Wheel Lathe Fun

Earlier this year, I spent some time scouting machine shops for an upcoming Rabbit Ears Audio SFX library.  I’ve been interested in recording lots of old machinery for some time.  CNC machines and waterjets are cool, but I’ve been wanting to build a collection of large machines that clank, rattle, and occasionally break down.  My search led me to a facility that specializes in old steam train repair and fabrication.

One of the first machines I saw immediately blew my mind, a 1910 wheel lathe:


This machine is used to fabricate train wheels and as you can hear it just shakes, rattles, and rolls in the most beautiful way.  The audio in this take is from a Sennheiser MKH 60 near the spinning wheel and a Sanken CUB-01 placed near the motor and gears that drive the wheel.

One of the challenges of recording in the shop was the cheap factory lighting that generated a nasty hum, but since I previously scouted out the joint I knew that we had to turn off the lights and set up spotlights.  I was lucky enough to have an incredibly generous machinist helping me.

I’ll be releasing REA_004 in early January over at the Rabbit Ears Audio site.

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Under the Bridge Downtown Part II

As a resident of NYC, I’m always looking for ways to get out of town.  Thanks to my in-laws, the Missus and I have a place upstate New York to get away when the grind of NYC starts to get us down.

We get the opportunity to spend a tremendous amount of the weekend watching the Delaware River roll by.  The section of the river that we spend time on divides two small towns in New York and Pennsylvania respectively. If you want to cross state lines you have to cross this bridge:

It is this great old metal bridge that has a metal surface that sort of looks like a cheese grater.  It lets out a great low rumbling hum when cars pass over it.  Back in the winter I made some recordings with hydrophones in the water below, but I wanted to return and record it with my Schoeps MS pair above the water.

In this recording I positioned myself under one end of the bridge and let the traffic roll over me.  This is just a snippet of a place I could spend hours lost in thought.  Who knew cars could be so soothing?

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96

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Under The Bridge Downtown

This past weekend, I found myself upstate New York with my hydrophone and I got inspired. My in-laws have a getaway house right on the Delaware River, and, what’s even better, there is a cool bridge with metal grating ten minutes down the road.

I could have just recorded it, but I’ve been inspired by the recent hydrophone recordings of Noise Jockey, so I said to myself, “I’m not only going to record underneath this bridge, I’m going to record the sound of this bridge underwater.” While I was down there, I ran into two guys fishing . . . I thought that these guys fishing under a bridge in 30 degree weather were crazy, but then I realized I had just tossed a hydrophone in the water.

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Initially, I didn’t think the recordings were all that hot, but when I got back home to edit I was pleasantly surprised. Next time I get up there, I am going to have to record above the water and see how that sounds.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of 1 Dolphin Ear Pro hydrophone and it was all tracked to a Sony PCM-M10 with a Sound Device MP2 as a front end, while trying not to fall in.

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Machine Shop Action

This recording dates back to 2003 and was one of my first paying gigs.  I was making radio for a little while and after I bought my first pair of Schoeps I got the occasional odd call.  This gig got me hooked on recording unusual sounds and exploring the sonic universe.  Another radio pal hired me and we set off to record a bunch of big metal machines built in the 1940s and 1950s that were used to repair turn of the century steam engines.

The following recording is of a metal grinder with a several different surfaces.  It is not an amazing recording, but it holds fond memories for me.

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The guys who worked in the shop were damn funny and they had a blast making noise for us all day.  I tacked on a little interaction with the guys at the end of the file.  They were actually quite musical.  I got “lucky” when a chuck flew off a vertical lathe and hit me on the foot.  Ouch!  We still had more than half the day to record and I was afraid to take off my shoe with the fear I wouldn’t be able to put it back on. Thankfully, none of the little piggies were broken and we had a blast the rest of the day.

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Steel Shear

More in the industrial series here at field sepulchra.  This is a Steel Shear, with a little bit of rain falling in the background.

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