Picture of Using a hard drive to cut a record

We stripped 8 hard drives down the ascertain the most appropriate actuator for our application.

Cutting the Groove

Having seen footage of hard drive actuator arm play music when connected to amplifier convinced us we could invert the process and use the actuator as the cutter head once we mounted an appropriate cutting tip.
Effectively reverse engineering from the digital realm to create an analogue result.
This image tests the theory, signal being fed to a hard drive and played back via a stylus resting on the arm.

Step 1: Hard drive actuators, early versions

Picture of Hard drive actuators, early versions

We stripped 8 hard drives down the ascertain the most appropriate actuator for our application.

The arm from 4"drive as opposed to 2.5" drive allows more current resulting in greater amplitude this equals higher volume.

We built three versions of cutting head gaining improvements at every step.

A Google search revealed a patent listing that confirmed the problem of an audio dropout at around 8khz due to harmonic resonance introduced by the mechanical clamping of the tiny bearing between the arm and drive housing.
We eliminated the bearing all together, replacing it with a machined piece of flat aluminium clamped to the head between thin rubber shims.

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freewheel9 months ago

Truly incredible work! I really like being able to see your thought process and the workflow involved in a project like this.

Samuel kos1 year ago
I would like to build one of these but their are not any clear instructions on this post.( Quiet frankly though I highly doubt I could, but i would like to try anyways.) Tell me if you could give me the instructions or if you discourage me from trying.
evengravy1 year ago
Amazing project! Can I ask some questions on the cutting head? Is it cutting horizontally, vertically or both? I assume it is mono? I really would like to try to make a lofi cutter using you head design, I produce electronic music and would love to be able to use a cutter as a processor of sorts, high frequency accuracy would not be a great concern, all help would be much appreciated, kudos again!
meritsetgo2 years ago
well one obvious application is to do away with stuffing a note inside the bottle before tossing it in the ocean....(still needs to be capped so it floats) sine the "message" will be imbedded in the bottle or the new term for the masses will be "message ON a bottle!
You would need to make sure to take the recording equipment with you and have a way to power it.....probably better not to get stranded on a desert island...are there any left? :)
Sleek machine! Who doesn't want a music player that plays beer bottles? :P
Great design, hope you can make a good tutorial sometime.
Mrplaser2 years ago
I appreciate all the hard work and time that went into this project, but I don't understand the point of all this. Aren't instuctables originally intended to teach others about how to do or make something? Maybe I'm just confused.
Gyro_ (author)  Mrplaser2 years ago
The moderators on Instructables have made it a featured item, I think there is enough information here to whet the appetite of many here.
I have spent many hours documenting the a very complex process, if you require more information just ask.
Gyro_ (author)  Gyro_2 years ago
Step 6 has been posted as requested by those interested enough to want to hear the actual results, or are you referring to previous steps?
We will be taking the player to a studio to record the track, which may be made available depending on copyright.
Awesome work!
ace5552 years ago
all you need to do is to pair up with a beer company and get music producers to put there music onto beer
Tex Arcana2 years ago
Um, what good is it to do this without posting the final sounds from the bottle?? This is one of the best instructables yet, but without the final product it's immensely frustrating.
Gyro_ (author)  Tex Arcana2 years ago
See step 6
AuralVirus2 years ago
Interesting project - but why? Isn't it a bit like trying to re-invent the wheel yet using stone? (terrible analogy I know but you get the point.) or am I missing something? Was anything discovered that pushed audio recording quality forward or is this purely folly?
Gyro_ (author)  AuralVirus2 years ago
We did the project as it's what we do, special effects and modelmaking.
Yes it was a promotional item by a company that promotes the arts in this country.

I was very surprised that this gained the amount of global interest it created, that interest largely viral as it did not have a large push behind it.

I find it interesting to suggest we reinvented the wheel using stone when in fact it was reinvented using the latest most exacting piece of engineering readily available to the consumer.

I got the inspiration to use a hard drive actuator from the web whilst researching it's feasibility, we have taken it to the next level, I'm sure through sharing what we have achieved will spur others onto utilising the components in other areas on home build projects.

The fact it has had such interest on Instructables is testament to the fact there is a hunger for analogue in the techo world, look at the emergence of Steam Punk, and many other projects here, many of them are pure folly, the satisfaction is in the design, build and sharing.

And yes, we did push the audio quality forward by a huge degree from what has been cut onto cylinder based recording devices historically.

We were lucky enough to be commissioned in this case and I hope the results will be an inspiration for others, 3 of us worked on this for 2 months on quite a limited budget, this ended up being one of the most challenging yet satisfying projects to date.
UniBot2 years ago
I know this is a strange question, but whats the name of the song in the orchestral audio files?
AuralVirus2 years ago
re below - after further searching (I'm genuinely interested) I see this was more a publicity stunt for becks beer.
tommychev2 years ago
Literally Awesome!
vincent75202 years ago
Gyro_ (author)  vincent75202 years ago
Here's the promo video to tide you by until I can put together a more of a step by step video.

Here's the link on my website, video link bottom right thumbnail:

I'll put an audio file file up soon!

Thanks for your interest Andrew
Thank you !

Your idea is so cool !…
This is outstanding work. A couple of questions: what is your recording time on an average bottle, what is the frequency response of the playback as well as the s/n ratio of a recording on the bottle?

I would love to see and hear this in action as well...
Gyro_ (author)  deluxelespaul2 years ago
We recorded at 1/8 speed, a bit over 25 tense minutes.
criztos2 years ago
it would be more awesome if you put a video showing how it works, but the idea is AMAZING!!!
ssamc2 years ago
Nice design in the end
mrbonine2 years ago
Very impressive amount of work, resources, and maybe the most difficult obstacles, overcoming problems and refinement. I know that "because we can" is often the most important reason to do many things, especially Instructables. I can't, though, come up with a viable use for a one-of-a-kind glass bottle sound recorder and matching unique glass bottle player. I admit to being utilitarian to the extreme of "function before beauty" and "use stuff I already have over buy anything" and my extremes have included cutting new threads on hardware so I don't have to run to the store. Yet, even in daily use by one person, should one of the two resulting devices fail.....and storing custom-cut beer bottles to be able to play them? If the cutting/playing processes can be achieved with full bottles (with no loss of sound quality or liquid) then perhaps my last critique is moot. The hard work, availability of equipment and time, and perseverance are impressive. Your structured and detailed approach, tirelessness, and focus are encouraging and admirable. Thanks for taking the time to document your project.
Wingloader2 years ago
Seems pretty straightforward. ;-\
I too was really hoping for an audio clip!!
thaleyal2 years ago
No video/audio clip?
74albia2 years ago
Great! But give us a video, please!
LesB2 years ago
Very interesting project.
Do you plan to develop this into a commercial project?
protorob2 years ago
nc4tc2 years ago
Amazing detail work! All the beer companies will want to cut records on their bottles!!!
ianmi2 years ago
Sound clip please
sguarnieri2 years ago
Mr. Edison would be proud. It's a great mashup of high tech and 120 year old tech. Nicely done!
This is amazing. I absolutey love it!
I found a video :)

Monty^2 years ago
dagob2 years ago
Does it work? Please make a video, I'd love to see it working.
ynze2 years ago
A video, a video, please please give us a video :-)
Great project!!
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