Introduction: Vinyl Record Bowls
The LP (Long Play) Record was released in 1948 by Columbia Records. Previous records were made of Shellac, which required wider grooves for playing. These records spun at 78 rpm, allowing for 5 minutes of play on either side of a standard, 12 inch diameter, disc. Columbia introduced a record with smaller grooves, extending play time to almost 20 minutes per side, spinning at over 33 revolutions per minute. Before LPs, song collections were broken up onto multiple discs and then bound and sold as sets, referred to as “albums.”
However, with the emergence of computer disks, iPods, and other advanced music technology, few people still use records for their intended purpose. One creative way to recycle old records is to create quirky, but functional record bowls.
Online handmade-craft marketplaces, like Etsy, see hundreds of record bowls retailing anywhere from $12 - $65. A fun and inexpensive alternative is to purchase vinyl secondhand and re-create these record bowls at home.
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Step 1: Materials
Vinyl Record: One record will produce a single bowl. You may choose to use colored vinyl or experiment with different sized records (e.g. 45 rpm and 33 1/3 rpm). For this project I chose a standard 12” (33 1/3 rpm) black vinyl record. If you do not keep records laying around, like myself, single disks may be purchased at second-hand stores like Goodwill. In the case you cannot locate a thrift shop in your area, records can be purchased online for the purpose of crafting. The latter option is slightly more expensive. Make sure you choose records that you will not wish to listen to later on. The process of turning the record into a bowl can alter the disk's grooves.
Oven Safe Dish: Any oven-safe mug, plate, or casserole dish will work. Do not worry about overheating the dish, as this project does not require extreme heating temperatures. I used a glass casserole dish, with a 10” diameter. You might consider keeping several dishes handy for creating a variety of record bowls.
Step 2: Pre-heat Oven
Pre-heat your oven to 200 ℉ (approx. 94 degrees ℃)
*If your oven does not allow for heating at 200 ℉ or below, skip to Method #2
Other vinyl record bowl instruction sets might suggest pre-heating the oven to at least 220 ℉. However at temperatures exceeding 200 ℉, records may leech toxic chemicals, such as polyvinyl chloride. Short-term exposure to these chemicals often results in drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches, while chronic exposure to polyvinyl chloride has been linked to liver damage and rare forms of cancer. (EPA.Gov)
While the oven is pre-heating, you may begin preparing the vinyl for heating. For simple cleaning, use water and a cloth towel. For deeper cleaning, or to avoid scratching the record, try using record cleaning fluid and/or a microfiber cloth.
It is important to ensure the record is clean before heating, as the presence of dirt and debris can cause the disc to heat unevenly and may even result in bubbling.
Step 3: Place Record and Dish in Oven
Place your record on the oven-safe dish, and place both in the oven.
For my first bowl, I placed a mason jar in my 10” casserole dish, and placed the record on top of the jar. However, you can experiment with mugs, drinking glasses, or place the record directly in the bottom dish.
One of my initial concerns was that the record would melt onto the floor of the oven or fuse with my glass dish ware. Do not worry about the vinyl melting or sticking to your dishes. 200 degrees is not hot enough for either to occur.
Leave the record in for 6-8 minutes, or until flimsy. Do not leave the record in the oven for extended periods of time (longer than 20 minutes.) The vinyl will not become more flexible, and you run the risk of producing toxic fumes.
*If at any point you can "smell" the record cooking, stop the project. Turn off the oven, take out the dishes and record, and open up a window for ventilation. Vinyl does not "smell" although polyvinyl chloride does.
Step 4: Remove Dish and Record From Oven
Once the vinyl becomes soft and pliable, you may remove the dish and record from the oven. If you have placed any loose dishes within a larger dish (as I did with my mason jar and casserole dish) be careful not to knock the loose dish over. It might be easier to grab the loose dish and record separately and retrieve the larger dish afterwards.
If the record was cooked with the dish of the desired bowl shape, mold the record around the dish until the vinyl hardens.
If the record will be shaped differently than dish it was cooked in, you have two shaping options.
1) Flip the bowl of desired shape upside-down and place the record on top of the bowl. Mould around the bottom of the bowl or allow the vinyl to fall over the bowl.
2) Take a bowl with the shape you want for your record and place the heated record on the inside of the bowl. Let the record cool inside the bowl until hard.
The record will take 1-2 minutes to cool completely. If you wish to manipulate the record before completely cool, try to use a cloth/towel to prevent burns.
Step 5: Method 2
If you do not have access to an oven that heats to temperatures 200 degrees Fahrenheit and below, you may also soften the record with boiling water.
- Boil water in a kettle.
- Place the record in a large bucket.
- With water-proof (rubber) gloves, pour the boiling water onto the record, until it becomes soft.
- Manipulate the record into desired shape as described in step 4, or shape the bowl by hand
Step 6: Correcting Mistakes & Tips
If you are not satisfied with the way a record hardens, pop the disk back into the oven and re-shape, as described in steps 3 and 4. Do not re-heat record for longer than 20 minutes before allowing to completely cool.
Other record bowl tutorials suggest using blow torches and lighters to fix minor mistakes. However, burning the vinyl can speed up the release of toxic fumes. Never place a record near a flame.
Experiment with different size and color records.
- Smaller records (45 rpm) will soften more quickly, so do not heat them for longer than 5 minutes at a time.
- Records larger than 12” in diameter will take longer to soften. However, do not heat them for longer than 12 minutes at a time.
- Colored records should soften just as the black vinyls. Check beforehand that the vinyl itself is colored and that the record is not simply covered in colored plastic.
Paint the finished record bowl
If you decide that you do not like the look of the record once shaped, you may decide to paint over top of the bowl. Once a bowl is painted, do not place it back into the oven. The paint may react with the vinyl under heat.
Step 7: Display Your Bowl(s)
Enjoy your recycled creation or give a record bowl to a friend as a unique gift.
Personally, I found my record bowl most useful for loose change and cash. However, your bowl may stand alone as a sentimental piece of art.
*Do not display in direct sunlight as this, again, causes the record to release toxic chemicals
Step 8: Apply Method to Other Record Crafts
I created 4 record bowls of differing shapes. 1 was created using a glass, 1 with a mason jar, 1 was molded over a cereal bowl, and the final was cooked in a 10" casserole dish. I then placed a bowl into the next largest bowl, creating what looks like a large flower. The bowls are attached to each other with sticky foam dots.
My friends joked that it looks like an elaborate pen holder. If I made several more flowers, I would love to hang them up as wall art.