Home Recording Disc (May, 1956)

Home Recording Disc

Marriage of Aluminum and Acetate

THE BLANK recording disc is to phonograph records what unexposed film is to photographs. Any record groove ever played with a pickup was originally cut on a recording disc. This is as true today, in the age of high-fidelity tape masters and LP records, as it was in the days of Caruso and acoustical recording.

On the old-fashioned disc, the groove was formed in wax. But the modern disc is made of a special acetate lacquer compound on a metal base. It is much less destructible than a wax disc-an important advantage for home recordists. Repeated playbacks with a high-grade pickup will not mutilate the groove.

From the processing of the aluminum blank through the compounding of the lacquer to the coating, aging and inspection of the surfaces, the manufacture of a modern recording disc is a task for perfectionists. The accompanying photographs, taken at the Paramus, N. J., plant of Presto Recording Corporation, show some of the steps in the making of a high-quality lacquer disc.

  1. Lori Owens says: February 24, 20099:13 pm

    I have recently come across a box of maybe 50 or so of these old “Universal Pregrooved Recording Disc`s Mfg. by Universal Microphone CO., LTD. and was trying to get help to determine value or if there is collector out there. Thanks in advance, Lori O.

  2. Lance says: December 7, 200912:47 pm

    Lori, They unfortunately have little value excepting that of a historic one. Once the acetate becomes old it does not cut well and the “thread’ breaks as it is being used. The only blanks that are of any use for recording are newly produced ones. Hope you didn’t spend a lot of money to get these.

  3. Gaylord Ewing says: December 28, 20099:34 pm

    I just came across this website.I’ve been interested in early home disc recorders and recording discs for about 40-years. I have found that such recording blanks as Wilcox-Gay “Recordio” home recording discs will NOT be usefull for “Cutting a Record”. The acetate coating does in fact age and even if you were somewhat successfull in cutting the disc, the recording would be very noisy.
    It seems that some of the recording blanks that have a cellulod nitrate coating, I have found can still be used. However be carefull with the thread,as it is flammable. I currently have a few Presto disc recorders in my vintage sound recorder collection. I’m still amazed of how well my Presto K-11 disc recorder actually does make fairly good recordings. The “Top-End” of the audio frequency of the “Cutting-head” is only to 5,000-cycles. By today’s standard it is not good. I still have some fun in cutting records with the Presto K-11 recorder. In a few weeks,I hope to acquire a Presto K-10 disc recorder from a friend.
    I’ve always kind of liked Presto Disc Recorders. I used to have a Presto 8N and 6N recorders. Wish I still had them. But I’m having fun with a Presto 6-D recorder.
    Gaylord Ewing

  4. Toronto says: December 29, 200912:25 pm

    Gaylord: Very interesting. What’s the ‘vintage’ of your recorders?

  5. Gaylord Ewing says: December 29, 20092:02 pm

    Happy New Year,Toronto—-The vintage recorders are from the mid-1930’s(Presto Model J-5) the Presto Model C-1 disc recorder is from 1939. The Presto Model K-11 is from 1956-57 vintage.
    Actually the Presto C-1 recorder uses the Presto Model 6-D Recording Turntable. Yes the Presto 6-D recording turntable has a “Overhead Recording Lathe” and has a 16-inch turntable.
    The Presto K-11 disc recorder/reproducer was the last of the Presto “K” model disc recorders.
    My friend has a Presto Model K-10 disc recorder that I’m excited about acquiring. Hopefully it will be here in a few days. I also have some 1940’s vintage wire recorders. My favorite wire recorder is a General Electric Model 51. It was made about 1943. I hope I’ve answered your question. Have a good day and week. Regards, Gaylord Ewing

  6. Gaylord Ewing says: December 29, 20094:37 pm

    I used to have a Federal Disc recorder that had a “horse-shoe type” magnetic cutting-head. The recording lathe was mounted towards the back of the turntable. I do not re-call the model number of this disc recorder.
    I would be interested in acquiring one. Anyone know where I could obtain one? I believe the Federal Disc Recorder was made about 1939 or 1940. It also had a built-in AM radio receiver,so you could either record from the radio or microphone. If anyone has one,please let me know. It does not have to work, but would appreciate a complete one.
    I’ll say thank you ahead of time. I had one back in the late 1960’s.
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  7. bill says: January 12, 201010:46 pm

    hello i have a model k 11 and i wonder what the value is in todays market ? i am not an enthusiest and dident see any on e bay. just curious. bill

  8. Firebrand38 says: January 13, 201012:41 am

    Any questions about Presto contact the owner of this website http://www.televar.com/…

  9. Alex says: March 13, 20107:11 pm

    Hi Bill –
    Re you looking to sell your model k11 presto? Is it in working condition? I’ve been curious to acquire a home recording disc recorder. You can email me at [email protected]. Thanks.

