I had a recent discussion with Ryan, owner of San Jose’s Lemmon Percussion about the image of a beat-up looking vintage drum set, versus the image of a beat-up looking vintage electric guitar. We agreed that a beat-up vintage guitar looks cool, because it’s been played so much and has earned its right to passage. As for the beat-up old drum set no matter how vintage, rusted hardware, tarnished cymbals and chipped paint on wooden hoops just makes a drum set look neglected. It’s like looking at an classic car that needs some TLC and a new paint job to help it come to life.
With this in mind, I pulled out my old 1964 Ludwig Black Diamond trap set and am detailing it in preparation for an upcoming blues gig. I have begun with what would seem to be the simple task, the polishing of cymbals. I first flashed back to the nightmare of a time when I polished my cymbals for the first time–it was indeed a nightmare. Over the years, I’ve learned some definite do’ss and dont’ss where cymbal polishing is concerned. These tips will save you time and frustration.
I suppose if you really want to go crazy you can use a powered buffer, but I recommend you still use the following as a guideline.
Product: You can use just about any cymbal cleaner available at music stores, but I use basic BRASSO brand brass cleaner, which you can pick up at any local market or drug store. It’s less expensive then cymbal cleaner and does a great job.
- Of course read the cleaning product directions
- Suit Up! It’s going to get dirty quick. Wearing household cleaning gloves and work clothes is a must. The stuff that comes off in the cleaning process is nasty, and will make your skin smell and feel really funky.
- Do this job outside or in the garage. Cloths used in the cleaning process will get very dirty and create a strong odor. Your work area will also get dirty, so prep a large flat work surface area and cover it with plastic, cardboard or butcher paper.
- Apply the cleaner with a dry cloth or paper towel. Apply in small sections and with the grain of the cymbal. I reiterate, SMALL SECTIONS WITH THE GRAIN OF THE CYMBAL. I work on each section of the cymbal like it’s in pieces of a pie. This will save you time! Bigger sections are not better. You’ll spend more time having to go back over your work.
- Keep the cleaning product wet when applying. Immediately after applied, get a clean soft cloth or paper towel and rub very hard to remove the product and tarnish. This is KEY to doing the job right–put lots of elbow grease into it!
- Overlap your sections to avoid creating lines of demarcation
- A second or third application is optional, but I have found in some cases it doesn’t improve the shine.
- DO NOT LET THE PRODUCT DRY! I can’t emphasize this enough. As soon as you apply it on the pie shaped section, get a new dry cloth and start rubbing it off. This is the key to speed and ease
- Don’t apply the product to the whole cymbal at once. The process will take a great deal longer and you’ll waste lots of time trying to get the dry product off once it has dried.
- Don’t do this task when you are tired. It takes a lot of arm strength, and if you have a lot of cymbals it will be a lot of hard work.
Using these tips, you’re polished cymbals will make your whole kit shine. That shine is what I like to call the symbol of a shining cymbal.
Before AND After