The first step in the record pressing process is the creation of the master disk, or acetate, which is cut directly from the master tape of the recording. An acetate is a piece of aluminum coated with a layer of vinyl, into which grooves are cut, like a record. Unlike records, however, acetates are usually (see below) one sided, and come in pairs, one for each side of the album. They also often have two center holes; one hole is the standard center hole which acts as the axis for rotation, and the other hole is used by the guiding arm to turn the acetate while the writing stylus cuts the grooves. Some plants now use single-holed acetates which are held in place by suction.
One or, at most, two acetate sets are typically made for an album. Due to their composition, acetates begin to lose their sound quality within a matter of days. If an acetate is not used within three days, another set needs to be cut, or the sound quality of the finished product will suffer. For this reason, the acetate pair is sent immediately (via express mail) to the plater.
The plater coats each acetate with a thin layer of silver which is then electro-plated with nickel. When this plate is separated from the acetate, the metal that was facing the disk now has protruding ridges where the grooves were. This plate is called the father or master plate. The acetate disk usually gets destroyed in this process.
The father plate is oxidized, and plated again. The resulting plate, when separated from the father, becomes a metal duplicate of the acetate, with grooves again. This plate is called the mother plate and can be played on a turntable to check for errors in mastering or plating. Like acetates, mothers and fathers also come in one-sided pairs.
In a two step process, the father plate is converted into a stamper, and the mother is shelved for future use. In a three step process, the mother is oxidized and plated to make stamper plates. One father can produce 10 mothers, and one mother can produce 10 stampers. One stamper can produce about 1000 vinyl records. Therefore, a two step process can produce a maximum of about 11,000 records before a remastering has to be done, and a three step process can produce up to about 100,000 vinyl records before remastering.
(The plating section was written almost 100% by Paul W. Brekus, master engineer at Aardvark Record Mastering in Denver, CO. Please see Aardvark for Paul's excellent "The Record Making Process" summary.)
The stamper plates are used to press the vinyl. In the pressing plant, a certain amount of vinyl is placed or injected between the stampers, which are pressed together to squeeze the grooves into the vinyl. The excess vinyl is then cut off, and the result is a record.
Before agreeing to have a record mass-produced, bands usually have one to four test presses made. These test presses are more or less identical to the finished product, except for their "test press" center labels. If the band is unhappy with the sound of the test press, the process is started over, from the creation of new acetates down to a new set of test presses. Once the sound quality of the test presses has been approved, the pressing plant begins mass-producing the record.
In order to avoid paying for the pressing and plating process, The Misfits often used reference lacquers, or double-sided acetates, instead of test pressings. Because these acetates are double-sided, they can not be used in the plating process, and are only used for checking sound quality. For this reason, many Misfits acetates don't directly correspond to actual releases: the two 12" acetates for the Night Of The Living Dead 7", the Teenagers From Mars 7" acetates, and the two-song acetates for the Evilive 7". These reference lacquers, like regular acetates, can only be played 5 to 10 times before the grooves become warped.
Although black is the traditional vinyl color, colored vinyl costs only a few cents more per copy, and was often used for Misfits records. In order to create swirled copies, Glenn Danzig often told the record plant not to clean the plates before pressing a new color. Sometimes he would even have a small amount of a certain color added, just to create the swirl.
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