Picture of Custom records for a 70's toy record player
I recently stumbled across and old toy record player made by Fisher Price in the 1970s. I'm sure many of you will recognise this iconic toy and some of the older Instructables visitors may well have had one. As with many 40-year old toys, it was in a bit of a sad state and a couple of the records had been lost. Technology has moved on since it was manufactured and making some new records for it seemed like a nice way to merge old technology and new.

3D printing a record might seem like the obvious choice these days, but I decided to go with CNC milling.

Why a mill you ask? Not a laser cutter or a 3D printer? Well we can't use a laser cutter as the record needs slots in the surface but these don't go all the way through. Laser cutters are great if you don't need any partial depth cuts, but we do. 3D printing the record would seem to be a sensible choice and would definitely do the job. However, we will end up creating plastic pins around 1mm in size that trigger the music box hidden in the record player's arm. I was worried about whether the extruded plastic technique used by most printers would give it the required strength. That, and I don't have a 3D printer.

Also the CNC mill means I'm not limited to plastic. I can just as easily create the records from wood (a hardwood should be strong enough) or even metal, but let's start with plastic.

If you want to 3D print a record then my code will have to be adapted but it's all open and should be easy enough to convert. If I get a 3D printer then I'll definitely adapt the gcode generation part so that it can create the appropriate files for a printer. I'll be entering this in the "Make it Real" challenge, so you never know... In fact, if I win a 3D printer, I promise I'll update it so it can print records too. Anyway, what could sum up "Make it Real" more than taking something intangible like music and turning it into something physical.

UPDATE: I've now finished a 3D printed version of this project. As all but one of the steps are different, I've created a separate Instructable for it here. So if you don't have a CNC mill (that's everyone apart from rdarlington) then you can now create your own discs.

Continuing the spirit of Instructables, if you create the music and share it, I'll make it real for you. Download the music editor (see step 3) and send me the fpr file it creates. I'll pick the best, mill them and a send out some discs. I'm not very musical, so sure that it won't be hard do do better than my attempt. I have to limit it to 5 just because each one will take me a couple of hours to do.

It sounds like there are a few suggested edits, especially regarding the speed of the mill movement, and the full file cutting the record in half. If I'm reading your responses correctly, you've made edits based on rdarlington's first set of comments, yes? How about his second comments (In addition to the above fixes (M3, M5, M6, etc) I did a global search and replace for "G0 X" to "G1 X". This leaves)... do those feel like good suggestions and did you incorporate them into your files?

I'm really interested in trying this project, and I just wanted to get a sense of what bugs had been worked through! Thanks!

fred27 (author)  ChristopherM201 month ago

I made changes in response to rdarlington's very helpful comments. This was one of my earliest attempts at CNC so needed a few tweaks. For instance, my mill had been set to have a max speed of 100mm/min so I'd got away with the stray G0 and he hadn't. (I've just got a CNC6040Z so will soon be trying it on that machine that can do 2500mm/min rapids and cut a full disc in one go.)

Whilst I've taken every care, I can't be sure how your mill behaves compared to mine. Look for things like crazy circles that might indicate a mismatch between relative and absolute positioning on arcs. It definitely suggest that you cut air first just in case, and don't leave it unattended whilst it's running.

To be honest there was more interest in the 3D printed version as printers are more popular than mills. If you run into any specific issues I'd be more than happy to help.

Thanks so much! I'm looking forward to trying this out in the next couple of weeks.
Iamjillian5 months ago

I had this toy; when I was little! Thank You Fred27!

i remember these when i was younger, great idea to do your own disks.

yodle121 year ago

Wow, you are my hero!

This is a ton of fun! The only problem I'm having is that I need to export the cambam file as a dxf and then import it into VCarve to geneate a .tap file for my CNC router. I find when I do that it doesn't recognize the shapes as vectors. It works fine when I draw the shapes in cambam myself, but when I import the gcode (.nc) file produced by the little executable file , the .dxf file doesn't get read as vectors by vcarve. Any ideas? Thanks, and thanks so much for putting all of this out there for us.


J-Five2 years ago
One question what the heck is a record???
clcok511 J-Five2 years ago
my self esteam went up to 99 out of 100
fred27 (author)  J-Five2 years ago
If you had one of these back in the 70s then you'd know!

Actually, considering the music is digitally encoded in pits engraved on a small disc you could probably say that this is a very early CD.
J-Five fred272 years ago
I know that i was just joking around.
clcok5112 years ago
someone get the 3d instructions for the toy too!!! that would be cool thanks!
jalba2 years ago
make a dubstep one and film it and share it :)
mgrunwel2 years ago
OMG! I remember haivng one of these as a kid. This is an epic ible.
Sleez2 years ago
you could also possibly make these with photoeching techniques???
fred27 (author) 3 years ago
OK - so there were a few people who'd prefer 3D printing to CNC milling and I can announce that this is now on!

