Today many people are abandoning their loyalty to the technological advances of the 2000’s and are going back to a more tangible and meaningful way of experiencing music. It’s recently been reported that vinyl has received a huge increase in sales that hasn’t been rivaled since the early 90’s. For the world this off and on relationship with physical formats like the vinyl record has existed for over 100 years. For me however, my relationship with vinyl has existed for as long as I can remember.
After becoming bored with my father’s “off limits” record collection I decided to start my own at the age of 8. As a young aspiring DJ the obvious thing that fascinated me most about vinyl was the fact that a record could be manipulated so easily. Eventually, after two decades of using other peoples records to DJ and produce with it was a natural progression for me to start pressing my own sounds to vinyl.
My first experience with pressing vinyl was painfully awful. The company I went through went out of business in the middle of completing my project and decided to stop returning my email and phone calls. After a couple months of detective work I would eventually receive my records and the lesson that pressing vinyl could be a potential nightmare.
I saw my first DIY lathe cut record while I was out record shopping one day and was immediately drawn to it. Unlike other discs this was a one of a kind 7″ clear square made by Denver’s own, Meep records. Within hours I was composing an email asking them to have one of my songs cut and by the end of the ordering process I was determined to one day own my own record lathe.
A record lathe, also known as record cutter, is a machine that has been used over the last 100 years by professionals and at one point the general public. For the professional, a lathe which resembles a turntable has a cutting needle attached to it which cuts a groove into the record creating either a master disc for the purpose of vinyl pressing or a dub plate for immediate playback. It’s hard to believe but for the general public in the 1940’s record cutting devices were a common household appliance used to record radio shows and home performances. Today many record enthusiasts have used the overall combined knowledge of both professionals and hobbyists to experiment with new ways of creating records.
With this knowledge over the last couple years I purchased two very common (as well as broken!) 1940’s house hold record cutters but was ultimately determined to one day buy a high end lathe that worked and could produce good audio results. After years of research I recently decided to commit to purchasing a quality record lathe found on eBay. The seller assured me that the portable 7″ 45 rpm cutter produced in Japan in the 1970’s could create incredible results. Although the learning curve since I purchased the lathe has been tremendous I have been able to create the guaranteed results embossing grooves on different mediums with no buyer’s remorse.
Although vinyl record sales are soaring many suppliers in the record cutting industry have not upgraded their business model due to the fear that the public’s increase of interest in records is nothing more than a passing fad. With the lack of acetate discs to cut on many of the enthusiasts have had to find new ways to create their own records. “Embossing” like “Cutting” is a process that utilizes both a record lathe and cutting needle. However, embossing is often done using a polycarbonate disc in place of the expensive and hard to find acetate. In the embossing process the needle doesn’t penetrate the surface as deep and as a result creates quieter audio with less than perfect tracking. The advantage to embossing is that you can create a groove in nearly anything that is polycarbonate plastic based including CD’s, plastic picnic plates and more.
Ultimately, owning a record cutter means creating unique releases and eliminating the wait and obligation of quantity when ordering records from big pressing plants. While the internet has created many opportunities for artists to successfully distribute their music digitally a lot of others like myself feel like our fan base is not centralized online. In the end I made the decision to start creating my own records in order to construct an avenue for myself and like-minded artists to be able to share music on a physically relevant medium at the proper pace and with the appropriate audience.
More information can on record cutting can be found at www.lathetrolls.com