Step by Step Guide to Record Pressing
22 Apr 2020
Unsurprisingly, record pressing isn't easy and involves multiple steps (with help from multiple parties) from mastering to producing a final product:
1. Mastering Audio for Vinyl
The first step in the record pressing process is in the mastering where specific audio standards are required. This is to ensure your audio can be replicated to the highest possible quality when the master lacquer is cut.
See our Resources Page for a summary of our audio requirements.
2. Lacquer Cutting
This is the first physical step in the process. A “lacquer” is a round aluminium disc coated in a thin lacquer finish - it is soft and malleable which makes it perfect for the lathe’s gem stone cutting head to carve your music into it as grooves.
Lacquers have only one side that can be cut onto, so a standard 2-sided 12” LP requires two lacquers to be cut –– the A-side and the B-side.
Cutting a lacquer is ultimately creating your first temporary master record and looks similar to a finished record upon completion. The cut lacquer is created solely to be used in the electroplating process to create stampers which are used in our machine to press your record.
3. Stamper Manufacturing or Electroplating
A “stamper” is a negative metal mould of your record that we install into our press in order to imprint the hot PVC with the grooves of your record (think of a waffle iron leaving the waffle print in the batter).
Electroplating is the technical term of forming a stamper from the cut lacquer. There are three different plating processes you can choose from based on the number of stampers required (one, two or three-step). To keep things simple we will outline the one-step plating process.
Once the lacquers are cut, cleaned and thoroughly inspected, they are sprayed with a thin layer of silver and then placed into a series of electroplating baths. This process involves using an electrically charged nickel solution to transfer metal onto the surface of the silvered lacquer.
Once this is complete the metal layer is separated from the lacquer giving you the metal stamper (AKA the negative metal mould of your record). There are different stampers for both the A-side and the B-side of the record.
See our Services Page for additional information on the plating process (including the two-step process we use here at Holiday Records).
4. Record Pressing
The next (and most exciting step in the process) is where the pressing plant receives the stampers and carefully secures them on top of the moulds in the pressing machine.
From here, raw PVC pellets are melted down through an extruder to form a “puck” or a “biscuit”. This puck is then transported (with the labels on top and bottom) into the press and squashed with some serious pressure between the two stampers. Whilst at pressure the stampers are heated with pressurised steam in order to flatten the record and imprint the hot PVC with the grooves from the stamper. Cold water then rushes through the moulds in order to cool the stampers, harden the PVC and solidify the grooves.
It is then transported to the trimming plater where excess PVC is trimmed off leaving a perfect 7”, 10” or 12” vinyl record. During the pressing process we are continuously listening to the records as they come off the press to ensure they are sounding clean and free from any imperfections.
Records are generally cooled between metal cooling plates for at least 12 hours to ensure perfectly flat records.
See our Services Page for more details into our offerings for pressing a record.
The final step in the process is sleeving the records. This is where they are thoroughly inspected and sleeved into their packaging. During inspection we are looking for any random physical or audible impurities (i.e. marks, warping, surface noise).
It is most common to have an inner-sleeve to protect the record and a “jacket” to house the record. This is where your album artwork is on display for the world to see. There are a great amount of printing and packaging options such as inserts and download cards that can be added to the final product to personalise it even more.
See our Services Page for all of our standard packaging options.