I use needle-nose pliers, although it's still possible to slip and do damage f you're not extra careful - especially in the case of a tight fit. It's hopeless for me to try this using my fat fingers.
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Dear Stringree: You can use your hand or like Bdgregory suggest a needle-nose pliers. It is better to make the wires set-up before you mount the cartridge and before that check if the wire clips could connect easy to the cartridge pins and if are a little " narrow " then use a tootpick to make " bigger " and then to the cartridge pins.
Anyway you habe to do it with care.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Tweezers. Borrow a pair from your wife. Needle-nose pliers are too potentially damaging to use for this job, IMO. If you squeeze too tight while concentrating on mating the connector to the pin, you can narrow the opening and thereby lose all hope of making the connection. As to your other question, DEFINITELY mount the cartridge in the headshell first, before attempting to make connections. (No need to align the cartridge prior to making connections; just use the headshell as a way of stabilizing the cartridge while inserting the clips. Then you can make the fine alignment adjustments of the cartridge AFTER the wires are connected.) BTW, a good contact enhancer, like the Walker SST or whatever else you like, is very beneficial when applied between the cartridge pins and the connectors.
Lewm- What a good idea. Tweezers for sure. As for the order, I have always mounted the cart first, then connected the clips. BTW, if you want nerve-racking, try doing this with a nude canteliver cart like the benz or on a tt with no arm rest like the schroder. Luckily, I did not have both at the same time!!!
Another vote for tweezers. I usually mount the cart on the arm LOOSELY, then attach the clips, then tighten the cart screws, checking the cart alignment with your protractor of choice. before the final tightening. All. Very. Carefully.
A handy hint. Roll up some Mortite (plumber's putting) or a Blu-Tack equivalent so you have a thin cylinder -- something you can twirl between thumb and forefinger -- that's about an inch long and use it to hold the nut and/or tighten the screw before you use a screwdriver for the final tightening. Good luck, Dave
Have a couple of gin and tonics before you start on this task. It will increase the likelihood of a disaster but drastically reduce the chances that you will care a lot.
BTW, I have done it several times with nude cartridges (Benz, etc) and never had a problem if following the technique that I and Dopogue apparently both favor. Hemostat is good idea, too. But your wife is much more likely to have tweezers than a hemostat. (Mine is a doctor and so has both.)
The best tool I have found for connecting and disconnecting cartridge clips is the one supplied with my Graham tone arm. You can get it from Lee Valley for $7.95.
The pics will tell you all you need to know.
ok, I'm probably over-analyzing this task, but here's my additional 2 cents:
I have used hemostats (which incidentally can be purchased at most electronics, fly fishing, and probably other crafts or hobby shops). They work nicely as long as you don't lock the clamp on the wire. Unlocking them is tricky without bending connectors. This may be a problem with my own dexterity or technique, but I quit for this reason and went back to needle nose pliers. The set I use is very small, light weight and spring loaded. That said, I think the idea of regular tweezers is great because of the finger tip control they give you. I really like the tweezers Tobias posted - gonna buy me a set.
by the way - generally connect the leads to the cartridge BEFORE I attach the cartridge to the headshell. I even do this with my Glider. It's not such a concern with my other cartridges because they have a stylus guard. I'm more comfortable doing it this way, having tried it when attached.
An additional piece of information is that whether you carefully use a needle nose pliers or hemostats, you must grab the clip behind the slitted tube of the clip. Don't grab the wire, don't grab the slitted tube. Also, grabbing it behind the slitted tube where I just described, you must be very careful to not bend it back and forth, as it will break off easily. I try not to use hemostats as I find even the first click to be too harsh and can easily squash the wire, sleeve, etc.
I would check to see if the connectors slide on to a pin before monting the cartridge to see whether they need to be spread or not, spread all four if necessary, then mount the cart, then put the connectors on the pins. Much easier to insure you don't lunch a cantilever that way. Obviously, this is personal preference. On a VPI arm, you can flip the arm upside down on a thin cloth on a table in front of you to before seating it on the arm base to ease the task. Be careful howeve, to not bend the wires sprouting out the top leading to the interface box. Arms affixed on a table are both a little harder and conversely easier, but you will get accustomed to either.
Don't worry so much about it. Take a deep breath and take your time.
Nice of VPI to do that BTW.
Also, when removing the clips, do the following:
(assuming you are right-handed)
1) With the needlenose pliers in your right hand, get a firm (but not too tight!) grip on the connector.
2) DO NOT PULL AWAY WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND! BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN!
3) "Move" the clip off the cartridge by pushing your right thumb with your left thumb. Your right thumb and right hand (which is applying tension to the pliers) will resist the pressure applied by your left thumb, achieving a state of equilibrium, and then the clip will slide off gently as you slowly reduce resistance by your right hand.
This will allow you to avoid "jerking" the clip off of the cart and possibly tearing the tonearm leads.
Hope that helps somebody, someday.