Graham Dunning: Crystal World Lab

Results of five days' experiments in the Crystal World Lab

Melted and reconstituted shellac record on home made record player

I made a simple record player from a salvaged computer fan and 9V battery. The fan was spinning far too fast so I weighed it down with a heavy speaker cone, which was the right size to use as a platter for my hame-made record. The jerking motion comes from the motor attempting to turn against the friction of the stylus. The needle itself is a piece of copper wire pegged to a contact mic.

Below is a recording of the direct input.



Reconstituted shellac record

Using the dregs from the previous test tube experiment I made a small record, spreading the shellac paste onto a metal disk and allowing it to set.


Melting more Shellac with Meths

Having succeeded in getting black slime from a record I scaled up the process, putting a whole 10″ record into a bath of methylated spirit. Leaving it overnight, the results were impressive. The last three images show the remaining core of the record and the sludge which resulted from the process.




Melting shellac records with solvents

Having failed to make liquid from shellac records using heat, I attempted the same using solvents.

The first image shows a test tube over a flame, containing record dust and an unknown solvent for cleaning steel and aluminium, from Portugal. The second image shows two tubes, the second now containing methylated spirits. This proved highly effective and turned the  powdered record into thick black slime.



More sketchbook pages

High Voltage through Shellac Record

A brief experiment to see what would happen when 10,000 volts was passed through a shellac record. The image shows the record with the two contacts: a circular plate underneath (with metal tag protruding to the left) and a nail used as stylus on top. Electrodes were attached and connected to two transformers from microwave ovens, converting 240V AC to about 10,000V AC.


Apart from a small lesion on the surface, below the nail-stylus, the record was largely unaffected.

Growing crystals on cassette tape

I attempted to grow a different type of crystal, Aluminium Potassium Sulphate, onto a cassette. While the results seemed promising at first, I made the mistake of dropping it as I tried to hang it, and most of them fell off.






Process photos

Thanks to Nihal for these photos of me doing various stuff.




Heat-melting shellac records

I tried various methods to melt down a shellac record. First, grinding down the pieces and heating: initially in a hot water bath and, later in the oven. Due to the constituent parts of the record – ie, various rock dusts held together by shellac – I could not achieve the liquid, pourable material I had hoped for. The initial plan was to use liquid shellac with ground down computer memory chips to cast a new hybrid record. [click images for detail]

Electrolysis experiments



Top: electrolysis of a piece of shellac record.
Below: contact mic as cathode, recording the sounds it captured as it corroded away.


A piece of metal after the process and, below, pigments and residues from various salt baths.