I was once given a coaster made out of an old vinyl record as a gift, bought at a record store/rock memorabilia place. I thought it was pretty cool and decided to make some of my own.
Now I actually had mixed feelings about this, as it seemed a bit blasphemous to destroy a record to make a coaster. However, I placated my conscience with some justifications:
-I would try to find only those records that were beyond playability, low in value, and not rare.
-I would find these records at thrift stores where they were sitting uselessly, interminably in boxes, unused, unloved, and bound for a dumpster.
I still feel a little guilty, but oh well!
Step 1: Acquire Records
So now that you've overcome your aversion to trashing some pieces of history, it's time to go out there and get some records!
Some of the guidelines/tips I used:
-Find a thrift store with cheap records, obviously. $1 or less is great.
-Find records that are by interesting artists (it would be amusing to make coasters out of Coasters records!) and/or have interesting label designs.
-My favorites to look through are the loose records without sleeves; they are the most scratched up and worthless. And you don't have to pull them out of the sleeve to look at the label design. Bonus!
If you have any lingering doubts about your choices, do a quick search online for the catalog numbers to check their value and rarity. Who knows? You might even grab one that's worth a lot of money! (Don't cut those up, obviously)
Step 2: Rig Up a Lathe
So what we want is just the center label of the record, about the size of a standard coaster. To cut it out in a nice clean circle, it's best to use a lathe to spin it while you cut.
I don't have a lathe, so I just cobbled something together to use my drill to spin the discs.
I had plenty of 1/4" hardware, which fit pretty well as a spindle through the center hole of the records. I chose a longer bolt so that it had a smooth shoulder where the record sat. This way, there weren't threads digging into the record. But it meant I had to add a lot of washers as spacers.
Tighten the record down with a nut on the other side, and there should be plenty of bolt left to tighten into the chuck of the drill.
Unfortunately, this setup isn't perfect; the spindle isn't exactly centered or perfectly straight. It won't spin perfectly, but it's good enough to make a decent circular cut.
Step 3: Cut
So basically, I found it was best to cut a little bit with the lathe (drill) spinning to get a guide groove, then finish it by hand with the disc stationary. It turned out that I couldn't cut perfectly evenly, so I would punch through in one place, then the spinning would just make my cutting tool bounce too much in that spot. Anyway, the groove was enough of a guide to finish by hand, and this also prevents the danger of having the outer portion of the record flying out of control once you have cut all the way through.
I used a Dremel with a thin cutter.
Step 4: Edge Finishing
Once you've finished cutting, the edge of the coaster is bound to be a little rough. I used a rasp and some sandpaper to clean it up.
Step 5: Final Product
And that's it! Now you have some cool coasters made from old records. Throw them out on your coffee table and feel proud of your handiwork.
Be sure to wear eye protection when working with high speed spinning objects, especially when cutting them with a Dremel!
Consider using a dust mask, too! Older 78 rpm discs were made from shellac and create a fine dust when cut. Newer discs are made of vinyl and create coarser filings.
Anybody have any cool ideas for the leftover record doughnuts? I'm brainstorming something cool to do with them!