but it's the details where they are different.

ST-800 has the basics that a sound projector needs to have: monaural sound especially. GS-800 is a true stereo projector (two speakers mounted in the chassis), not a twin track like the ST-1200HD for example.

GS-800 has a back panel on it that looks like something from an airplane's instrument panel: many knobs and switches and jacks. ST-800's looks more like one from an economy car.

Part of the appeal to me of the ST-800 is the fact that its simplicity means less to go wrong, but I wouldn't refuse a GS-800 if somebody gave me one!

(People keep giving me projectors, but none like this one!)


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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 5:35 pm 
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I have to agree. The main reason ( well, aside from cost) that I prefer a ST1200 to a GS1200 is the fact that the GS has so much that can go wrong, and from what I read on these forums, usually does.
:D
I can never understand why somone would spend the money that the GS attracts these days.

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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 6:29 pm 
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Location: South Wales, UK
I use the 1200 HD and a GS1200, both with plus and minus points. The HD has been a reliable workhorse for me from new since 1978 but when I did the 'away from home 'shows the GS came into its own with regard to sound quality in particular.
Yes the GS can be temperamental and I always took the HD as a stand-by. My friend and I bought the GS for £300 split between us at a time when models were going for £1000 +
I notice GS prices have fallen recently, I share Mike's opinion that at one time they were over-priced but that was the market forces at work.


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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 5:45 am 
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How about getting them fixed when they break though, Mal? It must be difficult these days.

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 Post subject: Re: Elmo ST-800
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:12 am 
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Hi Mike,
so far we have been able to carry out our own repairs successfully, but there was a discussion about this on the Jubilee Forum a few years ago. In essence I said when spare parts are no longer available and/or it becomes too expensive to repair given the limited use they have these days I will say a sorry farewell to 8mm. (the Elfs are still going strong at the moment, recently replaced the motor belt on my NT2)


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