It is easy to forget nowadays that everything has to come from somewhere. Maybe you bought some vinyl records online in the sale and found yourself wondering, just how are they made? Well look no further, we have explained it for you.
The first commercially available vinyl was made in 1931, and the process has come a long way since. Nowadays, many artists are choosing more and more creative styles. From records shaped like the batman logo for Batman the animated series, glow in the dark, florescent, even clear vinyl is being produced.
Vinyl – A Family Affair
For vinyl creation, a mother, master and stamp copy needs to be created.
The first step is recording the music. The musician, the band and sound team, create the track or full album. Next, the music is taken into a vinyl mastering studio, in digital (CD) or analogue (tape) format.
At the mastering studio, the CD or tape gets placed into the correct player where a volume unit meter (VU for short) will show the average movement to movement of an instrument’s volume. The VU meter indicates the peaks in volume and this information maps out the thickness and shape of grooves on the final vinyl.
The groves are then cut onto an LP – the shorthand term for a long-playing record such as vinyl. Each groove acts as a fingerprint, no two are the same. This forms the master vinyl, it is then sent to the pressing plant where it will be replicated, forming the mother copy which then allows for the stamp to be created.
Fun Fact: a groove can be up to a half-mile long – that’s over 7 American football fields in length!
From the mother copy, a stamp gets formed. This is a metal copy that goes into the press. It is used to stamp each record which allows for the production of the finished vinyl. During this, the middle section of the vinyl gets sanded down. You may not notice this area on the vinyl records in your collection. It is typically gets covered by a sticker on both sides.
This stamp needs to be durable so that it can produce numerous copies of the media. To ensure this the vinyl is placed in several chemical solutions, after each it is rinsed. The lacquer-coated disc is glazed in silver, then nickel through a combination of chemistry and electricity for the later. With both these adhering to the lacquer, the disc is now as reliable as it needs to be.
Following that process, the stamper is trimmed so that it fits into the press and sanded on its backside so that it operates correctly in the press. It is then coined, flattening the very centre, and the outer edge, leaving a small lip at the rim. This lip ensures the stamp stays put in the press and that each record will get stamped correctly. It is then ready to be mass-produced.
Sticking to it
The next step in making a record revolves around printing the sticker mentioned earlier. It may seem like a small job but, without this step who knows what vinyl you would end up with!
Multiple stickers get printed onto a sticker paper sheet much like you could DIY at home with an A4 page. Then the page is sliced down the middle and then across ways. To section out the labels, into a square shape. As you know, vinyl records are circular, that is where the next process comes in.
A hydraulic press pops the off edge of the label to leave only the round centre – the part needed to label the records.
Labels are then drilled in the centre so that the final record will have the gap needed to be placed and played on record players.
After the cutting, the labels get placed into an oven. Removing any moisture present in the ink. Then the labels are loaded onto the pressing machine and ready to be put on each record.
The Vinyl Push
This stage begins with small chunks of vinyl, melted together to form a shape that resembles an ice hockey puck. The puck gets two labels, one for each side – side A and side B.
The press then presses the label into the hot vinyl puck, compressing further to become more pancake in shape. Each side is squeezed between two stampers which imprint the groves. These are what the needle of your turntable follows to play the song.
Then, it is trimmed with the excess being recycled and reused.
Each record gets inspected to make sure it is free of things such as dust or imperfections. After this, the LP is wrapped in plastic or placed into a jacket which will hold further information. The result is a vinyl record, the longest-running format of music
There you have it! That’s how vinyl records are made, did you learn some new facts to impress people with? Perhaps you have a vast collection already, did you know we can convert them for you? Find out more here!
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