Yes, that's a Shaded Dog in my oven

the audio analyst©
Play Your Warped Records!

Remember that absolutely pristine-looking Mobile Fidelity copy of Katy Lied you found mixed in with all the Mitch Miller sing-a-longs and childrenís Christmas records at that garage sale two years ago -- the one that you paid all of $.50 for even though it was too warped to play? Or how Ďbout that original Beatles Sgt. Pepperís that your dad gave you for the same reason 30 years ago rather than just throw away? Ha! Go get Ďem Musical Meddlers, itís time to play Ďem. Well, almost. Youíd be amazed with what you can accomplish with two pieces of glass and your oven.

No, Iíve not gone off the deep end. Iíve been able to restore to service just about any warped record Iíve run across, but not without a few crash and burns along the way. The first thing I have to caution you about when using this method is that it is a process you have to practice. Start with old, unimportant records. That way, should something go wrong before you master the process, you wonít decry the loss of a precious and irreplaceable treasure.

If you are like most vinyl collectors, you have one or two slightly warped pieces lying in wait. If not, you can troll the local Goodwill or Salvation Army stores, where you may be able to dredge up a couple of warped discs for next to nothing to experiment with and get your process perfected. No letters if you ruin one or two records in the process please -- use this method ONLY at your own risk. I assure you, once youíve gotten this method down, youíll be glad you took the extra time to iron out (sorry, I couldnít resist) the wrinkles in the process.

The first thing youíll need to do is call or stop by a local glass shop -- not one of those drive-to-your-parking-lot-to-replace-your-cracked-windshield places (unless they do plate glass too), but someone who specializes in cutting and installing plate glass. Order up two 1/4" thick, 14" square pieces of tempered glass. MAKE SURE to get tempered glass. Regular plate glass isnít durable enough to take the heat and abuse we are going to dish out. Though I got mine for about $6 over 10 years ago, a local company informed me that two plates cut to these dimensions shouldnít set you back more than $20. When you get them home, clean them thoroughly, both sides, with a glass cleaner that leaves no residue and use a cloth that leaves no lint behind. No paper towels, please!

Stoke your oven, place the baking rack in the center, set the dial to 150 degrees, and let the oven pre-heat. Make sure the record you are about to restore is as clean as humanly possible. I suggest something like the Disc Doctorís Miracle Record Cleaner, LASTís Power Cleaner, or maybe even my own recipe. Donít be afraid to clean the record twice just to be safe. I would even recommend a distilled-water bath after both cleanings, just to be sure that you have removed all residue and debris from the surface of the record. What you are about to do next COULD bond any residual dirt, dust or debris to the record for the rest of its life, so be SURE the record is as clean as you can get it.

Now, place the immaculate record in the center of one of the glass plates, gently lower the other one on top of it and gingerly place your vinyl sandwich on the rack. Now all you have to do is set the timer for 12 minutes and wait. Remember what I said about trial and error? This is the trial part. The actual time will vary with vinyl quality and thickness, but 12 minutes is a safe starting point.

When time is up, take the warm sandwich out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack for about half an hour, or until the entire sandwich is cool to the touch and back to room temperature. Donít take any shortcuts here, or you wonít have achieved anything. All your care and effort will have been for nothing. Carefully separate the two panes of glass and inspect the record. If you find you havenít succeeded after the first try, give it a second go, increasing the in-oven time by two to three minutes per try until you nail it. But if all looks like the pre-Copernican view of the earth, you just made a swan of an ugly duckling. Enjoy.

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