Hi, I have just purchased a BELL TELEPHONE VINTAGE M.F.G Company, Belgique..From around the 1950s. I’m able to accept incoming calls with it, but I’m having problems dialing out. It works sometimes but not all the time as the dial appears to be sticking/ slow movement. It’s an intermittent problem, it will work when dialing a number then it won’t. I’m in the UK and need some help/ advice…What kind of brand name of oil would you recommend as I have been looking for this ‘silicone free’ kind of oil that you have mentioned but can’t seem to find anything when I ‘google’ it… And how much would it cost to have this restored as I’m in the UK and don’t use euros…Where are you based, or is there anywhere local ie in the UK that you can refer me to…Thanks in advance Barry.
Hi Barry, thank you for your comment. BTMC used a number of dial designs and I am not quite sure which one you have there. The erratic behaviour of your dail my very well be caused by dirt or the dial speed is just a little out of spec. In any case, some cleaning will be needed.
I am not sure which brands are available in the UK but a good quality sewing machine oil will be good for oiling a dial.
An example of a lubricant with sillicone is waterproof bike chain oil. I do not recommend that for dials.
I am based in the Netherlands. I can of course refurb your dial, but shipping costs to and fro will set you back at least 30 e.
I will send you this reply by email too. I suggest you send me a picture of your dial, so I can at least give you some pointers for cleaning it.
Hello, when you disassemble all that is behind the dial, regarding the spring, it is enough to go slowly by lifting it, to count the number of turn that will do by releasing it. Once cleaned, it’s simple, you count the same number of laps that it did by releasing it and you put everything back in place correctly. This should be enough once everything is cleaned up. I never had a problem with my dial phones .
Hi Yuri, thanks for sharing your view on this matter. Please mind that this article is about a basic restoration, so I wanted to keep things simple and for the novice easy to do.
Besides that, with many dial designs, especially older ones, it is impossible to remove the finger wheel without unwinding the spring.
In the future I intend to publish more article on this matter, like articles on specific dial designs, how to calibrate a dial without a dial measuring instrument, and how to do full restorations of dials.
Hello I am trying to change a telephone dial card in a rotary phone for use in a production of ‘Dial M for Murder’ The phone we have in the props cupboard has a slightly broken plastic cover of the dial card and consequently I can’t see the hole to help remove the face. Do you have any suggestions? I have photos I can send you.
Any advice, greatly appreciated!
Hi Asha, thanks for your message. I also received your email with the pictures. Your telephone is a GPO 700 and does not have the pin hole release, like US telephones.
Here is a link to a video that shows how to replace your dial label.
Hi Susan, either the telephone is wired wrong or the dial does not run at the right speed and needs adjusting.
The first problem is hard to solve, via this medium. The possibilities are endles.
The 2nd problem is easy to test. You can help the dial along with your finger, on the return stroke, making it run a little faster. Or you can hold it back a little with your finger on the return stroke, making it run a little slower. If you do this dialing 2 or 3 and it breaks tone, you know it is running too slow or too fast.
Thank you for your response. The phone jack at the location where I would like the black rotary to be placed is currently a white rotary phone (which works, by the way). I tried the black phone on another rotary-accepted phone jack and I run into the same problem as above. Get dial tone, but cannot dial the phone. To me it seems like something’s askew with the rotary itself. Are there websites (yours perhaps) where I can get instructions on how to look inside the phone and make sure it is working/connected correctly?
P.S. I it normal to have only three of the four colored wires? Red, yellow & green and not black? Could that be the problem?
Many ex-BT engineers are on the Facebook page GPO Telephones and will be willing to offer advice for the phones they used to work on. In the past, we used to change the dial if we thought it would be quicker than trying to work on a dial at the customer’s house or office.
Hi Anne, what spring loaded screw do you mean? The one that secures the body shell to the base? You can just put the spring over the screw, push it through the hole and put the nut back on. You may need a tool to hold the nut.
I have a 1910 Rotary dial phone Danish phone I need to know if you have shematics for this type of phone or some idea how to convert from pulse to tone so that I can use it, it is in good working condition, thank you very much
Arwin, I got another fg.tist 282, and it has two issues:
1) How do I loose the finger wheel to align it with the numbers?
I have to unscrew that hexagonal central piece? With which tool?
