Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

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Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby marc_parazon » Sat Feb 25, 2017 5:57 am

Hello

I am an 'experimental' musician and a 'sound artist' in the sense that apart from concert I make sound installations.

I am currently working on a sound installation with gramophone playing 78 rpm records and I wish to make a record of my own music that I could play on it.

The problem with gramophone is that (and I guess you know that better than I do) It cannot play microgroove.

Therefore , i was wondering if you could help me on that : I wish to press a vinyl or shellac or whatever record of my own music that could be played on a gramophone.



Let me know
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Steve E. » Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:25 pm

I encouraged Marc to post this in the "Pressing Shellac Records?" thread, but this is a great post that deserves to be stickied. Why?

*It's a question that is coming to my doorstep, offsite, increasingly (people are also joining the forum to ask this sort of question).
*It's one of the questions that led me to start this site, in 2005. Nearly 12 years later, it remains one of the more difficult problems to solve satisfactorily.

marc_parazon wrote:Therefore , i was wondering if you could help me on that : I wish to press a vinyl or shellac or whatever record of my own music that could be played on a gramophone.


Let's be sure that we are clear about the desired result. marc_parazon wants a record that will play on a non-electric, or "acoustic", hand-cranked machine that plays lateral-grooved 78 rpm records of the RCA Victor variety.

First of all, it KINDA can be done. I'll show a video of me doing it later in the thread.

Here are the problems which must be considered.

Part 1: Hardness of record. Shellac (not vinyl) pressing is needed if disposable one-play steel needles are used.

1) 78 records were traditionally made of shellac. Shellac is MUCH harder than vinyl, and harder than the materials like makrolon polycarbonate that are used for some kinds of one-off "Lathe Cuts." It is also MUCH harder than acetate. If you intent to play a record using a traditional steel needle and a traditional incredibly heavy reproducer arm, the material must be shellac, or something that hard. (I suppose there were some home aluminium records. I suspect they were impossibly noisy.) If it's modern vinyl, the steel will stop the record after gouging it.

2) I would love to be corrected, but based on the topic "Pressing Shellac Records?" I don't think anyone is currently _pressing_ shellac. Any labels issuing 78 rpm records are probably issuing them on vinyl, which will be torn up by a gramophone with a steel needle.

3) Familiarize yourself with the difference between a "pressed" record and a "lathe-cut" record. "Pressed" records are generally mass-produced, and involved a complex process of:
a) cutting a master into a very soft material (acetate),
b) making an electroformed metal "negative" of the record, and
c) installing this into a pressing machine where harder copies are stamped from this negative, from molten materials.

Even if you had presses that were set up to handle shellac (and that's a big if), it would be a complex process for just one record.

I am unaware of any way to do a one-off cut directly into shellac. The whole point of shellac is to resist being cut into.

more....
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Steve E. » Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:39 pm

Part 2: Alternatives to pressing a shellac record.

So, I know of no cases of anyone who has pressed a shellac record since, maybe, India in the 1960's. In all likelihood, you will need to go another route.

The alternative to pressed records is "lathe-cut" records. This is to say: The step of cutting the grooves into the record produces the finished record (instead of producing a master used to generate stampers for pressings, etc). The resulting record will almost certainly be softer than shellac.

Here is a video of me, with Amy X Neuburg, cutting records which were played back immediately on gramophones, while wearing a ridiculous Chippendale-ish thing that was supposed to represent a 1920's vaudeville outfit, somehow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVvtlk0qu6A


1) What I did: I cut into Apollo or Transco-brand acetate dubplates. I was using a home-cutter from the 1940s, with some NOS 1940's stylus in it. (It was probably a Stellite standard-groove stylus. We'll come back to that.)

**CRUCIAL: Playback was with milled CACTUS NEEDLES. Peter Dilg gave me this tip. A steel needle would have torn right through this, but Greythorne-brand (or RCA Brand) shaped cactus needles will play records made of most materials softer than shellac. You will also need a cactus needle sharpener to maintain the tips. Both can be found on ebay.

