Will it go round in circles until it stops?
December 11, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a replacement motor for my vintage Christmas color wheel?

I have one of those nifty color wheels from the early 1960s (I guess). It really puts nice light on my aluminum Christmas tree and brings me right back to the holiday season at my grandparents' houses in the mid-1960s.

The color wheel is in good shape, but I think its motor is on its last legs. It makes an unpleasant grinding noise when it's powered on and it just seems to be working harder than it should.

I'd appreciate any advice about how to replace the motor. The motor is pretty simple: turn the power switch and it rotates at a single speed, rather slowly. I'm reasonably handy with a soldering iron, but have no idea where to find a suitable replacement.

Click for pictures of said motor: picture one, and picture two.
posted by the matching mole to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My guess is that that's actually some sort of motor/gear combo. Small electric motors tend to whizz round quite quickly, and anyway, it looks like the shaft is offset, which suggests a gear.

First thing you need to do is work out the current RPM. Then I'd talk to someone in a model shop - the sort of place where they sell the bits and pieces people use to build custom model trains and boats. They'll probably be able to work out what you need.

Here, for example, is a 10RPM gear motor
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:11 PM on December 11, 2011

Maybe do a google for colorwheel motor. Lots of hits.
posted by JayRwv at 2:13 PM on December 11, 2011

Yeah, that's a little gearhead motor. (Notice that the output shaft isn't centered, that's because the disc-shaped bit at the front of the motor case has some gears. The motor proper is in the back half of the case.) Probably the gears or a bearing is worn. As le morte de bea arthur says, they're easy to find replacements for. The parameters you probably want to match are:
  • output speed— might be worth timing a few revolutions of your color wheel so that the replacement has the same speed and the same feel
  • output shaft diameter— looks like maybe 1/8 inch or so?
  • input voltage— it almost certainly runs on household AC (110VAC, 60Hz) but it's worth looking at the guts of the color wheel to make sure it's not actually running on rectified dc or something
  • general size and mountability (obviously you don't need a multi-horsepower machine tool motor)
Often these are called "timing motors" if the AC motor part is a synchronous motor, because their RPM will be very steady, based on the mains frequency. Wall clocks traditionally worked this way, for example. You can probably get one cheap at a surplus shop like H&R or MPJA or AS&S or Alltronics or somewhere.
posted by hattifattener at 4:06 PM on December 11, 2011

As a ridiculous fan of mid-century crap, especially holiday decorations, and a member of a household with an aluminum tree, I still don't completely trust fifty-year-old electrics. Bully for you if you have the skills but be aware that there are reasonably-priced new color-wheels out there; the easiest solution might be buying a new one and switching out the wheel, if desired.
posted by Morrigan at 4:35 PM on December 11, 2011

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