  10. Steven says: April 5, 20106:25 pm

    I just aquired a Speak O Phone in very good condition.Does anyone know about these and can you still get blank discs for them. I am in the dark on this one. Cheers

  11. Gaylord Ewing says: April 6, 20107:53 am

    Hello, Just saw your comment about your obtaining a Speak-O-Phone Disc Recorder. I believe they were made in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. I could probably tell you a little more about it, if I saw a picture of it.
    I’ve always have had a fascination about disc recorders. There is a “Universal Professional Recorder” on E-Bay right now. Were you thinking of perhaps selling the Speak-O-Phone Recorder? I’ve been looking for one for a number of years. Certainly would be interested in the recorder,if you were in the market to selling it. I have a small collection of early recorders. From the mid-1930’s to the late 1970’s. This includes disc,wire,and tape recorders.
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  12. Steven Browne says: April 6, 20108:31 am

    Hi and thanks for answering. I don’t know if this unit works or not. I will
    take a picture of it for you. It is in a brown case .The lid holds the detachable speaker. On the controls there are motor on and off… record/play..unit on/off…recording level…mic jack.. headphone jack…volume..The player has two arms/needles… speed control. When I turn it on the light does come on.
    What would a unit like this be worth?
    Thank you
    Steven Browne

  13. Gaylord Ewing says: April 6, 20109:33 am

    I’m not sure exactly how much it would be worth money wise. I guess its only worth as much as someone would be willing to give for it. I’ve often had to totally re-build the tube amplifiers in these disc recorders.
    Perhaps a rough guess, would be around $25.00 to $30.00,would be fair price. I usually find it actually fun to re-build these recorders. I’ve even been able to repair the Magnetic-Cutter Heads. Again I would like to see a picture of the disc recorder,before I can give a more fair price on this recorder. I look forward to seeing pictures of this recorder. Does it have a “horse-shoe” type recording head?What size is the turntable 10 or 12-inch?
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  14. Gaylord Ewing says: July 9, 201012:07 pm

    I finally acquired the Presto K-10 disc recorder from my friend. Having a lot of fun restoring it.
    Hope to have it operational soon. I find it amazing of how well these old Presto Disc Recorders work.
    I also have a Presto K-11 disc recorder and a Presto 6-D disc recorder,with its companion Presto Recording Amplifier. I also have the “Microphone-Preamplifier”. I really enjoy collecting and restoring these antique sound recorders. I have a room in our apartment,that has the collection of early recorders. This includes early wire and tape recorders,and of course the disc recorders. I would be interested in showing this collection to interested people.
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  15. Mike Olshan says: August 16, 20101:33 pm


    Perhaps you can tell me what I have found and saved from the trash pickup,and by what means it was made. I have 10 discs the size of 78s but they play at 33-1/3 and have hand-typed labels. All appear to be Bing Crosby material that was used on radio. I know his musical director, Mr. Trotter, is said to have made aircheck recordings for his own reference, maybe that’s what I have here. Found in a stack together with some 33-1/3 LP reissues of Crosby material, I suspect that these odd discs were the sources used for the LPs and perhaps the producer of the LPs or the producer’s source lived near where I found this stuff. Maybe that person died and the landlord cleaned out the apt and dumped this stuff by the curb where I found it. Can you shed some light on this?



  16. Gaylord Ewing says: August 16, 20102:36 pm

    I finally acquired the Presto K-10 disc recorder and it sure looks nice,along my Presto Model K-11 disc recorder. My friend near Oneonta,N.Y. finally found it among his “Surplus-Electronics” and gave me a call. It does need to have some minor cabinet repair and of course the recording amplifier will need to have all the high-voltage capacitors replaced. And probably some of the out-of-spec. resistors.
    It certainly will be a very nice restoration project. I’m very happy to have this Presto K-10 disc recorder and a really nice added”Plus”,I have BOTH playback-arms!!!!
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing PS. And it has the original “Cutting-Head” to:o)!!!I’ll be able to repair the cutting-head(Recording-Head).

  17. Dean Black says: January 30, 20114:01 pm

    I have a Presto Recorder type 8k Serial 2421 volts 110 cycle 60, It was my grandfathers. Called Mclean’s Recording Service… records made in your own home. I would like to use this again i think this is pretty cool. It runs just not sure how to use it. where do i get parts and litature on my unit and can i buy records to cutt.. Thank you.

