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Lateral and Vertical Cut Diagrams
Lateral Cut recording 
(alternatively known as "Needle Cut").

Your common acoustic Victors, Columbias, and similar labels were lateral cut recordings. Pathé also produced a "Needle Cut" record of the lateral variety. This type of record was designed to be played with a steel or "Fibre" (generally made from bamboo) needle. This became the dominant method of recording for commercial consumer purposes. Record composition (shellac and abrasive filler) remained virtually the same in most instances until the early 1930's.

Vertical Cut 
(Often called 'Hill and Dale' recordings in popular vernacular)

The most common labels of this method are Edison Diamond Discs and Pathé. Vertical cut recordings were generally reproduced using a special diamond or sapphire stylus. There were a number of labels that issued records in the vertical format such as Gennett, Starr, and Brunswick, just to name a few.  

Commercial Cylinder recordings were recorded using the vertical method.

Edison Diamond Discs were composed of a "Condensite" (a thermoplastic similar to Bakelite) on a wood flour core. Pathés were essentially shellac (like common lateral cut records of the day) but without an abrasive filler.

More comments on record care and general preservation and cleaning coming soon.