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For those of us who grew up in the age of turntables, dancing around the living room with a hairbrush as a microphone, and listening to Fame on LP, vinyl will always be about nostalgia for happier and simpler times.
But, what to do with all those records collecting dust in the attic, basement, or storage unit, now that CDs are even passe and digital music is de riguer? Check out these ingenious ways to breathe new life into your vinyl collection by recycling it into home decor and by amping up your MP3 library with gifts of low-cost tunes containing that beautiful crackle.
If you've already parted with the LPs of your childhood, or don't remember listening to vinyl firsthand, check out local thrift stores and yard sales, which will usually have them in stock by the truckload. We picked up far more than we could carry at our local Goodwill for just 99 cents apiece. And, if you're not into scouring the secondhand shops (or just completely out of time before the holidays), check out our favorite resources below for the hippest places to find ready-made versions, both online and off.
1. Vinyl Record Bowls
By now, you've probably seen the increasingly popular gifts made from records sold at specialty shops, like these bowls from Uncommon Goods and jewelry from Aroha Silhouettes on Etsy. But, did you know that it takes less than $1 and just 10 minutes in your home oven to create kick-ass versions all your own? Preheat your oven to between 150 and 175 degrees (the former for gas ovens, the latter for electric ones.) Use any oven-safe form, like a glass baking dish, stainless steel mixing bowl, aluminum coffee can, or terracotta pot. (We used a hand-me-down round Pyrex casserole dish.) Position the form on the oven wire rack and center the record over it with the record label at the center of the form. Close the oven door and heat for about five minutes, or until the vinyl starts to soften and melt over the bowl or form. There shouldn't be any fumes from the melting vinyl—if you do smell something, your oven is too hot and you should turn the temperature down by 25 degrees. The sides will curl in a fluted design, but you can easily adjust and style the shape when you remove it from the oven (it won't be hot). When it cools completely, use it by the front door to hold your keys and change, as a snack bowl for your next party, or as a cheap and chic holiday gift (or gift basket) for the hipsters (at heart) on your list.
Tip: Keep the oven light on to monitor the melting progress. If you're going to be serving chips in your bowl, consider shellacking over the record label with a food-safe product to keep the paper label from becoming stained or discolored by chip grease.
Prep Time: About 20 minutes
Style Time: 1 to 5 minutes, depending on shape and form
2. Framed Album Art
Album art is one of the best ways to cover your walls with big impact for the lowest cost. Collect several albums with a similar theme, era, or type of music. (We went with four mid-century "souvenir" albums featuring classic late 1950s to early 1960s graphic design and photography.) The entire project took less than 10 minutes and cost us less than $50. Simply place the album cover beneath the glass pane of the album frame, secure, and hang! Consider arranging them in groupings for greater impact or to create a geometric pattern. Multiple albums look best uniformly displayed by the same color frame and similarly colored designs. Use single nails, picture hooks, or removable 3M Command hooks (at just $3.99, for those renters who, like us, are constantly changing things around but don't want to lose their security deposit.) We bought our album frames on sale at Urban Outfitters for just two for $22, though we later found even cheaper versions with the same dimensions at Christmas Tree Shops (promoted as "T-shirt frames") for just $3.99 apiece.
Tip: Use a level, like the new Black & Decker Gecko Grip level with Accu Mark, to keep your new works of vintage art hanging straight and the holes in your wall to a minimum.
Prep Time: About 5 minutes, depending on the condition of the album covers
Style Time: 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the number of frames
3. Record Album Trays
Do you know someone who loves to entertain, or are you hosting a holiday party this year? Try this idea for an alternate framing solution. Select an album cover that brings a smile to your face, and cut it to size with an X-acto knife, box cutter, or straight razor, using the glass from the tray as a guide. Position it in the tray, replace the glass, and secure the back. Impress your guests even more by serving up your creativity with vintage cocktails in martini glasses, like one of these recipes from Vintage Cocktails by Susan Wagonner and Robert Markel (from $10, gently used, on Amazon.com). We converted a photo album tray from Christmas Tree Shops ($6.99 to $7.99, available in either black or brown at press time) and again used mid-century photography and graphic design with champagne and cocktail lounge themes. Giving your tray as a gift? Package it with this modern, cheap and chic 7-piece stemless martini glass and shaker set from Libbey at Amazon.com for just $20.
