What Are Vinyl Record Cut Corners?


What Are Vinyl Record Cut Corners?

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Vinyl records have been around for generations. They have been the music device of choice for many people and although cassettes, cds, mp3s and more have gone away records are still around. 

In recent years vinyl records have even begun to grow in popularity again. Matter of fact they have had 14 consecutive years of sales growth as of 2019. 

If you are in a store and come across a record that has the corner cut off of the album cover/jacket you might be wondering why it is like that. In this article we will do our best to answer that question. 

So, what are vinyl record cut corners for? The corners are cut on the cardboard jackets/sleeves to prevent them from being returned to a traditional retailer. Normally the corners are cut off when an item is discontinued and sold as a discount lot to a wholesaler or when an item has been returned and it shouldn’t be sold as new. 

This is not just a thing that is done with records either. Items that are shelf pulls (meaning they didn’t sell) and are sold to discount wholesalers will often have a slice through the UPC or even marks or stickers placed over them. 

This happens with a variety of different products and is basically in place to ensure that the people buying them from the discount wholesaler cannot return them to a store for a refund. 

Would the corners always be cut? 

The corners of the album jacket wouldn’t always be cut. They would also sometimes just have a slice through the corner, a drill hole, or even just the corner of the jacket clipped off. 

Many times commercial distributors of sound recordings would cut off the corner of a vinyl record’s jacket that had been returned by some of the retailers and store them in a special section called the cut-out bin. 

However, some of these cut out records have been resold to other outlets or retailers interested in buying them at a discounted price. Thus, cut outs that are sold to retailers are marked as non-returnable items meaning that these retail outlets cannot return them or demand a refund. For them. 

Another angle to this is that any record that didn’t have the expected demand were returned to the record company. Retailers would come around the record company and buy off these returned records at a discount price and put them up for sale at a discount price too.To differentiate these records from the full price ones, a corner is cut off or a hole punched in them 

Is the record damaged by the corner being cut?

Being that the record is round and the cut or whole would be punched in the corner then there would not be any damage done to the record by this process. 

There is no physical damage to the liner notes and outer cases during the process of cut-outs, the inner disc is perfectly fine and will definitely sound as good as the original recording. 

Nonetheless, most people still find corner cuts on records to be quite annoying, they prefer their records not to be marred by any sort of cut outs or drills. If any of this exists on a record, many people choose to not buy it because of that damage. However, there are plenty of other people that prefer to save a bit of money and only buy these cut out records.  

If you are buying a record for a collection then buying a cut corner record probably isn’t the best option. However, if you are buying records just to enjoy them with family and friends then cut corner records is a great way to save some money. 

Why cut a vinyl record?

There are only two  explanations to why vinyl records have cut corners. The record distributors want to sell them to record stores at a discounted price. The other possible reason that album jackets might be cut up or damaged is that someone in the past decided to use the album jacket for art and they cut it apart.  

The second option isn’t only just used for cutting the cardboard jackets. You can also cut records into different shapes and sizes to use in a variety of art pieces or sculptures. This will normally be done if the record doesn’t have any monetary value or if it is so damaged by scratches etc. that it is unuseful. 

We will discuss some of those methods of creating art below. 

How to cut vinyl records for art

Cutting parts of a vinyl record can be done in three different ways. Those ways are: heating the record inside an oven, using a hot knife and using a circuit knife. 

Materials needed for any of these methods are: oven, utility knife, heavy duty scissors, sandpaper and baking sheet(optional), hot knife, wooden work surface, face mask pencil and circuit knives.

1. Heating the record in an oven

The oven should be preheated to 250 ⁰F before the record is placed inside. If there is a specific design to be made, you should trace that with a pencil onto the record before heating it up.  The record must be set on the center rack directly in the oven. Ideally you want the record to be on some aluminum foil or on a pizza pan that you don’t care about. 

The heat from the oven softens the record in about 2-3 minutes making it easier to cut. Take it out and use the utility knife or the pair of sharp scissors to make your cut outs. Finally, you can smooth the edges of the vinyl using fine grit sandpaper.

2. Use of hot knife

Hot knives are basically heated cutting tools which are used to cut delicate materials in crafts and woodwork. A vinyl record can be precisely cut out using a hot knife. Plug the knife in and let it heat up for about three minutes. Use the knife to cut across your already made design on the record’s surface. Follow the lines with the knife until you cut out your design. Turn off your knife and let it cool off. 

Hot knives must be handled carefully as they can be extremely dangerous when they are heated up. 

Vinyl releases chlorine gas when it is heated, this could be dangerous to your health. It is a very good idea to wear a facemask to prevent you from inhaling the gas and to do this process in a well ventilated area. 

3. Use a circuit knife

The circuit knife/blade is a new tool that is designed to cut through very thick materials. A circuit knife is a good and fast option for cutting your records to be used for an art project. All you need to do is draw your cut lines with a pencil and use the circuit knife to cut along the lines. 

Simple, right?! 

However a circuit knife is a very sharp blade and the user has to be extremely careful so to avoid any accidents.

Some people use lasers to cut vinyl, this is extremely dangerous because the vinyl is toxic while it is being cut just like when using a heat knife.  It is safer to use the above three methods to avoid any harmful incident.

Want to see a hot knife in action being used to cut shapes into a record? Check out the video below. 

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Conclusion

When people are talking about cutting corners on records most of the time they are referring to brand new records that are sold with the corner of the album jacket cut off. Although these can be purchased for much cheaper than their full price counterpart, it is up to you to decide if it is worth saving the money. 

Some people want every record and jacket in their collection to be in perfect condition and having a record album that is cut seems like a disgrace. 

On the other hand some people just simply want to save money and being able to buy records for 50-75% less makes the cut corner worth it in their eyes. 

Only you can decide what is best in your situation but hopefully after reading this article you now know more about why records have cut corners and whether you want them or not. 

Matt Robbs

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as bringing back memories from your childhood. We used to spend hours playing pinball in my friends basement and that really got me involved in everything retro!

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