School of Cut - Learning how to cut records at Agnew Analog
We recently had the pleasure of having Symatic over, from Bristol, UK, for a week of training on how to cut (and how not to cut) records.
Symatic runs Cut & Paste Records, a record label attracting some serious attention among skratchers, with high quality releases of skipless skratch samples, lock-groove tones, beats, and relevant music.
He has been designing their record releases, calculating the geometry for records to be practically skip-proof! Such records are made so that if the needle skips upon playback under extreme conditions during a DJ-set, it will land on the same beat, maintaining the rhythmical integrity of the performance.
"So even if you are drunk, there is almost no light and the platter is marinaded in beer, you will still be able to find the right spot!" Symatic explains.
As is often the case when one gets deep into an unusual topic, he had reached the point where it was becoming difficult to have his ideas accurately translated into records by other disk mastering engineers, so he realized it was time to start cutting his own records!
At Agnew Analog, we maintain rather traditional views on cutting records. You need to love records, you need to have some experience listening to records, ideally even being involved in some way in the record business. Symatic was an ideal candidate in these respects.
However, records are cut on a lathe, so anyone cutting records is essentially a machinist (of sound).
Therefore, we did not start in the disk cutting room, but ventured first in the machine shop, going deep into the anatomy of machine tools, screws and the physics of cutting processes.
Before long, Symatic was cutting screws out of metal and inspecting the effects of different tool geometries on the surface finish of grooves under the microscope.
He then moved on to installing and aligning taper shank stylii on a Neumann cutter head, listening to and learning to identify particularities of the lateral and vertical planes of stylus motion and the audibility of absolute polarity on our full-range monitor loudspeakers, measuring level on disk using three different methods and many more essential aspects of record cutting.
We concluded the training session by cutting some grooves on our heavily Agnewized Fairchild lathe and playing them back on our reproduction system.
Some time was taken to discuss advanced modifications to be done to Symatic's vintage Presto 14B lathe. At the end, Symatic was presented with his disk mastering training certificate and could finally pass out...!
Symatic also performs with the Skratchlords around the world. For further information, please visit the links below:
Cut & Paste Records
Skratch Lords documentary Youtube
Skratch Lords Community facebook