It takes a lot to ruin a record.
“Records from the ’60s, they may have some crackle to them, but you have to really mess up a well-done old record to make it skip,” says Daniel Lupton, owner of record shop and punk label Sorry State Records, which has a storefront in downtown Raleigh. Unlike CDs, vinyl albums can take a lot of punishment and still play.
Yet they can’t always be saved. He’d know – at his store, he’s had to turn away plenty of old LPs people have tried to sell. Some of these have spent years boxed away in a garage and have gone moldy. His advice to these people – donate them to a thrift store. It’s what he does, after all, when he ends up with records that won’t play. He’s looked into it, but there simply aren’t a lot of options.
“It’s kind of passing the buck, I guess,” Lupton says. Once upon a time, when vinyl was a larger industry, there were recycling plants that would melt down and repurpose unwanted records. “As far as I can tell, nobody does that anymore.”
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So what to do with records too scratched or warped to play? The vinyl industry may no longer be large enough to support recycling plants, but at least there’s upcycling.
“I’m trying to help people bring good memories to life in a visual form,” says Sean Zeph of Brushed Up Bowls. Using paint and an oven, he makes records into clocks, wine holders and bowls. His creations, which start at $40, decorate the homes of such music stars as Vince Gill and AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams. The aim two years ago, when he started Brushed Up Bowls shortly after finishing college, was simply to mix his two loves: records and art.
“I’ve been a painter my whole life. I painted them and tried it out,” he says. “It evolved and turned into something cool.”
We caught up with Zeph, who was happy to share his process.
1 Select a record that doesn’t play anymore. We can’t in good conscience encourage you to ruin a perfectly good LP.
2 Put it on a turntable, preferably a variable speed one, Zeph says. Select a speed, turn it on and paint the record as it spins. “Use it kind of like a potter’s wheel and apply the paint that way,” Zeph says.
3 Take the record off and let it dry. Put on a protective layer of polyurethane and then let that dry as well.
4 Set the oven to 170 or 180 degrees. Select an oven-safe bowl to rest the record on top of, and put it in the oven for no more than five minutes. The record will melt to the shape of the bowl.
“Anything over 200 (degrees) I think is dangerous, so anyone trying to do this, don’t do over 200,” Zeph says. He also recommends using a face mask for anyone making a lot of these at one time.
5 Remove the record carefully. Zeph has a pair of heat-resistant gloves he uses, both to keep from burning himself on hot records and to mold them, if needed, before they cool. He recommends against oven mitts, which he finds cumbersome.
You can also try: “Besides bowls, there are wine holders,” Zeph says. “You shape it around the wine bottle and then you use a ribbon to gift-wrap it.” The process is mostly the same, though you put the record directly in the oven with no shaping bowl. After a few minutes, take it out (you’ll definitely need heat-resistant gloves) and form it around the sides of the bottle. You can even mold the edges to form handles.
As the bottle holder is cooling, Zeph recommends taking the bottle out and pushing the sides of the record out a little so the holder isn’t too snug against the wine bottle.
Readers: We want to hear how you have repurposed old items. For your project to be considered for Second Time’s the Charm, send a photo, a description and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.