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How to cut vinyl records

Here is some brief and helpful information about how a vinyl is made.

MASTERING /CUTTING

The music/sound is converted to analogue signals which vibrate a diamond cutting stylus.
A lathe is used which cuts a groove from (left and right– to produce stereo) and ( up and down for the -bass and treble) this is cut into a polished 14″ aluminum disk which is covered with a plastic coating.The machine is referred to as ‘The Curtain Coater’. This plastic coating is called Nitro cellulose Lacquer (the Lacquer)A similar substance to nail polish.

How to cut vinyl records

Polished Aluminum disc ready for the lacquer

The center spindle hole is punched out by a hydraulic puncher machine.
Each lacquered disc is inspected manually for any imperfections it is reported that at least 50% are rejected and recycled.

How to cut vinyl records

Lacquered disc ready for mastering

The Cutting of the disc would be done in the studio on a lathe by the engineer.
THE ENGINEER would adjust the EQ and compression to get good clean sounding grooves.
Theplayingtime of the music, determines the amount of grooves per inch that would be cut in to te record.
The sound dynamics of the music determines how far apart the grooves must be.

: Loud passages need more space between the grooves than quieter passages. The cutting machine (lathe) would automatically adjust these grooves accordingly depending on the amount of signal frequency that is being received. After all grooves are checked we proceed to make metal copies from the master.

How to cut vinyl records

Photo of the sapphire tipped cutting Lathe.

METALWORK

A Lacquer is sprayed with a silver solution (to make it into a good conductor of electricity) it is then placed into a bath containing a nickel sulphamate solution, Photo of the sapphire tipped cutting Lathe.

Then an electric current is passed though this and small nickel particles are attracted to the surface of the lacquer . This is the (+ positive) this then goes into another tank and the process is repeated to produce the mirror image the (-negative) These will be kept as the MASTERS. a further copy is made

THE STAMPERS These thin metal plates are then fitted to a record press -PRESSING – A puck of vinyl material is squashed between two heated moulds under hydraulic pressure, the press puts the labels on at the same time. the 12″ is then trimmed, cooled and packed.
This is the basic process used to make a vinyl record, hopefully this will give you a better understanding when we use such words such as ‘MASTERS’ and ‘STAMPERS’ ‘CODES’ are\were used by manufactures and were stamped or etched on to the run off grooves, often the first pressings were etched with an initial by the master presser.

With a deeper understanding of these manufacturers codes, it can help us to date and understand which master our vinyls were pressed from!

For this first Sounds et al blog, we’re going to describe, step-by-step, how a vinyl record is made – running through the process of manufacturing a finished record, ready to be played…or sold.

Any feedback, questions or comments, get in touch through the links below or email us

So let’s assume at this point that the song, album, or sound, has been recorded, mixed and mastered, and is ready to be cut onto a vinyl record.

This is the process outlined below – the sound is cut onto a lacquer disc, electroplating creates the stamper, and this is used to press the finished record.

Creating the Lacquer Disc

The first step in the manufacturing process is to create the lacquer disc. The manufacturer essentially takes a flat aluminium disc which is then coated with a lacquer vaneer; nitrocellulose lacquer to be precise.

Just imagine a thin metal disc covered in nail polish.

Lacquer disc = done.

How to cut vinyl records

Cutting: Recorded Sound onto the Lacquer Disc

The engineer places this blank disc onto a recording machine, AKA a lathe. This machine has a heated sapphire tip (very very pointy), designed to etch grooves into the lacquer surface of the disc.

As the recorded sound plays through the machine, the sapphire tip cuts the recording’s sound waves into the surface of the disc, with a small vacuum sucking up the lacquer that’s being cut out. The recorded sound (however many tracks) will be etched into the disc as one continuous spiral groove – a physical representation of the frequency and amplitude.

How to cut vinyl records

***warning*** very rough impression

Once the cutting is complete, the tip is lifted up and the engineer inspects the disc for any flaws. Although the recording has been cut into the disc, the lacquer surface is far too delicate to be played repeatedly.

These lacquer discs, also known as ‘acetates’ or ‘dub plates’, are used to test the transfer of the sound from the original recording onto disc – the sound transfer can be rejected at this point (by engineer/ artist/ label etc), and cutting a new lacquer disc is then required.

Plating: The Stamper

Once approved, the lacquer disc is washed, sprayed with silver solution, and immersed in a tank of tin chloride. Through a process of electroplating, tin molecules are attracted to the silver so that once the disc is removed from the tank, a metal layer has formed on top – an exact opposite image of the lacquer disc.

