Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cymbals of Power

Zildjian. World class Turkish cymbals since 1623. Not all made in Turkey now, though.

You have probably long wondered how cymbals are made. They are spun from a single metal thread. Mostly by Armenian school children.

Kidding. They are stamped from sheets or forged or cast (sometimes roto cast), then worked on a lathe. Mostly. No more hand hammering. The "tone grooves" are remnants of the lathe, not from spinning individual wires.

Most drummers, especially loud drummers, prefer the sheet-made ones, and orchestras commonly prefer cast. The sound is a bit different, and is purely a matter of taste.

Sabian (brand) cymbals are made in Canada. Along with maple syrup and most of the world's snow.

You have probably long-wondered how huge gongs are made...


  1. And how would this tie in with Ephraim Cymbalist Junior?

    Just wondering.

  2. I always thought that cymbals would be made by hammering of sheet brass, in earlier days, and more recently by metal-spinning.
    I've watched metal spinners at work, making intake 'trumpets' for race cars, and other shapes. The technique looks very familiar to a potter, they can shape a flat disc into hollow forms, even close it to make a sphere.

    as for the hammering, or panel beating, I've tried that a few times myself, most notably when trying to fit a V8 into a land-rover engine bay that was made for a straight-six. Sitting there with a sandbag, a curved steel 'dolly', and a ball-peen hammer. My results were somewhat lumpy, but resulted in bulged panels that allowed the exhaust manifolds and the twin s.u. carburettors to go in without holes having to be cut.
    Then, in Thailand, I came across a street full of metal-workers, making fuel-tanks for bikes by hand. Amazing. Custom tanks for old viet-nam era harleys.
    Fascinating to watch perfect teardrop shapes emerge from flat metal sheets, with just the patient tapping of a hammer, and the swirl of burnishing sand.

    At my place of work, one of the tenants is a recording studio, and occasionally they throw out broken cymbals. I've often toyed with the idea of a Zildjian lampshade.
    Cymbals break with fatigue-fractures from the rim. Brass is a hard metal, and its internal molecular structure 'work-hardens' as it is used.
    When that happens, it's the result of molecular re-alignments in the material, order coming out of chaos. But chaos is more resilient than order. An ordered crystalline lattice becomes harder, until a re-entrant, (or crack, as we call them) forms, and propagates (or spreads).

    You can make it less likely to happen by periodically annealing the metal in an oven, it allows stress relief.

    With cymbals it would also dull the tone, I'd imagine.

    They're expensive too. My boss is (or has been) a drummer. Once he told me what he'd just paid for a couple of biggish Zildjians. Eye-watering.

  3. And how would this tie in with Ephraim Cymbalist Junior?

    The IIIrd?

  4. Are you aware that your thimbles, sorry, cymbals are clashing with a most unfortunate linkwithin symbol of men in underpants?

  5. @Soubriquet - I wish I'd thought of that. :)

    @Soubriquet - They used to hand hammer them before the unions came along and raised the wages. I guess some still are made that way. Some lie and say they are hand hammered because a man is controlling the automatic hammering machine. I found out that "roto forged" means to use centrifical force to fill all the nooks (and crannies) of the mold. Not unlike the Iranians spinning uranium for peaceful cancer cure purposes. I once threw some pottery. Against a wall. Did you know - I'm sure you did - that if you are in the band room waiting for the band director to show up, a cymbal will crack instead of bend if pounded hard enough with tympani mallets? Makes a cacophonous sound, before dying, like Poe's bells, I imagine. I only watched in horror of course, while pleading for them to stop pounding it. Fatigue fracture, you say? Bronze, actually. But some other alloys as well. Not gold.

    @Adullamite - The way great minds think alike is scary. :)

    @A. - I suppose if you refresh the page often enough. :) Actually, I asked linkwithinfolk to do that for you and they obliged. The only one I can think of is the one that accompanied my unfortunate post about the untimely demise of Lady Thatcher. Cymbals don't have to only clash, btw. Hang one by the scruff of it's wool with one hand and pop it with a soft mallet with the other sometime. Gong city. Annoying eventually. You probably will seldom get an opportunity though.

  6. @Soubriquet - Lest you think I know about hand hammering and rotomolding, that is pure wikipedia. So it must be the truth.

  7. @ Soubriquet - Wouldn't it have been easier to just cut a bit of the wall out to make room for the engine? Or do you just like to beat things off?

  8. Just in case you didn't get the point of the title of this post, please go here. It was only to annoy her, and I think I accomplished that.

  9. Beating things off, I think that's an american slang term that does not really work here. I getand keep any the gist, because of my careful study of american fiction.

    No, cutting holes would not work, because the bulkhead, which you americans call the firewall, is supposed to be a firewall, and keep any and all incidents of engine-bay nastiness safely in the engine-bay, and not around the driver's knees.
    In earlier times, of course, one might wear asbestos undergarments, and delight in pyrotechnics around the nether regions.

  10. oh. an extra 'keep any' in my comment. Please keep any typos, add them to your stock of spare words, break them up for syllables if you must.

    I blame the touch-pad on this feckin' lap-top.

  11. @Soubriquet - I assumed you needed more width. It never occurred to me you would be banging on the firewall. How old did you say you were when this happened? :)

  12. It was width. The back end of the engine would fit, but the exhaust manifolds wanted to be closer to the driver and passenger's knees than the metalwork would allow. A straight six, inlet over exhaust, was a slimmer, longer engine.

    As for my age? Old enough to know better.

  13. I like coming here, I learn a lot.

  14. @Sue - I hope these little lessons about cymbals will help you to understand you should be doing your own shirts and not trusting them to strangers to do for you. Often, people will lose their shirts when they do that. I lost my shirt once. Only then did I see the true value of this cymbalism. And espresso, for that matter.

  15. I'm not sure why that reminds me of Honoré de Balzac. The coffee, I mean.

  16. To kill a relative of whom you are tired is something. But to inherit his property afterwards, that is genuine pleasure.



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