Problems with what I did: Acetates are VERY soft. They are designed to give way when a sharp instrument cuts a groove into 'em... that's how you get high frequency response. So, while this particular playback in the video sounds great, these records would be unlistenable after roughly 6 plays--maybe a few more plays on a very well-maintained and well-designed UK Columbia or HMV machine, rubber gaskets all replaced, etc. Even with cactus needles, the sound will be torn off the record, soon enough.

2) So, the other alts would be some sort of cut into a more durable plastic material, using a diamond stylus instead of a standard sapphire. There are several users on the site offering these services. I do not believe services that involve embossing (vs cutting) will work in this particular project.

To be clear: None of these techniques involve cutting into the vinyl used in a pressing. that's a different, much harder material. These generally involve some other sorts of hardish plastic blanks.

OK.... there is more but I'm zonked.... I'll continue tomorrow.
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Steve E. » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:12 am

marc_parazon wrote:The problem with gramophone is that (and I guess you know that better than I do) It cannot play microgroove.


Part 3: Groove Shape

Yes. "Standard" grooves (as found on 78 rpm records) are differently shaped than post-1948 microgrooves (as found on 33's and 45's). Standard grooves and microgrooves both typically have sides that are 87 to 90 degrees, but the radius of the bottom of the groove is much cruder or rounder (less sharp) in a standard groove. The result of this is a valley that might be a bit wider at the top without necessarily being that much deeper. The needle of a acoustic gramophone sits much higher in the groove of a 78, than an electric needle sits in a microgroove.

You can use a microgroove cutting stylus when cutting acetates and produce a record that will play OK with 78 styli and microgroove styli. This is because you can cut deep into acetate without putting much stress on the tip of the stylus.

I am not sure you can do this with vinyl cutting, and achieve the loudness or groove width you want. (I'm involved in an experiment with this right now.) Nobody (I think) is currently selling a standard-spec diamond cutting needle, and it may be dangerous to use a microgroove diamond to cut as deeply into the vinyl as you'd prefer. (it may even be impossible to put a radiused, rounded tip on a diamond cutting needle given a diamond's specific molecular structure.)

Again, the video shows me using a "standard" stylus, and a rather crude one (stellite, not sapphire) to cut into an acetate.

Onsite links about groove shape and geometry:

Request: Specs, ANY pre-1948 cutting stylus ("Standard")

Rule of thumb: Groove geometry, Depth-to-width ratio

The record you are producing should have lines-per-inch with an absolute max of 160, and that's pushing it. 112 and 120 were typical in the day, 136 was acceptable. If you are using a Souri Vinylrecorder to do this, and cut at 78 rpm, you may push the motor system beyond what it can handle for the LPI you need.... the jury is out. (and you'd need to recalculate the LPI setting by multiplying the numbers by .43 or so, since the motor pushing the head is not connected to the platter and the numbers are for 33 rpm records. (33.33/78.26 =.425)
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Steve E. » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:35 am

So, in summary:

*You want a lateral-groove mono record that will play at 78 rpm, will play at the now-atypical loudness of a 78, and will support both the weight of a gramophone tonearm and the radius and material of its needle (pre-1948 "Standard," non-microgroove specs).

*A "pressing" is probably not what you want if your endgame is one record for a live installation, for economic and process-time reasons

*If a "pressing" IS what you want, shellac is probably not an option anyway, at least not yet. (See "Pressing Shellac Records?") It will be vinyl.

*Any record you play on a gramophone that doesn't use shellac, whether a pressing or a lathe cut, and whether vinyl, makrolon/poly or acetate will require, for playback, a New Old Stock (NOS) cactus needle, by the Greythorne or RCA company. And a cactus needle sharpener, for repeated use of cactus needles.

