Repairing Cracked Cymbals

Posted in Guides And Tips

How To Detect a Broken Cymbal

If you hear the slightest variation in the normal sound of your cymbals, check them. I mean slightest. For example, for a crash cymbal, any dulling of the normal bright sound, a noticeable decrease in sustain, or just any abnormal sound is usually your first clue.

A ride will be harder to detect, but will show the same basic symptoms. Same with hi-hats and chinas.

What you look for is cracks. A very small crack may not be readily visible. However, dirt and corrosion will build up around a crack faster than the rest of the cymbal. So, you would check closer around any areas of discoloration.

Also, hold your cymbal up to a bright light. Light, of course, will shine through a crack and you'll be able to see it.

Run your fingers slowly around the edge of the cymbal. You're feeling for any imperfections in the surface. Look for cracks around those areas. Do the same with the cymbal's surface. Check the top and bottom. Sometimes you can feel a crack before you can see it.

Examine the center hole very carefully. In smaller, lighter cymbals (especially splashes), this area will sometimes 'splinter' with several cracks coming from this area at once, sort of like a bullet hole.

I won't discuss the obvious scenarios when you can clearly see where the problem is.

The Repairing Process

First of all, if you have the time and the money, I recommend taking it to a professional to get it fixed. They'll take responsibility for any errors in repairing, and you're pretty much guaranteed a proper fix for your problem. They handle this every day, so it's just a safer bet overall.
If you don't want to spend the money, or need it fixed now, you can easily do it yourself. There are a couple methods.

The Drilling Process

The first method (the one I prefer) for repairing cracked cymbals involves drilling small holes into the cracks. You will need...

  • A drill
  • A drill bit. The recommend size is 3 - 5 mm in diameter. Newer, sharp ones work best.
  • A surface to drill into. Some wood, or some old carpet will be fine. Use something you don't mind putting holes into
  • A broken cymbal
  • Some "Tin Snips" (metal cutting players)

The method is simple enough; you're going to drill holes using your 3-5 mm drill bit, into the ends of the crack.

If the crack is on the edge of the cymbal, you're only going to need one hole. If it's cracked inside, you're going to drill 2.

Drilling Cracks

The holes are drilled at the edges of the cracks. The red lines are the optional "v cuts" you could make to remove the crack altogether once drilled.

The process is simple:

  • Place your cymbal upside down, up against the wood or surface you're going to be drilling into. The drill bit will poke through the cymbal and needs something to go into.
  • Carefully drill holes at the ends or end of the crack. Both ends for an internal crack, only the inside end for a crack on the edge.
  • Finally, if the crack was on the edge, you can use your tin snips to cut out the crack completely. Cut a "v" from the drilled hole to the edge of the cymbal.

Cutting It Down

If the crack isn't too long, and is at the edge of the cymbal, you can simply cut the cymbal down to a smaller size. For example, if your crack goes through the first inch of your 20" cymbal, you can simply cut off that inch. You'd be left with a perfectly healthy 19" cymbal.

Using a rotating lathe, you can cut the cymbal down to a perfectly circular shape.

Most people don't have a lathe. I would recommend taking the cymbal to a drum shop, or even a regular metal shop to get it cut down. This method may be hard to accomplish on your own!

Epoxy Method

Some people suggest using epoxy (glue) for repairing cracked cymbals. Personally, I don't think this is a very good method. The vibration involved in a moving cymbal breaks the bonds in the glue fairly quickly. Also, people have said that the results are mediocre, and that the sound is ugly.

I wouldn't expect much from this method but it could be a quick fix if you're reluctant to cut or drill.

Cracks Can Be Good!

Some drummers think that the sound of a crack can be quite desirable. They may still drill holes when repairing cracked cymbals, but they enjoy the different, trashy sounds that the cracks create.

As long as the cracks are slowed/stopped from spreading by drilling holes, the cracks can be embraced. No, your cymbal will never sound like new, but it will have a new character that it never had before!

Just something to think about when repairing cracked cymbals...