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Edison Phonograph cylinders

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by edisonphonoworks, Aug 5, 2007.

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  1. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    Hello, I am Shawn Borri. I am one of the few sound engineers that not only works with Digital of today, but works with the dying art of wax cylinder recording. Since 2000, I have made over 7000 new wax cylinder recordings. some live concert recordings have included moe.The Dead, Steve Winwood, Slick Rick, Small Appliances (recorded at Vernon Downs Raceway), and shockingly Madison Square Garden . Even helped recently make a wax cylinder studio for the up coming movie Bolden, that Wynton Marsalis is invlolved with ! Other records for private collector dubbed from cds with special acoustic cutters. Yes I did make an electric cutter, but it records too wide Whatever a (Fairchild cutting head will reach, it was turned sidways, for vertical modulation and drove an original Edison cutter from 1898) for an original Edison Phonograph that someone is going to play it back on, and you would have to limit things so much that the acoustic recording is much simpler, and makes a better recording. I also manufacture my own wax cylinder blanks. These are the Aylsworth formula blanks used by Edison from 1889-1907 (for recording purposes, the black wax cylinders are moulded copies.)
  2. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector In Memoriam

    Hi, Shawn. Welcome to the Steve Hoffman Forum.
  3. LeeS

    LeeS Martini Time

    Very interesting and welcome aboard. :)

    How big is the market for these cylinders? Is playback gear available?
  4. rb66

    rb66 Member

    That's cool. I have an Edison Cylinder player with the cabinet that holds the cylinders. I inherited it from my Dad.
  5. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    I sell from 200- 300 music recordings, and around 450 recording blanks a year. Many are used in rather interesting projects, such as the conservatory for dying languages where we went to Puerto Rico to record for a display in San Juan at the culture museum, the project started with 80 cylinders, and is now at over 300 and has travled from New York to South America, Peru, Columbia ect. Now part of Pan-American Unrest display. While I understand that many of the recordings I make are unique itmes, I don't see why an original Edison cylinder from 1906 will go for $10-30.00 , And see one of my recordings go for over $200.00. Now I can't get that kind of money myself, but the bands and artist I record for, put them in charity auctions and they go very high.
  6. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    I gotta hand it to you Shawn - it takes some cojones to sneak a setup like that into a rock concert taped onto yer back. I can only imagine the look on the security guy's face as he patted you down...;)

    Oh by the way, welcome to the forum!
  7. Greatest Hits

    Greatest Hits Just Another Compilation

    Wow! Welcome.

