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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  1. You should take a listen to sorting machines–simple conveyers from the middle of the 20th century, that move round things (eggs, apples, oranges) until they are ROLLING, then keep them rolling until they can DROP them, separately, into baskets of various sizes. splendid polyrhythms, and clunks and clanks.

Michael Raphael December 22, 2010