Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reproduction Wax Cylinders

Rev. Marx has kicked off a new project- a steampunk phonograph for an upcoming con LARP. The first installment of his build writeup is a cheap and clever way to make faux Edison wax cylinders. It would be awesome to use a genuine custom cut cylinder and vintage player as props in a game, but fudging it with a good looking repro and pre-recorded sound clips is considerably easier on the budget.


Phil said...

Very cool. Just the thing for recording strange buzzing conversations from the mouth of mysterious caves.

CoastConFan said...

Pretty clever reproductions, although I have found that original graphophone cylinders generally run $10. The cylinders were a cardboard cylinders (you weren’t far off using toilet paper rolls) and covered with ozokerite, a type of wax of varying hardnesses found naturally. By the middle teens, cylinders were quickly outsold by the disks we are more familiar with and disks were much cheaper to produce and the machines could make a better quality sound. Cylinders continued to be made as late as 1929, although they were pretty much over with by 1920. Nice work and I a waiting to see your cylinder player in action.

GB Steve said... has actual wax cylinders, with Whisperer in Darkness on them (AFAIK). I've got one but as yet have no means of playing it.

Propnomicon said...

@ Phil

As much as I love "The Whisperer in Darkness", I've always found that detail a bit of a stretch. Not just because Akeley hauled the recorder out to the middle of nowhere, but that he was able to get a decent recording out of the effort.

@ CoastConFan

Back in my college days I was peripherally involved with one of the first efforts to use lasers to read vintage cylinders and disks. The prototype machine used a CD laser pickup and an entire wall of vintage computer hardware from Mohawk Data Sciences. Ah, the joys of hard disks the size of spare tires.

@ GB Steve

The Yoggie cylinder is nifty, but you point out one of the biggest problems with it. Without a player you might as well just relabel one of the vintage cylinders CoastConFan mentioned.

CoastConFan said...

Since Whisperer in the Darkness was published in '31, a wire recorder would be a reasonable device to take in the field in that time period, provided you could find a battery powered one.

Cylinder recorders were not electronically amplified, so they would not pick up soft sounds well. A number of graphophone cylinder players also had an attachment to record, but they were never a hit.

Phil said...

@ Propnomicon

Thats a very good point actually. If you stop and think about it, recording equipment from the 20's or 30's must have been terribly bulky.

One advantage of the reproductions at least is they're not nearly as frigile. I still remember that Youtube clip of some poor guy who was showing a rare one-of-a-kind cylinder on some morning show who slipped and just had it shatter in his hands.