Priceless broken cassette tape-- how to fix?

Hi all,

I recently found a cassette tape from several years back. The tape had snapped and was in a tangled mess (I’m sure y’all can imagine…) This tape has my deceased grandmother singing and is priceless. What’s the best option to have this fixed? (I don’t want to try to do it myself!!)

Take it to a local A/V company that does this type of work, and be prepared to spend some bucks…
And, dupe it onto a CD the moment you get it back.


It’s actually very simple to do yourself with moderate care. The Radio Shack parts are few bucks at most.

They used to make splicing tape for cassettes, but I have used regular old Scotch tape. (I will use the term “splicing tape” to refer to sticky tape. The term “tape” will refer to the media tape.

First, you have to straighten out the media tape. You will want the tape wound around its take-up reel as best as you can. Usually, I would use a pencil to wind the tape while holding the tape itself with just a little bit of tension. As you wind it, make sure the tape is underneath the plastic cassette edges, but over the little felt pad.

Wind all the tape except for a couple of inches.

If you have a squeeze clamp, you can anchor the cassette to the table so you can wind with one hand and apply tension with the other. Otherwise, get a friend to hold the cassette.

Once you have the tape straightened and wound on both take-up reels, lay the two ends together. Typically, you are supposed to lay the ends of the tape over each other and then slice them diagonally with a razor blade. Then, separate the two ends carefully until they just barely touch. Apply a tiny piece of splicing tape to the backside of the tape. The backside is the side that touches the felt pad. The front side is where the recording media is.

What I would typically do is place a half-inch strip of splicing tape along the back, and the smallest piece possible on the front, over the splice. Needless to say, you have to cut the splicing tape so that it is narrower than the media tape itself. The easiest way to cut the tape is just cut it width-wise from the end.

Sometimes, I would have to take the cassettes apart in order to rethread the spools. If you can, take apart another old cassette so you can see how it all holds together.

Some cassettes were held together by tiny screws in the corners. Others, I have split with a single-edged razor blade and then transferred the tape to another cassette case that had screws.

I am sure you can find examples on YouTube.

a place that copies recorded tape (reel, cassette, 8 track) to CD would be able to both repair and copy onto more durable media. you want to untangle the tape starting with the loose broken ends and into the rest of the tape. handle the tape (especially the dull side) as little as possible. a ball point pen shell makes a good tape handler to lift and guide the tape. when you get the tape untangled you can wind (with your finger tip in the hub) the most of the tape in, leaving 6 inches of both ends to stick out.

Is the shell held together by screws? If so, it’s a fairly simple fix. Just unscrew it and open it up. I don’t know how tangled up your tape might be. If it’s not too bad, than you can just untangle it by hand and piece it back together with a small piece of scotch tape - I know they used to carry splicing at Radio Shack, but have no idea if they still do. Scotch tape will be fine if you don’t plan on playing if often.

If they tape is too tangled up though, you’d probably be best off just cutting away the portion that’s messed up. You’ll lose a few seconds of audio, but I can tell you from experience that if you try unraveling a wad of tape that’s too tangled, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up unspooling the rest of the tape, and you’ll be worse off than you were before.

Also, if you have another cassette handy, take note of just how the tape is threaded through it before screwing the broken cassette back together. If the tape isn’t threaded just right, it’ll just end up getting broken or tangled up again. And make sure the tape doesn’t get caught in the shell either as you’re putting it back together.

And as the poster above noted, make a digital copy as soon as you get it fixed. You can download Audicity for free online and buy a cable for a few bucks at Radio Shack to connect the headphone jack on your tape player to the microphone jack on your computer.

Let us know how it goes.