Lathe cut record releases, tips and experiences


#1

I’m curious if anyone has done a short-run lathe cut record release? Looking for ideas and inspiration.

Feel free to share pictures and links to lathe cut releases of your own music/label you run like the awesome cassette releases thread.

Also if you’re not familiar, a lathe cut record is a record where each record is cut individually in real-time, unlike standard vinyl records, which are pressed from a plate.


#2

Is this the same as dubplates? If yes the thing is that you lose quality every time you play the record. This loss goes quite fast…

So every single time the record sounds a little different. Until the day it vanishes into noise :blush:.
So it’s not a timeless medium which can be nice if it fits to the concept of the record…


#3

Interesting, starting to learn more…

After googling, dubplates generally refer to records lathe cut on acetate–which apparently sound great initially but as you mention, degrade quickly.

Lathes can also be cut on vinyl, which lasts longer. Since lathes cut each record individually, it sounds like there can be big variations in quality between one record and the next.


#4

i had dub plates made for a show i performed around 250 times. they sound the exact same (as in great!) as the first day i got them. never had a problem with dub plates so far. maybe i just got lucky??


#5

potentially. Also sounds like some people use dubplates to refer to the vinyl ones too.

One website from my google about it said the acetate ones are a metal disc that is surrounded by a soft lacquer (which is the thing that’s cut). I don’t know for certain if that would look different than a vinyl record–but it seems like it probably would, right?


#6

You might try to reach out to Johny at Analog.Electric.London for advice. I don’t think he has an official website but his souncloud is linked in this interview:

The interview is done using a pseudonym due to some weird issue he had with the person who sold him the lathe. I’m sure he’d be willing to answer a few specific questions to help with your journey.

From personal experience I would recommend careful analysis of the costs, feasibility versus the usefulness to you and others in a DIY venture. I had an excellent Otari cassette duplicator but had to sell it as I couldn’t compete with the more established companies, maybe I should have waited it out as that medium became far more popular than I anticipated.


#7

i got my dub plates from the carvery… carverycuts.com

i have no idea what i’m talking about, but from their website:

“Our one-off vinyl dubplates are available in four sizes 12, 10, 7 & 5 inch. They are made out of a tough PVC compound and have the same lifespan as pressed record.”


#8

To clarify, anything etched in vinyl isn’t technically a dubplate. ‘Dubplate’ is the Jamaican term for a one-off acetate disc that is cut on a lathe, in a mastering studio (rather than pressed to vinyl in a plant). In the past (before other portable media like cassettes, CDRs, etc.), acetates were the only means by which you could demo tracks recorded in the studio, at home or elsewhere. Hence the term ‘test cut’ (not to be confused with a ‘test press’, which is the last stop before manufacturing). The cutting of an acetate is also the first step in the process of creating the ‘mother’, and from that, the ‘master’, which is used to stamp grooves into heated vinyl in a pressing plant. In the Jamaican tradition, dubplates took on an extra role as one-off, custom versions of songs that were exclusive to this DJ or that. Your status was in your arsenal of dubplates. Jungle and other dancehall-descended scenes took up the practice. Usage of the term started getting muddied in the mid-00s when dubstep DJs were still cutting them, but people on forums started calling CD-Rs, mp3s, etc. ‘dubs’.

As mentioned above, acetate-coated aluminum discs differ physically from vinyl records. The most common size is ten inches. They otherwise look more or less the same as a vinyl record, but they smell different - imagine burnt crayons. And whereas even a heavyweight vinyl record has some flex to it, a dubplate/acetate is rigid and brittle feeling. Rap it with your knuckle and it almost pings. Dubplates wear out with use, because the acetate is comparatively soft, but how quickly depends on how you treat them. Heavy needles and a lot of back-cueing will wear them out fast, but with care they can last indefinitely. Dubplates have a bit of an aura around them. They’re rare - because they’re hard to acquire and cost a lot ($50-100/disc, depending where you are) - and, as physical media, they’re ephemeral.

Custom-cut vinyl started appearing more and more in the 00s. I think it was Vestax that launched a system that cost only a few thousand dollars, compared to tens of thousands for a Neumann lathe. They weren’t known for their sound quality, but I think that’s supposed to have improved. These one-off records are less expensive to make and don’t wear out the same way a dubplate does. You lose a bit of the aura, and the unusual material qualities of dubplates (which do make them feel like a different medium), but they’re probably more practical.

I wrote more than I meant to, there, but the long and short of it is that people like using the word ‘dubplate’, but there are important distinctions between actual dubplates/acetates and lathe-cut vinyl. So anyone selling “vinyl dubplates” is playing a bit fast and loose with terminology and history.


#9

Thank you for the explanation!!


#10

We’re lucky in Toronto to have two shops that are doing lathe cuts. The first is Vinylizer. Their approach is interesting, they get blank vinyl records pressed and then cut into those, so once you slap on a sticker for a label they’ll look very similar to a pressed record. And they have a stereo lathe which is intriguing. But there’s a je ne sais quoi about them that makes me hesitant, watch the video to see what I mean.

Then there’s Duplication.ca, for which I’m extra fortunate as they are 2 blocks from my apartment. They cut on a clear PVC that is milled to a 10" diameter. Their cutter is mono. Malin who operates the lathe is a genuine and dedicated guy, a total sweetheart, he’s cutting a release for me right now that is coming out on Harmonipan shortly, I’ll post it when it’s up.

While I do miss the option for the stereo, I do like the idea of cutting on clear PVC as it looks different and automatically signifies as a lathe-cut as opposed to trying to emulate a pressed record. And clear records open up some interesting artwork ideas…


#11

Thanks for the Duplication.ca link. I like the look of those PVC ones.

These are some photos I took on a dubplate-cutting expedition in Toronto, years ago, at a studio called Scratch Free, which was used by a lot of the dub and jungle, DJs at the time.
https://autonomicforthepeople.blogspot.ca/2005/12/scratch-free.html


Is promotion part of your process?
#12

This is a conceptual piece I made that came out recently as a lathe cut 10" and poster on Harmonipan:



Locked grooves x4!


#13

serenditipitously this thread bumps before i have to make it. thanks!


#14

worlds of lathe cutting info on the Lathe Trolls forum https://www.lathetrolls.com/


#15

Def a bit turned off at first by the vinylizer guy (seemed maybe a bit schlocky) but ultimately the guy seemed like he genuinely cares about the process and the format and was trying to do his best sales pitch. Also seems like they are a small operation and I can generally get behind supporting people being passionate (and very Canadian) about something pretty esoteric.


#16

Actually, they were cut at Duplication.ca by Angus Tarnawsky (Incontext Music). I can only speak highly of his work, he really spent the time getting his lathe and process up to snuff.


#17

Right but you mentioned the other group in an earlier post, specifically “a je ne sais quoi about them that makes me hesitant, watch the video to see what I mean“ which is what I was responding to.


#18

Ha, apologies, I didn’t notice you were responding to my previous previous post, just assumed you were referencing the newer one. Definitely lucky to have multiple lathe options in my city.


#19

no worries! happy to have more info about options, this is something i’ve been curious about for a bit as well.