2) Nobody hear me, and I got a big noise (a crack) on receptor when
the hook goes up (when I pick up the phone). It seems a power
overload in some component. Even if I unplug it from the wall, I hear
that “discharge” (once) if the hook goes up.
Don’t know If I made it clear, sorry. Any tip please? Thanks in advance!
Hi Fabricio, thank you for your message.
1 Yes, unscrew the hexagonal nut. There may be a little play on the fingerwheel.
Also, you may want to check if the number ring is positioned correctly. If that does not work, on the back the mechanism is mounted on a metal plate which is fastenend to a plastic disc with 2 bolts. If you undo those you can move the mechanism a little.
2 is there a diode in the handset? This should prevent loud clicking.
I just got a RTT56A, looking like the one one your site (http://www.matilo.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/RTT-56-Copper.jpg). Most of the time the rotary wheel runs ok but sometimes it returns slow or gets stuck when I pull out my finger. I guess it needs some cleaning so I was wondering if I can remove the finger wheel without worrying about unwinding of that spring you mentioned. Is this also the case for this model? I saw the finger wheel is attached with a single screw but don’t want to unscrew it and find myself in trouble.
Hi André, I would leave the finger wheel in place, if I were you. Just clean the back of the mechanism, as described above. That should improve the performance of the dial in any case.
Hi Kevin, this could have a number of causes. First make sure you dial mechanism is clean and oiled, as explained in the article. Have you done that yet?
The particular dial on the W49 is an NrS38, the same as in the article. Make sure the fingerstop is not bent. Often a bent fingerstop inhibits the proper turning of the finger wheel.
Turn the dial on it’s side and look through the fingerstop. Give the dial a full turn and check if the fingerwheel does not touch the stop.
Do the 3 and 6 misdial? Always or just sometimes? How do you know it is the 3 and 6?
No problem dialling out but when this phone is connected and an incoming call comes.,it tingles once and then disconnects the call. I tried another old dial telephone at this point and it works so I know the line is ok. Do you know which component might be faulty?
Hi Willie, thanks for your message. I think there is a short circuit in your telephone, especially with regards to the ringer. Probably one of the wires is connect wrong.
But it is hard to tell which one, as I do not know the make or model.
Hi Sean, that is unfortunate. If you have a second dial of the same type, you can compare the dial speed.
The dail, if you dial 0 (for dials with 1 – 0 lay out), it should return to its rest position in about 1.2 sec. You can use a stopwatch, but that is very inaccurate. You can also make a video of it and use it to measure it.
You can also use software called audacity and hook your dial up to the microphone jack of your computer.
What kind of dial do you have?
I actually got it back working again! I found that (after being wound around a couple times to roughly the right tension) the dial needed to be at a certain position (judged from looking at the back of the dial) to make the internal connections register as the start position (not a number) – in any other position the phone would not produce a dial tone. However, while adjusting the spooled up dial to the correct place while trying to replace the finger stop, I damaged a small spring that holds a ratchet cog in place. That small spring is about the size of a spring found in a retractable ball-point pen, even a bit smaller. I ended up having to cut most of the spring away and finally got it reattached with maybe a quarter of what was left of the spring. After that I was able (more carefully this time) to get the dial adjusted properly before installing the finger stop to keep it in place, a hard task whole holding the mechanism in place. I did have to readjust it once or twice to dial correctly though, and maybe it is not adjusted to the most ideal spot, but it now dials correctly!
It would be nice to have something besides my regular phone line to dial into for troubleshooting. This may or may not be a tutorial you wish to do. If you do it, maybe get an already damaged dial to try it on first. I would enjoy seeing a picture or video tutorial on this, as I found absolutely no resources online to help me.
Having the finger stop also double with that function is a really bad design.
I found though, after all of this, that the dial now produces an auditable (through the receiver) number of clicks according to the number dialed. I wonder if some wires are touching that shouldn’t be, as my other rotary phones only produce a single click sound for any number dialed.
The markings on the back of this dial are: Type 24C AT&E Company Liverpool England.
