Vinyl records have a unique place in the world of music media. Aside from their warm analog tone, vinyl is the only popular medium that is nearly impossible to create or duplicate at home – something that can’t be claimed by cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and certainly not mp3s. Not to be an apologist for piracy, this inherently creates more value for recorded music than using an easily reproducible medium (be it physically or digitally) does. But as we all know, digital is the present and the future, and I am not complaining about that at all; one look at my iTunes playlist and you’ll know what I mean.
A while back, the site qj.net ran a piece on how to “pirate” a vinyl record using normal silicone casting materials. Sadly, the link is broken, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve pulled the archived copy up and am attaching it here for posterity:
So you thought you’ve pirated everything huh?
Using the wooden strips, make a box around the glass plate. Seal off the edges using the window cement. Make sure everything is air tight.
Place your record inside the box making sure that the portion to be copied is facing upward. Squeeze in some window cement to mark where the hole in the record is.
Mix the silicone (Smooth On OOMOO 30 or OOMOO 25) for about 3 minutes before pouring in to the mold.
Pour in the mixture. Start from one corner and let it fill-up the mold to about half a centimeter. Make sure it’s even. Let it dry for 6 hours.
Peel off the silicone from the cast. Cut off the excess using a cutter.
Pour the liquid plastic (Smooth On Task #4) on top of the silicone cast.
Make sure that nothing spills over the round form. You can also brush off any air bubbles that might occur.
Carefully loosen the plate from the silicone form. Using a drill press, bore a hole through the center of the plate. You can use the silicone form as a template to make more copies.
There you have it. Your very own pirated record.
(QJ translated this from the German site Zeit.de, also unavailable except via archive)
How well does this work? To be seen… the next step is to rip a vinyl record (pretty easy to do using a USB turntable), then cast a copy of it using this technique. Rip the copy, compare waveforms and look for any major discrepancies. That’s an upcoming project.
Now, if you haven’t seen the exact process in how records are created, you might be surprised at how much manual cooperation is involved. From inspecting the metal pressing discs and the lacquered masters, to centering the disc for hole punching, you’ve got sweet old ladies who are meticulously making sure your music will sound great. And the actual assembly process, even with automation, is like something you’d see in a Detroit auto maker’s factory: heavy hydraulic equipment pressing hot platters into precision shapes, rotating slicers, and vacuum-assisted label placers.
You can watch the whole process happen, courtesy of Discovery’s “How It’s Made” — part two is where things get interesting.