Cutting a record, Gearbox style

Gearbox Records master and cut their own vinyl at their studio in King's Cross, London. They also master and cut for outside clients and provide a consultancy service to guide producers, engineers and artists through the potential minefield of vinyl record production. Here they take Ernest through the process of cutting vinyl from source to sleeve.

Cutting vinyl requires the same approach to craftsmanship, dedication and quality as any other hand crafted artisanal activities. Our goal is to make the best records that it’s possible to make at every level, and the mastering and cutting process is crucial to the quality and sonority of the finished record.

The source

Everything starts from the source – the better the quality the better the finished record will sound. Tape with no digital often sounds best, but we can work from any analogue or digital file format. We’ve found that recording a digital source to 1/4” tape on our legendary vintage valve Studer C37 tape machine can radically enhance the sound, almost as if the tape was gluing the music together.

Mastering

The source is then mastered through our all analogue and highly transparent Maselec master series equipment. This is the perfect marriage of vintage and modern to get the best out of the sound.

Cutting the groove

This signal is sent to the cutting head of the 1967 Haeco Scully lathe where the groove is cut into a blank lacquer to create the master. Our Scully, with its Westrex amplifiers, is the same set up as Blue Note were using and has no digital preview signal processing for Varigroove. This means we have a 100% analogue chain with none of the jitter associated with early digital converters from the 70s and 80s as in most other lathes currently operating.

Creating the record

The finished lacquers are then sent to Optimal Media in Germany for manufacture. The first stage is the galvanic process which includes polishing and electrolysis to create the metal stampers. From these stampers, hot vinyl pucks are smashed at high pressure, trimmed and cooled to create the vinyl record.

Testing, testing

We insist on the making of a number of test pressings to check everything’s sounding right and there are no technical issues. Meanwhile the artwork is prepared by our designer, and templates sent to Optimal Media, who also do all the printing.

Packing and shipping

Once the test pressings have been signed off, the production run can go ahead and the records are pressed, sleeved, packed and shipped to us for distribution to our dealers around the world. We insist on small vinyl runs of 500 or 1,000 units to maintain the highest possible quality control (a typical stamper can press about 5,000 units), and always use the best materials for covers and appropriate weight of vinyl for each release.

On the turntable

Finally comes the best part – the ritual of preparing and placing the record on the turntable, sitting back and enjoying the analogue glow of music that’s as close to the original source - the singers and musicians who created it - as it’s possible to get. Have a listen yourself

Discover more about Gearbox Records in our online directory.

This is a sponsored blog post, created in collaboration with Gearbox Records. For more information on partnerships and joining our directory please email advertise@ernestjournal.co.uk.

Age of Reinvention #3

It's the third phase of our Age of Reinvention competition in collaboration with Pedlars and The Good Life Experience. This time, we're offering a large metal box – what would you make?

Photo kindly supplied by Sail

Photo kindly supplied by Sail

A century ago, Britain was known as “the workshop of the world.” It was a hotbed of invention and industry. After a 100 years of decline, we’re seeing a real resurgence of craftsmanship – a return of traditional industries, swathes of makers taking risks to set up businesses based on doing what they love and buyers who value the story behind the products they buy.

To celebrate this new age of innovation, we are launching the Age of Reinvention competition – a chance for amateur inventors to furrow their brows, doodle on graph paper and transform old items into unique and practical products. The competition is brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Pedlars, purveyor of wonderful homewares, gifts and quality vintage, and The Good Life Experience, a festival of music, food, culture and the great outdoors.

Between January and August 2015 we're offering eight items for reinvention. Each month, Ernest Journal and Pedlars will choose their favourite design concept then post the item to the inventor so they can work their magic. We will then exhibit the eight completed items at The Good Life Experience (18-20 September 2015) and give each successful inventor two free tickets to the festival and a subscription to Ernest Journal. The third item on offer is a metal box – but what would you turn it into?

For inspiration, have a look at the winner of our second round: Grain & Knot show us what they're going to make with a pair of wooden fireplace sides.

Item #3: Metal box (50cm x 39cm x 31cm depth)

How to enter 

Simply share a sketch of your proposed design with us on Twitter or Instagram, mentioning @ernestjournal and @PedlarsWorld and using #AgeofReinvention.

The deadline for your first design idea is 5 April 2015. 

If you have any queries, email features@ernestjournal.co.uk

Terms and conditions:

1. The closing time and date is 11.59pm on 5 April 2015. Entries after that date will not be considered. 2. The winning entrant will be posted the item for them to reinvent and display at the Good Life Experience. 3. The prize is two tickets to The Good Life Experience and a subscription to Ernest Journal. 3. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative can be offered. 4. See our full terms and conditions.

