Hand Hammering.. why?

Icetech

Gold Member
I was going to respond to another thread about cymbals but decided to just create one rather than hi-jack.

Why do cymbal manufacturers and their retailers tout hand hammered like that's a good thing? Is there a reason that cymbals can't be machine made and sound good? I mean between laser scanning and cnc machining/hammering/pressing/lathing why can't companies come up with a way to mass produce cymbals that all sound the same and sound good. Any of the big name companies should be able to do this and get rid of the whole thing of trying cymbals cause 2 of the same models sound completely different?

Does anyone have a real answer to this other than hand hammered is old school?

Personally i would like the approach of using the newest technology to get consistency and possibly lower cost like most other industries have done over the last 80 years.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
The "inconsistency" of a real human hammering a cymbal just produces a different sound than a machine made cymbal. Getting two to sound exactly alike is not the goal at all.

As far as the other aspect of your question - why can't manufacturers attain consistency in their machine-hammered lines - I guess I don't really know the answer. Some manufacturers come pretty close, though. Paiste comes to mind.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
Hawkwind said it best, in the song Spirit of the age, please apply the lyrics below to cymbals and the limitations of machine made instruments


I am a clone, I am not alone
Every fibre of my flesh and bone
Is identical to the others
Everything I say is in the same tone
As my test tube brother's voice
There is no choice between us,
If you had ever seen us,
You'd rejoice in your uniqueness
And consider every weakness
Something special of your own
Being a clone, I have no flaws to identify
Even this doggerel that pours from my pen,
Has just been written by
Oh, another twenty telepathic men,
Word for word, it says:
"Oh, for the wings of any bird,
Other than a battery hen".
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
The beauty of Paistes I suppose and how you can decide you like a sound and find one on Craig's List. What annoys me is when Cymbals are machine made in greater quantities, cost the same or more than hand hammered counterparts and have even greater inconsistency in their sound. I figure, if they are going to be machine made and cost the same, then they should at least be a bit more consistent. That way, there's a bigger reason to go that way or the hand hammered way, depending on tastes or requirements.
 
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sage32

Senior Member
It's not as simple as you think. When cymbals are hand hammered, they're not just blindly randomly hammering away. A master cymbal artisan knows how to hammer the cymbal in such a way as to craft certain sounds. If you examine closely the hammer markings on handcrafted cymbals, you'll notice different size hammer markings and different irregular patterns. On the contrary, machine cymbals will appear uniform and geometrically perfect.

In general, hand hammered cymbals have more complexity and a wider, richer frequency range due to the irregularity in the spacing and sizing of the hammering. That's why you will notice that a K will sound much darker and richer than an A.

Although this is not a perfect example, consider the general difference in flavor between a craft beer and a standard domestic. A lot of people prefer the smoothness and consistent simplicity of your standard mass produced beer. But then there are those who prefer the darker, bitter, unique and full bodied flavors of craft brews.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Why does hand crafting continue to exist in any industry? Why do restaurants have chefs when Applebee's can deliver perfectly consistent results cheaper by microwaving pre-cooked portion controlled meals?

"Hand hammering" just signifies that the cymbal is hand crafted, and that it has a certain quality of sound-- complex, dark, warm-- and that it's going to be a unique instrument. I don't think there's any implication that a "hand" hammer strike is superior to a machine hammer strike. So-called hand hammering is usually done with a hand-operated mechanical hammer anyway-- at least at Zildjian and Sabian I think that's the case.

I'm sure it's not for lack of trying that they haven't eliminated skilled craftsmen from the manufacturing process-- and of course they largely already have. Most cymbals available are machine produced. To kill off the hand-crafted element altogether, I guess maybe it's not worth the cost of developing the technology and equipping a factory relative to demand for the product, or maybe it's just inherently impossible given the nature of the product.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
It's not as simple as you think. When cymbals are hand hammered, they're not just blindly randomly hammering away. A master cymbal artisan knows how to hammer the cymbal in such a way as to craft certain sounds. If you examine closely the hammer markings on handcrafted cymbals, you'll notice different size hammer markings and different irregular patterns. On the contrary, machine cymbals will appear uniform and geometrically perfect.

In general, hand hammered cymbals have more complexity and a wider, richer frequency range due to the irregularity in the spacing and sizing of the hammering. That's why you will notice that a K will sound much darker and richer than an A.

Although this is not a perfect example, consider the general difference in flavor between a craft beer and a standard domestic. A lot of people prefer the smoothness and consistent simplicity of your standard mass produced beer. But then there are those who prefer the darker, bitter, unique and full bodied flavors of craft brews.

I the above was directed at me, I fully understand the complexity involved with hand hammering. I just don't get why machined cymbals cost the same, when they can be made at 10x the rate and don't have to pay the machine an Artison salary for his 30+ years of experience.

Craft brew and hand hammering....at least I can say I'm 100% consistent in my selections. :D
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
To me, this answer is pretty simple: It's appealing to people to purchase products that have some handmade elements to them. Manufacturing, at least in the U.S., is a rarity anymore. So I think the appeal lies in some combination of nostalgia, romantic notions of the "master craftsman" doing some skilled manual labor and just wanting to support jobs.
 

tmdrum

Member
Why we even play drums? I mean... we have drum machines with perfect time and consistent sounds... right? If you record your drums make sure to replace your sounds with VST library to get that perfect and consistent sound everyone has.
 

