Sparkling Grilles

Articles by John Papa

Nothing dresses up a jukebox restoration and repair like a front grille that looks brand, spanking new. Polishing and elbow grease alone won’t do the job. The only way to do it properly is to start out by taking it off. Most jukebox hobbyists and even some dealers are intimidated by the thought of removing the grille on a ’50s machine. The disassembly procedure is not discernible at immediate glance. But it’s like fixing the kitchen stove — they do come apart, people do put them together, and therefore people can take them apart.

Most of the grilles from the ’50s will come out in less than an hour. Just remember what came out first, second, third and so forth, and put it back the same way in reverse. Once out, wash and brush both sides with a soft plastic brush using an alkaline-based solution, like Spray Nine or Fantastic, and then rinse thoroughly with clear water. It’s important that you do not wash aluminum grilles with an acid-based wheel cleaner. This treatment will etch the aluminum and will diminish the grille’s ability to reflect light. If your grille is not corroded you’ll be surprised at how clean it looks after a good bath and brushing.

If your grille is corroded, follow the same procedure, only after it dries use a soft brass brush just on the bad spots. If the grille is really bad you will have to take a chance on re-plating it. I say take a chance because there is about a 50-50 risk that your grille will successfully take the plating. The problem is in getting even current flow to the center of the grille when it is in the plating tank.

The finishing touch on your now great-looking grille is the replacement of whatever is behind it. In most cases it is a loose-weave antron or polyester cloth, usually black. These back cloths are often caked with dirt, so a replacement cannot help but make the grille in front of it look better.

So don’t be frightened by the prospect of removing the grille of your jukebox — it’ll be fun. Think of how the light will bounce off that sparkling new grille. It’s like shining teeth!

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