I can't add links in comments, but you'll find a link to a new Instructable on the first page - or copy and paste this.
rdarlington3 years ago
Don't try this at home! At least not before giving the gcode a good edit. Rapids in the middle of very slow cuts with a tiny 1mm cutter means you're buying more till you fix the code. Also, the "full" code will cut your record in half if you can get that far. Last several lines in the file need to be removed. Attached is the progress I made before giving up. I switched to the next smallest cutter I had and it was way too big for the project but at least didn't snap. My machine is not small and rapids on this thing are easily 120 inches per minute. Beware!
fred27 (author)  rdarlington3 years ago
Sorry to hear that you broke a cutter. I took a look and found the problem. Whilst the code that generates the files is OK, I'd left an old gcode file in there that had the problems you describe.

I've now updated this and there shouldn't be any issues but if anyone is using this please check before you mill! I tried my best and it worked for me but I'm fairly new to this.

CamBam is what I used to view and it helped a lot. I had some bugs where notes were packed so close that the second one started before the first finished and the "backwards" arcs my code created gave some large circles.
In addition to the above fixes (M3, M5, M6, etc) I did a global search and replace for "G0 X" to "G1 X". This leaves the Z axis still at G0 but fixes all X/Y moves so they run at a more manageable speed. If I had to do it again, I'd probably change all the G0's to G1's, then go back and put back the G0 (rapid) command for any Z axis going above the material. Probably not a good idea to do a rapid down into the plastic but so far it hasn't snapped my larger cutter. When I do this again with a 1MM cutter, you can be sure I'm going to only do rapids on a Z axis retraction and anything above the material being cut.
elmorse3 years ago
This is absolutely fantastic. Do you take orders? :)
timmmmyboy3 years ago
I would love to figure out how to modify this code to generate a full 3D file of the disk rather than the Gcode for a CNC mill. Mostly because I'd like to test printing one of these with a 3D printer. Would that be difficult to do?
fred27 (author)  timmmmyboy3 years ago
I was lucky enough to win a Up 3D printer in the Make it Real contest. Once it arrives I'll look into creating STL files for 3D printing the records. If you want to have a go in the meantime, then that's great. My C# code is all open and shouldn't be too hard to follow.

The code first works out the polar coordinates of the pins. The gcode files are just text so that wasn't too hard to generate from this. I would expect that the next step for 3D printing would be to start with a "blank disc" STL file and to add the appropriate pins by adding shapes to the drawing as required. I've no experience of creating STL files in code (yet) but will update this Instructable with my progress.
Awesome that you won the 3D printer! I'll dig into the code a bit but I won't pretend to be an experienced programmer by any means. I'm on a Mac so I'll have to find a Windows computer to play with it. A lot of programs I see that generate STL files do it using a combination of custom code working alongside OpenSCAD (best recent example is OmNomNom Creator http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:24639 which generates STL files from bitmap images. Might be a decent starting point. I'll play around a bit more, I think it's definitely something people could get real use out of, and I already bought a vintage Fisher Price record player to play with it.
noahw3 years ago
This project really inspires me. I'm so glad you made this and decided to post it on our site. Let me know if there's anything I can ever do to help support you.
fred27 (author)  noahw3 years ago
Thanks. It's been great creating this and even better getting it out there and seeing people's reactions to it.

I've been checking out Instructables for a while If I'd known it was this much fun I'd have got round to posting something before. There are a few other things I hope to get written up soon.
fred27 (author) 3 years ago
I can confirm that these custom records also play on the "Merry go round" version of this record player. The records are played from underneath so have to be placed the other way up.

For double sided discs this means that the engraved description is for the other side! This is obviously the same if you play the original discs on the "wrong" player too,
FP merry go round.JPG
timarnold3 years ago
That is awesome! I had one of these as a kid and loved it. The custom discs are amazing!
Tomdf3 years ago
Very clever idea and great execution! I think you should modify it to play disks that can fit a whole song. I'm sure they wouldn't be much bigger than meter across :p
fred27 (author) 3 years ago
Just thought I'd let you know how things stood with "send it to me and I'll mill you a disc" giveaway...

I've had "You are my Sunshine" by peakfrean that'll be heading his way soon.

MantisFang and FaceInTheBooty have created original compositions and asked for me email address to send them to me, but I've not received anything yet.

kelprecords would like to get something from one of the artists on his record label out on the latest and greatest audio format. (Who needs MP3s and iPods? This is the future.) He's working with the editing software now and I'll be very interested to see what he comes up with.
fred27 (author)  fred273 years ago
Could HILOTRONS be the first band ever to release a single in the Fisher Price format? I've got the file from kelprecords and the finished disc should be on its was to Canada soon!

Nadine233 years ago
These are awesome.
samuraijack3 years ago
you sir are awesome.
fred27 (author) 3 years ago
I've now also managed to get it playing the Star Wars theme

This definitely shows up the limits of the player. You can see where it's trying to play some repeated notes quickly and they're not one of the "doubled-up" ones. The music box trips up and skips a little.
Make a Star Wars music disk!!!!
fred27 (author)  captain Jack3 years ago
Thanks for the suggestion! I've now managed to get this playing.

