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Having a wonderful collection of vintage vinyl, you must be in ecstasy whenever you look at your masterpiece.
Reminiscing the good past, you decided to dust your turntable. Then, you pick up a funky tune amongst your collection. Taking it out and you felt that prick in your heart, looking at a warped vinyl.
Short of buying a replacement of your prized vinyl record, there really is not an easy and quick way to ease that pain you felt of looking at a warped or bend record on your hands.
Buying new is not always an option, either.
So, you turn to your laptop, make a quick Google search;
“How to fix a warped vinyl record?” or “How to unwarp a record?”
You might see videos of people clamping their records while playing them. However, that does not work for all turntable and they do not actually help fix a warped record. What it does is softening the effects by smashing the record down during playback.
You might think that an easy way to fix a warped recording is simply bending it back the other way around. However, the vinyl-collecting community might say otherwise.
This guide should teach you how to flatten a warped vinyl record, hopefully getting you on track. Or, may as well, help prevent you from making irreparable damage to your records.
Prevention 101: Stop Your Records From Getting Warped
You probably will not be reading this guide on how to fix a warped vinyl record if it was not already an issue. However, let’s start with the basics of vinyl caring that can help prevent you from experiencing such a heartbreaking scene in the first place.
First off, never place your vinyl records on a shelf with too many records leaning on that one unfortunate record at the end.
Having an overflowing shelf which lacks support dividers, the weight of every vinyls you place there can add up quickly. And that one record at the end will act as the divider supporting the weight of your entire collection.
So if you really want a display shelf that holds your prized collection together, make sure to get a perfect balance shelf with enough divider support.
Similarly, you do not want to stack your vinyl records like an expensive deck of cars. Stacking them horizontally, the vinyl record on top would probably be okay. However, for that miserable vinyl record below would be not so good. This is especially true if you have a stack that is too high or left it for too long.
Some of the sleeves might have other things. This can include album art books, drop cards, 7” bonus records or that protruding zipper from your Sticky Fingers copy. In the end, the unevenness of the packaging gives disproportionate pressure and weight and the stack. This, in turn, can worsen the warping.
You can try and tastefully stack them for an Instagram picture, but make sure to stand them back up. They are not pancakes that you can stack together.
Lastly, never (and I mean never), ever leave your vinyl records in spots or places with excessive heat.
You will see later that the introduction of heat can help (potentially) tame your warped record.
However, that does not mean that you can leave your precious records in your car at the parking lot under the scorching sun. Or get it mailed in your sun-scorched doorstep where you might accidentally leave them for days while on vacation and expect it to be okay.
For a short amount of time, like when it is still on the delivery truck on the way to your home, it is fine. However, direct sunlight and heat over an extended amount of time are actually threatening to your vinyl’s life.
So, now that we’ve addressed the basics of how a vinyl record gets warped, we can now head over to generally accepted methods to flatten or straighten out your favorite record.
Method #1: Pressure + Patience
If you want to bring it back to life, you need to be patient. And not just hours and minute patient, but think days and weeks.
This method is, basically, the “leaving it between 2 large books for days and weeks, hoping that flattens it” way.
If you got that heavy and large books to cover the vinyl record you are trying to flatten out (like that thousand-page encyclopedia you asked during elementary school), then this method should serve you well.
Consistent pressure should flatten and straighten your vinyl record into submission. However, it would take patience to really make the difference.
Just be careful not to cause destruction on your record— adding a ton of weight into your dusty, dirty record and grinding it into the climactic refrain.
Make sure to clean it first. Then leave the record in the inner sleeve when placing it between the books. This should help prevent the build-up of dust on any part that is uncovered.
Method #2: Pressure + Heat In the Oven
This is basically a vinyl sandwich, roasted on the glass.
Take heed of the warning:
As mentioned before, heat is detrimental to your record’s life. However, in this method, we rely on heat to help your record get more life.
We’re going to use the oven.
You should have a clear picture of how wrong this method can go.
An oven is for baking pizzas and cookies. Where most simple fixes are harmless if they do not work, placing your precious record in the kitchen oven is asking for big trouble and possible heartbreak. Not to mention the warnings of toxic fumes as well as the general danger if you try this adventure.
For that record so damn precious and valuable, or possibly the last of its kind that you simply can’t replace it, it is probably too much to risk completely melting it away.
Now, if you’re brave enough to try this one or find a better guide that can walk you through the process with every tiny detail than this one, then by all means try, but only do so as a last-ditch effort.
Here’s how you do it:
- Get 2 large glass panels that can fit inside your oven.
- Clean your records.
- Place your record between the glasses.
- Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible.
- Place the glass-vinyl sandwich inside the oven for 30 minutes.
- Turn it off.
- Let the sandwich cool down at room temperature then remove the glass.
- See if that fixed the problem
If it did, well, congratulations.
If not, then you’ll have to try it again with either a longer duration or a slightly higher temperature.
As a final note, focusing too much heat on your vinyl record can cause the introduction of groove-distortion. It causes microscopic wear on the grooves making the sound not as dynamic as it was.
You might congratulate yourself for a job well done in flattening the record, only to hear you sobbing at the compromised sound it makes on the turntable.
Method #3: Heat + Pressure In The Right Machine?
Googling for an answer, you might come across a thread saying that there is equipment that you can buy. This is specifically created to flatten out your vinyl records.
Yes, they exist.
But, prepare to be disappointed.
They are somewhat overpriced and quite impossible to find.
With serious online hunting, you might find something like the Furutech DF-2 LP Flattener.
But, on your casual stroll at Target? Nope!
Basically, what this equipment can do is combine the 1st and 2nd method in a more controlled fashion. You won’t do many works and no longer needs 2 panels of glass to fit your oven.
If both methods from above failed, you might seek this one and expect to hand over $2,500 to take one home. For that amount of money, you could buy a new stereo or even a new record collection.
So, you might want to reconsider your priorities.
Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that a slightly warped vinyl record still plays better than one that you accidentally overheated in your supposedly food-inside-only oven.
We highly recommend you try the 1st method to fix warped record before going on an unnecessarily dangerous and risky adventure.
But, if you insist that you got the luck and want to roast your prized record, then consider taking the time to try it first with some regular vinyls first.
Just remember, you might get really lucky and flatten the record out. But, it certainly won’t be the same anymore.
Now, if you have the money to splurge. Or perhaps have a dozen or two of your favorite vinyls ending up warped, then no one’s stopping you to buy such a piece of expensive equipment to save your precious collection.
Still, to avoid this kind of situation and heartbreak altogether, as the vinyl enthusiast you claim yourself to be, act as one and keep your vinyls organized and stored properly.