Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Busted!

There's really no excuse for breaking a cymbal. Let me repackage that: There is no excuse for repeatedly breaking cymbals. Cymbals are incredibly strong. They're made from bronze, virtually the same metal used for the props of ocean-going ships. When chosen, handled and played properly, cymbals can last a lifetime. That doesn't mean that your favourite cymbal won't develop a crack or suddenly cast off a fragment of metal. It happens, but if it's happening often, you're doing something wrong. 
The sad truth is that cymbals cannot be fixed. Chips and chunks can't be put back. Cracks cannot be welded without destroying the temper of the cymbal. But if not attended to, a crack will simply continue to spread until the cymbal is hanging in shreds.

You can have an expert drill, cut or grind out a damaged portion of a cymbal. Or do it yourself if you're skillful with power tools. This can salvage a treasured instrument, but it is no cure -- the cymbal is still broken. But, while such a repair can slow down further deterioration for quite some time, it likely won't stop it. And if the damage is not attended to, the cymbal will soon be lost.

For a crack, the usual remedy is to drill a hole at the very end of the crack. Then, if the crack decides it wants to spread, it has to jump over the gap first. This technique may stop a crack completely, but usually it merely slows it down.

A crack ought to be removed completely. A skilled repair person will use some sort of router to cut a bell shaped piece out of the cymbal that's about 1/2 inch larger then the crack on all sides. As with drilling, this may be a cure or merely a band-aid.

A crack that consumes a large part of the cymbal or that has gone along one of the tone grooves requires a more aggressive approach. Such cymbals are often cut down to a different diameter. Thus an 18-inch cymbal with a 2-inch crack might get cut down to 14 or 13 inches.

Chips and small cracks can be dealt with by excising a large region of the cymbal where the damage occurred. Rather than having a small bell-shaped notch in the edge, the cymbal would look more like a cookie with a bite out of it.

Hopefully this discussion of cymbal "repair" has convinced you that prevention is a far better option. So choose cymbals that can handle the job, mount them loosely on their stands, and don't beat up on them too much.