Tip: Wipe any spills immediately so the moisture doesn’t seep behind the glass and ruin your vintage album art.
Prep Time: About 5 minutes, depending on the condition of the album covers
Style Time: 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the number of trays
4. Vinyl Drink Coasters & Placemats
Do you like the label but the record is damaged? Try this super cool idea for rescuing it: make a coaster. You can either use power tools, like a hole saw, to cut the label from the record and then sand down the edges. Or, if you're intimidated by the level of skill involved (as we were), try recycling scratched CDs instead. Scan the record label to your computer and then print it on adhesive paper using a color printer. Cut the label out with scissors and attach it to the front of the CD, then laminate the two together and trim to size. Stencil around the edges of your new label and cut felt or cork to size, then apply to the back using rubber cement or craft glue for an instant set of coasters. An even easier project for summer entertaining is to separate the front of the album cover from the rest of the sleeve using an X-acto knife and then laminate, trimming to size, for an instant outdoor placemat for patio or picnic table entertaining.
Tip: If you have a sizable old LP collection or are going to make multiple gifts, save on FedEx Kinkos fees by purchasing a home laminating machine, like this highly rated professional Royal (starting at just $41.99.)
Prep Time: From 10 for placemats, from 30 minutes for coasters
Styling Time: 10 to 20 minutes
5. From Vinyl to MP3
Behold, the power of technology. By now, everyone is familiar with ripping (converting and uploading) music from CD to mp3 and burning mp3's to CD. But did you know that you can also rip music from records to mp3? Amp up your digital music library and make ridiculously low-cost albums for your friends this season by investing in a USB turntable, like the TTUSB model from ION. Not only will it play the records you love to enjoy at home, but it will also convert those 99 cent LPs from Goodwill and their lovely, nostalgic crackle to your iPod for playlists you can take with you on the go. Pick up a pack of record album look-a-like CD-RWs from Urban Outfitters or Verbatim to create vintage mixes as memorable gifts for loved ones this season. For the true audiophile in your life, check out Nylvi.com, a brand new international marketplace and social network for vinyl, based in Berlin. Says Nylvi co-founder Thomas Stenumgard, "One of the goals for us with Nylvi is to make musical innovation easily available on vinyl and to cast light on the relationship between new and old. Nothing is better than people being able to enjoy music on their iPods while on the run, or sit down on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with friends and listen to the music on vinyl. It's great that people easily can make that choice [using USB turntables] without having to pay twice. People should be able to easily enjoy music the way they prefer. A lot of labels have also started to include download codes with the vinyl releases now so that is something I hope we will see more of."
So, this year, take a fresh look at vinyl. You may just see five (or more) ways to enjoy it and make it a part of your life again.
Ready Made Gifts of Recycled Vinyl Records
Single album frames, $15 each or two for $22 at Urban Outfitters
Single album / T-shirt frames, $3.99 to $4.99 each at Christmas Tree Shops
Vinyl Bowls & Coasters
Vinyl record bowls by Philadelphia artist Jeff Davis, $25 at UncommonGoods.com
LP snack tray by Philadelphia artist Jeff Davis, $25 at UncommonGoods.com
Vinyl record coasters by Philadelphia artist Jeff Davis, $18 for a set of six at UncommonGoods.com
Recyled album coasters, $16 for a set of four at Urban Outfitters
USB Turntables & Music
ION Deluxe USB Turntable, $150 at Urban Outfitters
Verbatim Digital Vinyl CD-R Spindle, $12.49 for 25 at Amazon.com
Vinyl iPod case with turntable design, $22 at OakBoston.com
Picture Frames & Trays
Photo album trays with removable matting, $6.99 to $7.99 each at Christmas Tree Shops
LP Record Frame by Philadelphia artist Jeff Davis, $22 at UncommonGoods.com
OOP Double LP earrings, $12.99 per pair at ModCloth.com
Recylced record earrings, $25 per pair at UncommonGoods.com
Recyled LP cuff bracelet, $10 from EyePopArt on Etsy.com
Recyled vinyl record jewelry, $29 to $49 from Aroha Silhouettes on Etsy.com
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