Destroyer772

Gold Member
I the above was directed at me, I fully understand the complexity involved with hand hammering. I just don't get why machined cymbals cost the same, when they can be made at 10x the rate and don't have to pay the machine an Artison salary for his 30+ years of experience.

Craft brew and hand hammering....at least I can say I'm 100% consistent in my selections. :D

I worked for Emerson for nearly 18 years in there Drives and Components division, we had a contract with Harley Davidson for 10 years and the company bought million dollar CNC machines to run those gears and sprockets. They spit those parts out fast and accurate, but on each group was a set-up man like myself doing quality checks, change overs, loading, etc making decent money even in my neck of the woods. What I am getting at is you still have skilled machinist making these cymbals, they just have better, more precise, more expensive machines cutting the blanks. At least that is what I would think.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
It probably has been after they ditched their Turkey factory.
Actually, the story I heard is that Zildjian brought their Turkish workers to N. America (the ones that would come), and they did all the K cymbals up in Canada (hand hammering). Then the Zildjian/Sabian split happened and the Canadian workers started working for Sabian. That's why the Canadian made Zildjian K cymbals are so highly coveted and sought after.
 

porter

Platinum Member
What annoys me is when Cymbals are machine made in greater quantities, cost the same or more than hand hammered counterparts and have even greater inconsistency in their sound. I figure, if they are going to be machine made and cost the same, then they should at least be a bit more consistent. That way, there's a bigger reason to go that way or the hand hammered way, depending on tastes or requirements.

I'm pretty sure Zildjian's hammering is all automated these days.

The above two comments are related ;) Although it's remarkable that Zildjian manages to make every single cymbal of theirs by machine and yet charge up to $100 more than genuine Turkish cymbals for them! Only Sabian has more expensive cymbals in this style, although their Artisans are actually hand-hammered so there's some amount of justification I suppose.
 

sage32

Senior Member
I the above was directed at me, I fully understand the complexity involved with hand hammering. I just don't get why machined cymbals cost the same, when they can be made at 10x the rate and don't have to pay the machine an Artison salary for his 30+ years of experience.

Craft brew and hand hammering....at least I can say I'm 100% consistent in my selections. :D

Wasn't directed at you, just trying to help the original poster.

However, I'm not sure what you're referring to but hand hammered cymbals are indeed more expensive on average than machined cymbals (unless you're talking about Dream and Wuhan). All of the most expensive lineups for each major company are hand hammered: Zildjian K Constantinople, Sabian Artisan, Paiste Signature Traditionals, and Meinl Byzance & mb20
 

BachBeat

Senior Member
Wasn't directed at you, just trying to help the original poster.

However, I'm not sure what you're referring to but hand hammered cymbals are indeed more expensive on average than machined cymbals (unless you're talking about Dream and Wuhan). All of the most expensive lineups for each major company are hand hammered: Zildjian K Constantinople, Sabian Artisan, Paiste Signature Traditionals, and Meinl Byzance & mb20


...except that K Cons are completely machine hammered - meaning that the machine is making the stokes and runs on a combination of programmed, randomised, and guided strokes. No Zildjian cymbals are completely hand hammered anymore, and haven't been since 1981 (I believe). I can't speak for the other companies, but not even the Keropes are hand-hammered in the traditional understanding of that term.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
IDK, I want my cymbal completely handmade by some sweaty Turk, laboring in a disgusting factory, using techniques that have been passed down for centuries. At this stage of the game, only genuine fully handmade Turkish cymbals for me. I'm done with the Big 3. Not that I don't like them, I just think the genuine articles are better.

Soultones (which are made in the Masterworks foundry) are my latest fav.
 

VitalTransformation

Silver Member
The fact that, to my ears, Sabian HH's (hand hammered) don't sound noticably richer, more complex or more organic than Zildjian K's (computer hammered) sort of debunks the myth of hand hammering for me.

Aren't a lot of Paistes hand hammered? My problem with Paiste has always been that I find them too sanitized and lacking character (even the Twenty and 602 lines).
 

porter

Platinum Member
Sabian is a poor example to draw that from. Sabian's HH cymbals are produced in Canada from their own alloy and pressed into shape to give them their profile, and THEN hand-hammered – they cannot be used as a reasonable dismisser of the Turkish style which is to hammer the cymbal's entire profile into shape. I personally don't like a lot of Sabian's HHs also, for what it's worth...

I'm not sure of Paiste's methods at present. I thought their Twenty line used to be Turkish, but honestly the newer Twenty Masters cymbals sound Zildjian-y to me. So I'm not sure.
 

VitalTransformation

Silver Member
Sabian is a poor example to draw that from. Sabian's HH cymbals are produced in Canada from their own alloy and pressed into shape to give them their profile, and THEN hand-hammered

I would have expected all mass-produced, hand hammered cymbals to be made this way. Are you telling me that the cheap Soultones, Masterworks, Dreams, Zultans etc. are COMPLETELY hand made from blanks?
 
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