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Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?
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Author:  Menophanes [ Wed May 08, 2019 9:47 am ]
Post subject:  Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?

A curious point has been raised in another thread (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=40346): – How long could a black-wax or celluloid cylinder be listed in a recording company's catalogues? In other words, was there a practical limit to the length of time a mould could be kept in use, or to the number of copies that could be made from it?

To the best of my understanding (and I am entirely open to correction on everything that follows), the process of manufacturing cylinders involved only three stages: positive (the original studio recording or master), negative (the mould created from the master by electroplating) and positive again (the commercial cylinder for sale to the public, made in the mould). This contrasts with disc manufacture, in which from 1900 onward there were five stages (positive master, negative matrix, positive mother, negative stamper and positive record). When a disc stamper wore out, one could make a new one (or a succession of new ones) from the mother; when that in turn wore out, there was still the matrix as a source for a new mother. By contrast, when a cylinder mould reached the end of its life there was, I believe, no way of replacing it, since the master had unavoidably been melted down during the electroplating process; thus the only way to keep a particular cylinder in the catalogue beyond the life of the mould was either to dub it from an existing copy or to record it again.

Such is my belief, at least. I do know for a fact that in the moulded era one still sometimes finds two (or perhaps more) different performances of a given title under a given catalogue number. For example, I have at different times had two copies of an Edison-Bell black wax two-minute cylinder entitled 'Music-Hall Melodies No. 6', played by the London Regimental Band; the title and artists were therefore the same and so was the catalogue number (somewhere in the 600s, I think – I have forgotten), but the actual performances were different, one having a cymbal-clash which was not present in the other. Why would the company go to the trouble of paying the band to play the selection again, unless it was because the demand for the title was too great to be met by the existing source? This seems to suggest that there was a fairly narrow limit to the number of copies that could be taken from one master. On the other hand, I also know that Edison sometimes issued a particular title in both Amberol and Blue Amberol form and that the same performance might be found on both. An example (again I have not got the catalogue numbers handy) is Stephen Adams's 'Thora' sung by Peter Dawson, which I have owned in both versions, and I will swear that these are not two different renderings. Does this mean that Edison's technicians had by that time found a way of prolonging the life of moulds or of duplicating them? Or was the Blue Amberol, in such cases, merely dubbed from the wax version?

I shall be grateful if anyone can stiffen my speculations with some hard facts.

Oliver Mundy.

Author:  52089 [ Wed May 08, 2019 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?

I know of cases in the Gold Moulded era where a title first issued on brown wax was later reissued on black/Moulded wax, but these are of course re-recordings. I am not familiar with any 2M Moulded selections that had to be re-recorded, other than the example you provided, but it's possible. Perhaps Sutton's 2M book discusses this?

I can tell you that the wax and Blue Amberol recordings of the same selection were made from the same mold, not dubbed. (Caveat: There are a handful of cases where a selection was re-recorded for Blue Amberol, but no Blue Amberol was ever dubbed from a wax Amberol, to the best of my knowledge.)

I can also tell you that there had to have been some process for duplicating masters during the Blue Amberol era, because Blue Amberols have a small mold number marked on them after the "Pat'd." markings.

Author:  recordmaker [ Wed May 08, 2019 11:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?

The methods used in the different companies vary over time.
It is documented that Edison used sub mastering pretty much from the start of moulding cylinders the masters being cut at high groove pitches to allow for 2 stages of transfer master wax 96 TPI. to master metal, to wax sub master at 98 TPI, to metal mould ,wax for sale at 100TPI.
The factory needed from 40 to 100 moulds per title in production depending on the popularity of the record.
The disc companies used a stamper on a 2 minute press cycle a cylinder mould needed 20 to 30 min from filling to refilling with wax hence more moulds needed than stampers.
The Edison bell system was to make the normal ( possibly concert size master) in the studio and then copy to the master blanks and use the resulting metal mould to make the records. in this case I would expect about 12 to 20 good moulds per take and a popular EB record would certainly have 4 or 5 versions in circulation to make enough working moulds.
Pathé of course did the same master cylinder process with both cylinders and discs.
By the time Clarion started the sub master method was certainly universally in use and the Edison Bell extra long even advert ( circa 1908)decried their own earlier product by the description of the new product as "every one a master record"

Author:  TinfoilPhono [ Wed May 08, 2019 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?

52089 wrote:
I am not familiar with any 2M Moulded selections that had to be re-recorded, other than the example you provided, but it's possible.

This actually happened fairly often. The Edison Phonograph Monthly frequently mentioned titles that had to be "made over" because the original molds were no longer usable. Many such titles were re-made with entirely different performers. I have one such remake in my collection: "Lucky Jim." Same song, same catalog number, but very different performances by different singers.

If a song wasn't a big seller, such records would be "cut out" of the catalog when the molds wore out. Popular songs would be remade as needed to keep up with demand.

Author:  Menophanes [ Thu May 09, 2019 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moulded cylinders: how many copies from one mould?

Thank you all for these helpful replies. As I now understand it, then, the cylinder companies had in fact solved, in various ways, the problem of introducing an extra positive/negative stage between master and mould, just as Eldridge Johnson had done for discs in 1900.

Oliver Mundy.

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