The Scott window

St Peter’s Church in Binton, Warwickshire, has a large stained-glass window commemorating Robert Falcon Scott’s fatal 1912 expedition to the South Pole. Scott was the brother-in-law of the Rector, Lloyd Bruce, who commissioned the window. It was designed by John Lisle, built by Charles Kempe & Co, and dedicated on 25 September 1915

Images: John Roberts

Images: John Roberts

The window is not noticeable at first, perpendicular to the entrance. The rest of the church is fairly unremarkable, with few original features surviving a rebuild in 1875. We walked between gloomy pews holding empty biscuit tins, a giant teddy, and a frisbee saying ‘Jesus Loves You’, towards the altar, where we could turn and admire the window in full.

Four tall rectangular panes show scenes from the 1912 Scott expedition – the explorers bidding their families farewell; their disappointment at discovering the flag of Amundsen’s rival expedition from Norway; Oates’ self-sacrifice, choosing to meet death in a blizzard rather than slow the others; the cairn erected over the tent that entombed Bowers, Wilson and Scott. In smaller panes below, biblical stories are depicted – Abraham about to kill his son Isaac; Moses in the rushes; David and Goliath.

This parallel is not accidental. Rendered in the religious aesthetics of stained glass and lead, the true significance of the Scott expedition is brought out. The final sheet in the information display below the window emphasises the scientific importance of the expedition – that it wasn’t really a race to the Pole, so mustn’t be understood as a failure – but to me this is missing the point.

Papers from the diary of the local primary school in the year of the expedition tell how the children fundraised to buy a husky for the sleds. They weren’t drawn to the expedition for its scientific usefulness. Nor are the hundreds of tourists who write with awe in the visitors book now. No, the story of Scott’s last expedition fascinates us because of its audacity – and its futility.

Through this strange window, we see our own insignificance. Gazing up from the aisle of this parish church in rural Warwickshire, we glimpse the all-powerful – Antarctica, God, the indifference of the natural world to human death.

Guy Lochhead is a primary school teacher living in Bristol. He is currently gathering resources via the British Whybrary and starting Bristol's first co-op gym.

A brief history of the Mackintosh

With spring showers due to make an appearance in the coming weeks, we thought we'd look back at the origins of the Mac, or Mackintosh; a name synonymous with shielding us from the heavens

Scotland is undoubtedly a very wet country, its Highlands averaging over three meters of rainfall per year, so it’s no wonder the waterproof coat was born within its borders. However, attempts to prevent water penetrating cloth date back as far as the 13th century, when Amazonian tribes would extract milky substances from rubber trees to paste on their clothing. 

But it wasn’t until 1823 that young Glaswegian chemist Charles Macintosh (the 'k' crept in later) developed his waterproof fabric, produced by sandwiching naptha (a by-product of tar) and rubber between two pieces of cloth. The cloth had its flaws – it was easy to pierce when seamed, it became stiff in cold weather and sticky when hot, but after vulcanised rubber was invented in 1839, Macintosh's fabrics were vastly improved and could withstand temperature changes without warping or perishing.

The Mackintosh company was founded in 1895, producing the iconic rubberised coats we're familiar with today. We're rather enamoured with this Mackintosh Dunoon raincoat from Lissom & Muster for its simple, traditional, understated design and pleasing horn buttons. It is a true Mackintosh, made in the Mackintosh factories in Cumbernauld, Scotland and Lancashire, England. It's handmade in rubberised cotton, expertly cut and the seams glued for a watertight seal. Not only will not only keep you dry during the spring showers but is an investment that will keep you dry for decades of rainy days to come. 

Discover more about Lissom & Muster in our online directory.

This is a sponsored blog post, created in collaboration with Lissom & Muster. For more information on partnerships and joining our directory please email advertise@ernestjournal.co.uk.

Age of Reinvention: a cooking set

For the second phase of our #AgeOfReinvention competition, in collaboration with Pedlars, we challenged readers to submit designs to reinvent a pair of reclaimed wooden fireplace sides. We were so impressed with this beautifully considered spec from Sophie at Grain & Knot. Challenge accepted.

Sophie Sellu of Grain & Knot had this to say:

"For centuries the fireplace has been the heart of the home – a source of heat, light, used for drying clothes, cooking on and telling stories around.

I plan to turn these reclaimed oak fireplace sides into a cooking set that can be displayed for all to see. The set will comprise of a cooking spoon, spatula, salad servers and four eating spoons, the ends of which will be charred to represent the start of their journey. Each spoon will be threaded onto a block with cord and be hung onto the rack, and will each have a specific home. The spoon display rack will retain some of he original features of the fireplace sides. 

The cooking set will be intended for everyday use, to make family recipes with and to be passed down through generations."

Watch this space for updates and photos of Sophie of Grain & Knot working her magic to whittle up this cookery set. You'll be able to see the finished item at The Good Life Experience on 18-20 September.

We will be announcing the third item on offer to be reinvented very soon – again, watch this space. #AgeofReinvention

Grain & Knot was born from a love of nature, exploration and the need for purpose in creation. It is beautifully tactile, fully functional kitchenware; each item made from locally gathered logs and reclaimed timber.