    It's so cool that you get to record "the Edison way". Talk about bringing it all back home!
  8. Talk about retro!
  9. Fascinating, hope you keep posting. I'm very intrigued with acoustic recording technology, especially as there seems to be so little documentation from back then. Some of the best acoustic recordings are really astounding in their immediacy.
  10. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    Hello, everyone. First, I am going to tell you, that it is great, to ask any questions about acoustic cylinder recording. I have given lectures at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and Millikin in Decatur IL, and was in MIX may 2004. I give simple, easy to understand answers. First off I want to thank those interested, in the dawn of music recording. To make a wax cylinder record, you need a blank to record on. Here is the story of the Edison blank. The recording of the cylinders is the fun part. The manufacture of the blanks is exciting, however very time consuming, and a little dangerous. Thomas Edison added some caustic acetate of alumina too quickly in 1889, and was left in bandages for weeks from the burns. I had a second degree burn, on my hand in 2003 from the wax reaching the flash point. The best joy is seeing these chemicals go together, and go through the paces, a process of removing the water from the wax is called foaming off, and at this point the compound looks like root beer foam this is also very dangerous, as the wax is over 400 degrees F and can catch afire if it creeps up past 510. During this process the color changing from clear liquid, to a maple syrup color, At this point the compound has a slightly shy of burnt smell, and when you no longer see bubbles it then can be used to make blanks. The wax should be allowed to cool completely to solid, then reheated to the molding temp. This liquid is poured into a mold and seeing a recording blank take shape is very fun. It is liquid for a few minutes and then turns to a jell and then a solid, when still warm the center core is removed, then the record cools further, and shrinks in the mold and can be removed for the ends to be trimmed off, and the inside reamed to shape. When the blanks have sat for about 3 hours, they are given a rough shave, and must sit for at least 24 hours to a week, before given a final shave for recording, or to be shipped out to a customer for recording elsewhere. The best tone quality from the Edison blanks is at a year of age, they have hardened at least 20% in this time. You can mold about 3 or 4 blanks an hour from a single mold, and rough process them. In the heyday of the black gold molded cylinders, 250,000 records a day was common, at the Edison works many songs were molded and many molds of each song, roughly 10 molds of each selection. By the way the Black wax formula was the same as the early brown wax formula, however zinc and copper salts were added, and carnauba (for durability) and boiled pine tar to give the wax resiliency to withstand a heavier tracking ,weight, The color was from lampblack. The "wax" cylinders as they were often called, were only wax for a very short time period from late 1887 (This is even before the famed June 16th perfected phonograph photograph.) and very early in 1888. (Remember there was no commercial recording industry until the year 1890, when Edison and Columbia issued the first music catalogs.) The base for the wax was developed in late 1888 and was used until 1911 and the foundation for all cylinder record compounds. The recording compound was developed by Edison's Chemist Jonas Aylsworth, and pretty much after December of 1888 the base formula was not changed, with the exception of the aluminum hardener the base remained uncharged. The only difference was prior to 1896 Aluminum Acetate was used, and Aluminum hydroxide after wards. Stearic Acid sodium stearate and aluminum stearate was the base of all commercial formulas of "Wax" cylinders. The only differences in wax was additives, they each had a specific purpose. Ceresine, or Paraffin was used to resist moisture, pine tar for resiliency in molded records, carnauba in early black flat end signature molded records to harden the wax. Montan wax was used in Edison Diamond Disc masters, with the stearic soap base. Sterine Pitch was added to Ediphone diction cylinders to make the surface quiet . Believe it or Not!!! Columbia Phonograph Company purchased over 70,000 blanks from Edison Phonograph Works from February 1889-November 1894!!! Columbia was not able to offer its own blanks until July 30Th, 1895. From November 1894-July of 1895 Columbia was without it's own blank formula, and the surviving early 1895 title Columbia records, were made of wax obtained from The United States Phonograph Company, who had broken, and refuse Edison blanks on hand. The Columbia compound was developed by Adolf Melzer a soap manufacture in Evansville Indiana.

  11. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    Fascinating! Welcome to the forum--always delighted to have another cylinder lover on tap. I vaguely recall reading that a CD issue by one of the more offbeat groups--was it They Might Be Giants? I forget--not too many years back included a track recorded on an Edison Triumph. Was that one of your projects?

    Oh, by the way: love your Web site! (http://members.tripod.com/~Edison_1/)
  12. Jerquee

    Jerquee Take this, brother, may it serve you well.

    New York
    If you REALLY want to hear the Beatles, you need to hear it on cylinder.

    Blows away the LPs, period.
  13. Scott in DC

    Scott in DC Forum Resident

    Washington, DC

    I have a Victrola with some 78s and I have a few Edison Cylinders. I don't have a Cylinder player though. I see them at antique shops. Some of them are in quite good condition considering their age.

