Old audio cassette tapes can develop a variety of issues that necessitate cassette tape surgery. For example, the tape may tear and break, necessitating the need to splice it back together. Another common problem is that the tape unravels from one of the wheel hubs, in which case you can splice it to the end of the tape on a new wheel hub made from a blank cassette tape. In either case, you can complete the task with a few simple tools and a delicate touch!
Method 1 Disassembling a Cassette Tape
1. Using a small Phillips screwdriver, unscrew the cassette case if it has screws. Remove the screws in the cassette tape’s two top corners with a tiny Phillips-head screwdriver. Place the screws somewhere you won’t lose them, such as a small dish or cup.
If there are no screws visible, your cassette is glued together.
A ripped or broken tape, as well as a tape that has come off one of the wheel hubs, are examples of problems that will necessitate taking a cassette tape apart to repair.
2. If the cassette is glued together, pry it apart with a tiny flathead screwdriver. Insert the flathead screwdriver’s edge into the crack on one side of the cassette where the front and back pieces of the case are glued together. Work it back and forth along the crack in a lever motion to gently separate the two halves.
If you are unable to pry the cassette case apart with your hands after separating the halves on one side, repeat the process with the screwdriver for the other sides of the cassette until you are able to pull them apart.
If you’re having trouble separating the pieces with a flathead screwdriver alone, try carefully running the blade of a boxcutter or utility knife along the cracks to cut through some of the glue.
3. Open the cassette tape horizontally to prevent the spools from falling out. Before you open the tape, lay it horizontally on a flat surface. Pull the top half off while attempting to keep the bottom half flat on your work surface.
This will keep the wheel hubs in place, preventing them from falling out and causing further damage to the tape.
Method 2 Splicing a Broken Tape
1. Cut the damaged ends of the broken tape with small, sharp scissors. Place the cassette tape’s two halves flat on the cutting board, with the insides facing up at you. Take care not to detach the tape from the wheel hubs. Trim off as little of the tape as possible, removing only the damaged parts of the tape where it ripped and broke. This will allow you to neatly tape the two pieces back together.
If you don’t have a pair of small, sharp scissors, use a boxcutter or utility knife and your cutting board to carefully cut the damaged ends off.
Depending on how much damaged tape you have to cut off, the audio of the tape may have a noticeable skip after you splice it back together.
2. Place one end of the broken tape on the cutting board and tape it down. Straighten one of the broken tape’s sides flat against the cutting board and carefully tape it down. Leave the trimmed end exposed.
Make sure the broken end of the tape is completely flat and not curling in any way so that it is easy to work with when splicing the other broken end to it.
3. Splice the two sides of the cassette tape together with cellophane tape. Line up the end of the broken tape on the other side with the end of the side you just taped down. Splice them together by pressing a piece of cellophane tape down over them.
At this point, the spliced pieces will be held down on the cutting board by cellophane tape.
4. Remove the cellophane tape and place the cassette tape on the cutting board. Gently peel the cellophane tape away from the cutting board with your fingernails, being careful not to unsplice the two halves of the cassette tape that you just stuck together. Turn the tape over so you can splice together the other side.
The sticky side of the cellophane tape and the side of the cassette tape that does not have cellophane tape should now be facing you.
5. Place a piece of cellophane tape on the opposite side of the spliced tape. Check to ensure that the ends of the broken tape are still lined up and adhered together. To finish splicing the broken ends together, carefully place a new piece of cellophane tape over the exposed sides of the cassette tape.
This should secure the broken tape and reduce the likelihood of it coming undone in the future.
6. Using a boxcutter or utility knife, remove any excess cellophane tape. Maintain a flat surface with the tape against the cutting board. Trim the excess cellophane tape that is hanging off the sides of the spliced tape, all the way up to the tape’s edge.
You can now reassemble the cassette tape.
Method 3 Putting a Tape Back on the Wheel Hub
1. Purchase a new blank cassette tape for use as a spare and open it. Buy a blank cassette that is held together with screws. Unscrew it with a Phillips screwdriver and disassemble it, just as you did with the cassette tape you want to repair.
It is extremely difficult to reattach a cassette tape that has come loose from one of the hubs. Using a new wheel tape from a blank cassette that already has tape attached to it will allow you to easily splice the old tape to it in order to attach it to a new hub.
2. 1–2 in (2.5–5.1 cm) from the end of the new cassette tape, cut it. The leader tape is the plastic, non-magnetic end of the tape that secures the magnetic tape to the wheel hub. Remove the spool from the cassette that has the exposed leader tape and cut the tape 1–2 in (2.5–5.1 cm) from the end of the leader tape with small, sharp scissors.
This will provide you with a new spool and a clean-cut piece of tape to splice the tape from your old cassette to in order to attach it to the new wheel hub.
3. Take your old cassette’s wheel hubs off. Remove the empty wheel hub and discard it. Remove the wheel hub with the tape spooled around it and place it in front of you.
This is best done on a cutting board on a flat work surface in front of you.
4. Connect the tape on the new wheel hub to the tape on the old hub. Align the cut end of the new blank tape with the end of the old cassette tape. Tape them together carefully with cellophane tape.
Complete instructions for splicing cassette tape together can be found in the preceding method.
5. Replace the cassette case’s wheel hub. Place each wheel hub carefully back into the old cassette so that the holes in the hubs’ centres line up with the holes in the cassette case. Wind the wheel hubs with a pencil so the tape isn’t loose and all over the place.
The cassette tape can now be reassembled.
If it’s easier, use the new cassette body instead of the old one. For example, if the old cassette was glued together, the new screw-together cassette case may be preferable. However, if the old cassette has labels and other information on it, you might want to use it.
Method 4 Reassembling a Cassette Tape
1. Align the rollers and pressure pad at the top of the cassette case with the tape. Make sure the tape is tightly spooled so that it is straight and flat at the top. Place the tape over the rollers in each of the four top corners. Place the tape beneath the pressure pad, which is located in the centre of the cassette’s top.
2. If the cassette case has screws, tighten them. Reassemble the cassette case by snapping the two halves back together and reinstalling the tiny screws in the case’s corners. Tighten them all the way with a small Phillips screwdriver.
3. If the cassette case lacks screws, glue it together. Apply a small dot of superglue to each corner of one half of the cassette case. Snap the case’s two halves together and hold them together for 30 seconds.
It’s best not to glue all the way around the cassette tape in case you need to disassemble it again in the future.
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