Mail at 33 1/3 RPM: the Record Etch




About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.

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.



    • Organization Contest

      Organization Contest
    • Sweet Treats Challenge

      Sweet Treats Challenge
    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest

    57 Discussions

    trunnion bascule

    10 years ago on Step 3

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

    1 reply

    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.


    12 years ago

    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...

    3 replies
    fungus amungusladyada

    Reply 12 years ago

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 3

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    look for it... some monkey etched men with beards on his fingernails... the instructable is out there.


    10 years ago on Step 1

    Back in the 1950's I used to make letter holders, bowls, trays etc. out of 78 records. I did not heat them in the oven, but rather heated water in a shallow pan on top of the stove and used a block of wood for shaping the letter holders and just worked with my fingers to shape other items. I am wondering if the records you are using now and heating in the oven can be used in this manner? Babe


    10 years ago on Step 3

    The purpose is that this is a cool post card, of sorts. Cool idea.


    10 years ago on Step 3

    You can't see the purpose? It's like a really cool, fun surprising postard!!! Make it a love note! "you spin me right around, baby!", "You add music to my life", "You broke the 'How much my heart can love' record". (Ok, that last one was a stretch, but you get where I'm going with that!). You can send all sorts of things in the mail... a plastic bottle with some sand in it with a scrolled up letter is the ultimate "message in a bottle". If the message of the record is funny enough, you can add a smile to the mail carrier's day! (At least he's not stuck delivering carton's of paper, remember mr. mail carrier... it could aways be worse!!!).