Here's how drum kit cymbals are manufactured

Check out how drum kit cymbals are made by hand in a Turkish factory.
Christopher McFadden

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If you are a drummer, you'll be more than familiar with cymbals. Their unique feel and acoustics are an essential part of any drum kit. 

But, have you ever wondered how these deceptively delicate-looking musical instruments are actually made? Let's find out by following how Bosphorus Cymbals are made in a factory in Istanbul, Turkey. 

In fact, as any drummer knows, some of the best quality cymbals in the world are made in Turkey. Even famous bands from the Beatles to Guns N' Roses have used Turkish cymbals in the past. 

making cymbals complete
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 1: Heat and form the metal

Some companies will mass-produce cymbals using highly specialized machines, but some of the best quality are still made, primarily, by hand. This is the case with Bosphorus Cymbal Factory, so let's take a tour around their factory. 

The vast majority of cymbals tend to be made from brass. This is an ancient metal alloy made, typically, from copper and tin.

Once the bronze is smelted or sourced, the first step is to form it into basic disc shapes ready to be made into cymbals. This is done at the Bosphorus Cymbal Factory by pouring small amounts of molten bronze into a water-filled bowl. 

making cymbals pouring bronze
Molten bronze is first hand-poured into special bowls to make the disks of bronze of the cymbals. Source: Interesting Engineering

The amount to be poured is judged by the craftsman's experience rather than a set volume. Oil is also added to the bowl and water to help prevent the metal from sticking to the bowl. 

With the discs in hand, the cymbals are heated in a kiln to soften them up ready to form. 

making cymbals disks
Source: Interesting Engineering

While still hot, the disks of bronze are fed through a series of rollers to flatten them out to the required thickness and diameter for a particular cymbal. Cymbals are also pressed in a special mold to give them them UFO-like overall shape. 

The process is not completely foolproof as the disks can and will break. If they do, the metal is recycled and remelted to make some new cymbals later. 

Once the embryonic cymbals have completed this step, great care must be taken handling them as they are incredibly fragile. The bronze disks are, therefore, now left to cool off and strengthen before the next phase. 

Step 2: The cymbals are trimmed down to size and shape

Once the cymbals have cooled off, a specially formulated mixture is applied to the cymbals before being heated in a kiln once again. Once heated, the cymbals are plunged into buckets of water to temper them and make them less fragile.

Since they will be taking a lot of punishment when completed so they need to be as strong as possible. 

making cymbals trimming
Cymbals are cut and trimmed down to give them their circular shape. Source: Interesting Engineering

Once that is done, the next step is to shape and trim the cymbals. Special pliers are used to cutting the cymbals down to size if needed. 

With that done, the next phase is to give the cymbals their characteristic dimpled appearance. This is done using the age-old process of bronze beating. 

Step 3: The cymbals are beaten and lathed

The next step is to panel beat the cymbals into shape. This is done by a series of highly skilled artisans who have mastered their craft over thousands of hours of practice. 

This gives the cymbals their surface appearance and overall concave shape. Once that process is complete, cymbals are then further refined using a lathe. 

making cymbals lathe
Source: Interesting Engineering

At this stage, the cymbals are weighed regularly to check they are the correct weight. If not, more metal is removed using the lathe until they are. 

Step 4: Tuning the cymbals

Once done, the cymbals are then put through another phase of beating. This is much lighter and more delicate than the previous round and is designed to tune the cymbals as needed.

With this done, the cymbals are given a test play to check they meet the exacting standards and requirements of the factory. Once passed, the cymbals are then ready to ship out to their many happy customers around the world.

If you enjoyed this little insight into how cymbals are made, you might enjoy watching another behind-the-scenes industrial process. How about, for example, seeing how real parchment is made?

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