Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 10 (1931-07)

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282 The Phonograph Monthly Review Making Records By ROY GREGG A description of disc manufacturing processes A PHONOPHILE of many years’ stand- ing, it is with a goodly amount of shame that I have to admit never having seen phonograph records manufactured un- til this year of grace 1931. My confession is all the harder to make because of my being a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Columbia records have been made as long as I can remember. Thanks to the kindness of Mr. Frank Dorian of the New York Co- lumbia offices and Mr. James W. Murray, comptroller of the Bridgeport plant, I re- cently had a most illuminating trip through the rooms devoted to record making. A brief description of the processes involved should be of considerable value to record collectors who have not had the opportunity of observing at first hand the physical evolu- tion of phonographic discs. I was first taken to a miniature room which contained a very large kettle together with the necessary heating apparatus. In this kettle the ingredients (chiefly beeswax) are melted for the master waxes* used in the recording studios. In an adjoining room, only slightly larger than the melting room, the liquid wax is poured into the large moulds. After they have thoroughly cooled, the master waxes are taken from the moulds and stacked. These are much larger than the ten or twelve inch records to be made from them. The twelve inch master wax appears to be at least sixteen inches in diameter and fully an inch and a half in thickness. The master waxes are shipped to the New York laboratories where they are shaved before being utilized. The master, when recorded, is returned to Bridgeport and plated in the usual man- ner which is familiar to phonophiles and need not be explained here in detail. The metal from the plating bath is deposited on the master surface, the thin metal sheet contain- ing the impression being called the matrix. The finished matrices are then sent to the pressing room as needed. The most interesting phase is the con- struction of the three layers of the Columbia laminated record. As is generally known, *Note: Until sound has been recorded on it, the blank is merely a “master wax.” After recording, it becomes a “master record,” while after the “master record” has been plated, the resulting metal disc is a ‘master matrix.” The “stamping matrix” (which is a negative derived from the “master matrix”) is used for pressing records. this record consists of three layers; the two playing surfaces consisting of only the finest and most essential ingredients. The middle section, or core, which must be strong and rigid—the backbone of the record so to speak—is of more inferior stock. The play- ing surfaces are separated from the core by the layers of paper. Let us follow the pro- cess of making the playing surfaces; more anon concerning the core. I was ushered into a fourth room where there was a long and ponderous machine not unlike a newspaper printing press. At one end, on an elevation, stood some men who were “feeding” the machine with paper discs of moderate thickness. These discs passed through two rollers, the lower of which was literally swimming in a liquid of a thickness and color not unlike heated glue. One side of the paper disc was coated and placed automatically on a wide, slow moving belt. By the time the discs arrived at the end of this slow moving belt the coated surface was dry and they were ready to be stacked. These discs are sent to the pressing room. The room where the grinding and mixing of the rough stock is done is naturally very dusty. The first thing that attracted my at- tention and wrung my heart was the grue- some spectacle of old records’ destruction, literally by the thousands. Imagine the ef- fect upon the writer, who values historical rarities above anything else in phonophilia! Visions of doomed De Reszkes, Scharwenkas, De Pachmanns, rare Nordicas were whirl- ing though my head. The old stock in this morgue is broken up, ground and mixed with other raw materials and used for the hard core. These ingredients pass from the first floor, through grinding apparatus, mixers and rollers to the basement below where from a balcony one can see the product coming forth in huge sheets marked off in squares like chocolate fudge. These squares are broken off, stacked in boxes and sent to the pressing room. The pressing machines are in a huge room, the place being filled with them almost as far as the eye can see. Two matrices are placed on the opposite “arms” of the pressing machine. The squares of hard stock are placed on a heated griddle to the presser’s right. The presser places a label, then a