Record Lathe, Pt.1

Wednesday September 21 2022, 1077 words — Introduction to my series on my DIY record lathe.
Filed under: Record Lathe

Hi, welcome to the first short introductory post in a series where I’m going to document my attempt at building my own record lathe!

Work on this started around a year ago, but I haven’t really gotten around to documenting any of it outside of some posts on twitter, so I felt it was time to put this project’s documentation into a less ephemeral form.

Wait, what’s a record lathe?!

Good question! You know records, right? Round, black, shiny discs that contain music in a spiral groove?

One of those!
One of those!

These mass produced records are made in a disc pressing plant which squishes pucks of PVC (aka polyvinyl chloride, aka vinyl) plastic between two metal stampers that press the groove into the surface of the record and give it it’s shape. Of course, something needs to put the groove onto those stampers in the first place and that’s where a record or disc cutting lathe comes in.

In large scale record production this happens by cutting a master on a record lathe and then electroforming a negative from the master that can be used to stamp the actual records. These master records were at first cut into wax and later on lacquer coated metal discs.

Now, this might make a record lathe seem kinda useless unless you want to start your own record pressing plant but one alternative to this process is to just cut the final record directly on a record lathe. This process is rather slow since the records are cut in real time, but when you’re only making 10 records that still might be preferable to going through the hassle and expense of making a master and stampers or having a pressing plant make 500 records for you.

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