Mail at 33 1/3 RPM: the Record Etch





Introduction: Mail at 33 1/3 RPM: the Record Etch

Thrift stores are drowning in old records so go use 'em! Give them a second life and send them through the mail. You risk a couple bucks and the payoff can be great.

NOTE: Since writing this, others made me aware that etching PVC is bad for the chlorine gas. So, don't do this. I'm still leaving it up for the idea of using records as letters, however, because that worked a treat.

Step 1: Get Some Records

I paid the astonishing sum of one dollar per record at the thrift store a block away from my apartment, but at least the profits from the store, Out of the Closet, goes to AIDS research. Any quick trip to a flea market or garage sale could've gotten me a crate of old records for the same price.

But look at these gems! A Star is Born? Christmas with the Canadian Brass? Free to Be You and Me?

OK, I admit that I've never listened to any of these although Free to Be You and Me seems to have some huge nostalgic value for my friends. Whatever... it's time to destroy them.

Step 2: Etch!

Make a design in any graphic design program that you like. Here I used Illustrator.

Here, I laser-etched the records, but that's not recommended for safety reasons. I'd recommend printing a stencil or just using a silver sharpie.

Step 3: Stamp It and Send It

I dropped off four of these at the post office yesterday. One (pictured) travelled only inside of San Francisco. Another is going down to Palo Alto, CA. The other two are on their way to Brooklyn.

Since I live with the person who got the San Francisco record I was able to get a picture of it. If I get pics from the others, I'll update with those as well.

Here's hoping.

UPDATE: all the records made the trip in one piece.



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    Speaking as a USPS letter, you are not making any friends at your local post office. [You tip him at Christmas, right?]

    I tip mine! but that;s because she bring the mail over to the house if she sees we're outside... but the new one is not very nice.

    Hey you know how records are often referred to as "vinyl"? And that "vinyl" is often short for "poly-vinyl chloride" (PVC)? And that PVC, when burned can release chlorine gas? ;) I'd make sure you have a good venting system in place...

    Good to know. The Epilog at Squid has ventilation and the exhaust runs through a filter and I try to avoid being in the room at the same time. Since etching doesn't really burn that much material I think it's OK.

    Sorry but you "think" wrong, it's actually NOT safe, as Ladyada says you will release Chlorine gas , this turns into acid in the lungs and can kill you in pretty quick order. It will also burn away the inside of your machine and destroy the electronics.

    To the original poster, do some research and don't post ideas that can cause long term harm or death!!

    Oh, thanks for reminding me about this. Yes, I did more research at the time and recommend not doing it at all. I updated it with a recommendation to not use laser-etching for applying the addresses, but am leaving it because it still works as a form of mail art.

    Supposedly it is not only harmful to yourself, but to the laser cutter as well. And may run the risk of being a fire-hazard (so rumor has it). Fortunately records made before 1970-something don't use PVC. So, you can cut up all the old polka albums you want.

    What are records pre 1970-something made of I wonder?

    (re: ladyada et al., more specifically, burning PVC releases dioxins, which are some of the *most toxic* substances to humans...reference victims of Agent Orange and Viktor Yushchenko for effects)

    Did the post office kick up a fuss because of the shape and size?

    Cool. Can I laser-etch a body part?