Finebilt presses were manufactured in Los Angeles beginning in the early 1950s until 1962 or ’63. They were the first commercial dealership to make presses available to the pressing market. CBS had developed a record press, but it was used exclusively for CBS product in CBS plants. Hamilton presses eventually became the main competition for Finebilt. New, the Finebilt press cost between $6,000 and $8,000 and included the extruder. The last Finebilt press was made just after Lened came out with the first automatic record press in 1962-63.

As a manual press, the Finebilt is very rudimentary and basic though still fabulously effective. 

From Switzerland comes this memory of Finebilt’s history from none other than the daughter of Finebilt’s former president, Alwin P. Schmid.

Just by chance, Liane M. Santoro-Schmid was searching the web seeking any ties to her father’s company legacy, when she discovered Finebilts in use at Quality Record Pressings.

“I am quite sure that my father would be proud to know that someone has actually kept the presses alive and working after all these years,” she says. “They were sold world-wide.”

Her father was a successful self-made businessman who had immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland after World War II. He started working for Finebilt as a vice president in 1963, and by 1969 was company president. Finebilt was originally founded by Paul Mayer; its first address was 2846 West Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. Its headquarters was once located at 931 Citrus Avenue in Los Angeles.

Not much of any visual or written materials remain from Finebilt, save ads in 1960s-era audio magazines (besides record presses, the company dealt in tape manufacturing and duplicating machines), a sheet of letterhead stationery and a promotional flyer. Alwin Schmid died on July 26, 1992.

“In any event, I just wanted to say that I am happy to know his legacy continues and that Finebilt Presses are still considered some of the best products in the industry, made in the U.S.A.. Best regards, Liane M. Santoro-Schmid, Caslano, Switzerland.”

These photos show Finebilt president Alwin P. Schmid at work in his office, with his secretary (unidentified), with the office staff, and with his business partner, Joe Bouzago. Also shown is a photo of Schmid and others from the factory floor, inside the plant in Los Angeles. Also included is a brochure from the Finebilt's early manufacturing days.

More Finebilt history from David Bouzaglou, Los Angeles, the son of Joseph Bouzaglou, who was an equal partner with Al Schmid, when they bought the company from Paul Mayer.

My parents emigrated to the USA in 1955, with me in tow, from Casablanca Morocco. After spending four years working in Cleveland Ohio, the decision to move to Los Angeles was very easy considering the temperate climate here.

After a few local jobs, he found a position with Paul Mayer's company that was selling record presses to independent record companies. Father's out-of-the-box thinking led him and Al to expand the business, using U.S. government incentives, to boost export sales of product.

The program enabled a successful increase in production to the point where their partnership purchased the business from Paul.

They kept growing the business to the point to where actual manufacture and assembly was brought in-house. The big move was to 931 N Citrus Ave , in Hollywood, where a manufacturing shop was set up across the street from the offices. I was fortunate to learn my work ethic from my father, with stints in the machine shop, helping the technicians there with various machine work and assembly. It became a full-time position after I left college until sometime in the late ‘70's.

Finebilt could supply a complete record production line, and did so to many companies all over the world. I personally visited plants in Spain and Portugal where the machines were pressing away. Plants were set up in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, and in the Middle East.

The company unfortunately could not keep up with new technology, despite their efforts to expand into new products. Forays into magnetic tape machinery, processing of cassette tape, high speed recording on cassette tape, and even a short time producing cassettes in the Canadian market were not successful.
The demand for semi-manually operated record pressing machines were eclipsed by automatic high volume presses, cassettes, and of course CD discs.

Ironically presses were needed again for the production of CDs but on a more sophisticated platform that could produce much higher volumes of product.

The Finebuilt presses, as you state in your posting, are indeed simple, but incredibly robust, producing quality pressings. I know as there were a lot of heavy parts for me to work on in the shop !

The Finebilt company, and their partnership, dissolved sometime in the early ‘80's as demand for spare parts and accessories dwindled.

In the end, the company provided a good living for the families and employees for a long time. We are grateful on this Father's day to be reminded where we came from.

- David Bouzaglou

Quality Record Pressings
• 543 N. 10th St. • Salina, Kansas 67401