Have you got one of these record players? If so, drop me a message with your address and I'll mail you a copy.
fred27 (author)  captain Jack3 years ago
Great idea. I just had a quick go, but there are some notes it can't manage and it sounded a bit off.

And you know how particular Star Wars fans are - I'm afraid if I create a version with a few bum notes I'll have legions of them after me.
My parents still have this player with all of the original discs!! Now they don't have to worry about breaking the old discs if I can convince them to get me a small mill and let me put it in their garage...
This is crazy...in a good way. Absolutely love it!
I agree, wonderful!
zwells3 years ago
This is a 70's toy????? i had one when i was 3 know I almost can drive
Ayce zwells3 years ago
It was most likely your parents toy then. I had one of these when I was younger as well but I was born in 1978. I think it must have been one of my brothers toys originally.
chabias3 years ago
Most excellent!! 5*
suayres3 years ago
What a wonderful idea. I bought one of thes, over 40 years ago, for my newborn baby girl. The logic was, since I could have 10 tunes instead of just one, I wouldn't be driven up the wall by the same tune, repeated incessantly, and in fact, it worked out very well in that regard. And, would you believe, we still have it--or, rather, my daughter now has it, for our granddaughters. They really made toys well, in the olden days.... I'll have to run this idea past my husband--he's a retired shop teacher. Hmmmm.
azamir3 years ago
This is absolutely fabulous! It was a wonderful toy as a child (and I remember exploring it until I figured out ecaxtly the way it works) - and your customization is a great hit. Way to go!
doncrush3 years ago
What if you printed blanks with the grooves. then the CNC mill would drill blind holes and then a rod could be cut to create the bumps!
jarable3 years ago
We have an antique music box in the family - similar in concept except the disks are metal, 50 cm in diameter and have holes instead. I've never been allowed to dissect it to see how it works ( probably for the best ) but I've always had it in mind to try and see if I could either a) mill new disks on a CNC or b) process an image of the disk into a .wav file. Nice to see someone doing something similar.
You should see if you could directly convert a MIDI file - they're basically digital sheet music.
redrok3 years ago
Very cool;
Basically this is close to the how music boxes work. One circular line for each note. It would seem to me one could build the whole player by taking the music box mechanism apart and just use just the little plucker,

chaydgb3 years ago
I used to have one of these as a kid. That was an absolutely awesome job!
Me too! Funny, I was thinking about it only two days ago.
xenomachina3 years ago
This is great!

I think it may be possible to do this with a laser cutter by making two separate layers and then gluing them afterwards. The bottom layer would be the disk with just the center hole and 4 registration holes. The top layer would have the grooves cut all the way through. You'd probably have to leave thin connections between the rings (unless your notes happened to connect them for you) which you'd then remove by hand once the layers are glued together.

Of course, I have neither a milling machine nor a laser cutter...
Truly a well done instruct able! Reverse engineering a classic toy, and using modern technology to increase enjoyment, usability, and variety! Good job!
Tart20003 years ago
This is ace!
I've got the same record player and that makes me want to make a record for it!
And also, I've always thought you could engrave your own vinyl records on a laser cutter in the same way...
What do you think?
fred27 (author)  Tart20003 years ago
Thanks for your comments. Get a decent tune out of the attached software and I'll mill you a disc.

I've never used a laser cutter but was under the impression they cut all the way through the material. The disc has grooves that are 1mm wide and about 1.2mm deep. If you can cut that on a laser cutter then it can be done. Maybe you could use a layer of material the laser can cut through on top of a layer that it can't?
Tart2000 fred273 years ago
Cool, maybe I'll try and make a tune then...
And laser cutters can engrave (so not all the way through). You can even engrave a picture in greyscale. So I was thinking you could translate the tune in a greyscale image and then engrave it onto a disc... But that was more for a real old-school vinyl player than for the toy...
LancasterPA3 years ago
SOOO Cool!
shepnstein3 years ago
Wow. memories, I would love to see a link to a video to this playing a record you have created.
fred27 (author)  toymotorhead3 years ago
I've embedded a video of it playing on step 4. Or you can view it directly at http://youtu.be/OPQPNj8NbBA
robopanda3 years ago
Ooo I bet you could laser cut this too! Just do a couple of passes to make the etchings really deep. Hmm, now I gotta go find one of those players.
Awesome idea!
Now that is way awesome!
KEUrban3 years ago
okieinAZ3 years ago
Thank you! I am so glad that someone did this. My old FP record player is at my parents' house, and every time we are there my kids (all under 10) LOVE to play with it. They called it the CD player. Funny. I have since shown them what a record is.
I'd love to play around with this in the future.
fred27 (author)  okieinAZ3 years ago
Thanks for your comments. If you can knock up a tune and send me the fpr file it produces, then I'll see if I can sort out a disc for you. I'm not sure I've got the usability to the level where an under-10 could use it, otherwise I'd suggest they give you a hand.
i would like to hear how it sounds pls i remeber these from a kid and to hear Stairway to Heaven on it would be another nice meory to add
fred27 (author)  dasimpson19813 years ago
I'll sort out a video of it playing soon.
rimar20003 years ago
Very good work! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing this.