The metal version (known as the ‘stamper’) is removed from the lacquer disc (now discarded), and will be used as the mold to press the final vinyl records. The lacquer disc was the negative image of the recording (i.e. grooves cut inwards), and the stamper is the positive (i.e. grooves coming outwards).*

You may have also spotted that this has just made a one-sided stamper. The process we’ve covered so far is then repeated step-by-step for the other side, i.e. the B-side.

Pressing: The Finished Vinyl

PVC pellets are melted and shaped into a malleable patty-type lump (imagine a delicious rubbery mini-burger made out of tasty-tasty PVC). This patty is then put in between two separate stampers (the A-side of the recording on one side, B-side on the other), these stampers are hot (

350F) and hydraulic pressure pushes them together, squishing this PVC burger onto the outward facing grooves of the stampers (remember these are the positive image of the sound recording), and pressing the record into existence.

How to cut vinyl records

***warning***very rough impression

The edge of this record is then spun against a knife, cutting away the ragged edge. The whole process of pressing and trimming the record takes under 30 seconds.

You now have a finished vinyl record.

How to cut vinyl records

Additional Notes

These are put on during the final pressing stage – both labels (A and B-side) are placed on the record as it’s pressed, and as the PVC cools, the labels are bonded to the vinyl.

Also determined in the pressing stage – the PVC pellets can be coloured, and mixed to create different tones of the finished record.

Too much information for the main post…but when making the lacquer discs a hydraulic puncher cuts a hole in the centre for the disc to be held on the lathe and in the tank for electro-plating. When the stamper is separated from the lacquer disc, an engineer puts the metal disc under a microscope which is attached to an optical-cantering punch (seriously), and by rotating the disc the grooves are aligned with a guide in the viewfinder, and a hole is punched in the exact centre.

The stamper is also called the ‘father plate’. This father plate (remember, the positive image of the recording) can be plated again to create a ‘mother plate’ (i.e. a negative image of the recording, same as the lacquer disc). Made out of metal, this mother plate is a more durable copy of the lacquer disc, and can be used in the future to create more ‘father plates’.

Along with various quality control checks (e.g. listening and visibly checking the production stages), the discs will be kept apart from one another with rubber rims around the discs, and central plastic stoppers when they’re stacked – ensuring they don’t rub together, causing flaws.

More Information

If that wasn’t enough and you want more, have a look at these other pages:

• HowStuffWorks – Brief but straightforward description of the process

• The Telegraph – 2 minute video from the pressing plant explaining the process

• Gizmodo – Article with some history of the format, along with a 4.5 minute video with GGR

• Adam-Ant.net – Short but helpful article, with some handy photos too

Want More?

How to cut vinyl records

Have a look at another post from Sounds et al –
How Do Vinyl Records Work?

How to cut vinyl records

How to cut vinyl records

CamCuts has a Recording Studio on site, so if your audio requires any tweaking for the transfer to vinyl, the studio mastering facilities are on hand. Vinyl records have various audio limitations. On receiving your audio files we will inspect them to ensure that they are suitable for recording onto vinyl. There are many websites which will give you information to help you to provide suitable audio.

Get in touch using the contact form if you have any other requirements. We can also provide full colour printed sleeves (260g/m² high quality photo paper) and printed colour centre labels using your own artwork on request, please use the contact form to let us know your needs.

We now offer double-sided picture discs at very affordable prices! Also we now have Red , Green and Blue Transparent vinyl! Check the shop for more details.

You can choose from 3 record sizes, 7 inch, 10 inch or 12 inch. Each size has a limit on the length of audio that can be recorded, please check the panels below. If you require longer audio lengths, please use the contact form to ask.

Prices include a polylined inner sleeve, a plain white cardboard outer sleeve and SUBSIDISED P&P. If you’re not happy with your record then you can return it complete for a full refund. We’ve had no records returned so far!

Postage is by Tracked service to Europe, get in touch if you require this service to the rest of the world.

NEWS: We have just passed 1000 records cut and delivered, with customers all around the world !

How to create your vinyl record…

Step 1: Select your record size, vinyl colour and weight from the shop.

Step 2: Upload your tracks.

Step 3: Add the record to your cart.

Step 4: Apply any vouchers (check the Facebook page for offers).

Step 5: Pay via PayPal (PayPal account is not required).

NB. Order on or before Wed 15th Dec for delivery before Christmas 2021.