The phone is quite interesting, as I believe it to be an amalgamation of numerous parts. Sold on eBay from India, it has that old English dial, a cheap modern (probably Chinese) receiver and transmitter, and an ornate brass and wood body (probably from India). I’m guessing the manufacturer (possibly a single person) salvaged some old dials and made some nice devices with them. It arrived a bit out of shape, dial would not return, sidetone was too strong, handset cradle would not move, I fixed the dial & cradle issues and put some cloth in front of the transmitter to reduce the sidetone (which also softened my audio which was good as it made the speakers voice quite tinny). It claims to be a reproduction of an 1885 Siemens Brothers & Co. desk set, but with a dial. If you know more about these phones made in India (there is a number of different models) I’m interested to learn more about them. You can see it & buy it here https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Landline-Old-Siemens-Brothers-Co-1885-London-Corded-Telephone-TP-013/164244444203?hash=item263dbb542b:g:hcEAAOSw049e5gZK
Hi Sean, wow. I am impressed. Glad to hear that you got it working again. Sounds like you had a very learning experience.
For testing purposes I recommend buying a small house exchange for 3 to 8 lines. They are the size of a shoe box and cheap to get. Great for playing around with your telephones and a good start if you are interested in vintage telephony. Make sure it accept pulse dialing (rotary) or if you like both pulse and DTMF.
In the future I intend to write more about dial calibration and servicing. But articles like that take quite a while to make.
Thank you for that link. Sorry to say your phone is a novelty phone or fantasy phone. The design is not based on a real old phone. It is a mix up of newly made and vintage parts, like your dial.
Not sure if that clicking sound is actually a fault. You always hear that faintly and perhaps in this case they did not bother to put in a surpressing diode to make the clicks sound softer.
Yeah, I only bought this telephone because I liked the design for my office desk, and it’s something that I feel comfortable messing with. I will be replacing the cords with vintage cloth covered cords soon. Do handsets always use 4 wire cords?
I do however have a couple of proper antique telephones. The most original is a Stromberg Carlson candlestick with dial and (I believe original) subset box, I’m guessing it’s all from the 1920s. It’s strange though because I have only seen that frame without a dial, and every S.C. I seen with a dial has the dial inset in the base similar to the Western Electric dial candlestick. On mine the dial is fully out of the case, and I suspect it is either a really early one that has been retrofitted with a dial from the factory or telephone company or possibly by the end user later in its life, however the finish on the dial and base match perfectly. It was from a Canadian exchange. It’s nice, however the transmitter makes my voice come through with really poor quality. Will replacing it with another carbon transmitter fix the issue you think?
I also own a wood Kellogg wall phone from about 1917. It doesn’t have the picture frame routing or cathedral top like the earlier ones, however it does have the long transmitter arm. It has been retrofitted with an older style dial inside so it can make outgoing calls.
I also got a cheaply made, but ornate, Chinese rotary phone that automatically converts the dial spin into tones, and has # & * on the dial. You may have seen them. My big complaint is the handset frame is made of such cheap plastic it breaks, and you’re left gluing it, as they don’t sell replacements. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Telephone-Retro-Phone-Rotary-Antique-Dial-Handset-Corded-Desk-Home-Phone/392907709960?_trksid=p2485497.m4902.l9144
I just got an Automatic Electric dial that runs slow, when compared to my working dials it is noticeably slower. When the first number is dialed it goes back to a dial tone, so the full phone number cannot be dialed. How do I speed it up? It’s very clean, looks nearly brand new, so a cleaning won’t help.
Thanks. Please mind that some dial mechanism can be adjusted by other means, like adjusting screws. Also: bending the wings is for fine tuning. Rough adjusting is done by winding or unwinding the spring.
Greeting from the UK; thanks for such an informative article.
Can you recommend any good guides for rewinding and re-calibrating a spring? I have a dial here in pieces and I’m determined to fix it instead of buying a new one!
I’ve bought a vintage tension gauge from E-Bay. From the date and brand, it may well be the exact model used by BT engineers in the 70s and 80s. I suppose I’ll get the spring wound and then aim for ten breaks per second with the gauge.
Wish me luck. 😉
P.S. The governor pivot bearing broke, so the tail of the wormgear keeps slipping, causing the dial to stick. I tried super-gluing the plastic back together to no avail. Any suggestions for something which could perform a similar function?
Hi Arwin, thanks for your reply. Mr. Percival’s site looks promising.
Do you have any tips for rewinding (not necessarily recalibrating) the spring? I’m having tremendous difficulty doing it manually, and my fingers keep getting small cuts due to the sharpness of the spring ends! I can’t imagine anyone ever doing this unaided on a day-to-day basis. Is there some sort of generic spring-winding equipment you recommend?
Once it’s wound, I’ll begin calibrating it with the gauge.