Kevin's Projects

Jukebox, Lighting and Software Development

Empire Intro:

I wanted to share this awesome jukebox with everyone that comes to my site. I ran across this home built jukebox while surfing some jukebox sites. I love the Art Deco period as you can see from my jukebox. When I saw this absolutely awesome work of art and mechanical craftsmanship I automatically contacted the website owner which put me in touch with Norman. Not only has he built the Newboult Empire but also a bar and is working on a 2nd one. Enjoy the reading below!

Newboult Empire - Home Built Mechanical Art Deco Jukebox


The Empire was Norman Newboults project to build a jukebox from scratch is now complete. The machine I've named the Empire is now in our living room stacked with LP's and working well. It all started after admiring a Discophone Goliath and seeing a lot of the internals made of wood. I had a desire to acquire one of these machines but began to think about the possibility of making one, as they don't turn up very often and maybe pricey. I particularly like the style of the cabinet on the lines of a 1930's cinema, hence the name of my machine "The Empire". My thoughts soon turned away from a Goliath copy playing 45's to one which would play vinyl LP's. I chose the Wurlitzer counter top idea were all the records are stacked on the turntable and devised a method of splitting the stack and sliding the tone arm in between. This would only play one side, to play the other; the record stack is locked into a rotating mechanism, rotated through 180 degrees and placed back on the turntable. After selecting an LP any track can be played. I won't go into technicalities but to say it is all mechanical technology, not a chip in sight only valves and relays. As there is no modern technology to position the stylus in the gap between each track the machine relies on solid engineering.

The frame of the working part of the mechanism is welded steel suspended on rubber mounts in an aluminum frame to eliminate any movement of the pre-aligned parts. The cabinet is in 5 parts, which attach to the frame with lift off hinges. As can be seen from this type of construction the machine is heavy. Weighing the various parts on the bathroom scales and adding it all up it comes to 485lbs. It would have made more sense to adopt a more modern approach but my interest is in jukebox mechanics and pre-transistor technology led me to build it this way. The mechanical programmer using solenoids to push in pins could have been replaced by a few chips but I would not have had the interest to complete the machine.

The sound system has 6 inch speakers each side for stereo reproduction and a 15-inch bass in the front door fed by valve amps. Built in stages, most of the work was done during the winter months taking around 5 years to complete. During this time if I got fed up, it would be pushed into the corner of the workshop and covered over until the next wave of enthusiasm or I had forgotten why I had pushed it in there in the first place. The whole machine is built from scratch in my workshop with parts like motors, gears and relays salvaged from scrap equipment refurbished and modified as necessary. The only parts I was unable to make are the glass pilasters, stained glass and leather turntable covers. I would like to thank Dave Burton, an artist who produces fantastic designs in leather for making the turntable covers.

We liked his work so much we had a leather-topped table made up with the same design, his specialty. My thanks to Ros and Alan Battson, Alan for turning my sketches and ideas into computer images for Ros to make up into the stained glass for the front of the machine and a green and red dome which when lit from above illuminates the visible part of the mechanism. Norman.

How it works

The 10 LP's separated by aluminum discs are held in a rotating mechanism which allows them to rotate though 180 degrees to play either side. When the selection is made the record stack rotates to play either side. The turntable rises up from below and lifts the whole stack out of the rotators into the separation section that has 8 separation claws.

The claws drop into gaps between the discs and when the selected record is reached the turntable will stop rising. The motor will reverse and the stack descends to the play position leaving some of the records up in the air held with the claws. The tone arm moves across to the selected track and starts playing. After playing the tone arm moves back to the rest position, turntable rises up to the remaining records, the claws open to release and the whole stack descends back into the rotators ready for the next selection.

Track selection is done by 20 rods in a moving carriage assembly, one rod per side. Each rod has 8 pins that can be pushed into place by solenoids operated by pressing a key on the keyboard. After the record and track selection is made the carriage assembly will start to scan and look for pins pushed out. When a pin is found the scan stops and the rod will be pushed upward to 2 detector arms.

The top portion of the rod has adjusting screws pressing against the detector arms to set the start and stop position of each track. At the bottom of the tone arm is a mirror that reflects a beam of light onto detectors at the end of the detector arms. As the tone arm moves over the record the beam of light will hit the stop detector and lower the arm onto the start of the selected track. When the end of track is reached the beam of light will hit the stop detector and the arm will lift off the record and return to rest. All this works with only15 electric motors, 54 micro switches, and 89 relays. On the audio side a magnetic pickup feeds a 20-watt stereo valve amp. 6 inches mid range speakers either side of the cabinet for stereo and a 15 inch bass speaker in the center.

The bass speaker is fed with it's own valve amp by mixing the left and right hand channels after the pre-amp. The cabinet and visible part of the mechanism are illuminated by a total of 30 lamps and 11 fluorescent tubes. 4 fans mounted on rubber to keep then noise down remove the heat generated inside the cabinet by all these lamps and valves.


The Newboult Bar:

I thought you might like to see another one of mine the interior of a garden shed attached to my workshop. Part of the garden watering system! Behind the bar is a record player for my 78's. I can play vintage music via the valve amp built into the bar though the speaker in the center behind the Gothic arch.  What can be better than supping real ale, gazing at maidens and looking at valves!