  18. Gaylord Ewing says: January 30, 20114:22 pm

    Good afternoon,Dean Black,
    I just saw your comment on the Presto 8K recorder. First off,the recording amplifier should
    be rebuilt.All those high-voltage capacitors and any resistors that have gone out of spec.
    The Recording Head may need to be re-built or repaired. Also the turntable rubber may be dried out. That rubber-rim tire is on the outside of the turntable,and is usually dried out and cracked by this time. I do not know,where you could find a rubber-rim tire.
    I have over the years repaired/re-built the Presto recording amplifiers.They are very easy to re-build. I’ve even re-built and repaired the recording-head. The other turntable parts are usually good and still can be used for cutting records. Transco Industries has “Blank-Recording Discs,but they are expensive,I understand. I hope the above info is of value to you and helps
    you. Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  19. Kris Dorr says: March 30, 20111:10 am

    Check out the Secret Society of Lathe Trolls for answers to all your record cutting questions!!
    Best Regards
    – Kris

  20. Brent Hackett says: September 28, 20118:12 pm

    I have a number of old Presto discs from the early 40’s, but no player to play them on. I would love to get them recorded to digital files. Located in the Grand Rapids, MI area. Any suggestions?

  21. Gaylord Ewing says: September 29, 20114:47 am

    Good day,Brent,
    I’m writing to you in regards to your Presto discs of the 1940’s. If you have or have a way to obtain a turntable,you could feed the phonograph-pickup into the “Microphone-Input” of your tape deck or recorder.
    And then from the tape recording(open reel or cassette) transfer the recording to either Compact-Disc or a “Digital-File” onto the “Hard-Drive” of your computer.
    I’ve been doing a lot of analog to digital transfers for several years,so its an easy process.Also you need to check those Presto discs,and check to see if the “Nitrate”coating is separating from the either cardboard,metal,or glass base.If the coating is cracked or separating from the base,there is NO repair of re-glueing or other-wise putting the coating back on the base-material.I hope this info is of value to you.
    Also if the plastic-coating is not cracked or separating, you need to transfer those recordings as-soon-as possible.As the coating could still start to separate or crack.
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  22. Brent Hackett says: September 29, 20116:42 am

    Hi Gaylord:

    Thanks for the note. The challenge I have is finding a turntable. The discs are in very good shape, and are currently being stored in a temperature controlled vault with our other old recordings (reel to reel recordings from 1953). The oldest disc I can find is from November 11 1941, and then we have a number of others right through the 40’s. I understand your comment about getting them transferred as soon as possible, which is why I am trying to find someone with a quality turntable that can do this for me. The discs are in Grand Rapids, MI and I really don’t want to ship them, so it limits me to finding someone with equipment that can do this. However, A drive to Chicago, or Detroit, or even into Toronto, Canada is acceptable.

    Thanks again for your input,
    Brent Hackett

  23. Gaylord Ewing says: September 29, 20116:56 am

    Hello again,Brent,
    In regards to finding a quality turntable,there are plenty of good quality turntables on E-Bay.Course the prices do vary and you could end up paying a lot of money for one. The Presto discs you have were probably recorded at either 33 1/3 or 78-RPM,so needless to say, you would need to find a turntable that has these 2-speeds. You also did not mention,that the Presto discs might be 16-inch discs.Then you would have to find a turntable that would take 16-inch diameter phonograph records. I hope the above info is of value to you. Have a good day and week.
    >Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  24. Roberta Laskowitz says: February 5, 201211:59 am

    I just discovered this website. My father was employed by the Recordisc company from the end of WW2 to the mid 1950’s. They made blank recording discs for home recording machines. The company went out of business when tapes became the method of recoding at home. I have the Recordophone recorder & player along with some blank & many recorded discs from the early 50’s. I would love to see this recording machine find a good home. It would need some work to get it to play again. I don’t know where to get the vacuum tubes it used.

  25. Gaylord Ewing says: February 5, 20122:52 pm

    Good day,Ms.Roberta Laskowitz,
    I just saw your comment regarding your Record-O-Phone recorder/player unit. I would be more than happy to give this recorder a home. I live in Morris,New York and I’m not sure where you live.
    My E-mail address: [email protected]
    and will be looking forward to hearing from you.
    >Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  26. Roberta Laskowitz says: March 9, 20121:37 pm

    Gaylord, Sorry I didn’t get notified of your response. I finally checked the website & saw your message. Have responded directly to your e-mail. Hope you are still interested in the Record-O-Phone recorder I have.

    Looking forward to hearing from you, Roberta Laskowitz

  27. Roberta Laskowitz says: March 9, 20121:42 pm

    Sorry I didn’t get a notice of your response & just noticed it on the website. I’ve responded directly to your e-mail address. I hope you are still interested in the Record-O-Phone recorder.Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Roberta Laskowitz

  28. Tom Levin says: April 16, 201210:09 am

    Greetings Ms. Laskowitz, I’m an scholar currently researching the history of home disc recording culture, so in case you did not send along your recordings along with the device, I would be honored to add them to my archive, which is professionally maintained in museum-grade conditions and which I hope to make available to future scholars of this all-too neglected field. Of great interest to my study is the kind of information that one finds on record sleeves, in instruction booklets or publicity for the recorders, or on the discs themselves. Needless to say, I would be happy to cover all expenses involved in shipping any materials to Princeton.
    I would be delighted to be in touch.
    Prof. Tom Levin (Princeton University)

Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.