Cut A Record From A Tortilla

Give new meaning to the term "sound bite"

Tortilla Record
Tortilla RecordCourtesy Dwight Chia

When Dwight Chia, a senior at the University of California at San Diego, saw a YouTube video of a record player spinning a tortilla, he decided to turn the joke into reality. Chia’s hobby, creating 78 rpm acrylic records on a laser cutter, served him well. A record stores information as ridges along the length of each groove, and the extra grooves required when spinning at 78 rpm provide more data per second. That speed “turned out to be the key in getting discernible sound out of a tortilla,” he says. Chia’s record, made from an uncooked flour tortilla, can play a muffled “Mexican Hat Dance”—and it’s edible.

Tools and Materials

  • Paper and tape
  • Uncooked flour tortilla at room temperature
  • Laser cutter
  • Record player

Instructions

  1. Download the PDF files for a "Mexican Hat Dance" record (0, 1, 2, 3, 4). Or create files for another song using Chia's online instructions.
  2. Tape a sheet of paper to the cutting bed to keep it clean. Then position the tortilla and focus the laser cutter.
  3. Send each PDF to the laser cutter with the speed set at 95, power at 20, and frequency at 5,000.
  4. Cut the outer diameter and spindle hole with the speed set at 20 and power at 100.
  5. Place the tortilla on a record player and let it spin!

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Popular Science.