During last weekend’s sweaty tag sale exploits, I found myself in a garage full of unappreciated LPs. Among the two full boxes, a vast majority of them were either holiday albums or musical soundtracks… and the rest seemed to be stuck together with some mysterious, dried liquid. I never let myself be deterred by the unwashed detritus of tag sales, so I boldly dove in, assigned some positive mental energy to my immune system, and came out six records richer. How could I resist Jimmie Walker‘s spoken word album, Dyn-O-Mite? I’m only mortal.
When I checked the price tag on the records, I saw that they were 50 cents each… or five dollars for the whole boxful. I broke out the abacus and quickly calculated that I was already spending three dollars on some records I wanted… but I could have at least fifty more records I didn’t even slightly want for only two more dollars! What use could I possibly have for a slew of albums I didn’t want to listen to or allow to take up space in my already cluttered life? Could I throw them at the dog and test their aerodynamics and edibility all at once? Could I finally exact my emotional revenge upon the original cast of The Music Man?
(As it turns out, after I inquired about buying the whole box of records, the woman went inside to check on something, and came back ten minutes later talking about how hungry she was, having completely forgotten my inquiry. I didn’t pursue it further, lest I get some kind of contact buzz from being in her apparently herbally-enhanced vicinity.)
But it got me thinking. It wasn’t the first time I found a ‘buy-one-get-ninety-free’ deal on LPs. I’d recently bought a charming 1960s record carrier for only two dollars…. but I had to take the Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand records that were inside it also. I turned over two dollars, and a small portion of my immortal soul, and brought the whole lot home. WHAT on Earth could I do with this collection of unwanted record albums? I had to think of something fast – I was pretty sure that the restless spirit of Neil Diamond was trying to touch my in my sleep.
As it turns out, I could do a whole heck of a lot with unwanted albums. The craft brigade is mighty, and they have a propensity towards the ‘retro’.
For one, you can make kitschy bowls. Following some simple instructions, one can pop an unwanted LP into the oven for a few moments and the vinyl will become highly flexible and malleable, until it cools – at which point you can easily re-heat it. If you place the LP on an overturned bowl, it will begin to conform to the shape as it wilts, and harden into shape as it cools. From there, fill that sucker up with apples or hard candy and you’re set (though the toxic properties of album vinyl are debated, washing the bowl once you’re done should allay some fears). One might even get sculptural with broken record pieces and a little bit of directed heat.
A slightly more complicated idea involves creating coasters from the center label area. Using a scroll saw and a whole lot of caution, cut out the center disc and sand down the edges. A little bit of varnish or spray fixative will waterproof the paper of the label, and your living room table will be the hippest in the house. Seriously, your nightstand is gonna be totally jealous. I wouldn’t worry about the hole in the middle of the remaining disc, as the dreaded condensation only forms around the rim of the glass, but it’s not hard to plug the center hole with a bit of epoxy, if you find it necessary.
The circular shape of the album lends itself easily to clockmaking. Simple clock movement kits can be found at your local craft store, and the pre-drilled hole in the center of the album is just waiting to be filled with some time-telling hands. Numbers can be aligned with a protractor at 30 degrees from each other, and can either be painted or glued on. If you’re not especially fond of the album you’re using, replace the center label with something of your own design.
Crafters on Etsy have made it a regular practice to create notebooks using both album artwork, cut to size, or the albums themselves (again, carefully cut using a scroll saw). Vintage album artwork is an entirely different creature than it is today, designed to appeal to a 12” scale instead of the tiny CD covers that we have today, or worse, miniature iTunes icons. It looks great on the front of any notebook – even the worst album artwork has a delicious sense of irony. For added irony, heat up an album and bend it into an iPod holder.
Of course, the possibilities don’t end with this short list of ideas. The raw material of circular, black vinyl is potentially limitless and inspiring, inviting all kinds of alterations. Rarely costing more than a dollar a pop, there’s plenty of room to try and fail a thousand ideas – just make sure you’re not melting down a rare gem.