*if not shellac, you have these options:

1) a "Lathe Cut" acetate record, as seen in the video. You can easily get the "Standard" groove shape; but the record is so fragile, it will last about 6 plays on a gramophone. So not ideal.

2) a "Lathe Cut" vinyl/poly record. (These aren't actually cut into the vinyl used in a vinyl pressing--that is much harder.) This will be FAR more durable, but the jury is out as to whether you can get the volume and groove width you want out of the currently-available systems designed to cut into hard vinyl. (I'll have more data on this in a week, due to a current experiment.)

3) an "embossed" poly/makrolon record. I don't believe the grooves of such a record are strong enough, or deep enough, or loud enough, for a gramophone.

4) a PRESSED vinyl record. Advantages:
a)You could have it mastered on acetate and presumably get the groove specs you need, either by cutting with a Standard cutting style or by cutting very deep and loud with a microgroove stylus.
b) And, though you'd need a cactus needle, it would play on a gramophone without wearing out as fast as an acetate.
Disadvantages:
a) as with all your other non-shellac options, you have to playback using cactus needles
b) It would cost you a LOT of money for a process that's generally designed to mass-produce records.

SO: All that said, who can help this guy?
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Steve E. » Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:02 pm

5) Actually, in the "Pressing Shellac Records?" thread, there is a bunch of discussion of the possibility of making your own silicon mould and creating a one-off record of some sort of hard resin. It appears someone who may live in Singapore, Lee Leng Kok, has gone quite far with this idea. So there are subjects for further research.

Other threads and links of interest:

Christov Curystanos: Molding and Casting a Record That Actually Plays

Re: Getting Started with 78s (and hand cranked players) [includes resin records discussion]

Rule of thumb: Groove geometry, Depth-to-width ratio

Request: Specs, ANY pre-1948 cutting stylus ("Standard")

Charts...Disc cutting timing per LPI at 3 speeds

THIS one is interesting and I missed it before:

DIY shellac cutting lathe

Early threads on the topic:

78 cutting styli??? (2008)

Cutting Needle for Wilcox Gay Sr (2007, outdated, some interesting discussion)

Cutting lacquers for a Victrola, playing them back. (2005, outdated)
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Soulbear » Sat Mar 04, 2017 6:20 pm

Hi Steve,
Steve E. wrote: there is a bunch of discussion of the possibility of making your own silicon mould and creating a one-off record of some sort of hard resin.

Emily :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhvqwscTXvc demonstrates just such a technique, maybe you could cut the Lacquer with the "Larger" Stylus and then "Cast" a more durable Record after following the steps shown in this Video?? Just a Thought eh??
Regards :wink: :P :D Soulbear
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby tragwag » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:11 pm

I can do it! with adjustments to my Vinyl Recorder system, it's definitely possible.
shoot me an email: tragwag AT gmail DOT com

-Tyler
making lathe cuts on a Presto 6N, HIFI stereo cuts on vinylrecorder
at Audio Geography Studios, Tallahassee, FL USA
http://www.audiogeography.com
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Re: Need modern record for handcranked Gramophone/Victrola

Unread postby Tim w » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:57 pm

This may be late for you, but I just joined and wanted to add a thought. Someone mentioned making a silicone and resin casting which sounds like a good idea for making a few.
I wonder from someone who might know better if harder plastics can be used for pressing. For a living I work on copiers & printers. For gears they use a heavy duty white plastic which is rather resistant to scratches when I ran a steel point over it. It’s very similar to the plastic they used for the records they put in those talking pull string spinning toys we used to have at one time.
I wonder if you have considered cutting the groove vertically and using a jewel stylus. Judging from all the edison and pathe records left over, the majority of them have little to no wear. I think if you could afford to have specialty records custom made, it’s probably not much an added expense to get an attachment to play them. I know they aren’t to hard to find.
Well, I just wanted chip in an idea. I don’t know if it’s too late for you, but it’s here for the next person who might ask.
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