  14. posieflump

    posieflump New Member

    Didn't take long, did it? And it was turning into quite an interesting thread, too.
  15. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    I have actually done some experiments with electrically cutting cylinders, and the Beatles and Elvis were chosen for many experiments. I wish I could find a place to post these, as experimental only, they are quite interesting. In regards to TMBG they recorded The "Edison Museum" and I can Hear you, recorded by Peter Dilg on an 1898 Edison Spring Motor. We both communicate, and each have a different, unique sound. There are many of my cylinders in collectors collections. When I lived in Upstate NY for a brief time, I had a 78rpm cylinder record store on route 32 near Freehold, and a portly gentalmen came in and announced himself as Preston B Nichols, did not ring a bell, then we started talking about sound recording, a facinating 4 hour lecture he gave. He had built some of the echo chambers and other special equpment for for Phil Spector, and his "wall of sound" Which was really the music tracks pre-recorded played through a wall of Altec Lansing speakers in an echo chanber, re-miked and recorded back to tape, this being done with most of the tracks. You all know him as "Little Buddah". How many of you know about him?
  16. Not quite like making wax candles, eh? :p

    I believe it may have been a moe. album - Wormwood?
  17. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    LOL I was on the guestlist at the Jammy Awards, and the phonograph could not be hidden with a 56" horn. Yes the Edison Laugh record was my recording on wormwood, as well as the photos of Edison Street Studio and the horn , that is underneath the CD is one of my morning glory playback horns, there is even a shadow of the playback phonograph in the liner notes, I was not expecting that at all! I had a problem though with the actual issue on the CD. When I transfered the wax cylinder master to digital I used a 48Khz A dat machine, recorded at 20 bit, they must have played it back at 44.1khz on a 16 bit machine, the cylinder is way to fast, but i guess they loved the effect, so kept it.
  18. What made you go with this? It's certainly WAY off the beaten track for most music lovers, even the vinyl diehards. And is it the ONLY way you listen to music, simply your preferred way, or just another approach to reproducing sound?
  19. Are you able to duplicate the Edison "Blue Amberol" formula? I remember reading in some old book about that being a secret composition know only to Edison.
  20. seed_drill

    seed_drill Senior Member

    Tryon, NC, USA
    Can the Edison dictaphones, which used shavable cylinders, be used to record music (which could be played back on the cylinder players)?
  21. edisonphonoworks

    edisonphonoworks New Member Thread Starter

    Dictaphones can record music, the Ediphones do a better job though The Ediphone was the last of the acoustic recorders and employed many of the studio recording head improvements, such as sensitive thick,soft gaskets, and an advance ball, to controle the depth of cut. New gaskets will be available soon from a friend of mine, made of sorbothane which should even make the quality better than any original. You are not, however able to play commecial music recording cylinders on a Dictaphone or Ediphone, the tpi is different and you will ruin the record in no time flat. Ediphones 150 tpi, Dictaphones 160tpi. Blue Amberols 200 and 2 minute wax 100tpi. You can play any record that you record on your Ediphone or Dictaphone on that machine untill your hearts content. Blue Amberols were made of Celluloid, and I am working on finding a source for celluloid tubing. The record was made by a steam heated negative mold, the celluloid tubing inserted, into the mould and a rubber bladder forced the celluloid to the side walls of the mould, pressure and the heat allowed the "Printing" of the record on the celluloid.
  22. Todd E

    Todd E Forum Resident

    On the negative side, these cylinders noticably lack tape hiss. On the plus side, there's enough surface noise to satisfy the most avid audiophile.
  23. You've probably been asked this many times, but recording on wax today, can you stretch the frequency response beyond what they were capable of back then? What's the maximum range you've been able to capture?
    Also, any thoughts on Blue Amberol vs. Diamond Disc?
  24. dbacon

    dbacon Forum Resident

    For those that are interested in wax cylinders and the earlist days of the recording industry you should check out this web site at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project has a collection of thosands of early wax cylinders. The entire collection is available for free mp3 downloads. You can browse and search the collection ...cakewalks...fiddle tunes...minstral music...opera...etc.

  25. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    Ryan, the vast majority of Blue Amberols were, in fact, acoustically dubbed from Diamond Disc masters. On a lot of the BA cylinders you can even hear the playback reproducer dropping into the first groove of the disc before the music begins.
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