Performing a 1541 Drive Head Transplant

Recently I came across a Newtronics style 1541 drive, and as usual the read/write coil was wide open. I decided it would be interesting to see if i could get it working again with a donor drive head.

The donor head was taken from some 5.25″ Chinon PC compatible drive i had in my dead parts bin. The two heads were physically different enough to make swapping the carrier as a whole unit impossible, so I had to transplant the R/W coil directly into the old frame.

Removing the old coil from the Newtronics head was a real pain because of all the epoxy. I ended up punching/breaking the center out with a rod and using snips to remove the coil’s housing. There was a resistor and a diode soldered to the bottom side of the old head that might have been important, but since they weren’t present on the donor I didn’t move them over. To fix the donor coil in place I wrapped it in enough electrical tape to fit it snugly in the frame, then secured it with super-glue. I wouldn’t recommend this, as super-glue doesn’t hold up well to heat (which is pretty important given how hot 1541s like to get), and it leaves a white residue all around the part. Ideally I would have used a 2-part epoxy, but I got impatient.

My best attempt at aligning the new head.

After a bit of time, I was able to get a good alignment on the drive. I ran some demos and it handled them just fine. Funnily enough, the hardest part of the alignment wasn’t actually the head; it was realizing that the disk was slipping in the spindle.